About this time of year, we start to get desperate for some time away. Without time to go north and the temperatures getting the better of our attempts to camp, we looked for somewhere we could visit, see some wildflowers and relax. As our trip to Wongan Hills last year showed, there are plenty of options to explore within a couple of hours drive of Perth. This time, Narrogin ticked all our boxes.
Narrogin is a lovely town about two and half hours drive from Perth. Larger than you would expect, the town is clean, quiet and has all the amenities you need for your stay. The caravan park is on the outskirts, conveniently across the road from the entrance to Foxes Lair Reserve. A short drive from the town’s centre and you’re in farm country. We were greeted with rolling hills of alternate green and gold as wheat and canola fields are at their most photogenic.
Although Google Maps told us it was a longer trip, we took Orrong Road out towards Canning Road, then onto Brookton Highway. This was a lovely, scenic drive through Pickering Brook and the Bickley Valley. At this time of year, the almond trees are just starting to flower and the wattle is already is full bloom. A taste of the country before you even leave Perth.
As we left the hills, we turned left onto Brookton Highway. At Brookton, we turned right onto Great Southern Highway. We passed through several small towns such as Pingelly, Popanyinning and Cuballing. We only had limited time and weren’t able to stop but each would be worth an overnighter if you’re travelling through the region, with several caravan parks available.
We were fortunate to find somewhere that catered for our budget and need for indoor heating. We find many places cater for families or charge exorbitant rates for couples’ luxury accommodation. We simply wanted somewhere warm and comfortable where we could relax. Not everyone needs or wants a spa.
Gumnut Cottage suited us perfectly. Located on Ringwood Farm, the cottage is a short drive east from Narrogin with stunning views across the property. The older style cottage has everything needed for an enjoyable stay, in particular, a log fire. The cottage can accommodate a couple or a family, with a fold out bed in the living area. The electric blankets were well-used as we city folk were not acclimatised to the brisk coldness of the fresh Wheatbelt winds.
Our host Kim met us when we arrived and provided directions to the cottage, asked us what time we’d like breakfast and let us settle in without fuss. Waiting on the kitchen table was some freshly baked slice (delicious), fresh flowers and the fire simply needed to be be lit. We watched the sunset over the sprawling paddocks with only the sound of the sheep making their way to shelter for the night. Ah, country life.
Don and Kim were wonderful, welcoming hosts and happy to tell us about their farm. Although the cottage is self-contained, a delicious breakfast cooked by Kim is also available. Served in the family home, you’re made to feel welcome and you won’t need to eat again until after lunchtime.
We chatted about the farm, family and were lucky enough for Don to take us to see one of their nearby properties with an historic stone cottage perched atop a hill.
Things to do
The region is a delight for bushwalkers and wildflower enthusiasts. It’s also a peaceful break for those who want to enjoy time away from the crowds. The cottage had numerous maps and brochures to give us ideas about where to visit. We had intended to visit Dryandra Woodland but changed our mind after we found some new places to explore.
Foxes Lair Reserve
Located in town, Foxes Lair Reserve is a natural wonderland of different species and includes a number of walk trails, with picnic areas at the entrance and at the claypit and arboretum. We took the Granite Trail, a route with varying landscapes, taking us past a number of interesting granite outcrops perched precariously in place.
It’s a short walk – 1.2km – and most of the walks are relatively short so its easy to do more than one and take in more of the area. The wattle was on full display here and in town and we were lucky to find a few orchids on the trail, along with a few plants coming into bloom early.
We only had a short time to explore Yilliminning Rock but it was worth it. A short drive out of town, the site is accessible by 2WD, with a picnic table at the carpark, making it ideal for a stopover.
There’s no getting around it; once you’re there, the only way to get a good sense of the enormity of the rock is to climb it. The 50 metre climb is smooth and relatively easy if you can climb a set of stairs without too much trouble and have eaten your Weeties (we had, thanks Kim!). You’re rewarded at the top with stunning views across the region. We were lucky to have a sunny day and could see patches of farming country dotted with bush.
We had it on good authority that the base of the rock was ideal for wildflower and orchid spotting. After admiring the view, we climbed down and walked back via the perimeter, keeping an eye out for orchids along the way. It was a little early in the season but we did manage to find a few, including a bright clump of donkey orchids.
Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to visit Dryandra on this trip but it should be at the top of your list if you’re visiting the area for the first time. We had a lovely stay at Dryandra several years ago at Congelin campground. Nearby Gnaarla Mia was upgraded a few years ago.
The bush is alive with flora and fauna. During our camping stay, our site was visited by a wallaby, boobook and a curious possum which waddled its way through our camp and right under our chairs. It was especially odd because we were sitting in them at the time.
The woodland boasts several enjoyable trails, including the Wandoo and Lol Grey trails, with a variety of trees and landscapes. It’s also full of wildlife and were lucky enough to spot an echidna during the Wandoo Walk. At this time of year, you may even be lucky enough to see an echidna ‘love train’.
If you miss out on seeing any animals on a day walk, the Barna Mia Sanctuary is a must-see. It runs night tours around their fenced property where you can see endangered, nocturnal animals such as woylies and bilbys as they come out for a feed.
The only downside to our trip was that we didn’t have nearly enough time to properly explore Narrogin and its surrounding areas. If you’re a nature lover, there is plenty to see and it’s worth taking the time to enjoy the unique bush areas, especially during wildflower season. In winter, you can enjoy the green rolling hills and happy canola fields during bright days and crisp nights.
It’s also a wonderfully quiet area and free of overpriced tourist traps. I could imagine rolling through the region over several days with a caravan in tow, taking in each town from Brookton along the Great Southern Highway and enjoying all nature has to offer.
As a weekend getaway, Narrogin is easy to get to and close to unique bushland. Forget the crowds and explore an unassuming area rich with hidden natural gems.