I’ve been dreaming of a romantic cabin in the woods for a long time – as long as it has fluffy towels, internet and good coffee. Situated in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, the Frankland River region delivers in spades along with plenty of wine, scenery and adventure.
Where to stay in Frankland River
The Frankland River Retreat fulfills the fantasy and more as it offers a three-bedroom Homestead brimming with character, a wooden Cabin reminiscent of an alpine hut and a stylish tiny home referred to as the Chalet. We opted for the Chalet as minimalist living has always intrigued me. I love the idea of being unincumbered while travelling – says the girl who rarely leaves home without a portable Nespresso machine.
The verdict? Compact and perfectly formed, the Chalet is ideal for couples as it features a kitchenette with a hotplate and a microwave, an open-plan living and dining area, a separate bedroom with a queen-sized bed and a well-appointed bathroom.
Facing the escarpment, the views of rolling paddocks down to the Frankland River running through the 83-acre property are spectacular, best enjoyed from the deck or from our bed. From our cosy chalet, we witnessed a star-studded performance of the sun and moon rising above the escarpment and the sun setting in the west. Given the isolation, the absence of any sky pollution made this natural phenomenon all the more spectacular.
A stroll down to the Frankland River is a must accompanied by bouncing bunnies and cattle serenading you in the distance. During Spring, you’ll witness fields of wildflowers while during the wet season, the river flows fast enough to go kayaking.
Frankland River Wine
Since you’re in the heart of the Frankland River Wine Region producing some of the state’s finest varieties, it would be unthinkable not to visit at least one winery. This pristine cool-climate region produces stand-out cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
We visited in February when the wineries were preparing to close to the public during their harvest season for several weeks. But we did manage to visit Alkoomi Wines, and this third-generation family-run winery impressively sprawls for over 1200 hectares. The stylish tasting room serves flights and cheese boards, which you can also take away to enjoy from their boutique outlet. Or you can delve in deeper with a private tour of the farm and picnic among the region’s famed olive groves, the very source of their olive oil also available from the tasting room.
As this region is off the beaten track, it’s worth calling ahead for cellar door openings at some of the other wineries including Ferngrove Wines, Swinney Wine, Frankland Estate, Three Elms and Lange Estate Wines.
Where to eat in Frankland River
Apart from cheese boards compliments of the nearby wineries, in the township of Frankland River you can tuck into substantial counter meals at the Frankland River Country Club as well as sampling some of the local drops – I highly recommend Ferngrove’s Merlot with the Surf ‘n Turf. The Frankland River Café has a hearty menu and is a great place to stop for a light meal and a coffee.
If you’re going further afield, I highly recommend Gilberts Wines for a tasting and grazing plates or head into Mount Barker to Plantagenet Wines also for a wine tasting, platters and pizzas. Mt Barker is another wine region to explore for another time, but while you’re in town stock up at Plantagenet Meats known for their premium local meat and smoked goods – might be a good time to mess up the kitchen back at Frankland River Retreat.
Approximately 15-minutes east of Mount Baker is Porongurup, which isn’t just visited for trekking either as the village and surrounding vineyards serve food and wine.
On the drive to and from Perth, you’ll pass several roadside fruit and vegetable stalls from the family-run orchards the region is famed for. They’ll probably be unmanned but don’t let that put you off, as they operate on a help-yourself honour system.
Of course, an abundance of gourmet delights awaits in Albany, Denmark, Pemberton and Manjimup, if time permits.
Things to do in Frankland River
Clambering up to Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock is a must-do for the intrepid at The Porongurup National Park, which we will have to save for next time when the weather isn’t so extreme. However, more leisurely walks are suitable for any fitness level, including the ‘Tree in the Rock’ walk. Or take the 23km scenic drive leaving you more time to explore the local wineries, cafes, galleries and village – and to stop regularly for photo opportunities.
Shrouded in clouds, the Stirling Ranges majestically hover in the distance on the approach into the Frankland River region and situated in the ranges, Bluff Knoll is one of Western Australia’s highest peaks reaching over 1,000 metres above sea level. Many have conquered its challenging peaks and the 6.8km return hike is Grade 4 and requires a reasonable level of fitness. It’s recorded as the only spot in WA to receive snowfall and is worth the exhilarating trek for the views, wildflowers and birdlife. Even the approach along the Horsepower Highway into the range is scenic passing by a 75 kilometre trail of vintage tractors, with each having a unique name and story to tell.
Gong Relaxation Session
Just in case you weren’t relaxed enough, get your zen on with a gong relaxation session at The Sandalwood Shop. As you lay within the 16-sided cone painted with celestial skies, you won’t be able to help but succumb to the gong vibrations while enveloped in the aroma of sandalwood.
Public Silo Trail
You can join the self-drive 1,000km Public Silo Trail from Frankland River in Katanning about an hour away. The painted silos featuring the artworks of local and international artists link six Wheatbelt towns including Northam, Merredin, Katanning, Pingrup, Newdegate, Ravensthrorpe and Albany. Witnessing the huge murals set against the everchanging landscape is a surreal experience. If you follow the trail, plan ahead and make sure you book your accommodation ahead of time so you don’t miss out on the boutique Premier Mill Hotel in Katanning, Mary’s Farm Cottages in Kukerin and the Beach House at Bayside in Albany. I can’t recommend the trail enough and here are 8 Reasons to follow WA’s Public Silo Trail.
Every Spring, the Great Southern is ablaze with over 8,000 species of wildflowers, with more yet to be discovered. WA’s diverse range of wildflowers is thanks to our isolation, climate, pollinators and stability of the environment. They can be seen in all their glory in many national parks or you can join the experts on a tour or use the Wildflower Tracker App for up-to-date sightings.
Relax in Frankland River
One of the main attractions of Frankland River isn’t even the tourist attractions – it’s the utter sense of isolation and knowing you can do as little or as much as you like. Most stay at the Frankland River Retreat for the space, where gentle walks around the property, board games, reading and eating are the highlights. The scenery and peace are undoubtedly conducive to writing, painting, photography and creating.
Where is Frankland River?
Full disclosure, Frankland River is remote – it’s about an hour’s drive to Albany, Denmark, Manjimup or Mount Barker – yet, it is only three and a half hours south-east of Perth. However, it’s an ideal spot to base yourself for regional adventures. You can approach Frankland River along Albany Highway through Williams or Kojonup – check out the rose maze, gallery and café at Kodja Place in Kojonup or the café and shop selling wool products at the Williams Woolshed.
Or you can follow the picturesque route through pretty Boyanup, Balingup, Bridgetown and Donnybrook where you can stop for lunch, coffee, fresh produce and a browse along the main street for fashion and homewares. We stopped at the Cidery in Bridgetown where I was delighted to discover they have added a distillery to their cider and beer range. Their Grounded Gin combines 12 botanicals imparting citrus and floral notes and it was a refreshing treat served with crushed Geraldton wax and lemon.
Carmen Jenner was a guest of the Frankland River Retreat and for more information go to www.franklandriver.com.au, www.greatsoutherntreasures.com.au and www.franklandriverregion.com.au
Want more of outback Western Australia? Check out Wagin: An outback gem or A Gourmet Road Trip from Albany to Denmark or Six remote Western Australian destinations to romance your honey
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