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On the road to Denmark

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Have a read of this great article from Gemme Nisbet from the Western Australian Newspaper giving her impressions of the trip from Perth to Denmark.

Gemma Nisbet The West Australian

Monday, 9 November 2015 10:02AM

Gemma Nisbet shares her love of the Great Southern town.

I’ve been visiting Denmark regularly for the best part of 30 years, so it’s hard to say how many times I’ve made the journey up and down the highway from Perth: many dozens, certainly; hundreds, perhaps. It’s a pleasant 4 1/2 hour drive — five if you stop for a proper break — through forest and farmland, and towns both tiny and more substantial.

I’ve made the drive so many times that, thinking about it, the journey plays in my mind like a favourite film. From Armadale, through the forest, past the roadhouse at North Bannister and another at Bannister. Somewhere around here the landscape opens up to farmland: green or brown, depending on the time of year, maybe crops growing or sheep grazing.

When I was a kid, we always stopped for a cooked breakfast at the first roadhouse in Williams — my mum liked to get an early start. But these days I wait until Kojonup and get lunch at the bakery. By then, you’re more than halfway: only an hour and a half or so to go.

At some point between here and Mt Barker, you’ll see the Stirling Range, off in the distance to your left. When the vineyards start appearing, you’re nearly in Mt Barker. Skirt the town to Muir Highway — more vineyards — then on to the Denmark road, up and down through forest. The best part’s just before you cross the bridge over the Denmark River into town: wind the windows down for a blast of fresh air scented with eucalyptus as you pass tall trees on either side of the road.

The drive means a trip to Denmark from Perth is no overnighter: at least three nights are ideal. There’s plenty to fill the time, after all.

Go for a swim at Greens Pool — the quintessential Denmark spot. Then pick your way across the boulders to Elephant Rocks, or walk the other way along the white, clean sand dotted with big clusters of rocks worn smooth by the Southern Ocean.

Afterwards, it has always been our tradition to drive a short way up the road towards Walpole for honey ice-cream at Bartholomews Meadery, where you can watch the bees going about their business in a glass-fronted hive.

For more of the spectacular coastline, head down to Lights Beach, watch the surfers at Ocean Beach, or go fishing (my dad, a keen angler, always favoured fishing from a dinghy in the inlet).

Denmark is all about contrasts: rugged coastline and tall karri forests and idyllic, rolling farmland. When I was growing up, I explored these landscapes primarily from horseback, accompanied by a local friend who was in the Pony Club. We went everywhere: along bitumen and dirt roads, down tracks and through forests and across paddocks. Once, quite by accident, we ended up riding across the golf course, much to the consternation of the members teeing off.

But exploring on foot is just as good — and much less likely to get you into trouble with irate golfers.

From town, you might wind your way along the riverside path. Going upriver, it passes forest and paddocks of cows. Heading downstream, you’ll end up where the river flows into the inlet, where you can cross the old railway bridge and walk back along the other side. Or hire a canoe or kayak and explore that way.

For more forest scenery, the Harewood Forest Walk, which begins on Scotsdale Road, is an easy option that’s suitable for children — signs along the trail provide details about Denmark’s European pioneer history.

For something more challenging, you might climb Mt Lindesay for views over the surrounding landscape. Next time I visit, I plan to tackle the Sheila Hill Trail, which is part of the Bibbulmun Track and includes the summits of Mt Hallowell and Monkey Rock. The staff at the Denmark Visitor Centre can help with other walking suggestions and maps.

When you’re done walking, head into town for a pie at the Denmark Bakery or, at dinnertime, a takeaway pizza from Massimos Place. If you’ve kids with you, your itinerary might include a visit to the Alpaca Farm — the scenic drive along Scotsdale Road also takes you past various restaurants, wineries and local producers, including the Denmark Farmhouse cheese factory, which also sells preserves, fudge and other treats.

A quick detour will take you to my favourite local winery, Single file, for a tasting. For lunch, I like Pepper & Salt Restaurant at Forest Hill Winery, and The Lake House does tasting plates with a nice view.

And after all of that, you can make your way over towards Walpole to the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk (stop in at Peaceful Bay for great fish and chips), or take a daytrip to Albany, to visit the National Anzac Centre and the historic whaling station at Discovery Bay. If the sight of the Stirling Range on the drive down sparked your imagination, you can climb Bluff Knoll, the South West’s highest peak.

Then it’ll be time to head back up the highway to Perth. But, I suspect, it won’t be the last time you’ll make the journey.

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