Natural Wonders of the Great Southern (Part 4)

img_1860Denmark is a great spot to base yourself if the Great Southern. It’s slap bang in between Albany, Mount Barker and Walpole. On the third day of our trip we took the opportunity to spend a morning in Albany, though to really do it justice, we could have done with a couple of days there.img_1863

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A trip to Albany isn’t complete without visiting the spectacular natural tourist attractions at Torndirrup National Park where you’ll find The Gap, The Natural Bridge and The Blowholes. It’s a short stroll to both The Gap and Natural Bridge through the exposed granite boulders. It almost looks like we’re on the moon, the landscape is so barren.img_1870

At The Gap, the lookout goes out over the rock edge. The grated floor gives glimpses to the sea crashing 40 meters below, though I think if it had a glass floor, it would make the attraction even more impressive. The massive waves crash against the cliff wall as the surging tide of the Southern Ocean shows all of its fury. It’s a stunning view over the coast from Bald Head to West Cape Howe.img_1852

img_1857If you walk for two minutes in the other direction you’ll come to the lookout point for the equally stunning Natural Bridge rock formation. These rocks were formed many millions of years ago when Australia and Antarctica collided.img_1867

Another spot to check out are the Blow Holes, a short drive up the road. These are quite impressive, though I’d not recommend it for young kids, as there are lots of steep steps and there is no safety fencing at the blow holes either. On the day that we visited the sea was a little rough, so every few seconds there was a rush of water into the rock cavern below us and we heard an eerie hissing sound and a rush of wind through the holes that would knock your hat off!blowholes

Vancouver Cafè & Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
For lunch we stopped at a cute cottage café on the edge of town, Vancouver Street Café, which sits high on a hill overlooking King George Sound. They make a good cuppa, using Naked Beans, a local Albany coffee roast. On the lunch menu you’ll find fresh salads, wraps, toasted Turkish sandwiches, frittatas and savoury tarts as well as sweet treats.img_1894

Knowing we were heading to the brilliant Boston Brewery (again) for dinner, we oped for something light and toasties fitted the bill. I really enjoyed mine, which was a tasty combo of eggplant, sweet potato, pumpkin, fetta roasted capsicum and a house made tomato relish. img_1901

Afterwards, we headed west, back towards Denmark for an afternoon discovering the beaches at William Bay. One of the most popular spots is the beautiful Greens Pool which is just about as picture perfect as any beach could be. This beach is very popular with the families of small children as it’s sheltered from the waves of the Great Southern Ocean by huge granite boulders. The

calm turquoise waters make a stunning natural swimming pool and it’s a great spot for a snorkel too.img_1700

Elephant Rocks is another stunning spot, named after the massive granite rocks that look just like a herd of elephants. Further down the gravel path is a steep staircase to Elephant Cove, walk between two giant rocks and you’ll come out at another beach.img_1714

At Mad Fish Bay, where the waves lap the sand from two different directions, we stayed a little longer and enjoyed a bit of fishing off the rocks.img_1933

Our host Warren, at Misty Valley Country Cottages, recommended this bay to us as it’s a popular fishing spot. You’ll find schools of whiting, bream and salmon. Little Chef was really excited to catch a flathead, though he was a bit too small and got thrown back.img_1950

I left the boys to it and went exploring around the rocky bay. It was an absolutely perfect afternoon for beach hopping!img_1954 

Oakover Grounds – Swan Valley

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Oakover Grounds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I love the vibe at wineries and breweries in the Margaret River area. They’re often geared towards families and I’d always hoped that the Swan Valley would follow suit with some quality family friendly venues, closer to home. Last year my prayers were answered with the fab Mandoon Estate. I’ve been hearing good things about the Oakover Winery’s transformation into kid friendly Oakover Grounds and so we headed there for lunch to check it out.IMG_2924

The winery is in a lovely setting, on a little lake and surrounded by rolling lawns. We were there for lunch, celebrating my birthday with Chef’s brother O (The Pasty Chef) and his lovely bride-to -be Kristie. It was a cool Autumn weekend, but sill pleasant enough to sit outside on the veranda.IMG_2914

I should have been sampling the Oakover wines, but coffee was calling my name. Oakover Grounds is also home to FiORi coffee, which is roasted fresh on site.IMG_2889

The menu is a good mix of casual favourites – share plates, burgers, salad and more. O and I are both pork-addicts so we both had our beady eyes on the fennel salted pork crackle with sidekick cider gel, $10. The plate was brimming with jaw cracking goodness!IMG_2893

Chef picked the organic beef burger, $26. Topped with tomato relish, bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayo, with a generous bowl of chips on the side. It was all washed down with a local craft beer. Oakover Grounds have a small selection of boutique beers on tap. IMG_2898

O and I both chose the special of house made gnocchi with pulled beef and mushrooms. Wow, that was a stunning dish and something I was not expecting! The pillowy soft gnocchi was amongst the best I’ve had and complimented  by the rich meaty sauce. I could have happily licked the plate clean. If it was a permanent fixture on the menu I’d be back in a heartbeat.IMG_2900

Kristy enjoyed the Clarence River school prawns, $13. The crisp prawns are eaten whole, served on a bed of creamy tartar sauce and grilled lemon on the side. It would also be a great dish to share.IMG_2895

Little Chef scoffed his kids cheese burger, $12. The slider style burger  was made up of a beef pattie, tomato relish and cheese and chips on the side.IMG_2890

Afterwards, Little Chef was keen to have a ride on the peddle boats. They are free to use. It was good fun and worked off a little bit of lunch! IMG_2906

Keen Fishermen Chef and O were excited to hear the lake is stocked with fish. Rods are free to use and if you catch anything then you can take it home for dinner, at $16 per fish. The boys caught 5 Barramundi in just 15 mins, they were stoked!! IMG_2929

Fish for dinner! IMG_2930

New Head Chef Bec McConnell has banged the pans at some fine Swan Valley establishments, including Sandleford Winery. We enjoyed her food and will certainly be back for more!

Oh and if you need any more reasons to dine at Oakover…

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South West WA mini break– Margaret River

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Last month we enjoyed a well-earned break to the south west of Western Australia. Unlike previous wine tasting trips to “Margs”, this mini-break was much more child-friendly. Luckily for us, and Little Chef, children are well catered for at most places. We found a great place called “Xscape at the Cape Fun Park” (on caves Rd) in between Dunsbourgh and Busselton. There was everything there from wacky putt golf, to a wooden maze, train rides, bouncy castle and a multi-level playground. They stocked a large selection of delicious, locally made Millers ice cream and for the parents there was the fantastic Yavaha coffee!! Their Chai latte is a favourite of mine.

We stayed in the hamlet of Peppermint Grove Beach. It’s halfway between Busselton and Bunbury, near Capel. Peppy has no shops or even a café, but that adds to its charm. It’s so sleepy and peaceful. We’d wake up with the sun and head straight to the beach, at the end of our street.

We loved the beach there. It was great for LC, very calm and the beautiful waters of Geographe Bay were crystal clear. Chef tried his luck at some beach fishing and caught some Flounder and Yellowtail. We saw dolphins and even had a visit from a friendly sting ray. A little bit of paradise!