There’s more to Western Australia’s South West than the local wine region.
Western Australia’s South West region seems synonymous with the renowned wine region, Margaret River.
But as I discovered on a recent trip to the area, there’s more to this coastal corner of the country than a good drop of vino. From 4WDing over ancient forests, sampling world-class truffles and discovering the area’s flourishing sealife, here are some must-sees to add to your South West itinerary:
The Wine and Truffle Co.
Across 53-hectares just outside the South-West town of Manjimup, is the largest producer French black truffles in the southern hemisphere, the Wine and Truffle Co. If you haven’t experienced truffles before visiting (like me), they’re a type of a strong-flavoured underground fungi that is almost like the lovechild of mushroom and dark chocolate. Often referred to as ‘black gold’ or ‘black diamonds’, they’re sold across the world for up to $3000 per kilogram, highly sought after by top chefs.
While at the Wine and Truffle Co., visitors can sample a range of truffle-inspired dishes to see what all the rage is about, as well as the company’s own vino, Truffle Hill Wine.
You can also participate in a guided ‘truffle hunt’, where the resident truffle dogs (usually retrained airport sniffer dogs), demonstrate how they detect ripe truffles growing underground, which are then dug out by hand.
It’s also worth paying a visit to the store, where there’s all sorts of truffle-goodness to stock up on, such as truffle oil, truffle mustard, truffle salt, truffle honey and truffle-stuffed olives. Delish!
Manjimup Truffière, Café & Cellar Door
Seven Day Road, Manjimup
Ph: (08) 9777 2474 // wineandtruffle.com.au
The Gloucester Tree
The South West is characterised by towering forests containing karri, jarrah and marri trees; among the largest hardwoods in the world. Karri trees are especially unique to the area, and can grow up to 90 metres and live for 300 years.
Among the local forests is Gloucester National Park, 3km from Pemberton, which features the world’s tallest public look-out tree, the Gloucester Tree. It stands 61m above the ground and visitors can climb up spiralling rungs to the top, affording incredible views over the forest.
But if you’d rather a more relaxed approach to seeing the area, Pemberton Tramway offers scenic tram rides through the distinctive local forests. It’s especially scenic in spring when the area is overrun with delicate native wildflowers that are unique to the area.
Slowly encroaching on the karri forests surrounding Pemberton are the enormous, land-locked sand dunes, Yeagarup Dunes. Caused by sand being blown inland from Westerly winds, the dunes are moving four metres each year, gradually swallowing up the forest within D’Entrecasteaux National Park.
The dunes currently rise up to 40m above where the forest would be, forming a 10km-long body of sand.
Visitors can explore the inland desert on a self-guided 4WD tour, but I recommend the guided option with Pemberton Discovery Tours. The guided tour is a nature-based experience, taking visitors through a variety of terrains, explaining the local wildflowers, rare birds and other flora and fauna encountered along the way.
Pemberton Discovery Tours
Ph: (08) 9776 0484 // www.pembertondiscoverytours.com.au
Busselton Jetty and Underwater Observatory
Stretching 1.8km across Geographe Bay, Busselton Jetty is the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere. If you don’t fancy the stroll, the jetty train regularly runs up and down the structure and is a big hit with youngsters.
At the end of the jetty, visitors can see what really lies beneath with the Underwater Observatory. It descends eight metres beneath the water’s surface, revealing a surprisingly busy ecosystem below, including corals, schools of fish, stingrays, crabs and other aquatic visitors.
Ph: (08) 9754 0900 // www.busseltonjetty.com.au
Cambray Sheep Cheese
Strolling down the dairy aisle of the supermarket, it’s nothing new to see cheese made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or soy milk, but have you tried sheep cheese?
On the Vasse Highway, between Margaret River and Pemberton, it’s worth stopping in at the award-winning Cambray Sheep Cheese shop. There the family owned and operated business conduct every stage of production of there handmade artisan cheeses. From a flock of ewes grazing in surrounding paddocks, to the nearby milking shed and cheese shop, visitors can see it all.
Cambray produce a range of cheeses to try, including classics like fetta and brie, as well as less common varieties such as boursin and manchego.
Cambray Sheep Shop
470 Vasse Highway, Nannup
Ph: (08) 9756 2037 // www.cambraycottages.com
Donnelly River Cruise
Take a leisurely cruise down the Donnelly River to an area that is only accessible by boat. Pass by 12km of local jarrah and marri forests, wetlands and limestone cliffs, down to the mouth of the river and the Southern Ocean, with a light-hearted commentary by the host about the local ecosystem.
If weather permits, stop off at a sandy beach at the mouth of the river for a stroll and, on the return journey, enjoy morning or afternoon tea. Tours operate daily with courtesy bus pickups from Manjimup, Pemberton or Karri Valley.
(08) 9777 1018 // www.donnellyrivercruises.com.au