south west rambling


A couple of weeks ago, my husband booked a surprise trip to the tiny town of Quinninup to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. We stayed in an old raised timber cottage surrounded by karri forest on the banks of the aptly-named Karri River.

It was beautiful; the kind of place that provides an immediate sense of calm. Mismatched furniture sat proudly upon floorboards and a handmade woven rug in the tiny living room. As the sun was absorbed by inky blackness, Aaron set to work placing rough-cut logs, kindling and newspaper into an old pot belly stove. Flames became fire, fire became warmth. Perfect remedy to the encroaching south west chill.

cottage cows

Despite it being springtime, the nights were cold and quiet throughout the entirety of our stay. Perfect for red wine, warm blankets and filling meals eaten fireside. We spent lazy days in the small towns of the south west, exploring vineyards, caves, abandoned logging trains and open patches of forest. It was blissful, in every sense of the word (*the cow second to the right has the best cowlick I’ve ever seen).


rail rustThough I’m not intending this post to be another Mess Guide (like my previous Margaret River and Melbourne posts) I thought I’d include a few snapshots, links and travel tips from our stay; mostly for those who are interested in exploring more of Western Australia’s south west.

Despite dozens of trips over the years, it’s still one of my favourite places to go for a holiday. I mean that; wine country, fresh air, organic food and plenty of open space to walk, breathe, stop and… just exist. When I think of recuperation, I think of the south west. I’m blessed that it’s only three hours from my hometown.  trainbitgreendoorOn our second day in Quinninup, we took a drive to the nearby town of Pemberton. In a patch of karri forest, we discovered winding pathways, tiny creatures and hand-etched trees.

Approximately 500 metres from the road, there was also a timber hut constructed from fallen tree bark, branches and vines. It looked reasonably old, but remarkably intact. An adjacent fallen tree propped up half of the hut with its momentous stability. The whole structure conveyed a sense of history, creativity and ‘story’ that will forever be unknown to us; a sharp contrast to the growing scrawls of history on this karri tree:lovetree


Our journey brought us to a winding unsealed road in search of organic sourdough from Yallingup Woodfired Bread. Aaron had visited this bakery during a previous trip to the south west but largely forgot where it was; after some navigational adjustments, our car pulled up beside a hand-painted concrete sign:


The bakery uses an honor system for payment: choose your bread and drop your pennies in an earthenware bowl. It’s trust and simplicity, country style. The way life used to be.

breadhonorbakery breadeditedThat evening, we ate bread by the fireplace, each chunk dipped into local Mount of Olives extra virgin olive oil and toasty Providore dukkah. Each mouthful was washed down with a new favourite wine from Stella Bella vineyard, the 2009 Serie Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon: deep, dark vine-ripened fruits, mellow oak and fine tannins with a lingering finish.

Snuggled under blankets, we watched three episodes of the largely unappreciated Firefly (which we’d brought from home; I’d still barrack for a continuation of this series) before drifting off to sleep. twigs

Our second day in the south west was mostly spent touring vineyards and caves, with a breakfast stop at the Margaret River Bakery (regular readers will know that I adore that place).

As the sun dropped in the sky, we stopped in at the ‘Pemby Pub’, also known as the Best Western Pemberton Hotel. We drank beer by the open fire before feasting on gnocchi, calamari, chips and coleslaw with tinned baby beetroot.

The timber furniture and emerald carpet oozed old-style country hospitality, accentuated by a request from the bar staff that we ‘chuck another log on the fire’. I loved everything, even their unidentifiable red sauce (Aaron’s guess was barbecue, mine was sweet chilli mixed with plum). Everything tastes better in the country air.

stools pubpembypub

The last two days of our trip were spent in a beach shack in Augusta where we were joined by our good friend Paul. We took a road trip to Dunsborough beach and spent an hour exploring the sand dunes, rocks and sea foam.

The south west has some of the most beautiful, unadulterated beaches in the world. No fancy cafes, water fountains or throngs of sun-baking teens. Just air, sea, sand and windswept grass with an occasional fisherman by the coastline.

sandsunset landlubbers grassscene gorgeous grassy

Our remaining time was spent seeking out boutique vineyards, jetties and cafes that Paul hadn’t tried yet. We also took advantage of our beach shack’s positioning by the Hardy Inlet, where moss covered jetties gave way to sea bird nests, tranquil lookouts and pelicans on rocks.

jetty timberrrr pelicans

With Paul’s help, we found Pierro vineyard, nestled in an idyllic patch of lush garden. The boys tasted premium Chardonnay whilst I explored an old country farmhouse, a rambling vegetable garden and knobbly vines. I’m a little obsessed with ochre, rust and crumbling aged timber.




We also stopped in at the Berry Farm Cottage Cafe for boysenberry pie, scones and bird watching. This was my first sighting of an Western Australian blue wren. Fascinatingly delicate and vibrant.

berryfarmstudy boysenberrypie2 boysenberrypie bluewren

Our last night in the south west was spent at Russell Blaikie’s Muster Bar and Grill. We dined on snapper, eye fillet, dukkah-baked pumpkin and pork belly with two bottles of earthy Shiraz.

It was a beautiful celebration of the week-that-was; a week of little responsibility, ambrosial calm, luscious greenery, perfect simplicity. Sometimes I wonder why we city dwellers have made life so unnecessarily complicated. I’ve renewed my wish for a house in the country someday, surrounded by an organic vegetable garden, dairy cows and scratching chickens.

In the meantime, it’s back to the hamster wheel. I’m due at work in thirty minutes and I’m still in my pyjamas. Until next time.

101 responses

  1. Just gorgeous Laura! I don’t where to start. The springing sheep! The blue wren! The etched tree! I’m a sucker for abandoned places in all their rusty glory. Those trains and tracks are magnificent. What a beautiful break. Good luck easing back onto the treadmill. xx

    • I loved that springing sheep, particularly as it had just been shawn and it was rather ratty-looking! But the blue wren absolutely captivated me. So, so beautiful. Re the rusty abandoned train, Aaron and I took about – no joke – 100 photos of it! All of the details! I wanted to post all of them but I thought people would be rather bored ;) There’s a piano graveyard about 90 minutes out from Perth. Wanna come with me? I want to take photos! xx

      • I wouldn’t have been bored with your rusty train photos at all. I have an ‘abandoned places’ board on PInterest. LOVE this stuff! Piano graveyard? Hell yeah! Name the date. xx

      • Ooh, I need to check that out. I’ve been neglecting my Pinterest account significantly. And you know you’ve just committed to our expedition, right?! Picture taking at the Piano graveyard followed by beer at the country pub, dinner at mine, maybe a game of that ‘Cards Against Humanity’… ;) xx

  2. Love your pictures! And spring! We are going full-force into fall (and then the dreaded winter). It hasn’t been very pretty because we have had so little rain, which only makes the trees drab. Loved the cowlick!! Truly looked like some of my curls. lol Glad you had a good time and enjoyed the time away. Have a good weekend.

    • Hello lovely Julie. Thanks for the kind words! It’s so, so nice to have a bit of spring weather after a rather cold winter. Funny to think that you guys are headed in the opposite direction. Do you get very cold winters where you are? Australians tend to be wimps when it comes to winter (well, me anyway!). We get about a minimum of -2 degrees C but I do remember visiting Canada some years ago and going out in -13 degrees C! Argh! And we had a lovely time away, thanks. Hope that you enjoy the lovely pumpkin spiced treats of fall, I’m envious whenever I see them on US blogs! xx

      • Oh, it can get SO cold here! I think that the lowest we’ve had recently was -13 F (which would be -25 C). It’s so cold that your hair in your nose freezes (sorry for that visual). I hate it, but it makes us so excited for spring. Stephie lives in Chicago, and the wind blows so hard that we have what’s called “wind chill”, meaning that it feels much colder than what the thermometer says. It’s not uncommon for it to feel as low as -28 C. Ugh. Add to that, the snow and the ice and you can see why my grandmother, who was raised in the south (Mississippi, which is MUCH warmer) called this the “God-forsaken north”. She made us bury her in her beloved south, and I can’t blame her. Enjoy your spring weather. It’s definitely fall feeling here. Monday, the low is supposed to be a low of -.05, so that’s a chilly evening for this time of year. Soon we will be longing for a high of that degree. Have a wonderful week. xx

