It was one of those balmy autumnal days, when the air is still, the meadows are washed with the first blush of green, and the deciduous trees are turning golden shades of russet, gold and burnt sienna.
There’s something about Autumn that makes me feel content, a little sleepy even, and a day out in the Ferguson Valley with wine, good food and song was just the ticket.
And if you’re looking for interesting Australian holidays, then read on for a great selection of places to visit and things to do that are well off the beaten track. There are also some fabulous places to stay dotted around the Ferguson Valley, and the Dardanup Visitor Centre will be able to help you with more information.
But we were in the valley for the Dardanup Art Spectacular Trail, an annual event that happens during the first weekend of May in this lovely region near Bunbury.
What everyone ought to know about the Ferguson Valley is the fact that its beauty spots are not just centred along Pile road and Ferguson Road. It’s much more extensive than that and there’s lots to explore.
What you really need to know is that this area is the new Margaret River. Serious!
Just remember you heard it here first!
It’s pretty, it’s varied and there are some wonderful lifestyle businesses springing up, along with excellent wineries offering first class Geographe Bay wines. Ok the area may not have the surf and the beaches that Margaret River has, but I defy anyone who is not beguiled by it’s beautiful hills and sweeping vistas.
After living in the Geographe region for 4 years, we thought we knew the area pretty well. Little did we know until today how extensive it is, and it took an art trail to get us to drive along roads less travelled to find places, galleries and wineries that are on the map, but which we might not ordinarily have encountered because they are hardly advertised, and are not heavily frequented.
For the Art Spectacular galleries opened their doors to showcase art and crafts by local artists of the region, while wine estates opened their cellar doors to exhibit not only their wine but also various art displays too. There were 18 in all – we didn’t get round them all in one day (see the map above).
Our first stop was at Bonking Frog Wines on Dardanup West Road, owned by Phil and Julie Hutton, where we wandered around the tranquil garden which overlooks the gentle sweep of vineyards. On display here was Metal Art by Inge.
Inge creates stunning metal art panels that are handcrafted in ‘weathering steel.’ I oggled some of the pieces for our garden, but He Himself masterfully extracted me away before I’d managed to whip out the credit card from my handbag. We’ve tasted Bonking Frog wines many times and frequently buy their excellent Merlot (try it), but it was too early in the day for us to begin on the vino.
From there we drove to Dardanup and popped in to the Dardanup Hall to have a squizz at the Art Spectacular Exhibition before carrying on into and up the beautiful valley for an early lunch with a view (below).
We stopped for sustenance at Ferguson Farmstay on Henty Road, with its glorious views stretching all the way to Bunbury and the ocean, where if you were wearing the right specs you could see the container ships waiting to come into the harbour (above).
We enjoyed a wonderful early lunch enjoying a ploughmans’ platter, and fish and chips, as we sat on the covered verandah overlooking bright rose bushes, a wedding podium and the rammed earth farmstay cottages nestled in the curves of the landscape.
Suitably refreshed (um, stuffed) we drove to Angelicus Wines on Catalano Road, near Burekup (below).
Angelicus means Angel, and we soon realised that the map we were following was not to scale, because we began to think we might be lost, and wondered if we would need a guardian angel to get us there.
Finally after an interesting winding route through forest and dale we arrived at the the small cellar door, which sits high on a hill overlooking sweeping scenery stretching all the way down to the Collie River. Fine arts reproductions of the iconic Australian artist Jeffrey Smart were on display and Sue Ward told us a little a bit about his work before we got down to the serious stuff of tasting their lovely wines. They really do make excellent wines – we love the GSM (Garnacha Shiraz Monastrell) and the sparkling Panis Angelicus which means Bread of the Angels.
We had a long chat with Sue and John, about wine, about their interesting house and cellar door build, and how they had arrived to create a lifestyle on this hilltop with its fabulous views after owning a property in Pemberton. And then we said goodbye to Sue and the views, and drove back along the little red gravel road, down to the valley towards The Lyndendale Gallery on Crooked Brook Road (below).
What a lot of cars were lined up on the front verge! Had we been missing out, we wondered? But no, there was still lots going on. Music from local entertainers under the trees in the courtyard, tea and cakes for sale with the proceeds going to Solaris cancer care, artists painting, drawing, working and explaining their methods at various places around the gallery, and as always an interesting and varied selection of art and crafts for sale, representing 40 South West artists.
Just glorious. We didn’t want to leave.
However, by now the sun was setting and we were planning on going home to cook dinner.
But something made us turn the other way.
“It’s too lovely to go home,” He Himself said.
“Where shall we go next?” we wondered as we looked at the map.
We decided to head to local artist Jenni Doherty’s studio on Wellington Mill Road. What a beautiful drive it was to get there . The trees surrounding the National Park were turning into bright swathes of golden and red. Jenni had opened up her interesting house (we decided it was a Grand Design), which includes her studio and the gallery where there was an exhibition of local artists’ work along with her own stunning pieces.
There was by now a cool nip to the air and it was time to put sweaters on as we continued our travels along Kingtree Road to Kingtree Lodge and Wines. The forested drive was along gravel and the forest felt mysterious as the light became a little dimsy, and we also spotted plenty of kangaroos in the surrounding fields. What amazed me is that we felt (and were) so remote to civilisation at large, and yet we were still within a short driving distance (about 40 minutes) of Bunbury, Western Australia’s third largest city.
After a while we popped out onto Pile Road and drove to The Wild Bull Brewery where we decided to sit outside on the grass and enjoy a sundowner overlooking the golden vineyards, as well as having a wander around Tanya Hurtley’s vibrant art displayed on the brewery’s walls.
Time to head home, because everything had shut … there were 18 establishments exhibiting art, all dotted around the Ferguson Valley. Next year, we plan to see them them all.
I’m linking today with Budget Travelers Sandbox, where you’ll find a whole array of interesting travel posts and awesome photos from bloggers around the world.
Do you have an Art’s Spectacular trail or similar event in your part of the world?