Driving from Denmark to Albany will take you through a gorgeous part of the Great Southern region of Western Australia. It’s an area that is distinguished by its outstanding wines, superb waves, stunning wildflowers, and farmers’ gates. Pack the hire car with a surf board, hiking boots and an esky to keep the wines and cheeses cool.
Driving from Denmark to Albany will take you through the Great Southern region, a part of Western Australia that is beloved by Australians for its striking windswept coastline, punctuated by sheltered white-sand coves with crystal clear water, separated by rugged granite headlands. In stark contrast to the wild coastline, inland you’ll discover towering forests, idyllic countryside, undulating vineyards, and pristine national parks marked by majestic mountains and natural bushland, blanketed with wildflowers.
If you drove directly from Denmark to Albany, a mere 51 km away, you would miss all that. But driving from Denmark to Albany via Mount Barker and the dramatic Porongurup and Stirling Ranges national parks will give you a taste of some of Western Australia’s finest beaches, fantastic waves, wonderful wine and food, and wildflowers galore.
Highlights of a Denmark to Albany road trip include the surf beaches around the delightful seaside hamlet of Denmark with its craft shops and art galleries; the producers of everything from cheese to chocolate on Shadforth Scenic Drive; the Great Southern wine region, which is Australia’s largest, stretching 200 kms from east to west and some 100 kms from south to north; and the magnificent Porongurup and Stirling Ranges national parks, famous for their carpets of vivid wildflowers in season.
The driving from Denmark to Albany is easy driving, too, with excellent signposting and good, smooth, sealed roads, although note that while most dirt roads through the wine regions and national parks are fine for two-wheel drive vehicles, you’ll need a four-wheel drive to reach parts of the coast, including some of the best surfing beaches and most beautiful coves.
With its Mediterranean climate, the Great Southern is a great year-round destination. Spring, summer and autumn are the best times of year to visit, when the weather is fantastic, but we enjoy driving from Denmark to Albany any time of year. Winters are also special. While they can get chilly for Australians, the temperatures are very pleasant for Europeans, North Americans, and Asian travellers.
Summer is when the Great Southern region really shines, but that is also when it’s at its busiest with holidaying families from Perth, and the best accommodation – whether cabins, apartment rentals, holiday houses, or caravan parks – is in great demand. It’s essential to book ahead for summer.
Note that our Denmark to Albany road trip is a continuation of our Perth to Margaret River drive and Margaret River to Denmark drive. You cannot drive directly to Denmark from Perth but if you’re in a hurry, you could skip the Margaret River region and drive to Denmark via Bridgetown, Manjimup, Pemberton, and Walpole to Denmark. See that Margaret River to Denmark drive for details.
Another alternative from Perth to Denmark is an inland route from the outer Perth suburb of Armadale via the Jarrahdale and Youraling State Forests along the Albany Highway and through the Wheatbelt region via Crossman, Kojonup, Cranbook (known as the gateway to the Stirling Ranges), and Kendenup to Mount Baker and then down to Denmark. We’ll cover the Wheatbelt in another post.
Driving from Denmark to Albany for Western Australian Wines, Waves and Wildflowers
Driving from Denmark to Albany in the Great Southern region of Western Australia is a must for lovers of great wine, waves and wildflowers. To get to Denmark, see the link above. Here’s where to stop on your Denmark to Albany road trip:
Located on the picturesque banks of the tranquil Denmark River and beloved by Western Australian holidaymakers for its superb surfing, fishing, swimming, and boating, Denmark is a delightful little town to spend a couple of days.
Every time we’ve passed through Denmark we have wished we would have had more time to settle in and linger for a while. Denmark is a magic spot to learn to surf, as well as a delicious destination for food and wine lovers with wine-tasting and visits to cheese- and chocolate-makers a delectable activity that we highly recommend.
If you’re pushing on to Albany, Denmark is a fine place to stretch your legs, browsing the craft shops and art galleries, enjoying lunch at a café, or picnicking on the riverbank.
From Denmark’s town centre, Ocean Beach Road takes you to the river mouth, where fishermen throw in their lines in the still lagoon of Wilson Inlet. Don’t be concerned by the tannin colour of the water. It’s caused by the shifting sand bar, which plugs the inlet’s narrow mouth to the ocean.
From Ocean Beach there are magnificent views across Ratcliffe Bay. It’s also a popular spot for learning how to surf and South Coast Surfing (0898482057; fee) is regarded as one of the best surfing schools in Western Australia, not only Denmark, offering one-to-one and group lessons, and renting surfboards and wetsuits.
William Bay National Park and West Cape Howe National Park
If you didn’t stop at the beaches of William Bay National Park and West Cape Howe National Park on your drive from Walpole to Denmark, these beautiful beaches make great excursions from Denmark for swimming, beach-combing and fishing. But note that some tracks to the beaches are only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles.
Don’t ignore the signs or you could find yourself stuck in sand. Driving from Walpole to Denmark, you would have passed various turn-offs on your right leading to the coast, so if you’re back-tracking from Denmark the turn-offs will be on your left this time.
William Bay National Park, 15km west of Denmark, is home to many magic spots, including Madfish Bay and Waterfall Bay, and the absolutely gorgeous Green Pool cove, while West Cape Howe National Park is a coastal wilderness area with more beautiful beach coves that are accessible to 2WD cars.
Driving from Denmark to Mount Barker
Once you’ve had your fill of the coast and are ready to continue your drive from Denmark to Albany, follow the signs for the picturesque drive up into the hills above Denmark, where the Shadforth Scenic Drive snakes through some of the region’s most attractive farm and forest scenery.
