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A Weekend Away in WA

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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A Weekend Away in WA

An unexpected e-mail offering a long holiday weekend special at our favorite Balingup B&B sets the wheels in motion. A quick note to Numbat to check on the current fly situation (not bad he says), and a not-too-miserable weather forecast seals the deal. Within hours we’re booked at Oakfield B&B, simultaneously looking forward to a spontaneous getaway and questioning the wisdom of traveling on a long weekend in the middle of summer.

We leave our home in the Perth ‘burbs in the thick of the Friday morning commute. We crawl along the Mitchell and Kwinana Freeways…thinking that we should have taken the Tonkin. We cross over to the Tonkin near Armadale and eventually find the South Western Highway and head south, our favorite direction in WA.

The lush green from previous trips is long gone. The dog days of summer reveal a thirsty collage of wheat, ochre, rust and the ubiquitous dull sage. Butterflies flit and dart in front of the car; I don’t ever remember seeing so many. We finally leave the traffic behind, now passing sheep, cattle and horse farms.

Before long we’re pulling into Pinjarra, looking forward to scones and coffee. It’s a colossal fail. Details here, comment #4:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g255101-i530-k6067…

We press on, dejected and scone-less, chugging through rural WA via orchard-lined Williams Road, towards Dwellingup, where we seek out Newbliss Winery. Here we’re treated to a spirited chat with proprietor Joann, who regales us with humorous stories and assorted Aussie-isms between pours. She’s a hoot and a half. We tell her about our disappointing stop in Pinjarra and she points us to Millhouse Café in the center of town, where we’re well looked after by owner Rachel who sets us up with a pretty good scone.

We’re soon turning on Nanga Road towards Lane Poole Reserve, where we poke around for a bit and watch some kids having an absolute ball in the pools. Bushwalking tracks beckon, but in this heat we’re not even remotely tempted.

We move on, planning to cross over to Harvey via the back roads, but once again Google has misled us. Instead we follow a squiggly road to Waroona, home to the Angry Snappa (fish and chips), The Odd Angry Sock (laundromat) and the Bite Me Bakery, where we rejoin the SW Highway.

Signs for wineries dot the crunchy looking landscape; G-Spot Ice Cream gets its usual laugh as we pass through the dairy town of Harvey.

We make our second Google guided mistake as we turn left on Martin Pelusey Road and proceed to follow a convoluted detour skirting some road construction. Where the heck are we? We eventually intersect the road we’re looking for, Ferguson, but only after crossing Waterloo, which we should have taken in the first place. We’ve made a big circle. Oh well, so it goes.

Our destination is Saint Aidan Winery in the Ferguson Valley, which I’ve scoped out for lunch. We sample a few wines then settle in at a table on the patio. We wait…and wait…and wait. Long story short, the food is very good, but the service is slower than molasses in a northern hemisphere January. We want dessert, but we’re out of patience, so we take a pass.

We’ve only recently discovered the Ferguson Valley, so we take advantage while we’re in the area. Soon we’re calling into Ferguson Falls Winery, where we like the cheese much more than the wine. Into the esky goes some nice feta and Romano.

A sign for Willow Bridge Estate catches our attention, so we follow it, ending up in a building that feels more like an office than a cellar door. We’re soon the proud owners of several bottles, including a funky wooded Sauvignon Blanc that we can’t decide if we like or not, but reckon more research is needed.

We backtrack to Dardanup and continue south. Fruit orchards appear; trees laden with peaches, plums, oranges and nectarines. A sign framed by large apples welcomes us to the fruit growing town of Donnybrook, a town that interests me, but we never seem to leave enough time for. We see signs for ‘slashing’ – gruesome images of farm animals and sabers come to mind...perhaps someone in the know can tell me what that means (?).

We arrive in Balingup nine hours after leaving Perth. Yeah, I know, it’s a three hour drive, but the journey’s the thing, is it not?

