Surrounded by national parks, vineyards and olive groves, the Frankland River region is peacefully located in Western Australia’s Deep South, between Manjimup and Mount Barker. Unassumingly idyllic, to the east the Stirling Ranges and Porongurups loom majestically in the distance.
There’s an immediate sense of escape and it’s no wonder owner Jade Cottee named her property Frankland River Retreat – it truly is a retreat away from the world. You can do as much or as little as you want – hiking, sipping wine, picnicking, flopping around, exploring or gazing at the stars or your navel – no one will know unless Instagram does. tell him.
The three and a half hour drive southeast of Perth along the Albany Highway will take you through Williams or Kojonup. Or, you can take a more scenic approach via the South Western Highway through pretty Boyanup, Balingup, Bridgetown and Donnybrook where you can stop for lunch, coffee and stock up on sweet treats. You may also notice the many roadside fruit and vegetable stalls brimming with freshly harvested produce, often operating on an honor system.
By the time we arrived at our accommodation we were armed with the makings of a wonderful cheese platter. All that was missing was the wine – luckily we were a short distance from the Frankland River wine region.
Set on 83 acres of unspoiled rolling paddocks, trees and chattering birds, seclusion is spectacular at Frankland River Retreat. It’s very clear what attracted Jade when he set foot on the property 18 years ago.
“I was attracted by the calm, the remoteness and the immensity of the property. And the moment I noticed the bench by the Frankland River, I just loved it.
The pristine landscape envelops you in tranquility. There are three properties to choose from; the farmhouse is full of character and suitable for friends and families who need space to roam around in, while the cozy hut resembles an alpine hut and sleeps two. We were treated to the chalet, a small modern one bedroom house big on comfort and views. It has an open-plan living/dining room and kitchenette with hob and microwave, plus a separate bedroom with a queen-size bed and en-suite bathroom. The deck was perfectly positioned for panoramic views inviting you to explore.
After the sun rose the next morning behind the escarpment in a spectacular orange fashion, we hiked down to the river, the very namesake of the area. Although serenaded by sheep and cows, and accompanied by bouncing bunnies, it was the perfect place to reflect and take photos. During the wetter months, you can bring your kayak for a bit of adventure.
Speaking of adventure, there are plenty of day trips nearby offering thrills and activities in Denmark, Walpole, Manjimup, Mount Barker and Albany. Porongurups are abundant in the wild and there is a bushwalk for every level, from the easy Tree in the Rock walk to the thrilling Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock. The Stirling Ranges rise 1,000 meters above sea level, offering wildflowers and breathtaking views from rugged cliffs and ravines. It’s famous for its challenging hikes, including the 6.8-mile grade four round-trip hike to Bluff Knoll. Both of these ranges also have scenic routes if you’re short on time and stamina.
Or you can transcend into a Zen-like state with a Gong relaxation session at The Sandalwood Shop. In the sixteen-sided cone painted with celestial skies, we succumbed to the vibrational harmonic gong beats while being immersed in the aroma of sandalwood.
Still echoing and with our heightened senses, the Frankland River wine region beckoned us. It should be noted that many wineries are temporarily closed during the harvest in February and March. However, Gilberts Wines near Mount Barker is open year-round for lunch and tastings and offers take-out picnic baskets. The Frankland River Community Resource Center keeps up to date with the latest happenings in the area and the Frankland River Country Club offers many regional wines to accompany their country hospitality and hearty counter meals.
The cool-climate Frankland River wine region produces remarkable Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. As this area is off the beaten path, it is well worth visiting family owned wineries in the area including Ferngrove Wines, Swinney Wine, Frankland Estate, Three Elms, Lange Estate Wines. At the famous Alkoomi Wines, you can experience private tastings, tours, ingredients for a platter, and picnics among the vines.
Now the missing ingredient for our picnic under the stars was in abundance, including a 2014 Alkoomi Icon Jarrah brimming with black cherries, plums and spice. Without any sky pollution, we witnessed the rare phenomenon of the moon rising in the east as the sun set in the west. And for this celestial spectacle alone, the Frankland River Retreat deserves a million stars.
Carmen Jenner was a guest at the Frankland River Retreat.
For more information visit www.franklandriver.com.au and www.greatsoutherntreasures.com.au
Frankland River Retreat Fall Special: Three nights for the price of two at $399 for a couple staying at the farm
or chalet until the end of May 2022.