      • Oh my gosh Julie, I think I’d curl up into a little ball and hibernate! -25 degrees C is unreasonable… but you’re right, it’d make the balmy days of summer so much sweeter. I haven’t actually seen much of America. A few years ago, I did a trip including the Hawaiian islands, California (Anaheim mostly), Boston/Mass and a small patch of NYC (2 days only). That’s it so far. I’d love to explore more one day, particularly around Tennessee as I have some friends there. A good friend of mine fell in love with an American girl last year so, if all goes to plan, there may be an American wedding next year (shhh!). If that’s the case I might make the trip and explore a bit more of your beautiful homeland. I hope that the fall/winter months ease in slowly and kindly (in a few months I will be longing for cold again, Perth summers are horribly hot… sometimes around 46 degrees C/115 degrees f on Christmas day! Argh!!) xxx

  3. In the words of Kath and Kim “noice”. But seriously, your photos are gorgeous and your travelogue is better than any brochure. I love that part of the country. We spent some time down there in June – so desolate and OPEN.
    BTW: That cow’s cowlick doesn’t even compare to mine!

    • Hahahaa, I want to see your cowlick! I don’t have one so I’m jealous of those who do :) I didn’t realise you travelled this way in June. You should’ve come over for that glass of wine and a roast dinner! Next time, it’s ON. Thanks for the noice words sweetness! xx

  4. Despite the fact that I am an English teacher, I don’t think I know enough words to describe how this post made me feel. Wonderful, amazing, beautiful, stunning etc – don’t cut it all – I’m simply in love with your photos and in awe of the wondrous West…I must get myself to Western Australia one day! Simply beautiful post :)

    • Aw, thanks Helen! You are way too kind. Definitely come out to the west side! It’s so beautiful over here. The city is hot in summertime but great down south whatever time of year it is! I’d meet you for a beer! xx

  5. Yay! Looks like you had a fantastic time! I love that part of the country – my family is originally from Busselton way and I grew up in Perth, spending most school holidays in Margaret River and Busselton. I’m in Darwin at the moment but will soon be travelling down the coast of W.A and am so looking forward to it! :)

    • Hello lovely! Ah, I didn’t know you were from Busso! We could’ve crossed paths without knowing it :) Let me know when you’re in WA? We could meet up for a beer sometime! Hope you’re enjoying Darwin, I’ve heard it’s beautiful and relaxing there. Thanks for the lovely comments xx

      • Funny isn’t it, we totally could have! I haven’t lived there permanently for quite a while, though I did a six month stint last year doing my uni placement at the AMS in Bunbury. My last name is actually Bussell, so I have a bit of family history in the area! Whereabouts in W.A are you? We are going to be flying through pretty quickly but if the stars align that could be lovely :) Darwin is great but getting hot and humid – two things we are not really used to after living in Tassie for the last three years. So many beautiful places though, so we’ll survive, hehe. X

      • Haha, you own the highway!!! :D Very cool. We live 10 mins from the city centre (Victoria Park) so it’s pretty central if you’re heading to Perth. Otherwise I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities in future. I’d love to visit Tasmania one day. It sounds like such a beautiful state. Glad you’re enjoying Darwin in spite of the heat and humidity! xx

    • Hello Danielle, thanks so much for taking the time to write! Yay, another Firefly fan! We’ve got the whole series plus the movie on DVD. Makes me sad whenever we get to the end and there’s nothing more being made. Oh well… :) Thanks for the Birthday wishes. I feel old now I’m 30! xx

  6. Firstly, happy birthday my friend. It was clearly a good one. Second, how good is that part of the world? I hope to have a restaurant down there one day. Third, how good is Yallingup bread? I would eat that shit all day. Lastly, great photos. Wish I was there…

  7. Beautiful photography Laura! Each time you write about your travels, I find myself wishing I was going there too. Maybe sometime in the near future. I am obsessed with rust and aged timber too. Loved the post!

