We leave the city under indeterminate skies, bound for tranquil Denmark, an area near and dear to our hearts and palates.
We choose the longer scenic route, not realizing that it will take us almost nine hours to reach our destination, some 526 kilometers south of Perth.
We meander along the Albany Highway to Armadale and the SW Highway towards Bunbury, passing field after field of vibrant yellow wildflowers set against a lush, rain fed green. We enter the Peel Region, rolling hills capped with trees, pastures dotted with sheep; well ensconced in the country, a mere hour’s drive south of the urban chaos.
We work our way along the edge of the Darling Scarp, encountering more and more wildflowers; vast fields alive with swaying purple, yellow and orange, set against a backdrop of bright green.
A quick stop in Pinjarra and we continue our drive, officially entering the Southwest just north of the heavily treed agricultural community of Harvey. This is orange country, so it seems only fitting to explore The Big Orange, a manmade structure overlooking acres of orange groves three kilometers off the highway. We opt for a mini tasting at the Harvey River Bridge Winery, then move on.
Our growling stomachs entice us to stop in Donnybrook, the home of Granny Smith apples and apple shaped lamp posts, for a leisurely lunch at CU @ 58. Oddly, apples aren’t on the menu, so it’s fish and chips for the spouse, minestrone soup for me, followed by flat whites and a shared slice of Violet Crumble cake, which unfortunately looks much better than it tastes ($40, nothing special).
Sated, we’re back on the road, entering marron country, passing vineyards, apple, pear and cherry orchards, and receiving a substantial rock chip in our windshield compliments of a passing truck.
It becomes progressively hillier south of Kirup; we’re soon entering the endearing town of Balingup, welcomed by an array of colorful scarecrows, the remnants of a recent Medieval Carnivale. It’s love at first sight…we take a few snaps, collect a town brochure and repeatedly kick ourselves for not knowing to stop here at one of the tempting cafes for lunch.
The heavily treed town of Balingup is soon a distant memory as we enter an area that has been extensively clear felled. I so dislike logging, but I do love wood… The scenery improves as we approach Bridgetown; Blackwood River Park looks particularly intriguing.
So much green and yellow, the canola fields are in bloom and thriving. Three hundred and fifteen kilometers after leaving Perth we enter Manjimup, and promptly make the short detour to Fonty’s Pool Winery, a favorite from a past visit, passing cherry orchards along the way. Within minutes our wine shopping is well underway, three bottles have been stashed into the trunk.
It’s nearing four pm and we still have some distance to go; we waste no time, driving through a tunnel of dense towering trees towards Walpole. We pass through one national park after another…Shannon, Frankland, D’Entrecasteaux,Walpole-Nornalup….forest heaven. The sinking sun streaks through the trees creating ribbons of light; it’s sun dappled magic.
We’ve seen very few cars since leaving Manjimup; it’s peaceful and serene. We arrive in Denmark well after dark, breaking our own rule about not driving in country WA near dusk. Even road trip veterans can misjudge the time needed to get around this vast state, novices, please take note!
It’s not easy, but we locate our accommodation and somehow manage to open the lockbox despite feeling hopelessly blind in the utter darkness of this small country town. We can’t see the main attraction, but we’re impressed with our digs, the studio of The House on the Lake.
We set out in search of dinner, opting for the Denmark River Bistro, which turns out to be an excellent choice. It’s Thursday night, the place is empty, but we thoroughly enjoy our meal, pan fried fish of the day with potato mash for the spouse ($28.95), cheese and spinach stuffed chicken breast with salad for me ($28.95).
We’re off to a good start.
To be continued…