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Wildflowers, Walk Trails and Wine…A Denmark Getaway

Wildflowers, Walk Trails and Wine…A Denmark Getaway

Old Sep 16th, 2010, 01:08 AM
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Wildflowers, Walk Trails and Wine…A Denmark Getaway

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 southwest 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.

Next up is the cow capital of Brunswick Junction, where we zig to Dardanup and zag to Boyanup, then rejoin the SW Highway 25 kilometers later.

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.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...Australia.html

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…
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Old Sep 16th, 2010, 04:30 AM
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Melnq8, looking forward to the rest of your TR. I had to pull out my Australia map to see where you are heading. Like most Americans, I know nothing about the western part of the country but your TRs from Perth are helping to educate me and just adds more possible places to include in my next visit.
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Old Sep 16th, 2010, 03:52 PM
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Thanks Bgale. Denmark is often overlooked by international visitors, who're generally short on time, and intent on seeing Perth, Busselton, Margaret River and places up north they've read about, like the Pinnacles, Kalbarri and Monkey Mia.

I fell in love with Denmark the first time we drove through five years ago, and we've since been back three times. It's one of those places you need to research to fully appreciate (like Pemberton), as it's attractions are scattered and not immediately obvious. My husband, who should know better, was perplexed when I told him I wanted to spend some quality time in Denmark. He thought we'd already seen it (ha!). Little did he know...
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Old Sep 16th, 2010, 04:43 PM
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Day 1 –

It’s nine degrees, (48F) chilly for many, perfect hiking weather for us lovers of the cold. We ditch the car at a parking area on Lights Road and set off to Monkey Rock and Mt Hallowell via the Sheila Hill Track, a section of the ~965 kilometer Bibbulmun Track which extends from Kalamunda to Albany. We’ve decided to re-attempt this challenging hike, in reverse, having bailed on it previously.

We follow the track through the woods and to the south slope of Mt Hallowell, soaking up the 270 degree views over the coastline and karri forest. We simultaneously hear the crash of the tumultuous waves below us and the wind howling through the trees above.
It’s just us and the birds; we have the entire trail to ourselves for the duration of the hike; the serenity is intoxicating.

We push on to the summit, eventually rewarded with panoramic views of countryside, distant beaches and the Wilson Inlet, enclosed by undulating hills of forest green. It’s fantastic up here, truly magical, worth every single huff and puff. Beyond the summit the trail becomes more difficult as we scramble across and alongside massive granite boulders, eventually being deposited near Ocean Beach Road.

No files, no snakes, plenty of wildflowers, my kind of hike. We’re too knackered to even consider backtracking, so we take to the seemingly endless asphalt of Lights Road, wondering if we’ll ever reach the car. Ten kilometers later, we’re back where we started, worn out, but content.

Freshly showered and ravenous, we’re soon at The Lake House, undoubtedly the prettiest vineyard and lunch spot in Denmark. The grounds are beautiful, the service friendly, the wine and food divine. We go whole hog, choosing a bottle of their Pinot Noir ($49) and the Madison Vineyard Platter; Mt Barker smoked chicken breast, beetroot and shiraz relish, leg ham, seeded Chardonnay mustard and fig, prune and merlot mustard, Italian cacciatore sausage, tomato and Riesling relish, mixed vegetable frittata, seasonal veggie dip, antipasto bowl, dolmades, Capel Club cheddar, Tasmanian brie, wine jelly, Semillon pickled pears and fig, apple and Chardonnay chutney, salad drizzled with the Chef’s special dressing, marinated olives, freshly baked bread and wafers ($68). Lest you think us complete pigs, it’s a platter designed for two and not as overwhelming as it sounds…the perfect treat after a hard workout and a big dose of fresh air.

We dawdle over the biggest flat whites we’ve ever had, unwilling to leave this idyllic venue. I so love the fact that you can order a bottle of wine and take what remains when you leave. If only we Yanks were so civilized.

Bellies full, we call in at Matilda’s Winery, all excitement and chaos, gearing up for the grand opening of their restaurant Salt and Pepper, and Willoughby Park, a foundling winery in progress (formerly West Cape Howe, which has relocated to Mt Barker).

We return to our lake house and finish our Pinot under overcast skies, perched on the strategically positioned bench overlooking the lake.

It’s been a good day.

To be continued…
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Old Sep 16th, 2010, 10:55 PM
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Day 2 –

We drive to the end of Lights Road under a gloomy sky, leave our wheels in the beach car park and set out on another section of the Bibbulmun Track, pointed east. We meander along the coastline, eyes peeled for whales, the Southern Ocean moody, thrashing and uncooperative. We’re soon walking through the bush, frequently stopping to photograph wildflowers. My naïve belief that it’s too cold for reptiles is shattered when the spouse warns “snake” and then describes what sounds suspiciously like a tiger. Ah, man…I’m so not ready for snake season.

