I’m often asked about planning a trip to Australian truffle country, the Southern Forests. Go in winter, take a road trip, is my usual answer. As is take your time, explore, enjoy and eat. The drive to the region from Perth is just over 3 hours. It’s more than achievable in one go but as with any road trip you miss out on so much by hurrying to the final destination.
There’s the Geographe wine region, country towns and blink and you miss it stops. Lady Marmalade is a Kirup café that should be circled on your map or whatever we do in this digital world. Established by Lynlee Rutter in 2016, breakfast and lunch are a homely mix of house made sausage rolls, hand cut chips and substantial steak sangers. There’s ceramics and art to browse but Lynlee’s sweet creations are the draw – think fancy lamingtons, melting moments and lemon meringue cake.
Balingup has long been a favourite stop for its smattering of vintage stores, like The Old Cheese Factory, or further down the road Bridgetown which exudes country charm. Minutes from the South Western Highway you’ll find the The Cidery and Blackwood Valley Brewing Company, the former using apples from Manjimup’s famed apple orchards in a range that takes you from light and sparkling to a more traditional take on the Scrumpy of south west England. Blackwood Truffle Ale, a collaboration with The Truffle & Wine Co. in Manjimup also draws interest; especially in these winter months.
No visit to truffle country would be complete without getting your hands dirty. Australian Truffle Traders offer in season hunt experiences; a chance to see the highly trained dogs and handlers at work on the orchards.
Accommodation in the region stretches from B&B stays like historic Dingup House to winery chalets and the refurbished RAC Karri Valley Resort. Fonty's Pool home of the Truffle Kerfuffle, is a historic site on Seven Day Road, the natural pool has been at the centre of Manjimup life for almost a century. Whilst swimming here is for most a summer pursuit, a winter dip is a bracing start to the day. Only for the brave (or perhaps the foolish).
Being just ninety minutes east of Margaret River and two hours west of Denmark (the epicentre for many Great Southern wineries), the Southern Forests region’s wineries have sometimes gone under the radar. Climatically the region is different from its neighbours, the varietal that pulls me in: Pinot Noir. Amongst my favourite producers, Batista from winemaker Bob Peruch, and Picardy, the Pemberton winery established by the revered Pannell family, founders of Moss Wood. Seek out those wineries with cellar doors, but for those that don’t, Tall Timbers a ground-breaking Manjimup tavern champions the full spectrum of Southern Forests wine.
As the region has become a destination for food tourism, the profile of its primary producers raised, it’s seen the birth of cafes and bars like Manjimup’s Heritage Park and Southern Roasting Co., the soon to open Tall Timbers Brewing Co. also in Manjimup, and Pemberton’s Wild at Heart. There’s a confidence in the offerings and a passion in showcasing the best of the region, including down to earth truffle dishes.
This piece was produced in partnership with WA Good Food Guide.
Max Brearley is a food and drink journalist based in the Margaret River region. He writes regularly for delicious. Australia, The Australian and is currently Contributing Editor of the WA Good Food Guide.