Where? The South West Wine Trail begins in the Ferguson Valley, around 2 hours south of Perth, and continues to the Margaret River Wine Region, then inland to the Pemberton and Manjimup Wine Regions.
How long? We recommend taking around 4-6 days to ensure you can make all the stops you want! Distances are not huge but there are so many things to see and do.
As we pulled into the lush rolling green hills of the Ferguson Valley in the Geographe Wine Region, a couple of hours south of Perth, we could immediately sense we were in for a feast of the senses.
The Ferguson Valley is instantly recognisable as fertile ground – with rolling vineyards meeting the road, dairy cows lazing in green paddocks, sheep grazing underneath vines and cellar doors appearing to the left and right of you, your senses are immediately heightened as you anticipate the discoveries ahead.
Our first stop on the South West Wine trail (which is not an officially marked drive, but more a recognised route between the famous neighbouring wine regions in the South West) is at Green Door Wines, and we see straight away why it has been named as such.
Stepping through the green doors that were brought to Australia from Morocco by owners Kath and Ashley, we find ourselves in the cellar door of a boutique winery that is making award winning European-style wines.
The varieties grown at Green Door are predominately Spanish, and Kath and Ashley have been making wine here since 2011… Originally hailing from Broome, they decided to simply pack up and move south to pursue their passion of winemaking, and their wines are a testament to this.
We taste the award-winning Temperanillo, the perfect accompaniment to the platter of local cheeses, olives, venison salami and caperberries we are served, and it is clear that not only does this corner of Australia produce some of the best food and wine available, but the community who lives here are also passionately supporting each other.
We can’t wait to see what’s next.
We drive out towards the coast, heading towards Margaret River via Yallingup where a bakery on the side of the road catches our eye.
Yallingup Gugelhupf bakery, from the makers of Yallingup Woodfired Bread, specialises in traditional European sweets and will sweep you off your feet with its rustic charm and mouth-watering pastries.
We stock up on strawberry and lemon tarts, shortbreads, quiches and the traditional Gugelhupf cake, and find the perfect place to tuck in – the stunning beach just down the road overlooking the roaring Indian Ocean.
Margaret River is one of the most famous wine regions in Australia, so it was with great anticipation that we pulled into the iconic coastal town so prized for not only its vino, but its craft beers, cheeses and other gourmet delights.
We are basing ourselves at BIG4 Taunton Farm Holiday Park, around 10 minutes from the town of Margaret River, in a little hamlet called Cowaramup. It is a spectacularly charming little place which celebrates its name and local dairy industry with 42 life-sized fibreglass fresian cows located about town.
The park sits on a 600 acre working farm that has been in owner Rob’s family for 60 years. His wife Julie works the holiday park which evolved as an annex-business to the farm and has grown over the years to now offer 18 cabins as well as camping and caravan sites, a heritage church and school the couple rescued from demolition and now use for functions, a barbecue shed and kids jumping pillow.
But the true jewel in the crown here is the location which we can only describe as heavenly. Peaceful and rural, with the sight of farm animals and the smell of the country – it’s intoxicating morning and night.
At 5pm it is animal feeding time and our kids join the others staying at the park to offer handfuls of carrots and hay to cows, goats, pigs and sheep. Meanwhile, the barbecues in the shed are turned on and all the guests in the park congregate for sausages in bread together and a wonderful community is formed as the sun begins to set in the hills before us.
Anxious to unearth Margaret River’s bounty of treasures, we joined local guide Sean Blocksidge from his tour company The Margaret River Discovery Co to visit some of his favourite local producers. Among them is Fraser Gallop Estate and one of the regions most awarded winemakers, Clive Otto.
Indeed, some of Clive’s wines at Fraser Gallop have been awarded best in the world, so we were pretty keen to get straight to the cellar. Travelling with Sean meant that tastings were accompanied by a special lunch with Clive in the barrel room itself where we got to chat about his wines and awards. We left feeling delighted about our meeting with one of the region’s most eminent winemakers.
You can’t leave Margaret River without checking out the loads of goodies there are to buy and take with you on your road trip, and one of our favourite stops in town is ‘The Larder’ – established by former Masterchef contestant Siobahn Halse. This busy providore stocks speciality gourmet items from the region and boasts a cooking school and deli.
Elsewhere in Margaret River, don’t miss the beaches with Prevelly and Gnarabup high on your list, and ensure a cave visit is on your list – Margaret River boasts a network of some 150 ancient limestone caves under the ground, some of which can be explored by the public.
Our wine trail took a turn away from the coast and into the Southern Forests region where the trees became taller as we headed further inland. Indeed, the fertile soil in this region contributes to the fact that the third tallest trees in the world grow here, the karri tree, and we reach the town of Pemberton and its famous ‘Gloucester Tree’ – the second tallest fire lookout tree in the world at 53m.
Its original wooden pegs have been replaced by steel but even so, the climb up to the lookout at the top appears daunting and as we stood at the bottom, craning our necks to try to see to the top, a brave climber descended having completed the entire climb – a feat which we hear is only reserved for the minority who attempt it.
I try my luck and make it a third of the way up before heading back down and it is enough for me. The climb to the top might not be my cup of tea, but the appreciation for the stunning forest of karri trees which surround us is unanimous.
Our final stop on the wine trail is in picturesque Manjimup a little further down the road. And one of the best things you can do here is call in at Tall Timbers whose main focus it is to showcase the regions cellar doors all in one place – indeed, there are 37 wine growers in the region and every one of them are represented here, along with world-class local food including the famed Manjimup truffle.
We try it paired with a succulent potato gnocchi and our first experience tasting this delicacy is out of the world, especially paired with a drop of the local wine.
As owner of Tall Timbers Ed tells us, sitting down to a wine and meal here is not just about the produce, it’s about a representation of the local people.
And that, we have to say, is an accurate way to sum up our entire journey in the South West. It hasn’t just been about the food and wine we have tasted, but the stories and the people behind them.
Have you driven some or all of the South West, or are planning to? Tell us in the comments!