Our first stop is at the Old Cheese Factory, which I know from past visits is a veritable treasure trove of interesting things. It’s closed; no hint as to when it might re-open. We see this a lot in WA – no business hours posted - and it frustrates the heck out of me. I just don’t get it.

There’s just enough time to relax on the wraparound porch of our B&B for a bit before heading to the Balingup Tavern, where we’ve booked dinner. This place is carnivore nirvana, light eaters need not apply (I was much relieved to find a Caesar salad on the menu). Mr. nq8 is looking forward to a humongous medium-rare hunk of sirloin. It’s not to be. Sirloin yes, medium-rare, definitely not. Once again they manage to overcook it, even though we point out while ordering that the last time we ate here they overcooked the steak, and we specifically request that they please, please not overcook it this time. It falls on deaf ears.

We retreat to our B&B to watch the sun set over the rolling hills of Balingup.

To be continued…

Melbourne, Australia
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1. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

Great report Mel (grrrrr re the overcooking of steak !)

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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2. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

Yep, that's what we thought PP. The overcooking of steak that's been ordered medium rare happens to us so often in WA that we've begun to wonder if it's a state ordinance.

Much like our complete inability to get a glass of red in Singapore (or on a SIA flight for that matter) that hasn't been chilled. Weird.

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

I have often ordered rare in the hope of it being medium rare !!

Sydney, Australia
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for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Business Travel, New South Wales
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4. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

As usual a great read Mel. Thanks for sharing I enjoyed reading your TR.

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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5. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

Good strategy PP, maybe we'll try that next time.

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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6. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

Our worries about massive crowds of long weekend revelers is unfounded. Balingup is a ghost town. We’ve got the entire B&B to ourselves for all three nights; it seems the rest of Perth went to the beach. Good on ‘em.

It’s Australia Day and we’re up with the birds. It’s deliciously cool as we set out to explore the neighborhood on foot at 5:30 am. We walk for about an hour, not realizing how steep the hill we’ve come down is until we have to plod back up.

After a nice fry up, compliments of our B&B owner Ruth, we descend the hill into town and poke around. It doesn’t take long; Balingup is still asleep at 9 am (not that there’s much to Balingup anyway).

Normally, we’d go find a bushwalking track, but January is too hot for that nonsense.

Instead, we embark upon the Balingup/Nannup/Bridgetown Golden Triangle, a.k.a ‘WA’s premier Tourist Drive’ (251). We somehow manage to squeeze this drive in on every visit we make to Balingup; it’s always worth the effort. Our first stop is Wright’s Bridge where a large flock of red- tailed and white-tailed black cockatoos descend upon us. I’ve never seen so many in one place – it’s fascinating, and quite the auditory assault.

Although it’s much drier and considerably less green than on past visits, we thoroughly enjoy the journey. A lush vineyard is begging to be photographed, so we pull over. I meander down the road for a better vantage point…and something on the bitumen moves. Sure enough, it’s a very long snake doing its best to get away from me. I think it's a Dugite, but I'm hardly a snake expert. It slithers across the highway just close enough to make me cringe. I point and do my snake dance while an amused Mr. nq8 watches from the rearview mirror. Ugh, I hate snakes; especially the venomous kind!

We resume our drive, surrounded by fruit trees and rolling countryside. Once in the historic timber town of Nannup, we pop into The Good Food Shop, where we have a coffee on their back patio, hoping to see the resident bandicoots (no such luck). As we walk the streets, it occurs to me for the first time that the town of Nannup is actually bigger than Balingup. I’ve always thought the opposite.

After locating the Vasse Hwy towards Busselton, we seek out Cambray Sheep Cheese, located about 12 km from Nannup, where we have a chat, a nibble, and purchase some lovely garlic chive Boursan and Havarti.

Back on the Vasse, we backtrack to Nannup, follow a sign to a winery that doesn’t seem to exist (Karrak), and then continue on 251 to Bridgetown, where we wander through a residential neighborhood looking for Sunnyhurst Estate. Our search pays off; this family run boutique winery is situated on a historic 1896 homestead with an incredible garden. They produce small quantities of wine from hand-picked grapes, and we thoroughly enjoy our visit with the owner/winemaker. We love every wine we taste; many bottles go into the trunk.

Lunch finds us at the Cidery in Bridgetown, which is teeming with customers. We have a nice feed, but before we’ve finished I feel like I’m going to die of heatstroke in the non-air conditioned building. I wonder how the employees survive the summer.

Note for visitors to Bridgetown: The petrol station closes at noon on Saturday, even on a long weekend. Interestingly, we’ve also been told by a local that the Bridgetown Bakery closes over Easter; the busiest travel weekend in Australia. What, no hot cross buns? Yet more WA weirdness.

Back in Balingup, our third attempt to gain entry into The Old Cheese Factory proves fruitful, they’re open!

The heat has done us in; we head back to the B&B and turn on the air conditioning.

To be continued...

A J
Subiaco, Australia
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for Perth, Margaret River
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7. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

I always enjoy your trip reports Mel, and this one is no exception :)

Looking forward to future installment(s).

Colorado
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8. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

Cheers AJ. Only one more installment, I promise.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

Love it :)

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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10. Re: A Weekend Away in WA

We’re out the door and in the car by 6 am; we’ve scoped out a walk and want to get a jump on the heat. We leave our car at the Balingup Oval, and then follow a track along Balingup Brook, which soon joins the Bibbulmun (a ~965 km track that runs from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany). It’s cool and overcast, but the flies wake up before we finish our two hour, five mile round trip.

After another good breakfast at the B&B, we leave Balingup and work our way towards Greenbushes and Bridgetown via the SW Highway, Blackwood and Maranup Ford Roads, yet another scenic drive. We wander the streets of Bridgetown, get caffeinated at the Pottery Tearooms and explore Food Works, where I find some nice specialty items, including my favorite Holy Smoke Pate from Pemberton, which I’ve had trouble locating in Perth. Lucky me.

We seek out Wattle Ridge Winery, discovering some lovely Cabernet, pick up a case of Bittersweet Cider from the Cidery (they were out the previous day) and then meander out to the eclectic and exceptionally laid back and friendly Chudacud Estate, a winery/music venue/mini golf course/paraphernalia shop/lamb sanctuary/little bit of everything kind of place. Chudacud is located halfway between Bridgetown and Boyup Brook and holds the distinction of being the smallest winery in the Blackwood Valley Region.

At this point we should have gone to Smallwater Estate (in Newlands, north of Kirup), a promising lunch venue I’d earmarked, but I completely forget about it… until we drive past the following morning (oops).

We return to Balingup via scenic Greenbushes-Boyup Brook Road, and call in at A Taste of Balingup for a lovely light lunch made from locally sourced produce.

We while away the rest of the day, lazing on the porch of our B&B, reading, enjoying the cool breeze and the complete absence of flies.

------

Another blissfully cool morning; we’re out before six, parking near the bridge on Jayes Road where we finished our trek yesterday. We cross the brook and walk another, much prettier section of the Bibbulmun, although completely uphill. The lack of birds seems very un-OZ like, they must be sleeping in. We manage about four miles.

We’re fed, packed and on the road before Balingup wakes up, hoping to get a leg up on the end-of-long-weekend-return-to-Perth-madness. Once again we pass orchard after orchard and numerous roadside kiosks selling fruit.

Forty-five minutes later we’re approaching Bunbury, where we take the Australind Bypass (#1) to the Bunbury Highway towards Mandurah. Then we’re suddenly on the Forest Highway..it’s been 3.5 years since this new highway opened, but it still confuses me; having an old map doesn’t help. I never have liked this route; today is no different.

As expected, the highway and rest stops are chockablock with travelers returning north. We’re all business today, making it home in a mere three hours. We've survived our long holiday weekend, unscathed.

Trip WOW here:

…tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-0757-961e-548c