Find yourself in the Ancient Mountain Island of Porongurup (just say PRONG—GRUP) where you will be spoilt for choice whether you enjoy walking, dining, arts and crafts, wine or wilderness in the spectacular heritage listed Porongurup National Park. The Park, recognised for its unique biodiversity, offers sweeping views of the Stirling Range to the north, Bremer Bay to the east (150 km) and Albany to the south (45 km) and gives the region a feeling of majesty which belies the relatively small footprint of the National Park.
The Porongurup Range is an ancient granite mountain range in the Great Southern about 15 km in length stretching south-easterly, accessed via Porongurup Road just east of Mount Barker (which is 360 km south of Perth along the Albany Highway). This central location makes it an ideal base to explore the region’s natural beauty – and outstanding wines. The Porongurup is one of the five wine subregions of the Great Southern. The spectacular spring wildflower season attracts large numbers of tourists, while good road systems provide access to the south coast with the coastline near Denmark and Albany less than an hours’ drive away.
The Porongurup Range is part of an extensive granite basement that underlies much of the southern part of Western Australia and evolved more than 1200 million years ago. The Range consists of an elevated erosional remnant of granite now developed into a ‘dome-like’ granite island rising from the surrounding land. It was first sighted by Europeans passing near Albany in 1802 but farming in the surrounding districts started only around 1859. Giant karri trees, located on the upper range and jarrah trees on the lower slopes, were harvested for timber in the 1880’s. The National Park was gazetted in 1971 and is now around 2500 ha. The first vineyards in the region were planted in the mid ‘70’s. A devastating fire destroyed about 95% of the national park in 2007. But recent reports have confirmed that the vegetation has recovered remarkably well.
Porongurup is the smallest sub-region of the Great Southern but features a number of exceptional cool climate wineries. Vineyards in the area routinely produce top quality Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Duke’s Magpie Hill 2017 Reserve Riesling was named the 2019 wine of the year by James Halliday. This was the first white wine to receive a score of 99 points from Mr Halliday. In 2014 Rob Diletti of Castle Rock Estate was named Winemaker of the Year at the Halliday Wine Companion awards. The philosophy of making top quality premium wines in the Great Southern is certainly upheld among the dozen or so wineries in the Porongurup region, many of which offer cellar door tastings and some serve meals and feature arts and crafts. Annual events such as the Porongurup Wine Festival (Sunday of the March long weekend) and Art in the Park (Easter Weekend) plus the Porongurup Markets on Sundays and some public holidays are worth a special visit.
Grape stomping at the annual Porongurup Wine Festival.
The region’s Mediterranean climate, with its continental temperature range, karri loam soils and well drained slopes provides the ideal terroir for the cool climate grape varietals that thrive in this region. The cool nights allow the ripening grapes to retain natural acidity, an important characteristic for the production of top quality wines.
Notable wine producers in the region include Abbey Creek Vineyard, Castle Rock Estate, Duke’s Vineyard, Ironwood Estate, Jingalla Wines, Millinup Estate Wines, Montefalco, Mount Trio Vineyard, Shepherd’s Hut and Zarephath Wines.
Porongurup has four recommended walk trails through the National Park. The Wansbrough Walk, Devil’s Slide & Marmabup Rock Walk and Hayward & Nancy Peak Walk are classified Level 4 - bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may be long, rough and very steep. Directional signage may be limited. The Granite Skywalk is classified Level 5 - for very experienced bushwalkers with specialised skills, including navigation and emergency first aid. Tracks are likely to be very rough, very steep and unmarked. Walks may be more than 20 km. www.parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au gives the technical and public descriptors for Australian walking tracks and walk maps are available at the Porongurup Store. Be prepared and wear comfortable shoes and a hat and carry a bottle of water.
The Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock in the Porongurup Range National Park.
Porongurup is a great place to base yourself for exploring the Great Southern Wine Region and the many natural attractions nearby, including the Stirling Range National Park - home to Bluff Knoll, one of WA's highest peaks. The Stirling Range Park is known for its staggering range of wildflowers – more than 1000 different species, some which are unique to the area. The Porongurup National Park is also abundant with wildflowers from September to November each year with many and varied (and often extremely rare) wildflowers in bloom.
A wonderful variety of birdlife is to be found in the unspoilt natural environment of the Porongurup Range where the Karri trees provide ideal conditions for birds that include Rufous Treecreeper, Western Rosella and White-breasted Robin. Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Spotted and Striated Pardalote can be seen high in the canopy and fairy-wrens, scrub-wrens and thornbills closer to the ground.
The highly rated and very popular Maleeya’s Thai Café & Plant Nursery delights with the freshness of garden produce and authenticity of the meals featuring vegetarian friendly, vegan options and gluten free options. Try the Tom Yum soup (pre-order) or the Chicken Pad Thai then walk through the nursery after lunch.
The View Café at Ironwood Estate is a warm hospitable venue well positioned to reinvigorate you after undertaking the Castle Rock Skywalk.
Make a special trip to the out-of-the-way Zarephath Café with beautiful views over the vineyard and across to the Stirling Range and be rewarded with a wine tasting and delicious food in a friendly environment.
The Karri On Bar at Karribank is a small bar where the pizza oven is lit, the beers are cold and the tunes are playing on Thursdays to Sundays. Enjoy a casual afternoon or evening drink and some tasty food.
And don’t forget to visit the quaint Village Inn Shop & Tearooms for basic supplies, local handcrafted products and toys and enjoy their famous high tea with scones, jam and cream. If cheese is your thing, look out for Porongurup Pure farmhouse cheeses and yoghurt which are handmade nearby from pure, fresh sheep and buffalo milk.
The following accommodation is conveniently listed and described at www.porongurup.com.au:
Keep Porongurup on your bucket list for your next holiday destination and stop by and visit us at Singlefile while you’re in the Great Southern. We look forward to seeing you.