As the seasons shift and hotspots like Margaret River fill up, Jacqueline Perry-Strickland finds a new playground, right around the corner, for the perfect, undisturbed beach holiday.
Nestled between the Southern Ocean and southwest WA’s Walpole-Nornalup National Park, the beachside hamlet of Peaceful Bay seems never to have awoken from its 1950s slumber. Kids tear about on pushies, Dads head off fishing, mums catch up on reading, callers-by arrive for a cuppa, blue wrens flit and flutter and kangaroos graze lazily on lawns. Here, days are long and lackadaisical.
Five avenues by three, the streets are gravelled and skewed by peppermint trees. First to Fourth Aves enjoy local heritage listing, a move aimed at forever conserving the old settlement’s character. The character leasehold fibro shacks are handed down through families rather than sold. The swimming beach is enclosed by fallen boulders creating a calm and shallow lagoon. Neighbouring Foul Bay is so-called due to its poor anchorage: early sailors were unable to moor there so they continued to the next bay, and found it was peaceful.
In the freehold area behind the old settlement, Peaceful Bay Chalets offers capacious self-contained lodgings. Set among the ubiquitous peppermint trees, there’s also plenty of room to park your boat trailer.
While it’s easy enough to do nothing at all during your time in this languid neck of the woods, the surrounding area is brimming with activities to keep you entertained. For a start, you can soar high among the giant tingle and karri trees on the Tree Top Walk, a 600m loop suspended 40m above the ground. It’s located just 15min west on Valley of theGiants Road. In the summer school holidays they also operate night tours giving you a chance to spot nocturnal possums, phascogales and even the odd quokka.
If you time your trip for winter or spring, you may have the fortune to see migrating whales, and a top viewing place is just down the road at Conspicuous Cliffs. If you’re keen to get out on the water, take a Wow Wilderness Eco-Cruise through Walpole Inlet to check out the Nuyts Wilderness Peninsula, WA’s first designated wilderness area. If you’re up for a swim, pack a picnic lunch and a swimsuit and get along to Green’s Pool on the coast of the William Bay National Park. Boulders rim this natural swimming hollow providing a tranquil spot for a dip.
Denmark’s relaxed wine industry is a far cry from the behemoth that Margaret River has become. The area is full of dinky wineries with chatty and personable owners and staff operating the cellar doors. Hewn into the valley side, the cellar door at Somerset Hill is a cool retreat on a hot day. Lee and Graham Upson were the first in the region to experiment with sparkling wines and their bottles are on display awaiting the next riddling.
Heidi and Ron Cocking of Mariner’s Rest winery welcome picnics on their balcony and enjoy a chinwag as you sample their drops. The family has a long connection to the Royal Australian Navy and has named their delicious fortified “Nelson’s Blood.”
“Legend has it that after Lord Nelson was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar, his body was placed in a barrel of brandy,” explains Heidi. “When the sailors learned this, they drank the brandy so as to drink their Admiral’s blood.”
Yilgarnia, the geological name for a region of WA formed two billion years ago, is the moniker Peter and Peg Buxton chose for their winery. Wildflowers dot the hillside overlooking the vineyard and bunches are offered for sale. The cellar door is currently open by appointment.
On theSouth Coast Highwayis an unusual find: Bartholomew’s Meadery. A rather dulcet drop, this honey wine will appeal to those with a sweet tooth, while others may prefer the drier styles. There’s also an ice-creamery serving up cones, all with a honey twist.
At the Denmark Berry Farm you can pick yourself a tub of loganberries, silvanberries, blackberries and raspberries, or take home a jar of jam to savour on fresh bread. For the ultimate in indulgence, stay at the five-star Chimes Spa Retreat in Denmark. Sporting ocean views, spas, gourmet breakfasts, a float tank and steam deck, as well as wraps, masks and massages, Chimes is a luxurious treat.
In this shining gem of an area you can find as much peace and quiet or as much action as you please. But one visit is never enough: Peaceful Bay will lure you back with the promise of how a beach holiday is meant to be.
Walpole Visitor Centre, South Coast Hwy|
phone: (08) 9840 1111
Denmark Visitor Centre, 60 Strickland St, Denmark
phone: (08) 9848 2055
Tree Top Walk
phone: (08) 9840 8263
cost: Adults $6, kids $2.50, family $14
Wow Wilderness Eco Cruise
phone: (08) 9840 1036
Bartholomew’s Meadery, South Coast Hwy, Denmark
phone: (08) 9840 9349 website: http://www.honeywine.com.au/
open: Daily 9:30am-4:30pm
Somerset Hill Wines, 891 McLeod Rd, Denmark
phone: (08) 9840 9388
website: www.somersetwines.com.auopen: 11am-5pm in summer and until 4pm in winter
Mariner’s Rest Winery, Lot 470 Robert’s Rd, Denmark
phone: (08) 9840 9324
open: daily from 11am-5pm
Yilgarnia Wines and Wildflowers Redmond West Rd, Redmond
phone: (08) 9845 3031
Denmark Berry Farm, Lot 6, Lantzke Rd, Denmark
open: weekends and public holidays
Peaceful Bay Chalets, Peppermint Way, Peaceful Bay
phone: (08) 9840 8169
Walpole Wilderness ResortGardiner Road, Walpole
phone: (08) 9840 1481
Chimes Spa Retreat, Mt Shadforth Scenic Drive, Denmark
phone: (08) 9848 2255 website: www.chimes.com.au