Rolling green hills, grazing lambs, trickling brooks – no, you haven’t time-warped to the English countryside. You’ll see all this and more along the scenic route that winds from Balingup to Nannup.
The Three roads that join the towns of Balingup, Nannup and Bridgetown carry the nickname, ‘The Golden Triangle’. These are three of the most scenic roads in the South-West and driving the full loop will take around an hour and a half depending on weather and traffic. There are also many great places to visit along this drive, with most opening from around 10am to 4pm on weekends.
The leg between Balingup and Nannup is the only official scenic drive of the triangle and is arguably the South-West’s most scenic. The route is 45 kilometres long and will take you around 30 minutes to drive without stopping. If you choose to take your time and pop into some local businesses along the way, there are many along this drive.
To get to this road, you turn on to Brockman Road from Balingup’s main street and almost immediately you’ll come across the Old Cheese Factory. Only a kilometre or so from the centre of Balingup, you can’t miss it – the huge toadstool fountain to the side of the factory is a dead giveaway. Despite its name, the Old Cheese Factory doesn’t make any cheese at all – it’s actually an art and craft gallery, antiques shop and cafe. With more than 500 local artists and craft suppliers, it has the largest display of arts, crafts and antiques in the South-West. While there’s sure to be something here for everyone, you’ll need to give yourself a decent amount of time to peruse the rooms, which are literally overflowing with goodies.
While you’re at the Old Cheese Factory, take a walk over the stone bridge to Birdwood Park Fruit Winery. Contrary to popular belief, not all fruit wines are sickly sweet, as proven by Birdwood’s delicious pear wine and other award-winning varieties. You’re unlikely to find such a good selection of fruit wines in the metro area, so take advantage of it while you’re there. Birdwood is open for tasting every day.
Just around the corner from there is the Balingup Lavender Farm, which reopens from September 4. The farm sells many lavender products in the gift shop, including pure lavender oil, and all are made from lavender grown on the property. The Lavender Farm also has one of the most spectacular views in the area, overlooking a valley of rolling hills, fruit trees, pine plantations and natural bush.
Continuing south along the road from the Lavender Farm, you’ll drive past rolling hills, homesteads, orchards and farms and through spectacular bushland, passing drop offs and valleys along the way. Following the winter months, this area is lush, green and spattered with cows and sheep grazing with their young.
When you cross the Blackwood River at Wright’s Bridge, you’ll pass an excellent camping ground on your right. This ground attracts many visitors throughout the year and is regularly visited by CALM officers who maintain the campsite. While this area becomes more popular as the weather warms up, you should find a beautiful riverside spot over the coming months.
If you continue south past the camping ground through the pine plantations, you’ll soon come to Heritage Country Cheese, which really does sell cheese! You can stop and have a tasting at the factory, which is more of a big shed surrounded by beautiful gardens and nearby accommodation, Lewana Cottages. The factory sells fetta, cheddar, Edam and Gouda, and all are available for tasting, seven days a week. Heritage Country Cheese is supplying many local supermarkets in Perth so if you like what you taste, or simply can’t wait until you get to Balingup, keep an eye out for it in your local gourmet section.
Further around the bend from Heritage Country Cheese, the new Blackwood Valley Estate winery is open for tastings on weekends and during school holidays. Blackwood Valley Estate produces a range of wines and olive oils called Hillbille. The vines here produce fruit that’s then sold to wineries such as Goundrey, Plantagenet, Vasse Felix and Evans and Tate. And for the first time, Blackwood Valley Estate has a range of its own 2003 blends. Look out for the bright red flags as you’re driving.
Another 2km down the road (closer to Nannup than Balingup) is the delightful Tathra Hilltop Retreat and Winery. This is a great place to stop for a round of plunger coffee and fresh scones with jam and cream. The gardens at Tathra are filled with old fruit trees and many well-fed finches and wrens that aren’t afraid to help themselves to any unwanted jam. At Tathra they make their own condiments and wine and also have accommodation available.
There’s only 19km left of the scenic drive once you leave Tathra and while there aren’t many other stops, you’ll be treated to more spectacular valley views, rolling hills, farm animals and untouched bushland. To discover this well-kept secret, pick up a road map before heading off from the Balingup Tourist Centre at the northern end of town.