Get to know Winter (Down South) a little bit better.
With hundreds of kilometres of coastline, some of the world’s best surf, and a bumper wine industry, it’s no wonder people flock to Australia’s South West as soon as summer hits. But, many gems go unmissed if you only visit while the sun is shining. Want to see Australia’s South West a little differently? We’ve put together a list of the best winter experiences to help you get to know what a Winter (Down South) is really like.
There’s no better time to be in the bush than in winter when the air is crisp and the scent of the eucalypts post-downpour lingers. Pull on a pair of hiking boots, or clip on your helmet, to get amongst it on one of the many walking and mountain biking trails that run through the region’s bushland.
The most well-known hiking trail in the region is the mighty Bibbulmun Track. It extends 1000km from Perth, down through Walpole, Denmark, and Albany. Tackle it in one go, or go easy on yourself and break it into day-hike-sized chunks. At 123km in length, the picturesque Cape to Cape Track leads you along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge, from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. Again, it’s easily broken up into sections for those not keen on the whole multi-day thing. For a real challenge, try getting stuck into the three to four-hour climb to the top of Bluff Knoll in Stirling Range National Park. The view (and, on the off chance, snow) is well worth it.
Bikers can get their kicks by pedalling through Wellington National Park on Ray’s Trail or attempting a section of the 1000km Munda Biddi Trail. The latter is mountain biking’s answer to the Bibbulmum Track. You don’t have to ride the entire course; just choose a section. The sections through Collie, Donnybrook, Nannup, and Albany are highly recommended.
Watch out for the whales
Winter in the South West is prime whale-watching time. From mid-May through to August, the humpbacks and southern right whales set off on their migratory journey north, hugging the coastline from Albany to Bunbury and beyond. You can watch them tail-slapping and body-slamming from high vantage points like Albany’s The Gap or Augusta's Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, but the most exhilarating view is when you’re pulled up right beside them. To get you nice and close, leave it to the experts - All Sea Charters, Naturaliste Charters, or Whale Watch Western Australia.
With water in plentiful supply over the winter months, Australia’s South West’s rivers and waterfalls spring back to life in spectacular fashion. Capel’s Ironstone Gully Falls are some of the most seasonal, the water only cascading over the 9m ledge after the wettest of winters. It makes it all the more special when you do catch them flowing. Further south, you’ll find the elusive Quinninup Falls near Yallingup, but only after a healthy 1hr hike through bushland. Some of the most accessible falls are the Beedelup Falls in Pemberton. They’re just a short walk across a suspension bridge over the Beedelup Brook.
Hunt for truffles
While apple, potato, and avocado crops are at their finest during winter in the South West, it’s what’s growing under the ground that brings gourmands to the region in droves. From June to September, Manjimup and Pemberton become a hive of activity as truffle fiends try to get their hands on a chunk of black gold. You can get involved in the hunt for the world’s most expensive fungi on a tour with Australian Truffle Traders or Truffle Hill. Join one of the farmers and their trusty truffle dog as you wander between the rows of oak trees, following the scent (well, the dog who’s on the scent) of the pungent Périgord truffle.
Cosy up in accommodation that you won't want to leave
Australia’s South West isn’t short on luxurious places to stay. There are full-service hotels and beachside villas, and then there’s somewhere like Bina Maya Yallingup Escape. The property’s spacious four-bedroom residence looks out over grazing kangaroos and the thick bushland of the Yallingup hills, seemingly a million miles away from the hubbub of busier centres. It has all the space you need to spread out and relax without compromising on cozy, even on the coldest winter days. There’s a roaring log fire to lay and defrost by, a deep tub to run a steamy bath, and even some complimentary fluffy robes to get all snuggly in. On a clear night, grab a thick coat and brave the chill to sit by the fire pit and gaze at the stars, glass of wine in hand.
Warm your hands around a fire
Plenty of South West venues boast beautiful open fireplaces, warmly welcoming chilled visitors to thaw by their side. Get to your Caves House lunch before the crowds, and you can nab a seat on the leather couches closest to the heat source. In Collie, you can sip artisanal gins and snack on a chorizo and camembert laden tasting board by the glowing embers at Harris River Estate. For the ultimate winter fireside experience, head to Bettenay's Margaret River for ‘Toasty Tastings by the Fire’. Feel the warmth of the flames while toasting chunks of their signature nougat over the firepit outside.
Sip and swirl the region's best reds
As the rain and the wind increase, so does the desire for a big, bold glass of red. Australia’s South West is renowned for its full-bodied and peppery cabernet sauvignons and shiraz – the perfect accompaniment to a blustery evening. If you’re looking for a top drop, try Passel Estate’s cab sav. It’s medium to full-bodied and intense on the fruit flavours, with fine, velvety tannins on the finish. For something a little less intense but equally as warming on a cold night, hunt down a bottle of Castle Rock Estate’s cold climate Pinot Noir or Saint Aidan’s Tempranillo.