Ask any Western Australian resident what's on offer in the Harvey Region, and the answer may resemble a shopping list: dairy goods, orange juice, and quality beef. (Bonus points if they mention its growing wine production.) Although a familiar name on supermarket shelves across the state, there are other things to try that are just as nourishing.
The Harvey region is the epitome of the 'seek, and you shall find' mantra. Just 126km south of Perth, its serenely beautiful backdrop goes from the seaside, plains, and green pastures to undulating hills and woodlands along the Darling Scarp. Quaint attractions are landscape fillers and are perfect for a weekend itinerary. And that's exactly what I gave myself – 48 hours to uncover the best bits of this zestful region besides what's served at the dining table.
Harvey's history in a nutshell
European settlement within the Harvey region dates to the 1840s. Its fertile soils, streams, timber, and ideal climate made it an attractive choice to commence farming practices within the area.
WA's first irrigation scheme, Harvey Weir, was completed in 1916. It was a turning point for the settlement, with the diversion of the Harvey River turning the region into an agricultural and horticultural hub.
In 2002, the present Harvey Dam replaced Harvey Weir. These days, the region remains one of the state's top producing regions, with citrus orchards and beef some of its biggest industries alongside tourism.
Living the lake life
We pulled into Lake Brockman Tourist Park and instantly fell in love. No, this wasn't the start of a romance between my partner and me but with Harvey.
Lake Brockman, also known as Logue Brook Dam, is a secreted delight within the Harvey region. Its jarrah forests are a towering presence, and dammed aquamarine waters are a soothing sight. A soundtrack of birdsong and the gentle rustling of leaves aided the tranquility felt. The legendary Munda Biddi trail passes through this part of the state forest. Here, it's easy to feel a world away from it all despite being a short 15-minute drive to comforts, especially of the gourmet kind, in Harvey. But more on my satisfied palate later.
The tourist park is also a bit of a rarity. It manages surrounding bush campsites fringing the lake previously installed by the State Government and features the very basics; a drop toilet and a camp kitchen with two barbecues. The transfer of hands allowed the park to boast more than 200 campgrounds with sites within the tourist park boasting a café, fully equipped kitchen, three ablution blocks with hot water and a playground for the little ones.
Besides being smitten with gorgeous scenery, the most impressive is the park's young manager, Jack Bennett, who took on the reigns to manage his family's tourist park while completing year 12. Others his age may have had different ideas of fun; perhaps relishing the dam's inviting waters and participating in activities such as swimming, kayaking, SUP, fishing for trout or catching marron when in season. Under Mr Bennett's helm, the park has gone from strength to strength, with the park's facilities enhanced and new glamping offerings. He deserves an A+.
Orange is the new green
Queensland has its Big Pineapple. New South Wales has its Big Banana. And in Western Australia, things are forever fresh with the Big Orange reigning in Harvey. The big, bold, and bright tropical fruit is synonymous with the region being a citrus grower.
The hard-to-miss giant orange stands atop a 10m tower in the thick of a picturesque orange orchard (when in season) within the Harvey River Estate. It's a quick workout, taking 62 steps to reach the top of the quirky landmark. What awaits are views of the orchard, a vineyard and beyond. Entry is a gold coin donation with funds going to the not-for-profit organisation Telethon Kids Institute.
But if keen to try some fruits of Harvey, I recommend having it in liquid form. I'm not just talking about having a glass of orange juice but something a bit naughtier. Harvey River Estate cellar door provides guided wine tastings in threes. It was a warm day, so it was hard not to go past the light, delicate drops of Chardonnay, Moscato and Barbera. Now that's my preferred fruit juice – guilty!
The showground town
We soon realised that the Harvey region is a bit like touring a showground. After novel climbs and sweet sips, the fun continued at Ha Ve Harvey Cheese. Husband and wife Robert and Penny St Duke run the family-owned and operated cheese factory. It has a bit of everything, tapping into the weaknesses of many, so it can be a bit of a dangerous place to visit.
You will be tempted to create your own showbag with picnic staples such as local charcuterie, antipasto delights and relishes on shelves. Besides the gourmet shop, people flock here for its award-winning cheeses. Ha Ve offers free tastings, and of course, it's hard to leave without dairy gold. Cheese lovers: do not go past having a small wedge of its camembert-inspired Ash Blonde cheese or biting into the mildly tangy St Duke's Red. Saying that I hope you also make the smart decision to pair a cheese purchase with a bottle from the vineyard mentioned above, as Harvey isn't short on picnic spots.