We plod on, more alert now, bush changing to pasture. We stop when we reach the fence that separates us from where we started our hike the previous day, then backtrack, logging about seven kilometers. It’s been an enjoyable trek, varied and undulating.

Later, clean and presentable, we’re back in the car, planning to eat our way towards Walpole, spotting the odd kookaburra as we go. Our first stop, the Chocolate Lounge, newly opened in December 2009. A Swiss flag greets us, promising quality goods.

The chocoholic goes for the 52% dark chocolate hot cocoa, consisting of a cup of steamed milk and a dish of chocolate pastilles, to be mixed at will. The spouse selects a combination of white and milk chocolate. Both concoctions are proclaimed worthy, but pricy at $8.50 per cup.

The Toffee Factory is next; I’m incapable of driving past without stopping. We sample their cider and leave with an armful of toffee trays, Kahlua chocolate, wildflower, honey and ginger, chili chocolate and lemon myrtle.

Then it’s off to Moombaki, one of our favorite wineries in the region, where we enjoy a few samples while chatting up Dave, who suggests we visit Nornalup Tea House for lunch, for which I owe him a big sloppy kiss.

I choose the pumpkin, celery and pancetta soup, served with toasted ciabatta bread and roast garlic oil, which is out of this world. Bill goes for the haloumi and mushroom bruschetta, ‘sautéed field mushrooms, grilled haloumi cheese with roasted capsicum, balsamic reduction and lemon zest on ciabatta bread’. I sit agape as he devours his food with unbridled excitement. Rarely have I seen the guy so openly enthusiastic about a meal. Has he gone foodie on me? We round out our lunch with a shared slice of chocolate almond espresso cake and flat whites ($66). Nornalup Tea House is a resounding hit.

Full and happy we turn back towards Denmark, but not before detouring to Conspicuous Cliffs, yet another favorite, where we wander the boardwalks and futilely scan the seemingly angry sea for those elusive whales.

Our final stop is Kent River Winery, where we imbibe in a sample or three and chat up the owners. We’re invited to examine their marron tanks, surprised to learn that marron are BLUE.

To be continued…
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Old Sep 16th, 2010, 11:35 PM
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Stop it, Melnq8! I can't read anymore - the description of your lunch at the Lake House has completely blown me away! Just love mustards, and the fig, prune and merlot mustard sounds y-u-m. And then a little further on the fig, apple and Chardonnay chutney has also captivated my taste buds - another condiment I enjoy eating (and making)!
Hope the place is still as good in a couple of years when we finally get to visit WA.
I sneakily took a look at the next 'chapter' and it sounds to me as if the area is a real haven for 'foodies'. Must put the Nornalup Tea House on the 'to-visit' list.
Jokes aside, it does sound an amazing place, and you have made it so interesting. Thank you, Melnq8
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Old Sep 17th, 2010, 12:08 AM
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I'm almost finished with the torture dotty. My stomach is growling as I type, must be that time of day. The Lake House hasn't let us down yet, so I've no doubt they'll be just as good when you visit WA. They make their own condiments, and package them for retail sale, so you can take them home too.

Details here:

http://www.vinofood.com.au/VINOFO~1/Products.html
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Old Sep 17th, 2010, 04:11 PM
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Day 3 –

It’s seven degrees (45F) and windy; we need to earn our lunch, so we’re out the door pointed towards William Bay. We park and set out on the Bibbulmun Track once again, this time via Mazzoletti Beach. We meander through the sand, alongside a frenzied Southern Ocean, turning back when the waves get a little too close for comfort. We backtrack to the car park, but keep walking in the opposite direction, following the track to the William Bay Shelter and beyond, hugging the coast, traversing granite boulders and wandering through the wildflower sprinkled bush. A squall whips through, drenching us; we turn back, ending yet another enjoyable and varied 7.5 kilometer trek.

We attempt to drive to Madfish Bay, but the road is flooded. We explore the area for a bit and then retreat to Denmark, calling in at Forest Hill Winery on a whim. Here we have a nice long chat and tasting compliments of Roger, who takes very good care of us, despite our damp and disheveled appearance. Lovely man, beautiful wines, a memorable experience.

Lunch finds us at Che Sera Sera, an Italian restaurant on Inlet Drive, which we have entirely to ourselves; it seems there’s a footy game on. We enjoy a leisurely lunch of Calabrese wood fired pizza, Italian sausage, ricotta, sundried tomatoes and chili, washed down with a local bottle of bubbles, the perfect way to while away a Sunday afternoon ($41). The food is excellent and we’re well looked after by the proprietors.

We later pop into the Southern End Restaurant on Mt Shadforth Road for flat whites and cake. We’re sorely disappointed, neither cake nor coffee is good. There was a time that we loved this restaurant, but it seems they’ve gone commercial, catering to large groups, and losing their charm in the process; the entire place just feels odd somehow. They still have the best view in Denmark though.

Leaving….

