What seems an endless stretch of road diluted only by quiet country towns and enclosed in sparse fields, filled with sheds as old as the hills they sit on, South Western Highway is a road tripper’s dream. Travelling to the Warren-Blackwood region the roads are enveloped by dewy meadows and karri trees so tall they could block out the sun, eventually greeted by a large wooden archway with “Manjimup” carved across its top, I had now reached my destination. A trip to the Lower South West was something of a surprise, but after five days of wandering up and down Giblett Street, exploring lush parks and embracing the cold, I have realised this part of WA is often overlooked. If there is ever a reason to travel somewhere, it’s for coffee, and Manjimup did not disappoint. Most regional towns are filled to the brim with cafes — all of which are strangely busy — Southern Roasting Co. was much the same, until I noticed a black board describing a chicken tika panini as the scent of freshly ground coffee made its way over to me. Brewing a myriad of lattes and cappuccinos, while simultaneously greeting locals, the barista finally calls my name and I proceed to sip one of the best coffees I have ever had. A varied diet is a healthy diet, apparently, so rather than live off foot-longs for five days I decided to indulge in the surprisingly varied venue palette Manjimup had to offer. Biting into pastries from the Manjimup Bakery, ordering freshly made pizza from Farmhouse, people watching in Two Little Black Birds and pouring soy sauce over New Moon Sushi. There’s a sort of “bushland boredom” people exude before heading to the regions, but when worse comes to worse, sitting in a cafe, bakery or small sushi place and watching cars drive slowly by isn’t all that bad. On the cusp of Mullalyup — about 30 minutes outside of Bridgetown — at the bottom of a sloped road side sits a small colourful shack, inside, a treasure trove of intricately made statues depicting scenes similar to a Tolkien novel. Artist Cindy Armanasco carefully stood up from her potter’s wheel to greet me, Clay Dragon Arts had been her studio for more than 40 years. Guiding me through an old wooden door and into her kiln room, Cindy explained the clay making procedure and how she had taught herself the process behind each of the uniquely commissioned pieces. With her dog Cheeky in our wake, the easy-going artist produced a large ball of fresh clay and gestured towards its deposit, only a few metres from the outside wall. “This was a fruit shed, so I put walls and a ceiling on it, fixed it up a little bit and it became my studio,” she said. A joint effort, Cindy and her partner Tarlz Leaf produce close to two pieces a day, and with regular visits from curious travellers, the shop does “quite well”. Scratching Cheeky on the head and wandering back to my car, a cacophony of freshly burnt incense and wet clay followed me, and I was reminded of the often benign adventures trips to regional areas like Warren-Blackwood are made of. Proud of its local produce, the Lower South West is riddled with rows of cloth-covered fruit trees and mile-long vineyards. “Support local” is the mantra followed by almost all regional restaurants and Ampersand Estates — a 30 minute drive from Pemberton — is a prime example of that mantra coming to life. After sipping gracefully poured samples of karri honey infused vodka and gin dyed pink by berries sourced from nearby land, owner of the estate Corrie Scheepers approached me with an unexpected question. “Would you like to feed the ducks?” As we sat perched on the wooden steps overlooking a dam — Handsome the duck eagerly awaiting his next handful of food — Corrie explained the history and ethos of Ampersand. “We opened in 2020 and this place was a bit rundown when we bought it, but now we use local produce from across the region to create our gin and vodka selection,” he said. If beer is more your thing, then Tall Timbers Brewing Co. will satisfy your inner ale-connoisseur, and is definitely an honourable mention. Coaxed by a need to stretch my legs, and a tradition of mine to complete any old labyrinth I come across, I took a detour on my return drive and found myself enjoying Bridgetown’s Peace Labyrinth. A humble public garden housing a single bridge and a few benches, the “labyrinth” wasn’t what I expected, but nonetheless was a good place to take a deep breath of fresh country air. The tranquillity of the drive back home, reminded once more of the gateway of adventures a road trip along the South Western Highway creates.