There's also ice cream and fudge on offer, but something else would attract our attention – and tourist spend. The innovative couple produces another one of life's pleasures - gin. And it's not just any regular gin: next door, St Duke's Distillery manufactures Western Australia's first whey-based spirits dubbed the 'Horny Cow'. The name, apparently innocent, refers to the cow statue at the building's entrance. Its giant curled horns touch on Dali-esque surrealism.
But maybe it should be rebranded as one of the world's most sustainable spirits. The makings of St Duke's Distillery's gins go from grass to glass. Cow's milk whey from the cheese-making process is paired with local botanicals to produce flavoured spirits. The distillery's 'Australian
Gin' was a winner in my eyes, with its hints of macadamia nut, lemon myrtle, citrus peel, coriander, and juniper a pleasant taste. Yum.
Walking for wildflowers
Wildflower season was in full bloom, and it was hardly a mission to become immersed in it.
Moments from Harvey's main drag, there's the Wildflower Ridge trail. The picturesque 1.4km walk is mostly flat, traversing bushlands dotted with mop-head balga trees and granite outcrops. We were lucky to time our visit well with native wildflowers making the scenery a riot with colour. But even if not visiting in season, a walk along the trail is still a spectacle. The sweeping views it affords include the Harvey Dam, rolling green hills to the east and fertile plains and the ocean to the west.
Another way to walk off the extra calories from the wine, cheese, gins - you name it - is a lovely stroll through Stirling Cottage Gardens along Harvey River. You'll be right for thinking it feels like something out of a fairytale because it kind of is. The Harvey region is the inspiration behind famous children's author May Gibbs' book series, Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie. Her charming books detailed the adventures of two adventurous gumnut brothers and their friends in the Australian bush.
The author lived with her family in Stirling Cottage, a 19th-century-built homestead with a sheoak shingled roof, jarrah walls and hexagon-shaped paving blocks on land owned by Sir James Stirling. What stands today is a replica of the heritage quarters placed 500m from the original site, now housing a café. The charming building is surrounded by well-kept gardens of every shade of green, bold tulip patchworks (when in season) and a 19th-century-built fountain. Weaving through it all is the whimsical May Gibbs trail that includes colourful displays depicting exerts from her books.
The Stirling Gardens is one of 22 attractions that make up the Harvey Heritage Trail.
Brews and views
By now, you can understand the Harvey Region is hardly the place to exert yourself. Attractions are within easy reach, and rewards are fruitful. But there's always time for some competitiveness and muscle flex to keep things balanced.
On the grounds of The Old Coast Rd Brewery in Myalup is Wonders of Western Australia Mini Golf. It's a fun addition to having a sundowner fuelled by local brews next door. All bets were on! The mini-golf highlights some of the state's most celebrated attractions over 18-holes. Swingers will be whisked away to state wonders such as Rottnest Island, Esperance, Wave Rock, and blues capital Bridgetown, with its uniquely designed, themed courses paying ode to each.
The course proved popular for all ages having a swing pre or post-meal at The Old Coast Rd Brewery. The brewery is a magnet for families, with its neighbouring football oval and mini golf keeping the little (or big) ones entertained. The beer garden spills out across oval lawns to make the most of the rural setting across 60 acres, overlooking farmlands, olive groves and native bush.
As for what's pouring, boutique beers, ciders, and artisan spirits paired with the usual gastro pub fare – wood-fired pizza, towering burgers, and fancy parmis. But here's not the only specialty brews and pub eats in town.
Head 18km west, and you'll find Brugan. The two-storey industrial-chic microbrewery offers a range of beers made with locally produced hops alongside a paddock to plate-style menu. The region's newest pour house is attached to old-timer Wokalup Tavern, so if tables are full, you can pop over next door. Convenient if wanting to catch a game on the big screen too.
Now I need to confess I lost the round of mini-golf – sigh – so it was only fair I paid my debts. I shouted my partner a beer paddle lined up with pales, a citrus sour and a specky vanilla porter. These weren't the flavours I expected, but Harvey kept on delivering surprises. Luckily, they also sell take-home cans – just another thing to add to the shopping list.
Harvey Region Fun Fact
From the early 19th century, the Harvey region was known by the Aboriginal word, "Korijekup", meaning "The place of the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo." The area received a name change with the naming of Harvey River when the Harvey township was established at the turn of the century.
Harvey Region Contacts
- Lake Brockman Tourist Park
- Harvey River Estate
- Harvey Cheese
- The Old Coast Rd Brewery (includes Wonders of Western Australia Mini Golf)
- Brugan at The Wokalup