Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

Australian Holidays

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro
He Himself, holding up a not-so-crooked-tree at the Lyndendale Gallery on Crooked Brook Road!

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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).

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro
Loved the metal art panels by Inge

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).

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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).

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

Suitably refreshed (um, stuffed) we drove to Angelicus Wines on Catalano Road, near Burekup (below).

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

P1070636 x

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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).

PicMonkey Collage

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro
The beautiful autumnal view from Jenni Dohert’s studio

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro

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.

Australian Holidays by Jo Castro
Just some of the wineries, breweries, artists’ studios and places to stay in the Ferguson Valley.

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.

For more accounts of the Dardanup Art Spectacular you might like to visit The Lyndendale Gallery’s blog and Ingrid Rickersey’s blog as well.

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?

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  1. We cannot wait to get back to W.A. and start exploring. I think there are so many new and wonderful things that have popped up in the last 30 years that we won’t have seen. I know where to come for the all the ideas when we do finally get there 🙂

  2. So glad you appreciate what our beautiful Ferguson valley has to offer.
    You need both days of the weekend to cover all the Art Trail venues. ( Remember to put a circle around the first weekend in May. )
    Want to know the good news?
    Most of these places are open during the week or on the weekend. Look on the Ferguson Valley website for details.
    Come and enjoy one of the most beautiful places in WA’s south west.

  3. Thanks for the heads up and info, Denise. Next year we shall commit the whole weekend 🙂

  4. Thanks Jan, I hope ZigaZag will be a useful resource for you when you do come back this side and start exploring again 🙂

  5. What a fabulous day you had in the Ferguson Valley. It really is one of the special areas down south. The Art Trail sounds like a fabulous initiative to introduce visitors to some of the wineries and galleries in the area.

  6. The weekend was certainly beautiful – and what a wonderful way to spend it on the Art Trail. Unfortunately we only had Sunday afternoon, so only managed a few destinations. I think I should plan for my sister to visit next year so she and I can go trailing together – I know she would love it! Thanks for the taste of what is on offer Jo.

  7. It would be a great ‘sisterly’ thing to do, Jill and you’re right you need to allow time to enjoy the trail to the full.

  8. Thanks Ingrid 🙂 I’m really glad that you enjoyed it – seems as if we went to a few of the same places, but I enjoyed reading your tale of the day too 🙂

  9. Something I think you’d enjoy too Jenny. There are some nice restaurants popping up in the valley as well.

  10. Love discovering all these beautiful areas in Western Australia. It’s a state one really doesn’t hear much about (at least not here in Europe), you’re doing a marvellous job of marketing it.

  11. What a great area to explore. That combo of wine, good food and art is very appealing. Also love the red roads. They make a great photo.

  12. This is the best – art, food, wine, the great outdoors. I’m gonna guess you didn’t make it back in time to make dinner but i bet you weren’t even hungry. Definitely satisfying.

  13. What a beautiful region! I enjoyed all of your photos – it does throw me off a bit thinking about leaves turning colour and fall though when we are just finally getting spring here!

  14. Thanks Lisa. That’s what’s so lovely about blogging – I can now share your spring as we slow down into winter here 🙂

  15. Ha Ha! No we weren’t at all hungry at dinnertime, I think it was peanut butter sandwiches just before bed!

  16. The red roads are stunning aren’t they, Leigh. Thanks. We have the most beautiful coloured soil in WA.

  17. I’m glad I can show you around our lovely corner of the world, Sophie – and you’re right, it doesn’t get a lot of exposure on the mainframe travel scene.

  18. Wow, what a beautiful valley – wine, food, scene view, art scene. Enjoyed traveling there through your lovely photos. I loved the photo of the road with the golden sand and the tree with fall colors. Really spectacular.

  19. Thanks Marisol, hope one day you can experience it all in real life maybe?

  20. Hi Jo, so happy to hear you had a great time in the Ferguson Valley and a nice lunch at our Farmstay! Hope to have you back again soon, thanks for visiting us.

  21. Hi Charmaine, it was a beautiful day, and we really enjoyed lunch with a view at Ferguson Farmstay 🙂

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