Bound by rugged coastlines, mountain ranges, and thick native forests, there’s no end to the beauty of the Great Southern region.
To see it at its best, begin with a three-kilometre round-hike through Porongurup National Park and out to the Granite Skywalk, where clambering to the top of the 670m high peak will reward you with unparalleled views out towards Albany. More challenging is the Bluff Knoll climb in the neighbouring Stirling Ranges. It’s 1,099 metres in elevation and has a gradient of 20 percent most of the way up.
Ocean lovers can see its fury at The Gap and Natural Bridge. A short, accessible walk will have you standing on the lookout platform in no time, looking down as the tide surges in and crashes into the granite cliff face.
Once you’re through adventuring by foot, send yourself on a culinary adventure.
The Great Southern is known for its cooler-climate produce and wines, the best of which is on show over the 11-day Taste Great Southern festival, May 4th – 14th. More than 20 local and interstate chefs converge on the region for a bumper program of 40+ food-filled events.
Start your exploration with a tour of Cheynes IV whale chaser and some canapes at Next Port of Call (Tuesday, May 9th). Wander through the now-decommissioned ship as the sun sets before joining the party on the deck. There will be plenty of King George Whiting bites, Albany Akoya oysters, and a glass or two of local Oranje Tractor wines going around.
Connect with the Great Southern boodja (land) on a deeper level as Kurrah Mia’s Larry Blight guides you through the scrub on a bush tucker tour. It makes up the first part of the Djeran Celebration with Fervor (Sunday, May 14th), where the culture and foods of the Menang, Koreng, and Pibelman people are front and centre.
Pre-tour, you’ll be welcomed to country and join a smoking ceremony at the 6000-year-old Oyster Harbour Fishing Traps, an important food source and meeting place for the Aboriginal people of the area. Then, it’s Blight’s tour, where he draws on knowledge from his Menang ancestors to find and share local foods and medicines. Finish the day off with a three-course lunch showcasing many of the native plants you’ve just found, prepared by Fervor Food’s Paul Iskov. His native-inspired dinner event sold out in record time, so this is your only other chance to experience his meticulous and considered local menu.
After feasting your eyes on the towering Tingle Trees, endemic to the Walpole Area, and Denmark’s impossibly blue (and misleadingly named) Green’s Pool, it’s time to tend to your stomach.
Nothing says ‘feast’ like a healthy eight-course meal, least not one that takes you through the A to Z of the region’s prime seafood. Join a rota of the state’s best chefs — and Masterchef alum Gary Mehigan — at Catch of the South (Friday, May 12th) as they share their take on Albany Akoya, fresh Great Southern sardines, and everything in between. To top things off, you’ll get matched Cherubino wines.
The fine food doesn’t stop there — it’s Taste Great Southern, after all.
From coastal cuisine to pastoral, the Taste True Passion dinner (Saturday, May 13th) is a change of pace and protein. Chef Kenny McHardy — of Manuka Woodfire Kitchen fame — will be manning the grill in the Jack Cox courtyard and rose maze at Kojonup’s Kodja Place. Watch as the flames lick at local Kojonup wagyu beef skewers, and savour the scent of the slowly-roasting lamb leg, served with smoked yoghurt and salty, succulent red karkalla.
With so many dinners on the event calendar, a dessert degustation makes a sweet reprieve. The best place for it? One of Albany’s top cafes. Book a seat at Lavender Cottage and Tea Rooms’ Sweet and Sticky event (Monday, May 8th), and five courses of cake, custards, and chocolate await you, paired with five Great Southern wines. It’s a most decadent menu.
But, the pinnacle of indulgence is Fee Fi Fo Fum — Great Southern Indulgence (Sunday, May 14th), an 8-course dinner prepared by Garrison owner Jonni Saville Wright and Gary Mehigan. The two Brits have joined forces to showcase the finest in Great Southern produce and what is — arguably — Albany’s best view, that of King George Sound. The menu for this event has just been released and it looks quite delectable. It’s hard to pick which dish we’re looking forward to tasting the most — the Wagyu beef tartare with beetroot, pickles, and salt & vinegar crisps, and the duck fat roasted rosemary potatoes are two of the standouts.
While the exact menu is still a closely guarded secret, there’s no doubt it will be a night to remember.
Complete indulgence doesn’t always have to equate to high expenditure. For the price of two burgers, you can sip your way through over 100 Great Southern wines and savour the sound of local tunes at the Great Southern Cellar Door (Saturday, May 6th). Order a flavour-packed meal from one of the food trucks and a glass of your favourite wine, and soak up the festival-like atmosphere. Fancy brushing up on your wine knowledge? Book yourself into one of the many cellar workshops running throughout the day.
Lose yourself in the beautifully haunting tones of Courtenay Stickels and her band at The Singer and The Cook in Kendenup (Saturday, May 6th), but not before dining on a two-course meal she’s prepared for you herself. She’ll be swapping out the apron for the microphone mid-event, transforming the corrugated-iron-clad Henderson & Hwang into an intimate performance space. Combining music, singing, and story, it’ll truly be a moment to savour.
Throughout the course of Taste Great Southern, rieslings and shiraz feature heavily. For something a little different and for slower sipping, let Hybla and Limeburners welcome you into their worlds. Savour four of Limeburners’ 13-strong whisky range, paired with Akaushi wagyu beef from Hybla’s Melaleuka farm, at the Wagyu & Whisky Long Table Dinner (Friday, May 12th).
Tickets to Taste Great Southern are on sale now, available here.
Lead image: Tourism Western Australia (supplied)