    • Thanks so much Sonali, I appreciate your lovely words. Yay, another rust and aged timber lover! We should all gather together and go touring abandoned relics one day. Hope that you get a chance to visit WA. I love my home town, it’s such a privilege to show it off! xx

  8. Hello from the hamster wheel! Such gorgeous photos, it makes me want to visit WA again, especially when the spring wild flowers are out. We had planned a trip but it fell through – could have had that tent feast! ;-)

  9. this sounds like such a creative and calming (can the two things join together?) trip, and your pictures make me want to jump into the screen to share the experience with you. I especially love the photograph of the wilderness pushing up against the railroad tracks. Happy belated birthday to you!!

    • Thanks lovely. You guys should come visit us sometime, we could do a trip together! Western Australia really is a beautiful part of the world. I feel blessed to live here :) x

    • I was so fascinated by it! I’ve loved blue wrens for a long time but I never managed to get a photo of one until now. Beautiful creatures. And yes, I love Australia. It’s such a wonderful place to live. Let me know if you ever head this way, I’ll take you on a road trip! xx

  10. I think your husband picked the perfect location to celebrate your birthday! The region looks so wonderfully peaceful! Perfect to rest, recharge your batteries and get in touch with your soul. When I was your age, I went for a very fancy celebration in a club in Rome. I guess you are much wiser than I was! ;-) Happy belated birthday, Laura!

    • Aw, thanks Francesca! It was definitely peaceful, calming and relaxing. The celebration in Rome sounds amazing though… I’ve never been to Italy. It’s on my list of places to visit in the near future! Thanks to both you and Stefano for the well wishes. Hugs xx

      • Just visited, I didn’t realise how much I’d missed! My stupid wordpress reader is messing me about a bit, I’ve realised that a few people’s new posts aren’t coming up at all :( I’d email subscribe to everyone but then when I open my inbox I get a bit overwhelmed, haha. Definitely love your new posts. I’ll make sure I check in more often xxx

    • Thanks Suzanne. It was heaps of fun. I love relaxing, rambling holidays when I don’t have to do anything except enjoy myself :) Made turning 30 a tiny bit better! xx

  11. Awesome post and photo’s Laura. I haven’t managed to get over to WA yet and clearly I am missing out big time! Oh and I really really want a piece of that boysenberry pie…I know trust me to zero in on the sweet stuff!

    • Hello Karen! Thanks for the kind words. Yes, definitely come visit the ‘wild west’, its beautiful over here :) Yep, the boysenberry pie was goood. As was all of the berry stuff at the Cottage Cafe, they had berry scones (with homemade jam), cheesecake, crumble, streusel bars… pretty much everything. Sweet berry paradise! xx

    • Aw, glad that she’s enjoying it over here! New Zealand is incredible also. It’s been ages since I visited but… wow… the scenery is just like being on a Lord of the Rings set (well, I guess it almost IS being like a LOTR set but… well, you get my drift!). Definitely, you and your man should come visit me and Aaron! We can do a tour of the good stuff (me and Ben might also have a bit to talk about as I was a law student for 3.5 years… but then I dropped out. Wimp, huh?!) and eat all the food in the south of the state! Thanks for the comment lovely! xx

  12. After viewing the photos and reading the narrative, it would be rather redundant to say “I hope you had a wonderful birthday!” You surely did. That sounds like a wonderful get-away and perfect way to celebrate. Happy birthday, Laura. I hope the year ahead of you is every bit as memorable.

