Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Four places to check out down south

Over the July school holidays, my folks flew over from Malaysia to visit. It was just a relaxed, chilled out trip with no particular agenda planned. Just spending time together with us and their precious grandchildren.

On one of the weekends, we went on a mini getaway down south (which in Perth-speak refers to the Margaret River region and located about two hours drive south of the Perth metro area).

We usually stop by the usual suspects such as Busselton Jetty or the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. But there are definitely thousands of hidden gems tucked around every corner waiting to be discovered. I don’t think it’s possible for a single person to uncover them all. However I can do my little bit by sharing a couple of our own discoveries with you.

I left most of the photography to my dad and his trusty Olympus DSLR. But I did manage to snap a few photos here and there to give you a little peephole glimpse of some of the places we visited during our trip.

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Happs Wines

I’m not quite sure if this particular ‘gem’ can be considered hidden one as I believe this winery already has quite a sizeable following of loyal customers of which we are one of them. Hubs and I are ardent devotees of their Fuschia range of sweet wines.

Their estate in Dunsborough is a fairly large one but somehow still exudes a warm and inviting ‘homey’ feel to it. As you walk down from the carpark to the main building, the cobblestone steps leading down to a little glass door tucked away under some low hanging vines give a sense of walking into someone’s front yard. Very different from the sprawling, grand entrances at some of the larger wineries.

The staff are gracious with their tastings and I have never received a sniff of superiority from them (unlike some wineries where the staff look at you disdainfully like you’re simply there for a freebie). They even have a bowl of complementary crackers and cheese to nibble on as you sample their selection of wines. They also have very thoughtfully set up a corner with books, blocks and puzzles to keep little ones busy as their parents enjoy their ‘happy hour’ time.

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Goanna Cafe & Gallery

Located just around the corner from Happs estate in Dunsborough is this super family friendly restaurant. They have an amazing outdoor space with a terrific little play area for children. Unfortunately it happened to be pouring with rain that day, so we stayed dry and cosy indoors instead.

They offer a terrific ‘Goanna Platter’ for kids with a toasted cheese sandwich, milk or juice, sultanas, choc button, marshmallow and activity kit. Their Jerusalem artichoke risotto with truffle oil was so incredibly good that it turned me into a risotto convert on the spot (before this I always thought of risotto as glorified rice congee) and their polenta chips were just absoutely yummos!

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Harwood’s Cottage

Our accommodation for our short family getaway was a wonderful little estate called Harwood’s Cottage owned by a lady named Norma. I stumbled across it by chance on Airbnb as I was hunting around for places to stay around the area. It is just the loveliest little place.

The ‘old barn’ we stayed at is a beautifully restored heritage building. It is rather snug but we were happy to stay cosy and warm together inside, especially with the pouring rain outside. Unfortunately it meant that we were not able to take full advantage of exploring the grounds and various historic relics around the estate. But I guess it just means we will just have to make another visit in the future.

There are heaps of gushing reviews from previous guests on Norma’s delicious home baked bread and cookies which she leaves out for her guests together with a dish of her homemade marmalade. We spent a lovely afternoon in front of the wood fire, sipping hot tea and munching on freshly baked bread and marmalade and cookies. This is for sure a place I would recommend to stay at if you are planning a trip down south around the Margaret River region.

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Gnomesville

For our trip back up to Perth, we decided to travel via Fergusson Valley so we could pay homage to the little residents of the famous community of Gnomesville.

So who are the mysterious little residents of this community?

Gnomes. Yes, GNOMES... GNOMES!!! 

The place is literally an ocean of thousands upon thousands of these creatures, stretching on and on, far beyond your eyes can see.

I’m not particularly partial to gnomes. But there is just something exhilarating and magical about being surrounded by these thousands of gnomes that makes me feel like a child all over again. You can’t help but feel excited and energised at the sight of so many of these happy creatures congregated together in one place.

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Trust me. Go visit the place and feel the magic yourselves. As for me and my household, the next time we visit, we’ll pack a picnic lunch to spend a longer stretch of time there to soak up all that gnomish vibe (and possibly bring a little friend to join the gnomey community).

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What hidden gems have you discovered during your travels?

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