Rolling green hills and a valley shrouded in low-lying fog: it’s Bridgetown’s quintessential winter landscape and quite the sight to behold. Most commonly seen in the early morning — when temperatures hover around 5°C — the mystical fog is just one of the many reasons to venture the 250km from Perth down to the Southern Forests and Valleys region in the cooler months.
Keen to see the phenomenon in all its glory? Here’s how to get the most out of your trip to Bridgetown this winter.
Throughout June, July, and August, Bridgetown relishes its title as ‘Western Australia’s winter capital’ and hosts Fridgetown Fest, a celebration of all things winter. There’s a vast festival program with ongoing events, such as the Bridgetown Sunday Markets and live music performances at The Cidery, to unmissable one-offs. Try your hand at learning how to smoke foods with tea with Natasha from Tash’s Cottage Industries, or learn the art of memoir writing with author, Sarah Evans.
In between events, pop into the town’s famed Brierley Jigsaw Gallery. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a gallery dedicated to the display of hundreds of completed jigsaw puzzles, some dating back to as early as the 1940s. There are only two such known galleries in the world, Bridgetown’s being the only of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Did we mention the Visitor Centre is also connected to the Jigsaw Gallery?
Though it’s cold and wet, there’s no better place to be in a wintery Bridgetown than the outdoors. If you’re a mountain biking enthusiast, clip on your helmet and take to the mighty Munda Biddi mountain biking trail. You might get a little muddy, but it all adds to the thrill of riding at speed through the region’s thick Jarrah and Marri forests.
Slightly less taxing on the laundry and equally as beautiful are the region’s hiking trails. Take the River Walk from Blackwood River Park to Blackwood Terrace, following along the snaking river the whole way. The 3km walk (6km return) is beautiful at any time of year, but it’s especially so after heavy rainfalls as the underbrush is lush and green, and the river flowing fast. Alternatively, head out on a section of the Bibbulmun Track, the state’s longest and most famed hiking trail.
Both the Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun run right through the quaint Donnelly River Village, just 25 mins drive from Bridgetown. Once a flourishing mill town, the 35 historic cottages that make up the settlement are now reserved for accommodation, school holiday movie screenings, and a cafe and general store. Take a day trip out there for a coffee with kangaroos and emus milling about, and let the kids test their nerve on the 50m flying fox.
Where to eat
Warm yourself from the inside out with a hearty bowl of soup or a sizeable Dardanup Butchering Co beef burger at The Cidery and Blackwood Valley Brewing Co. The boutique brewery and distillery serves lunch seven days a week, best enjoyed by the roaring fire on a chilly winter day.
While there, it’d be remiss of you not to sample their primary export, cider. The team at The Cidery have been pressing Pink Lady apples since 1993, creating a range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from the sweet juice. Come winter, there’s an extra unique cider on the menu, infused with aromatic Perigord truffle from a neighbouring South West town.
Where to stay
Jump headfirst into the country life with a few nights’ stay at Sunnyhurst Chalets, a hobby farm and small rural retreat. With just five two-bedroom, self-contained stays on the farm, neighbours are few and far between. And, being a mere 500m from the Blackwood River and right next door to the Sunnyhurst Winery, there’s plenty happening on and around the property to keep you busy. Search the chicken pen in the morning to find some fresh eggs for your toast, pet Freddie, the highland cow, and end the day with nine holes on the on-site mini golf course and a glass of red next door.
More rustic are the two, three, and four-bedroom cabins at the Donnelly River Village. They’re self-contained and come with a full stock of firewood to keep you toasty all night, but all bedding and linens are up to you to bring. There’s limited phone reception in the village and just one communal TV among the 35 cottages, too — it’s all about reconnecting with nature and the people around you.
At Serenity Gully, a ten-minute drive east of town, the cushy king beds are tightly made, and fluffy robes hang in wait. It’s the kind of stay where no creature comfort is compromised, every last detail thought through to ensure a memorable stay. It’s not what you’d expect when you’re sleeping in a tent. But, this is high-end eco-glamping, where outdoor tubs with views over the fog-covered valley come as a standard with your booking, and in-tent massages are an optional extra.
Bridgetown is 2 hrs and 45 mins by car from Perth and 1 hr and 15 mins from Busselton (Jetstar flies Melbourne to Busselton every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday).