Trail of the unexpected: Denmark, western Australia

Driving down from Perth, you will know when you are getting close to Denmark because suddenly everything will be more beautiful. A warm sun glows over hills of vineyards and grazing cows, but it is set against a mysterious hue, a richness and a blackness, a feeling of swimming in an enchanted lake. It's impossible to resist being pulled in.

The shire of Denmark is a 30km-wide strip of giant trees and wild beaches in the south-west of Australia. Named after a friend of one of the region's first European explorers, Denmark has long been a farming district. In recent years, though, many people have come to the shire to live out their dreams, whether as artists, hairdressers, or stock brokers. So although just 5,000 people live here, there is a lot happening, including festivals and local fairs selling residents' inventions.

My first trip to Denmark was all about escape. After the heat and dryness of Perth, arriving in Denmark was calming and refreshing. I had a local guide who drove me around and claimed to be sharing his secret abalone-collecting spots: "I'm only telling you, yeah?" Fishing is a big part of the culture here and Wilson Inlet, which joins the town to the ocean, is the perfect place from which to sail a little boat, or pick mussels from the shoreline.

Locals sell olive oil and handmade knobbly wooden spoons. The Denmark Liquor Store, on South West Highway, stocks a huge variety of local wines – and has a charmingly cranky owner. These wines are crisp and interesting; less established than the vineyards of Margaret River a couple of hours away, the small producers here are experimental. Meanwhile, just outside of town, Bartholomew's Meadery makes ice cream and light table wines from honey.

Driving through the extreme south-west of Australia is like being in an car advert. The road is your own as you curve smoothly through forests up and down the valley. But the best way to appreciate the shire is to walk the Bibbulmun track, a fantastic 1,000km journey that starts in the Darling Range near Perth and changes climate as you head south and eventually finish across the southern beaches in Albany. In Denmark, the track takes you through the tingle tree forests, where the trees can be 16 metres in circumference and 40 metres high. Some trees struck by lightning are still growing and you can walk inside them.

The Gloucester tree, which used to be a fire look-out, is 60m high. Pegs jutting out from the trunk allow the fit and the fearless to climb right to the top. Much gentler is the Tree Top Walk, an ingenious walkway which allows you to gradually ascend to the tree canopy.

Denmark has backpacker hostels, B&Bs and Chimes – a luxury spa with private villas – but for those in the know, it is a place for luxury bush camping. It is wonderful to walk through a bush campsite under the moonlight, and there's great satisfaction to setting up and breaking down your camp – even if it's just for one night.

William Bay is a national park that has several of the best beaches in the area: you can walk between places such as Elephant Rocks, Greens Pool, Waterfall Beach and Madfish Bay. They're all good for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. You can surf, windsurf and catch your own fish from most of the beaches. The best time to go is early in the morning, when the water is calmest and clearest, or in the late afternoon for sunset.

But the best information about Denmark comes from the locals. Between Noakes, the general store that sells local produce, the holistic massage centre and the bakery there is always someone to approach.



You can rent a car or campervan from Drive Now (00 61 3 9809 0084; www.drivenow.com.au) and pick up in Perth or Adelaide to drop off one-way or return, from A$35 (£16) per day. Alternatively fly from Perth to Albany with Skywest (00 61 3 0066 0088; skywest.com.au) from $120 (£55) one way and rent a car from King Sound Cars (00 61 8 9841 8466; kingsoundcars@westnet.com.au). For camping, accommodation and touring, contact Denmark Visitor Centre 73 South Coast Highway, (00 61 8 9848 2055; www.denmark.com.au)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice