Brendon adds a touch of spice to WA’s drive through the wild-wild west.
Albany is 409km south-east of Perth overlooking the Southern Ocean. It was the site of the first European settlement in Western Australia, in 1826. It's a good year-round destination and one of the state's most popular holiday centres. It has harbours, rivers and estuaries, providing excellent fishing and sailing. Scenery is spectacular, beaches are alluring and national parks provide a wide variety of activities.
Between August and October each year, wildflowers burst into bloom, providing carpets of wonderful colour. This is also a good time for whale watching. Fortunately the hunting and processing of these beautiful creatures is now prohibited and numbers are increasing.
The Great Southern region is known for its excellent wine and there are around 30 vineyards to visit. Most have cellar doors and growers are keen to talk about their products. West Cape Howe Wines is on the highway and has three winemakers making their own label wines.
Natural Bridge and The Gap, near Albany, are two attractions well worth a visit. The Natural Bridge has been carved out of masses of granite over thousands of years by nature's forces. The Gap is a 24-metre-deep gorge to the sea. In a heavy swell, the spray shoots spectacularly high. The surrounding rocks are thought to be between 1300 and 1600-million years old. Both places have lookouts.
Sixty-six kilometres west of Albany is the small hamlet of Denmark. The town is a haven for lovers of arts and crafts. What used to be a logging town now has pride in its forests, rolling hills, rugged coastline and beaches.
Karri Mia restaurant is a great place for lunch. It's high above town at Mt Shadforth, with views to the ocean. They have a walk-in cellar showcasing local wines. It's open every day.
Next door is the Karri Mia Resort. They have bungalows with views of the ocean, inlet, forest and Mt Shadforth, suites and caravan/RV sites.
The biggest decision now is which national park to visit first. William Bay National Park is where forest meets the sea. It's an area of rocky headlands, heathlands with pockets of wildflowers and bays and beaches.
Bays are characterised by giant granite boulders and white sand and there a quite a few swimming spots. Madfish Bay has a small island which can be walked to when the tide is right. Elephant Rocks is a group of huge rounded boulders which locals reckon resemble bathing elephants. Greens Pool is like an island lagoon, surrounded by reefs with white sandy beach and natural swimming pool.
A few kilometres away is Bartholomews Meadery, the only honey farm in Western Australia. Hives are behind glass, so you can see the bees producing honey for honey wine. Taste their delicious honey ice cream.
Tree Top Walk and Ancient Forest are in the Valley of the Giants, part of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park. The huge tingle trees can be seen from a series of steel trusses on steel pylons. This is suitable for all ages and for wheelchairs.
Walpole, at the end of the drive, is an idyllic town with 450 residents. It was established in 1930 to cater for Perth families hit by the Great Depression. It's on the banks of the Walpole-Nornalup inlet and is the only place in the south-west where karri forest comes right to the sea.