Staying on a farm in Porongurup
We spent a couple of nights in the great southern town of Porongurup, four and a half hours drive south of Perth. The day before our departure it was a sunny 34 degrees but as we arrived into the region we seemed to have brought along all of rain! Our plans of hiking the ranges and cycling around the town of Albany were quickly halted as hail storms lashed Perth and the great southern soaked in rain for a couple of days straight. The rain was welcomed by the residents topping up the dams and water tanks. For us as travellers, we interestingly found much to see and do. Nothing a warm jacket and umbrella couldn’t solve!
The Town of Porongurup
The small town is nestled around the Porongurup Range National Park and it is beautifully semi isolated. There is a village store for basic supplies and the nearby towns Mt Barker and Albany is where you’ll find everything else.
We booked our accommodation through the airbnb website at Jilba Cottage in Porongurup.
They kindly left us with marinated olives from the farm and a continental breakfast for the next morning. The homely and comfortable cottage was well equipped with a kitchen, living area, sizeable bathroom, patio decking, BBQ and even a washing machine. The water was supplied from a rain water tank, it was soft to shower in. Water is a precious commodity in Western Australia and we only used what we needed too. Additionally summers can be brutally dry in the area.
My favourite space was the dining table overlooking the rear of the property, seated at breakfast we were eye level to a large tree ripe with fluttery bird activity. Our hosts had left binoculars and an information booklet of the birds to spot on the property. One morning this soaked kookaburra sat opposite our window, we were able to capture him using the zoom lens. He later laughed at us and flew away.
The farm surroundings were serene and picturesque, it was the escape we really needed, to be semi but not completely shut off from the city life we left behind for a couple of days. The cottage sits on an elevated position with views on a clear day across the valley and a small manicured English style garden to the left. The property fringes the Porongurup National Park and the entrance for the walking trails can be found on the other side on Mt Barker –Porongurup road.
The first evening we rode our bicycles down to the lower paddock disturbing a family of wild Kangaroos and continuing on down the path, DK disappeared as I took more of a Sunday picnic kind of pace. The funniest thing happened as I cycled past the cows. They stopped what they were doing and looked up at me. One started running towards me, then another and another until all of them were headed my way. They were sectioned off with a fence but more so for me it was an unusual and intriguing experience. The cows were silent the whole time with the exception of their hoofs hitting the wet ground. They halted at the road entrance where a rope separated us to them and I figured they thought it was meal time.
Despite the grey skies and wet ground, the farm looked serene, especially when the mist formed around the ranges behind the property. It was blissfully peaceful and I relished the darkness of the evenings.
The Airbnb experience is certainly a different way to travel. The experience too is what you make of it, for us it is connecting with the owners, listening to their stories and sharing their passion for the town and property. The smallest acts of kindness are often the biggest aspects we remember from our travels. We too like to return our thanks by leaving a small gift, we gave Joan and Jim some passionfruits and a travel candle from Soyblooms.
Porongurup National Park
The unique aspect about The Porongurup National Park is the large granite hill ranges that stretch 12km’s long, in generally a flat terrain environment they along with the nearby Stirling Ranges soar high into the sky. The ancient Porongurup hill ranges were once an island before its formation with W.A. It is said that around 5,000 years ago the karri trees became isolated and as a result they differ slightly from those found in the Manjimup and Pemberton area a few hours away.
There are a couple of hiking trails through the park including the Castle Rock trail, sitting at 570 metres above sea level hikers are rewarded a beautiful view after climbing a 6 metre ladder to a hair raising suspended walkway that was installed in 2007 (picture a helicopter winching it down for installation!). The rain and wind kept us at bay from the trails but we did drive along the Rangeview Road Scenic Drive from Bolganup Road, it was a slippery but beautiful drive under the tree canopies with glimpses of the steep granite slopes.
The drive winds through the forest connecting to a small picnic area and two of the trail entrances – Wansbrough Walk and the short 600m circle loop, Bolganup trail.
Castle Rock Winery
Around the corner from Jilba Cottage and on the opposite side of the ranges we visited a family run winery. The Diletti family have grown the Castle Rock Winery from the late 1980’s and it has been a James Halliday 5 star winery for some time now. Recently, Rob Diletti was awarded winemaker of the year at the Australian wine companion awards.
Wendy welcomed us into the cellar pulling out two glasses ready for the wine tasting, let me tell you, anyone with a keen interest in wine will find the interaction between a winemaker to be a wonderful experience. The rieslings are exceptionally good and all of the wine is bottled onsite sealing the quality straight away. It certainly beats going to a supermarket shop. We tried and left with a bottle of the Della Sparkling (one bottle for me and one bottle for DK’s mum), the Skywalk Riesling 2013 and the Great Southern Shiraz 2013. The cellar door is open daily 10am to 5pm.