Shrouded in clouds the Porongurup ranges hover in the distance. 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 and plan on eating our way through Albany, Denmark, Pemberton and Manjimup.
A self-drive itinerary can take days, or weeks, and that’s the wonderful freedom of a campervan, especially when there is an abundance of caravan parks with powered sites.
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 – honey and strawberries
Albany is packed with gourmet outlets like Reeves on Campbell, Spencer Park Variety Meats, Solomon Merchants, Black Duck Gourmet Pantry and The Honey Shop.
Farmers markets run weekends but for just picked strawberries try Freshpict Strawberries or Willow Creek Strawberries.
Just out of town in Middleton Beach is the Bay Merchants and next door is Rats Bar and at Emu Point is the rustic Oyster House.
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.
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.
Denmark – whisky and wine
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.
Along the way learn how bush-food is grown and used in Australian cuisine at the scenic Bushfood Factory, and sample the healthy Australian native menu and select a few bush products for your next feast.
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 Denmark Farmhouse Cheese for the makings of a decadent feast, especially the four-year-old gouda, and sample their preserves, fudge and ice-creams and Ducketts Mill Wines.
Meandering deeper into the green pastures off Scotsdale Drive for hearty deep-dish pies and platters of sweet marron is just the start of the Whitfield Estate experience.
After lunch wander with Bernese Mountain Dogs Mac and Bud through the Artfield Art abstract sculptures made from old farm and wine remnants or take a mini trek along the Munda Biddi Trail.
Less rigorous activities include hitting the shop for Pawprint Chocolate, Dellendale Creamery cheeses, and Whitfield Estate Wines. With all the goodies collected you’ll be whipping up an epic platter of your own tonight.
Walpole – marron and lamb
The gluttony continues on the South West Highway towards Walpole with a pit-stop at the giant marron sculpture at Old Kent River Vineyard.
Take away some marron for later or linger at the Slow Food Café with their specialty dishes of marron and lamb and their outstanding Pinot Noir.
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.
Pemberton – chocolate and wine
Catch your own lunch at the King Trout Restaurant and Marron Farm, but if you’re unlucky the restaurant has back-ups or stock up at Forest Fresh Marron in the pretty township of Pemberton.
Also in town is the gourmet outlet Holy Smoke with a range of smoked meats, fish and pates, and nearby is Knights Winery and Distillery for chocolate, wine and liqueurs.
You may even be inspired to enrol in a farm-based cooking class at Foragers or enjoy one of their seasonal dinners.
Manjimup – truffles galore
A truffle hunt at Manjimup’s Wine and Truffle Co (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.
Gorge on an extravagant lunch where the prized ingredient is the star attraction. The intoxicating earthy aroma hits as soon as you enter the café and shop; resistance is useless.
With the smell of truffle lingering in your hair and clothes, leisurely sojourn back to Perth with a pit-stop at Bridgetown or take the turn off for Margaret River and continue to eat and drink your way through Western Australia’s fresh produce and wine.
An Apollo Euro Deluxe campervan was generously loaned by Apollo Motorhomes. Prices for a 2 berth start at $64 per day.