Many people think of Mt Barker as a pass-through town to get to the tourist hotspot Albany; but the quirky town spirit and it’s many hidden gems make this small town more than just a bathroom stop. A four-hour drive along Albany Highway from Perth will lead you through breath-taking views of the Porongurups, and makes for the perfect city escape. Settled in the 1800s, the region’s history is rich and there are many charming historic buildings. Mt Barker was recently the filming location for the 2020 movie Rams, which is a testament to its gorgeous country aesthetic and stunning landscapes. Here are all the best things to do if you are in the Mt Barker region.
Explore the heart of Mt Barker with a mural trail
Feel the small-town magic as you discover the town’s history and heritage on walking trail of the Mt Barker murals. Six community painted artworks can be found in Mt Barker’s nooks and crannies, from outside the local grocery store to more off-the-beaten-track streets. Take a walk around the town and use the interactive map from the Murals and Mountains website to find the street art, or pop into the local IGA to grab a hardcopy.
Painted back in 2019, the murals have continued to turn the heads of visitors to the region. The murals were born out of a local police sergeant’s passion for art. A policeman who doubles as an artist, Sergeant Johnno designed the artworks to get people out of their cars and even painted one of the murals himself.
More walls of Mt Barker are set to be painted in November, with another six murals planned. One of which is an exciting new 10m by 4m mural designed to make a statement when people enter Mt Barker, and will be painted by an artist from Niagara Falls. Read up about the artists and meanings behind each mural here.
Climb the Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock
Whether you are a thrill-seeker or a two-feet-on-the-ground type of person, the Castle Rock and Granite Skywalk hike trail is a must see. Marvel at the engineering of the metal walkway that winds around the peak of Castle Rock, just 24 minutes out of Mt Barker. Thrilling views of Albany and Mount Manypeaks make the adrenaline rush all the more rewarding.
There are two lookouts accessible to hikers, the lower lookout at the base of Castle Rock and the upper skywalk lookout. Reaching the upper skywalk involves manoeuvring through a narrow space, with the help of metal bars that are stuck on either side of two large rocks. While it is doable with children, it can be a bit tricky and you’ll need to be prepared for the climb up a 7m tunnel-like ladder. Allow at least 2 hours to complete the steep 3km return walk.
If the thought of being 670m above the ground makes you want to run the other way, there is also a lookout at the base of the skywalk that offers amazing views. Pencil out at least 2 hours to walk the 4km round hike and immerse yourself amidst the towering karri trees.
School holiday periods can get busy and with an influx of hikers it can take up to an hour of waiting at the base of the skywalk before you get to see the views. It should also be noted that wet, windy days are a common occurrence in the region, and although the breeze is nice for sweaty hikers, it can wreak havoc when you are trying to climb up the skywalk. In situations like this it is recommended that visitors take extra caution.
Take in the countryside views at Mt Barker Hill
Drive up to the Mt Barker Hill lookout and take a deep breath as the endless miles of the natural landscape pan out in front of you. A short detour out of the town centre will bring the Porongurups and surrounding paddocks into view, where you can sit down on the wooden deck and admire the countryside. Make your visit to the lookout more fulfilling with a pre-packed picnic and a thermos filled with a warm drink.
Being elevated 147m above sea level, you will be able to see outlines of the Stirling Ranges, the home of Bluff Knoll. In the near distance, the Mt Barker windfarm can be clearly seen. Bring your binoculars for an even better view across the ranges and keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife.
An added bonus, you’ll get great reception as the Mount Barker broadcast tower sits up on the hill and is also one of the tallest unsupported structures in the Southern Hemisphere.
Enjoy a glass of wine and pizza Plantagenet Wines
The rustic charm of Plantagenet Wines sums up what Mt Barker is all about; friendly people, tasty food and a sense of history through every door. With a laid-back yet classy feel, the winery is a great place to relax for a few hours. The mud-brick cellar door itself is a sight to see, and sitting down for a meal inside is a truly unique experience, with a window providing a sneak peak of the wine tanks to diners.
Take up a seat on the alfresco deck that has a playground for the children so your kids can play while you indulge in a glass of wine. If you’re feeling hungry after all that wine appreciation, the oven cooked pizzas are a must try, with two delicious types on offer – smoked Mount Barker chicken and olive tapenade, or chorizo with sundried tomato and house-made basil pesto.
Browse the menu to see which wine the experts recommend to pair with each dish. Plantagenet winery is just off Albany Highway and is hard to miss.