We never cease to marvel at what’s on offer in our little piece of Australian backyard nestled in the south west of the country. It’s full of wonder and unexpected delights. If you take a road trip from Bunbury to Nannup, Balingup, Donnybrook and Capel, you’ll get to see a varied assortment of scenery, small towns and producers.
Living in Bunbury we feel spoilt for choice with the different options to explore the coast, forest, rolling farmland and a host of other wonderful experiences close to home.
Dave decided to take a day off from work and we jumped in the car and followed our noses for a wonderful voyage of discovery on a road trip from Bunbury through parts of the Southern Forest and Blackwood Valley regions.
From Bunbury we headed south towards Busselton on the South West Highway, and then turned off onto Sue’s Road travelling to Nannup which was hosting the Nannup Flower and Garden Festival – an annual event that takes place around the mid to end of August each year.
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Cambray Cheese Factory
About 12 kms outside Nannup we decided to call into Cambray Cheese factory. We hadn’t stopped here for years and wanted to see how they were doing. Last time we visited we bought some delicious sheep’s feta.
Driving in along a gravel road through the forest we entered the farm through the citrus orchards.
The trees were heaving with fruit and in the watery sunshine the scenery looked incredibly lush and verdant.
Borne from Jane’s passion for cheese-making and Bruce’s experience in sheep farming, Cambray Cheese is a true family business, with son Tom busy in the dairy.
At the small factory you can sample a delicious range of farmhouse cheese and maybe bring along a bottle of local wine to enjoy with a cheese platter in the peaceful farm surrounds.
Traditional English teas and Janes’ famous fruitcake served with cheese are also not to be missed, so too the assortment of goodies to buy in the shop.
Unfortunately we had just missed the milking of the sheep but perhaps if you stay overnight at one of the guest cottages you can get to enjoy the full Cambray experience.
We bought a mature Spanish style sheep’s cheese, and some Boursin cheese, as well as some juicy freshly picked mandarins – which as you bit into them burst with flavour and sweetness. Delicious!
Just before the next downpour of rain we headed to Nannup through the rolling forested hills of Jarrah and Marri trees along Sue’s Road.
Nannup Flower and Garden Festival
Nannup is an historic mill town set in the heart of the Blackwood River Valley on the banks of the Blackwood River. It’s a 3 hour dive south of Perth, set in the centre of the South West. There are a number of walking trails and scenic drives. For more things to do check out THIS POST.
We always love to visit Nannup on the weekend of the Garden Festival as the town makes great efforts to showcase the wonderful local open gardens and the streets are filled with flower boxes packed with armies of tulips of every colour, as well as bright yellow daffodils.
Sadly the day we visited it was pouring with rain so we didn’t get many fantastic flower shots, but at a previous festival we did. You can check out the sort of thing to expect in good weather in this post: Fire and Ice in Quirky Nannup.
The small town was bustling with cars and people for the Garden Festival has become very popular and it really is worth a visit if you are around at this time of year.
This year there were celebrity guests giving talks and presentations, flower exhibitions, market stalls, workshops and an amazing hall of flowers. Unfortunately for us, it rained and rained on the Friday we visited, but we didn’t really let being soggy get in the way of our enjoyment.
Tulips adorned the town and many of the town’s impressive gardens were open for viewing.
Where to stay in Nannup
Holberry House is one of our favourite gardens, a leafy haven in the heart of Nannup, with a unique guesthouse set on top of a wooded hill, in four acres of gorgeous gardens, beautiful at any time of year but especially in springtime when you can expect to see tulips, camelias, rhododendrons, hellebores, bulbs and irises. There’s a pond with waterfalls, home to ducks and frogs, and a winter creek which meanders through the property. Read more about Holberry House here. Book Holberry House at the best price Here.
However, this year we were keen to visit a new garden on the list, not only to see the garden but also because this new venture is based around chestnuts.
So we headed for Chestnut Brae, a little more than 10 kms out of town off the Vasse Highway on the road to Pemberton.
Chestnut Brae was bought 4 years ago by Linda and John Stanley who decided to leave the rat race in preference for a more rural existence somewhere where they could ‘produce something.’ Now their farm is being developed into a sustainable permaculture farm using regenerative agriculture.
Situated in Carlotta/ the farm, with a guest cottage (above) is set in a lovely undulating valley surrounded by a French Monet inspired garden, and European forests of chestnut trees which were planted biodynamically over 30 years ago.. (Scroll down to the end of the post for directions to get there).
Dave got chatting to Linda who told him that the farm is also known for its Berkshire Pigs which are fed on chestnuts and he was keen to head out into the rain with her to see them.
“We farm seasonally,” Linda said. “And the chestnuts are picked from March to June. We feed the pigs on a 50% chestnut diet, and their meat is in great demand by local chefs. We also went into a collaboration to produce chestnut ale which has recently won us a gold prize,” Linda told us.
While Dave headed off to see the Berkshire pigs I chatted to Linda’s daughter and looked in the big freezers at all the chestnut produce – Among other things I discovered flour (gluten free), chestnut fed pork and bags of frozen chestnuts ready to eat. I also found out that Linda has written a children’s book about her solo walk along the Bibbulmun Track.
