By Patrick Walker
RAC Executive General Manager Advocacy and Member Benefits
As the warmer weather makes itself known, are you dreaming of a weekend getaway? It’s only natural when gourmet delights, world class wineries and pristine beaches are just a few hours south of Perth.
If you’re an electric vehicle (EV) owner, the RAC Electric Highway® gives you access to ten fast-charging DC stations throughout the south west so you can enjoy its incredible attractions without range anxiety.
If time is of the essence, the coastal town of Mandurah is just over an hour away and you might be surprised by what you find. The Mandurah Ocean Marina is home to some lovely beaches, boardwalks, parks and piazzas, as well as a colourful mix of waterfront market stalls, shops, cafes and restaurants.
If exploring the great outdoors is more your speed, the Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve nearby is home to more than 130 different species of native and migratory birds which nest, breed and feed on the estuary. You’ll also find the largest thrombolite reef in the southern hemisphere at Lake Clifton in the Yalgorup National Park. These are living fossils that have sheltered in these waters for millennia.
If you’ve followed the coastline south before, why not choose the road less travelled and take the inland route from Mandurah? South east lies the town of Harvey, which derives its name from the nearby Harvey River. The small town is central to Western Australia’s dairy industry and is also known for its beef and citrus production. Its novelty landmark, the ‘Big Orange’, overlooks the orchards of Harvey Fresh and is a nod to the region’s fruit growing industry. With its abundance of green pastures, the town of Harvey is a picturesque place to spend a few nights. It also makes for a lovely detour, and EV charging opportunity, on the way down south.
The next port of call is the bustling City of Bunbury where urban amenities meet a country lifestyle. It’s fast becoming a cultural hub with world-class performances at the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre, exhibitions at the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries and a growing collection of street art. You can also get up close and personal with aquatic wildlife at the Dolphin Discovery Centre. No matter what you’re getting up to, Bunbury’s popular cappuccino strip and growing small bar scene offer relief for tired feet and hungry stomachs.
From Bunbury, your adventure can take inland to Donnybrook, the apple capital of Western Australia. The town was a former timber mill settlement on the banks of the Preston River and also enjoyed a small gold rush in the late 1800s. Nowadays there is a bevy of culinary delights to be enjoyed in Donnybrook at local cafes, wineries and stores. Many of the buildings date back to the early twentieth century and are a testament to the town’s heritage.
Just 45 minutes further south, situated on the banks of the Blackwood River, Nannup has been perfectly preserved as a character-filled timber town from the early 1900s. Bullnose verandas, weatherboard shop fronts and colourful flower boxes all enhance the delightful appeal of the town and keep it in character. You can spend half a day or more paddling through the magnificent jarrah forests towards the sea along the Blackwood River. One of Nannup’s best kept secret is Barrabup Pool, a natural water hole set deep in the forest which you can swim in and camp by.
If you’re eager to enjoy some coastal views on your weekend away, you can forgo the inland route from Mandurah and follow the Old Coast Road through Bunbury and further south instead. Nestled on the tranquil waters of Geographe Bay, Busselton and Dunsborough are both home to EV charging stations. The RAC Busselton Holiday Park is a great base from which to explore this part of the south west as the Busselton, Dunsborough and Yallingup foreshores all boast beautiful places to walk, picnic and swim.
In Busselton, the jetty extends almost two kilometres out to sea and offers a unique experience incorporating a leisurely walk or train ride, a museum and an underwater observatory. Meelup Regional Park ranges along the coastline from Dunsborough to Bunker Bay and its beaches are a haven of secluded coves and coastal walking trails. For an incredible view across the Indian Ocean and the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National park, visit the Cape Naturalist Lighthouse. More than 150 limestone caves lie beneath the surface of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge, offering a different but equally incredible perspective.
For those travelling further south, you can’t go past a visit to Margaret River and its many wonders – particularly its world class wineries. You might be overwhelmed by choice as the tasting and tour opportunities are extensive, especially when you consider the countless purveyors of gourmet food and craft beer dotted in amongst the vineyards. Pick a handful of places to mosey between over the course of your road trip and leave the rest for another time.
Did the surfboards come with you for the weekend away? It’s no wonder when Margaret River’s coastline is home to 75 surfing breaks and some serious sets. The annual World Championship Tour Drug Aware Pro Surfing event takes place at Mainbreak, also known as Surfers Point. This break might be best experienced from the shore atop a picnic rug, unless you’re comfortable in considerable swell.
The beautiful Wadandi Track, open to walkers and cyclists, showcases the heritage of the former Busselton to Flinders Bay Railway. You can experience the natural environment of Margaret River, its Aboriginal heritage and the rich history of the industries and communities served by the railway from 1884 to 1957. The track weaves its way through rare flora and fauna so you can stretch your legs while taking in some spectacular sights.
Australia’s tallest mainland lighthouse, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, is situated at the most south westerly tip of Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. For a historic experience that’s sure to be a highlight, book a tour to climb the lighthouse with one of its friendly guides and see this magnificent piece of coastline from up above.
The south west is an incredible region and your EV can take you there! With conveniently located charging stations along the RAC Electric Highway®, the hardest part of your weekend getaway will be deciding where to go.