Our four nights have passed too quickly. We bid adieu to Denmark, leaving via the sensible route, the Muir Highway to the Albany Highway, pointed due north. A kangaroo watches us as we motor through Mt Barker, passing vineyard after vineyard. We pass endless fields of blooming canola, bright yellow and green, and sheep strewn pastures. We take a break at the Woolshed in Williams, disappointed again, with an exceedingly bland pumpkin and ginger soup and a burnt tasting flat white. I guess they can’t all be good.

Five hours and fifteen minutes and 400 kilometers later, we’re back in the hustle and bustle of Perth, where we’ll bide our time until our next trip into the country.
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Old Sep 18th, 2010, 07:54 PM
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HI, Melnq8. Thanks for the site. I am still drooling, and wondering if I can be cheeky and ask my sis to bring some over in Jsnuary when she comes. Now, I wonder if 10 jars of each would cause an overweight problem for her. . . And if I had them freighted to her, would there be any left when she comes???
Thank you for your trip report. I had always thought WA was dry and dusty, with very little foliage and Perth was an oasis in the midst of this desert.
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Old Sep 18th, 2010, 09:49 PM
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Hi dotty -

Having just filled two suitcases with Tim Tams, Cadbury blocks, Emu cream, Paw Paw ointment and various other items to take to my family in the US, I'd not find it cheeky at all! I routinely offer the majority of my luggage space to family and friends when I travel from Australia to the US. My bags leave full of OZ products and return full of US products.

I refuse to take an underweight bag...it's a matter of principle


Maybe VinoFood will ship to your directly?

WA is plenty dry and dusty, believe me, but there's no shortage of foliage, it just tends to be a bit pale. It greens up nicely during the winter and spring, but a few months from now it will be a miserable hot dustbowl and I'll be begging for a trip to NZ.
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 03:15 AM
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Photos here:

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/361146/index.html
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 02:43 PM
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Thanks for reigniting so many wonderful memories with your great trip report. Maria and I spent a month in this area more than a decade ago. Do you want any of your wildflower pictures named? I am a bit rusty on WA flora but there were a few I recognise to species and many to genus.

"Our growling stomachs entice us to stop in Donnybrook, the home of Granny Smith apples" Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granny_Smith
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 03:21 PM
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I'd love some help with labeling the flowers!

I guess it would have been more accurate to describe Donnybrook as the apple capital of the SW.
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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Melnq8, I am printing out your entire report to keep. I have always wanted to spend some time around the Denmark area and your trip report seems to cover every tick in the box of what I want to do. You have whetted my appetite so perhaps next year we will make it - especially during the wildflower season.

Many thanks for taking the time to do a report and have a great time on your trip back to the States.
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 05:12 PM
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Hi Mel,

On our 'round Australia trip in '97 we spent quite a bit of time at Pinjarra and Denmark.

Whilst at Denmark we noticed advertisements for a school fete and we thought we'd take the kids along and it would be something they would enjoy. We popped in for haircuts the day before and I was told by the hairdresser there that there are 'forest people' out there! Oh really? What the hell was she talking about?

We arrive at the school and it is a 'Steiner School'. Somewhat alternative I suppose would be the best way to describe it. And the penny dropped with the 'forest people'. We stood out like sore thumbs with the boys in the boardies etc and the forest people with their dreadies and hippy gear.

I have to tell you I was inclined to turn around and leave straight away but we stayed and ended up having the most wonderful day. Simple pleasures such as a home made water slide down the embankment, all the food was vegetarian of course, and I have a photo of my son being shown how to use the pottery wheel by one of the parents. All up a most enjoyable day and a different experience, which is what travel is all about.

It certainly is a very beautiful part of the west but there are sooooo many beautiful parts over there aren't there?
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 06:40 PM
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shandy -

We spent a week in Denmark last November, so more ideas here if you're interested.

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...-australia.cfm

There's also a section on Denmark in this report from the previous year:

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...rip-report.cfm

There's just so much to see and do down that way, hard to fit it all into one trip. We're already taking about 'next time'.

Forest people...hmmm, must have missed those stormbird.
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Old Sep 19th, 2010, 09:22 PM
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Mel,
What is the best way for me to go about naming the flowers for you?
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Old Sep 20th, 2010, 05:01 AM
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Another wonderful trip report, thank you Melnq8! A gastronomic delight wrapped in stunning scenery and gently poached in multi-kilometre hiking, served with a plethora of wines on a bed of wildflowers.

As good as it gets!

I stumbled a little along the way over House on the Lake and Lake House, as you seemed to be going in circles - until I realised it was two separate places. But then again, when visiting wineries, going in circles is not an unusual outcome

Loved the photos ... is one of a Sturt's Desert Pea blossom?
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Old Sep 20th, 2010, 11:02 AM
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Yes indeed, another great report, always a pleasure to read ... you should put all your reports into a guidebook!
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Old Sep 20th, 2010, 01:58 PM
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FurryTiles,
While six or seven peas are represented a Sturt's Desert Pea is not one of them. Have a look at http://www.southimage.net/wilderness...ite-cliffs.php for two of the forms.
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