    • Hello John! Yep, you’re entirely correct. We had a grand old time, loved every bit of it! Thanks for the well wishes. I appreciate having you as a blogging friend… I look forward to many more inspiring visits to the Bartolini kitchens! :)

  13. Such beautiful photos Laura!!
    Western Australia looks simply stunning :) really want to go sometime
    especially love that timber cottage!
    and great shot of the blue wren and the boysenberry! what type of camera do you use? it takes wonderful photos!

    lovely post! xxxx

    • Aw, come visit lovely! I’ll take you on a tour of my home state! I’m using a Canon EOS 70D now, I got it as a super generous birthday present (thanks mum!) and it’s made such a difference to the photographs. I’m also borrowing lenses from a friend (50mm and wide angle) whilst saving for my own :) xx

      • I would love to! :D
        Yeah – your photos are so wonderful!!
        hope you are having a wonderful weekend :) xxx

  14. WOW, your pictures are absolutely beautiful and your trip sounds amazing!! That beautiful little bluebird was so cute and you captured him perfectly. Stunning.

    • Hi Melanie! Thanks for the lovely message. The bird was such a pleasure to photograph (though I was a bit slow getting the camera out as I was so enraptured by his beauty!) and I’m glad I got a decent shot. Just took a quick look through your blog, beautiful content! Thanks again x

  15. What a great way to celebrate your birthday, Laura!
    I loved reading about your explorations and seeing the places you visited through your photos.
    Unbelievable to see there’s still places that sell applying the honor system! So neat and remote from ordinary city life.
    Oh, and I definitely can relate to your attraction for rusty or weathered stuff. It sure has huge photographic appeal! :-)
    Have a wonderful weekend! :-)

    • Thanks Stefano :) Yep, you’re completely right… there are so few places with an honour system these days. I guess it’s difficult to trust people in today’s society. Haha, I can definitely understand why you’d share my obsession with rusty and old things. Your photos are always brilliant! :)

  16. Hurrah what a wondrous birthday! Such a great thing to do. You got so many good things in there, with all the animals (hello mister percival!) and wine and fireplaces and Firefly (love!) – and the pie!! Phwoar.

    We are developing an excellent habit for road trip birthdays too. For my thirtieth a couple years ago we went to SA and spent time in Flinders Ranges, Barossa and the Eyre Peninsula. All thoroughly recommendable.

    • Hey lovely!! Thanks so much for the gorgeous comment. Aah, I hope that we can make it over to South Australia one day. All of my favourite wineries are based in the Barossa, and I’m also hankering to go visit Maggie Beer’s farm. She’s a living legend, love her recipes! Isn’t it sad that Firefly is no more? Everytime I watch it I get a renewed sense of disappointment that I’ll never know what the Shepherd’s true occupation was… so many unanswered questions. Wah. Oh well. Hugs xx

  17. Grattis på födelsedagen …. you take fantastic photos outside the kitchen too. This post is in some way a bit like one I did this spring - …. to find beauty in the roughness. Love it.
    We have farmers in our county that has the same system of payment – they put their products by road and and something to put the money in – and it works. Lovely touch that people still believe in and respect honesty.
    The little blue bird is so beautiful … great shot. And I love the beach shots … you and your camera is brilliant team. Thank you so much for sharing your fantastic weekend with me.
    That pie … would wonders for my big cup of coffee just now.

    • Oh, I need to check out your photo post too! Just put the link in, will leave a comment! I wish that more people would use the honor system. I think the trouble is that so many people in the community aren’t trustworthy these days. Particularly in cities; I’ve had things stolen from my washing line before! Such a shame. Thanks for the lovely comments about the photos. The pie was delicious! Wish I could send you one in the mail! xx

      • I’m looking forward to your visit to Malmö … I can have my piece of pie than. You’re so brilliant in the kitchen and your photos are magical .. far better than many studio shots.
        You really have an eye for food and it’s details.
        Same here in Sweden .. that laundry is been stolen from our laundry rooms.

  18. Oh my! How fantastic …your clicks! Not sure where to start ,but your clicks are so beautiful and amazing! Absolutely in love with the pictures.


  19. Happy Belated 30th Birthday! That little town looked adorable and the photos are lovely – I have always wanted to stay at farms or even a farm sanctuary for animals, it just seems cozy and knowing that I’m safe with them. The wholemeal sourdough looks interesting and handcrafted bread is nice to have around. The sand dunes look so pretty, we had that in Phuket, Thailand off Friendship Beach. I love the photo of that springing sheep, it is so adorable…I wish I can hug it badly!

