Looking for your next chance to drive the dream around Western Australia, perhaps something a little more unique, a path less travelled?
How about this Villages in the Valley road trip? Head down the South Western Highway and immerse yourself in heritage-listed towns, freshwater swim spots and quaint country lifestyles surrounded by towering forests and the mighty Blackwood River.
Slow down and smell the small country towns on this special road trip from Australia’s South West.
Table of Contents
1. How to get there
This road trip will have you travelling less distance with more stops along the way, encouraging you to slow down and reconnect as you leave city life behind. Beginning in Balingup via Ferguson Valley, with stops every 45 minutes, there is plenty to explore along the way. Once you finish in Bridgetown it’s only a short 3.5 hours back to Perth (Boorloo), or stay longer to meander through Manjimup and Pemberton, or along the coast to Margaret River and Yallingup.
2. Best time of year to go
This part of Western Australia really moves with the seasons, each with their own attractions. Winters get chilly, but the mist makes for some magical mornings, while warm summer days give way to cooler nights. The changing seasons are when the region’s true colours begin to shine, with vibrant oranges blazing through the autumn landscapes and bursts of pinks, purples and yellows popping up in springtime. The one constant is the magnificent Blackwood River, threading its way through all year-round.
3. Where to stay
The valley region of Western Australia is abundant with cute farm stays, heritage hotels, cosy bed and breakfasts, cruisy caravan parks, luxurious wine estates and remote cabins surrounded by forest. Head to the Australia’s South West website to start planning some unforgettable stays.
4. Where to visit along the way
We recommend taking four-to-five days for this one, making the Villages in the Valley road trip a little shorter than some drives around the State. So, take your time, slow down, and do a little searching off the beaten track – breathtaking forest drives, cute towns and cold freshwater dips await.
Bunbury and Ferguson Valley (2 hours from Perth)
From Bunbury we’re going to head east towards the Ferguson Valley, stopping in at award-winning cellar doors, country retreats and lively art galleries. Get your first dose of fresh air on the Crooked Brook Wildflower Walk – a three-kilometre, undulating forest trail featuring wildflower displays bursting with colour and a picturesque valley lookout. Having worked up an appetite, there are ample opportunities to enjoy a winery lunch with the likes of Saint Aidan Wines, Green Door Winery and Hackersley Estate all close by. If you’re keen for a little more adventuring, go for a romantic dip at Honeymoon Pool (pictured below), before moving onto Balingup via the wacky and wonderful Gnomesville.
Balingup (2.75 hours from perth)
Bounded by rippling countryside, forests and orchards, Balingup resides at the northern entrance to the magnificent Blackwood River Valley. If it’s spring, check out the Racecourse Flora Reserve for 1.7 kilometres of diverse flora, fauna and wildflowers. For lunch, pop into one of Balingup’s charming cafes like Mushroom 61 or Mr Foster’s, before wandering the magical main street boutique shops like Tinderbox, Balingup’s Goldsmith or the Village Pedlars.
If you’re in the mood for stretching your legs, the Golden Valley Tree Park is a 60-hectare landscaped park in the Balingup hills and the perfect place for a picturesque stroll in the heart of the South West. You can also jump on a section of the Bibbulmun Track, and to finish, you can enjoy the delicious chocolates and cakes on offer in the charming heritage stable building, Blackwood Emporium 1864.
Nannup (3 hours from Perth)
Nannup is only 45 minutes away, but the Blackwood River Tourist Drive will have you slowing down to enjoy the picturesque landscapes along the way. Winding through lush orchards, diverse farmland and jarrah and marri forests, it’s an underrated gem and one Australia’s most scenic drives. Wright’s Bridge will give you a wonderful view of the Blackwood River, and then for lunch pop into Whimwood Estate for some wine tasting and lunch, or Lavender Farm and Cafe for some sweet-smelling treats.
If you’re game for a dip, nearby Barrabup Pool is a naturally forming pool found along St John’s Brook, perfect for a swim or a relaxing float on a canoe. From there make your way to Nannup’s main street and wander the Heritage Trail to immerse yourself in the history of the region. Some other hidden treasures of the area include Cambray Cheese, the Tiny Tea Shop, Holberry House Sculpture Walk and the Nannup Furniture Gallery.
Bridgetown (3.5 hours from Perth)
Bridgetown is a place you’ll really want to stretch your legs and take it all in, being the southwest region’s only heritage-listed town, the streets are filled with remarkable architecture reflecting its rural history. On the way from Nannup make a quick pit stop at Donnelly River Village and spot the kangaroos and emus wandering the streets!
Meanwhile, Bridgetown’s main street is another great walk with welcoming locals and artisan stores like the Slow Grow Project, Paper Planes Co., LOFT and Wag Walters Emporium. If you’re feeling thirsty The Cidery & Blackwood Valley Brewing Company is flush with boutique ciders and beers, while Sunnyhurst Winery is one of Western Australia’s best spots to enjoy a drop or two.
The next morning grab a bite to eat at one of the many cafes in town like The Mulberry Tree and Barking Cow, before setting course for the mighty Blackwood River. Canoes and kayaks are available for hire, and you’ll find some great little walks including the Bridgetown Art Trail for one last dose of inspiration before making your way back up to the big smoke.
Begin planning your Villages in the Valley road trip with the help of Australia’s South West.
Image Credit: Supplied/Tourism WA
This article is sponsored by Australia’s South West and endorsed by us. Please see our Editorial Policy for more info.