Before leaving Denmark for Mount Barker, stop at the Denmark Visitor Centre (73 South Coast Highway, corner of Ocean Beach Road; open 9am–5pm). Grab a copy of the Wine Lovers’ Guide to Denmark, which, when we last picked up a copy, listed over twenty local wineries, because you’ll find many of these wineries on the drive from Denmark to Mount Barker.
The Shadforth Scenic Drive will eventually bring you out at the Denmark-Mt Barker Road, which you should follow for 55km to Mount Barker. You can easily spend a couple of hours en route stopping at farmer’s gates and calling in to visit the various local producers of wine, cheese and honey to sample and purchase some of the scrummy regional specialties.
If you’re a family travelling with children, there are myriad animal farms on the way where, for a fee, you can stop to pet farm animals or photograph wildlife such as koalas and emus.
The quiet country town of Mount Barker is home to a few historic buildings that are worth a quick look, including the convict-built Old Police Station dating to 1868 (now a museum; 10am-3pm; entry fee) and St Werburgh’s Chapel built in 1873.
There are also a couple of excellent bakeries where enjoying a home-made pie is in order. Whatever you do, do not miss the award-winning pies from Mt Barker Country Bakery (13 Lowood Rd).
But the reason most people head here is to visit the surrounding hills for wine-tastings at the cellar doors of some of Western Australia’s finest wineries, including Plantagenet (in the centre of town near the Mount Barker Visitor Centre), Galafrey Wines, Goundrey Wines, Ferngrove, and Poacher’s Ridge, to name a few.
The Mount Barker area is well-regarded for its award-winning Rieslings, planted in the late 1970s, and cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay, grown in more recent decades.
For the best local knowledge, make sure you call into the Mount Barker Visitor Centre (Albany Highway), which also has plenty of maps and brochures on the local wineries and producers of olive oil, cheese and other regional specialties. You can also check road conditions, buy your national park passes if you haven’t already got them, and pick up a map detailing walking trails in the national park.
From Lowood Rd, the main street of Mount Barker, cross the railway track and turn right onto the sign-posted Albany Highway and left onto the Mt Barker-Porongurup Rd for the 17km drive to Porongurup National Park.
Porongurup National Park
One of the world’s oldest volcanic formations at 1,100 million years old, the ancient granite highlands of the Porongurup mountain range are located in Porongurup National Park. The summits of a dozen or so striking domes and peaks – the highest reaching to 670m – protrude from a 12km-long ridge that offers up countless walking and picnicking opportunities and boasts spectacular views.
Walks range from a short stroll to Tree in a Rock, close to the northern entrance of the park head to more challenging half-day hikes including Devil’s Slide (671m) via Nancy and Hayward peaks, and Balancing Rock, at the park’s eastern end. The park is famous for its wildflowers. There are over 750 species, 30 of which aren’t found anywhere else.
The Porongurup National Park area is also popular with bird-watchers and wine-lovers. The region’s cool climate produces excellent wines, including chardonnays, rieslings, cabernet sauvignons and pinot noirs.
When you’re done, continue southeast along the Mt Barker-Porongurup Rd to Chester Pass Rd, and turn left (north) to Stirling Range National Park.
Stirling Range National Park
If you’re driving from Denmark to Albany on our stunning scenic route, you’ll find yourself driving north on Chester Pass Road, the recognisable form of the 1073m-high Bluff Knoll and the lofty peaks of the 65km-long jagged Stirling Range National Park, poking through the ever-present clouds, will come into view.
Like Porongurup, Stirling Range is famous for its spectacular wildflowers that are at their most impressive from October to December. There are some 1,500 species, of which 87 are endemic.
There are also endless walking opportunities and challenging mountain hikes for the fit. Stirling Range National Park’s highest ascent (3hr) is along a gruelling path to Bluff Knoll (1073m), while almost as tough is the steep 4km (3hr) hike to Toolbrunup Peak (1052m). Be prepared for some scrambling near the summit.
You’ll find an easier walk halfway along the drive to Talyuberup (800m), which, although short, offers stunning views. The walking track begins next to the park’s campsite. Just as enjoyable is a scenic drive along an unsealed 45km-long track that wends through the peaks to Red Gum Pass.
At Bluff Knoll picnic site and Moingup Springs campsite off Chester Pass Road, you need to add your names, destination and route in the log books. If you’re planning to stay the night, there is a basic campsite with showers at Moingup Springs and comfortable cabins at Stirling Range Retreat, near the turn-off to Bluff Knoll, where you’ll also find a café and can buy your national park passes.
The best example of how significant the wildflowers of the south-west are is by sheer weight of numbers. Over half the plant species in Western Australia are found in this region and Stirling Range alone has more plant species than the entire British Isles. Some 87 plant species found in the Stirling Range occur nowhere else on earth.
The number of orchids are staggering as well, with 123 orchid species present – over one third of all known Western Australian orchids. While there is always plant life of interest to see, between August and December wildflowers are in bloom, with September and November generally the best months as the south-west warms up before summer.
Return along Chester Pass Road in a southerly direction for 83km to Albany and you’re done driving from Denmark to Albany. Congratulations! Our next post in this series will cover Albany and the coast.
We’d love to hear from you if you find yourself driving from Denmark to Albany in our wonderful yet round-about way. Please let us know if you enjoy our itinerary or if you feel like you would have been happier taking the more direct route.