Shrouded in clouds, the Porongurup ranges hover in the distance on our road trip from Albany to Denmark. The air is thick with burning wood fires on the approach into the Great Southern region of Western Australia. We’re on a gourmet hunt in an Apollo campervan through Albany, Denmark, Pemberton and Manjimup, hopefully discovering some truffles along the way.
A self-drive road trip from Albany to Denmark can take days or weeks, and that’s the beautiful freedom of a campervan, especially when there are plenty of caravan parks with powered sites to choose from. Equipped with a modern kitchen and a healthy appetite, we’re on a quest for marron, smoked trout, chocolate, free-range meat, honey, cheese, olive oil and the elusive truffle. Of course, there will be the pleasant distraction of Australia’s largest wine region, not to mention distilleries, breweries, cider factories and even a meadery.
Albany is packed with gourmet outlets like Reeves on Campbell, Spencer Park Variety Meats, Solomon Merchants and Black Duck Gourmet Pantry. Farmers markets run weekends but for just-picked strawberries try Handasyde Strawberries. Just out of town in Middleton Beach is the Bay Merchants and Rats Bar and Due South overlooks Princess Royal Harbour.
Sure to enchant all ages and famed for succulent marron is Nippers Café at the Old Marron Farm, where there is also an animal farm and bird enclosure. Catch your own lunch at the Old Vasse Trout Restaurant and Marron Farm. Combine the outing with a Segway Tour through the farm and fields and you’ll have stretched those legs plenty before climbing aboard with a few clawed friends for tonight’s meal.
Pick up a warming tipple like the Limeburners Single Malt Whisky from the Great Southern Distilling Company before hitting the Southern Coast Highway towards the picturesque town of Denmark.
Pop into Willoughby Park Winery for a spot of wine-swilling, the preservative-free ale at the Boston Brewery and for some hearty fare or varying degrees of grazing. For a caffeine hit in the township of Denmark try Ravens Coffee and sample the raw food menu. Or wander down to Darkside Chocolates for an infusion of chocolate with Australian bush flavours like lemon myrtle and native pepper.
Heading back onto the South Coast Highway visit Bartholomews Meadery for pure honey, mead and honey inspired crafts and gifts. The weather may demand a hot chocolate at Swiss Annies Fine Chocolates, not to mention the obscene chocolate menu. As if that wasn’t sticky enough, The Toffee Factory may just be your undoing and allow Elephants Rock Cider, also onsite, to cleanse the palette with the local flavours of apple, pear and strawberry.
Cruising the campervan along the scenic Scotsdale Drive is a visual feast as the enormous windscreen provides a panoramic view of the sweeping Jarrah and Marri trees. Stop off at Ducketts Mill Wines & Denmark Farmhouse Cheese for the makings of a decadent feast, especially the four-year-old gouda, and sample their preserves, fudge and ice-creams.
Set in stunning scenery, The Valley of the Giants Organic Olive Oils has some of the country’s highest-ranking oils and olive products, and the success of their range can be attributed to the cool Mediterranean climate.
While we’re on the subject, The Valley of the Giants is an ancient forest where you could lose yourself for days on end within its labyrinth and Treetop Walk. Nearby are beaches, inlets, falls, cliffs, wildflowers (from August to November) and walking trails, including the Bibbulmun Track, stretching 1000 kilometres from the Perth Hills to Albany. Park the campervan and do a section of the walk at any point of this journey. Or try and spot the elephants at Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool in William Bay National Park.
A truffle hunt at Manjimup’s Truffle Hill (from June to September) is a particularly exciting start to the day, especially when thousands worth of Perigords are uncovered by the champion dogs in a single hunt. Pick up some naughty delights where the prized ingredient is the star attraction. The intoxicating earthy aroma hits as soon as you enter the shop; resistance is useless.
With the smell of truffle lingering in your hair and clothes, take your time with a leisurely sojourn and stay overnight in Frankland River or Margaret River and continue to eat and drink your way through Western Australia’s fresh produce and wine.
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An Apollo Euro Deluxe campervan was generously loaned by Apollo Motorhomes