Surrounded by national parks, wineries and olive groves, the Frankland River region lies quietly in Western Australia’s Great Southern between Manjimup and Mount Barker. Unassumingly idyllic, to the east, the Stirling Ranges and Porongurups hover majestically in the distance.
There is an immediate sense of escapism and it’s no wonder why owner Jade Cottee named his property the Frankland River Retreat – it truly is a retreat from the world. You can do as much or as little as you like – trek, sip wine, have a picnic, flop, explore or gaze at the stars or your navel – nobody will know unless Instagram tells them so.
The three-and-a-half-hour drive south-east of Perth along Albany Highway will take you through Williams or Kojonup. Or, you can take a more picturesque approach via the South Western Highway through pretty Boyanup, Balingup, Bridgetown and Donnybrook where you can stop for lunch, coffee and stock up on gourmet goodies. You might also notice the many roadside fruit and vegetable stalls teeming with freshly harvested produce, often operating on an honour system.
By the time we arrived at our accommodation, we were armed with the makings of a glorious cheese platter. All that was missing was the wine – lucky we were within swilling distance of the Frankland River Wine region.
Set on 83 acres of unspoiled rolling paddocks, trees and chatty birds, the isolation is spectacular at the Frankland River Retreat. It’s abundantly clear what attracted Jade when he first stepped foot on the property 18 years ago.
“I was drawn to the quiet, remoteness and vastness of the property. And by the time I noticed the bench by the Frankland River, I just loved it.”
The pristine landscape wraps you in peacefulness. There are three properties to choose from; the homestead is full of character and is suited to friends and families craving space to roam, while the cosy cabin resembles an alpine hut and sleeps two. We were treated to the chalet, a tiny modern one-bedroom home big on comfort and vistas. It featured an open-plan living and dining room and kitchenette with hotplate and microwave and a separate bedroom with a queen-size bed with an en suite. The deck was perfectly positioned for sweeping views beckoning you to explore.
After the sun rose the following morning from behind the escarpment in spectacular orange fashion, we wandered down to the river, the very namesake of the region. While serenaded by sheep and cows, and accompanied by bouncing rabbits, this was the perfect spot to reflect and take photos. In the wetter months, you can bring your kayak for a bit of adventure.
Speaking of adventure, there are many nearby day trips offering thrills and activities in Denmark, Walpole, Manjimup, Mount Barker and Albany. The Porongurups is abundant in nature and there’s a bushwalk for every level, ranging from the easy Tree in the Rock walk to the heart-pumping Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock. The Stirling Ranges rise 1000 metres above sea level offering wildflowers and breathtaking views from rugged cliff faces and gullies. It’s famed for its challenging hikes, including the Grade Four 6.8 kilometre return hike to Bluff Knoll. Both of these ranges also have scenic drives 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. Within the sixteen-sided cone painted with celestial skies, we succumbed to vibrational harmonic gong beats while immersed in the aroma of sandalwood.
Still reverberating and with our senses heightened, the Frankland River Wine region beckoned. It’s worth noting that many wineries are temporarily closed during vintage in February and March. However, Gilberts Wines in nearby Mount Barker is open year-round for lunch and tastings and they have take-away picnic hampers. The Frankland River Community Resource Centre has the latest on the region’s happenings and the Frankland River Country Club has many regional wines on hand to accompany their country hospitality and hearty counter meals.
The cool-climate Frankland River Wine Region produces stand-out cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, riesling and sauvignon blanc. As this region is off the beaten track, it’s worth calling ahead at the region’s family-run vineyards including Ferngrove Wines, Swinney Wine, Frankland Estate, Three Elms, Lange Estate Wines. At the well-known Alkoomi Wines, you can experience private tastings, tours, the ingredients for a platter and picnics among the vines.
By now, the missing ingredient for our picnic beneath the stars was in plentiful supply, including a 2014 Alkoomi Icon Jarrah bursting with black cherries, plums and spice. Without any sky pollution, we witnessed the rare phenomenon of the moon rising in the east just as the sun was setting in the west. And for this sky show alone, the Frankland River Retreat deserves a million-star rating.
Carmen Jenner was a guest of the Frankland River Retreat.
For more information go to www.franklandriver.com.au and www.greatsoutherntreasures.com.au
Frankland River Retreat Autumn special: Three nights for the price of two at $399 for a couple staying in the homestead
or chalet until the end of May 2022.