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)

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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
Latest stories from i100
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there