After Chestnut Brae we tore off our wet coats and hats, put on the heater, and headed to beautiful Balingup.
Things to do in Balingup
We love the drive along the Blackwood River from Nannup to Balingup. The road twists and turns through native and plantation forests, winds up and down rolling hills with orchards and vineyards and at times affords long views over the valleys as you climb the ridges, before descending to offer glimpses of the winding river along lovely wooded stretches.
On the way we decided to take a quick stop at Tathra as I’d met the founding matriarch of this interesting winery a few years ago in a writing group I belonged to, and I wanted to see the farm that she had poured her heart and soul into creating and building.
If you stop here not only is it worth tasting their wines and perhaps eating at the small restaurant, a visit to Ellis Cottage is really interesting. Ellis Cottage Museum, the first cottage built on the farm is now a living museum, admission is free during restaurant hours.
It was then onto Balingup where we stopped off for a lovely coffee and snack – there are a number of quaint cafes you can choose from. Balingup is host to a number of events each year including the Medieval Carnivale which happens which year in September.
The town is 30kms south of Donnybrook and set in the heart of the Blackwood River valley. You’ll find kooky boutiques and gourmet cafes and it’s also known for its position along the Bibbulmun Track as it’s just about half-way along the famous Perth to Albany hike.
It’s also well known for it’s beautiful arboretum – the best time to visit is in Autumn. You can read more about the beautiful walks and park, Here.
From Balingup we headed back towards Bunbury through the small towns of Kirrup and … and just before we reached Donnybrook we stopped off at a well known Geographe winery, Barrecas.
Barraces produce some very drinkable wines and in particular some sumptuous reds at reasonable prices. We have long been admirers of their red wines.
Bareccas was first established in 1994 by Fil Barreca after he worked for 6 months on a Sicilian vineyard in southern Italy. Fil came home and began planting vines to re-create this idyllic lifestyle.
We stopped off and had a chat to lovely Kelly, Fil’s wife, and Dave was very interested to find out about the story of their Pinotage.
Certainly Barrecas are one of the very few wineries in Australia to produce Pinotage wine.
Why not pop along and ask Kelly or Fil how their Pinotage came about? Oh, and spoiler alert … the cellar door area is undergoing a fabulous make-over.
Having stocked up with a nice bottle of Barrecas Pinotage for our evening meal to go with our cheese from Cambray, and chestnut fed pork cutlets from Chestnut Brae, we set off again and drove to the small town of Boyanup, and detoured towards Capel. We’d heard the Iron Stone Gully falls were in full flow (not a common occurrence) after the recent big winter rains we’ve been having and we were dying to see them.
What an amazing day following our nose around our backyard, meeting new and interesting people, hearing their stories, sampling the fruits of their endeavour, driving through wonderful scenery, and enjoying our small regional town’s big festival days.
More things to do in the Blackwood and Southern Forest region
Blooming Wild Festival – Celebrate the diversity and beautiful wildflowers in the Southern Forest and Valleys Region from the beginning of September to the middle of November each year,. Encompassing the towns of Bridgetown, Balingup, Boyup Brook, Nannup, Pemberton, Manjimup, Walpole and Northcliffe – the festival show cases the wide range of landcapes and flora over the Spring season with a range of events and self guided trails. Contact the above, participating, Visitor Centres for more information. www.bloomingwild.com.au
Balingup Medieval Carnivale – step back in time and dress up in Medieval costume at this fabulous festival with stalls, food, local wine and cider tasting, live music and live action re-enactors. End weekend of August – annual event. www.balingupmedievalcarnivale.com.au
Have lunch at Capel Vale Wines – Match Restaurant – 15 minutes from Bunbury, 5 minutes from Capel. Food and wine are paired in some inventive and delicious combinations.
Nannup Music Festival – a vibrant, fun, affordable, family oriented festival with high quality acts and performers. Nannup comes alive with music and market stalls and good vibes. An annual festival held in February each year. www.nannupmusicfestival.org
Balingup attraction – do stop at the old cheese factory and craft centre. Situated on the Nannup tourist drive just outside of the village, this art and crafts gallery is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave. You’ll find the work of hundreds of artists and artisans up for sale from nikky-nakky-noos to pottery paintings and furniture, and also a large display of antiques.
More Fabulous Festivals – Read about 6 of the fabulous festivals held in the south west each year in this post.
Barrecas Wines – set in the picturesque Geographe Wine Region, 199 km from Perth CBD and 39 km from Bunbury, Western Australia, near Donnybrook in the heart of the South West Region. Open every day 10am-5pm. Barrecas is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Cambray Cheese Factory – The Farm Shop at Cambray itself is open everyday from 9am to 5pm. Or you can find Cambray cheeses at the Kalamunda Village Market (near Perth) on the first Saturday of each month, Manning Farmers Market and Margaret River Farmers Market every Saturday and Boyanup Farmers Market on the fourth Sunday of each month.
Chestnut Brae – 106 McKittrick Road – From Donnybrook – South East off Vasse Hwy towards Pemberton. Drive for 9kms and then turn left onto Chalwell Road, 3.5kms turn right onto McKittrick and go to the end until you see the farm gate for Chestnut Brae.
Where to Stay
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