    • Thanks so much Rika!! The wholemeal sourdough was delicious – very dense and fragrant. I think Aaron and I would’ve rathered white sourdough in some ways but the wholegrains are definitely a tick in the ‘healthy’ box! :) The sheep was so cute. It kept jumping around for ages, and had a gorgeous little lamb following it. I think it got half shawn but probably moved around too much for the shearer to finish it off, haha. Heaps of farm fun! xxx

    • Hi Christina!!! Thanks so much for the lovely comment. I feel the same about the bakery – wish that more places were like that (and that more people were trustworthy enough to abide by it! I hate the justifiable sense of mistrust in cities). Lovely to ‘meet’ you, thanks for helping me find your blog. Heading over to check out some more posts! xx

  20. Again such a lovely travel post, dear Laura! The south west of Australia must be very beautiful and a perfect place to find some tranquility. I love a lot your comosition of photo topics from industrial romantic to rustic sujets and food and everything in between, that’s marvelous! The galloping sheep in the opening pic expresses so much joy that it makes me smile brightly :-).

    • Thank you Claudia! Haha, I loved the sheep photo the most. It pranced around jovially with a little lamb following it; the tatty wool hanging off made me imagine that it wouldn’t stay still during the shearing process so it got left half-done! :) You should definitely come visit Western Australia one day. It’s beautiful xx

  21. I don’t know why, but i always find photos of rust so appealing! And speaking of photos, you took some excellent ones. You’ve got a great eye. Sounds like a fun time – thanks for sharing with us.

  22. Laura, firstly – happy belated 3-0! Secondly, thanks for taking us along on your adventure and sharing all these beautiful pictures from the food to the animals to the nature – you make me want to run away to this town and you also make me want to eat boysenberry pie right now! :)

    • Hello Pamela dear! Thanks for the lovely birthday message. It was definitely a fun weekend… lots of roaming around the countryside (I could quite easily be a hippy chick!). Wish you could come eat boysenberry pie with us… you’re welcome anytime! xx

    • Hello dear Holly! First of all, I love the name of your blog (and the sentiment behind it!). Secondly, this was a perfectly Hobbit-friendly weekend. We ate all day (pretty much every 2 hours) as the southern region is food country! I think you’d love it, particularly the country hospitality xx

    • Aw, thanks Ruby. I did enjoy taking the photos… I should print some out and actually display them somewhere (all of my photos are digital and just end up being on my hard drive! Such a waste). The blue wren was so charming. It’s amazing seeing these little vibrant birds in real life. So gorgeous xx

  23. Gorgeous gorgeous post! The seemingly leaping sheep had me smiling to no end! He knew he was going to be famous and get blogged! ;0

    • Hahaaa, it’s so cute isn’t it? From the moment I looked at the photos I knew she had to be the header image. Wish I had a video. She had a tiny lamb that was hiding behind a water tank :) xx

  24. I’m a bit behind with my reading and commenting!!! I hope that you are thinking about making a coffee table book on the South West with all your stunning photos! I would buy it. I can’t decide which photo I like best in this post from the dancing sheep to the cowlicks (having been blessed in my younger years with a beauty myself!) to the stunning colours in the faking rust/paint. And then there is that beautiful and delicate wren in the most vibrant of blues. You have really captured the essence of the South West in this post! xx

    • Maybe I should make a coffee table book! Or at least print some of my photos :) Aaron and I have hundreds of photos on our hard drive that have never seen the light of day. That’s the difficulty with digital photography… so different to the automatic development that happened with film! Have you been to the south west Andrea? It’s so gorgeous, one of my favourite places in the world. I always feel relaxed there xx

  25. I love this Post, your photographs are stunning, you are very talented. I dream of a house in the Adelaide hills or north of adelaide, surrounding by lots of animals and babies :) we currently own our home in the burbs, but one day :)

    • Thanks for the comment beautiful. I love South Australia. I’d love to go live in the Barossa one day, have a farm with a few chickens! The Adelaide hills are beautiful. Maybe one day, for both of us!! xx

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