Set in the wild expanse of Western Australia, Great Southern is an equally expansive wine region, home to exceptional vineyards across its diverse and beautiful terrain. For those wanting to explore the region, it can be hard to know where to start, so we reached out to a couple of locals in the know for their insights. Follow the tips from the crews at top Great Southern wineries Singlefile Wines and Castelli Estate to discover some of the best that the region has to offer.
Frankland River is the first stop you’ll reach if travelling by car from Perth (around three and a half hours’ drive). Sparsely populated, but with rich winemaking territory, serious wine nerds will want to stop here and tick it off their lists. As the name suggests, there is also the option to participate in water-based activities such as swimming, water skiing and canoeing.
Around an hour from Frankland River is Mount Barker, which, similarly, has a smattering of wineries to tour. For adventurous types, the nearby Stirling Range National Park is home to the highest peak in the south-west: Bluff Knoll.
Prior to the wine, grab a bite to eat at Zarephath Cafe. If, once you’ve had your fill of riesling samples, you’d like to get some fresh air, visit the Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park for spectacular views.
To finish your day in Porongurup, kick back at Maleeya’s Thai Cafe, which serves authentic cuisine using produce from the onsite veggie garden, in a relaxed setting complete with a bamboo nursery and arboretum. (If you’re in need of a place to stay, Maleeya’s also has accommodation.)
Heading towards the coast, park your car for a while in Albany, the commercial hub of Great Southern. Here, you’ll find a mix of historical and natural attractions, as well as plenty of options for dining and drinking out.
Before beginning your day in Albany, decide whether you want your coffee beachside or in the historic heart of town. If a walk around Middleton Bay appeals, visit Bay Merchants, a one-stop shop for pastries, small goods, the paper, and even a large selection of local wines. If quirky is more your style, try Gourmandise & Co in town, where you can settle in for a rustic breakfast in the cosy space, or choose bakery treats and gourmet products to take back to your stay. A further option would be to wander the stalls at the Albany Farmers Market, which is on every Saturday.
Your next call, outside of what wine to drink, is what to do and see. If you’re keen to work up a sweat, you have a couple of options. The Ellen Cove Boardwalk offers a leisurely stroll with pretty coastal views, or if you’re up for more of a challenge, head to Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve and hike to Goode Beach, where a blissful stretch of sand will reward you. If you prefer a history fix, visit the National Anzac Centre overlooking the harbour.
Come nightfall, you’ll likely want to head out for a meal, and here you’re spoilt for choice. Again, you can choose from the seaside or central venues and a range of dining types. If it’s relaxed pub food and a place for the whole family you’re after, the converted 19th century Earl of Spencer Inn has an airy beer garden, timber-clad interiors and inviting fireplaces. If you want a laidback ambience but would rather it by the beach, try the Hybla Tavern. If snacky share plates and a strong selection of drinks is more your speed, Due South is the place: it’s on the waterfront, and its wine list is a key feature. For something special, you can’t go past Liberte. Housed in the historic London Hotel, this Parisian-style bar slings flavour-packed Vietnamese plates.
The ultimate stop on your Great Southern tour is Denmark, a short half-hour drive from Albany. The area is densely forested with a stunning coastline, making it a rejuvenating end to your road trip.
Once you’re fuelled up, it’s time to hit the wineries. The cellar doors at Singlefile Wines and Castelli Estate are must-stops for an overarching view of Great Southern, as each sources fruit from several of the subregions above, so you can get a first-hand idea of the styles by tasting them side-by-side.
If you have some time, it’s worth mixing up the wine tasting with the area’s natural highlights. The Valley of the Giants Treetops Walk is 30 minutes away at Walpole, or you can explore the network of trails that are a part of the 1000-kilometre long Bibbulmun Track. When the sun is shining, the Elephant Rocks and Elephant Cove at William Bay National Park offer sheltered, crystalline waters to splash in, as well as Jurassic-style rock formations to climb on.
If you get your kicks from food offerings over outdoors activities, loading up a punnet or few at the Denmark Berry Farm is a fun day out. For a more diverse taste of the region, follow the Denmark Food and Wine Trail, making sure to stop at Dark Side Chocolates for dessert.
After a big day of discovering Denmark, you might feel like being treated to an outstanding multi-course meal at a place like Pepper & Salt Restaurant – where chef Silas Masih creates soulful dishes matched to wines from the vineyards in the surrounds – or you might just be up for an easy meal and an early night. If the latter speaks to you, head to Stomp’d bar for a plate of pasta, a charcuterie platter and a glass of wine from the neat local list.