When you’ve done Margaret River a billion times, it’s time to head straight for a little slice of Western Australian paradise known as the southern forests for your next wine-filled escape.
The region is already well known for its pinot and truffles but a luxe new winery and distillery that you can actually stay on is reason enough to start planning your next visit.
Located 30 minutes from Pemberton, you’ll find Ampersand Estates and its stunning vineyards, cellar door and on-site accommodation. The property, which is home to the region’s oldest vineyards, is blessed with picturesque rolling hillsides dotted with grapevines and fruit trees, with the Donnely River running down one side and ancient karri trees of the Easter National Park towering around you.
It’s like stepping into some sort of autumnal, cottage-core wonderland, complete with orange-hued trees, a little lake and a very friendly (and hungry) waddling of ducks, which the owner will introduce you to in due time.
The estate currently has three premium stays to choose from depending on your group size: the Settlers Cottage, which sleeps four, and the Homestead and Vintner’s Residence, which both sleep up to ten. Each one is incredibly secluded and surrounded by expansive wraparound decks that look out onto gardens and orchards, so you’ll feel like you have the winery completely to yourself no matter where you lay your head.
We ended up inside the Settlers Cottage. Originally built in the 1870s, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage has been masterfully restored and kitted out with all the luxuries of any five-star stay. We’re talking a beautiful dual-sided remote controlled fireplace, lavish lounge area, a bathtub big enough for two and a massive farmhouse kitchen that has been filled with local produce for you to tuck into. Yep, an entire picnic basket and fridge full of food is included in your stay (how good!?), as well as a few bottles of wine and their premium spirits to keep you going. You’ll learn pretty quickly that the owner takes great pride in celebrating and showcasing all the region has to offer.
Once you’ve dropped your bags and got that fireplace pumping, head down to the cellar door. You’ll be greeted by owner Corrie Scheepers, who is quite possibly the friendliest host you’ll ever meet. Originally from South Africa and with a background in high-end corporate consulting at firms like Deloitte, Corrie decided to throw himself into the wine business and we’re oh so thankful for it.
The wines are seriously delish so we suggest you sit down for a tasting with the team to learn more about the story behind each bottle while you tuck into a platter of locally sourced nibbles and soak up the lakeside views. It’s also just a great opportunity to get to know the people here a little better—they’re all incredibly welcoming and will guarantee you a good time. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to pop down between glasses and feed Lucy and the other ducks who call the cellar door home.
The best part about staying at a winery? After your wine tasting, it’s just a short stroll back to your cottage so no need to hold back. In fact, we’d suggest you keep it going and crack open another bottle while you fire up the BBQ on the deck and watch the sunset over the vines before settling in for a bit of stargazing. After years of living in Northbridge, I’d forgotten they even exist but boy are the views spectacular from here.
In the morning, the air is crisp and everything is dusted with a light dew so it’s the perfect time to set out and explore the property. When you return from your walk you can whip up a tasty brekky in the farmhouse kitchen (everything you need is already there) while planning the day’s activities.
Corrie and the team will give you plenty of ideas on things to do in Pemberton, but we’d definitely suggest kicking off your day with a coffee at Wild At Heart. From there you can choose to spend the day exploring other local wineries like Picardy, Lost Lake and Hidden River Estate—just be sure to call ahead, as some only open on weekends—or you could head outdoors and go for a walk at Beedelup Falls or Cascades, muster some courage and climb the massive Gloucester Tree or lay down a picnic rug at Big Brook Dam. There’s also the Lavender & Berry Farm, which we’re told does the best hot chocolate in the region, and eateries like Jaspers and Treehouse Tapas & Winebar if you’re chasing a feed. You’re also not far from towns like Nannup and Bridgetown if you feel like venturing a little further.
Before you retire to your cottage for the evening, we recommend making time to pop back to the cellar door and sample the artisanal vodkas and gins created under their Rainfall Distillery brand. Made with Australian rainwater, each of these spirits has a unique flavour, with new vintages crafted each season to reflect the local produce surrounding the region—from a smooth vodka infused with local karri honey and roasted macadamias (that somehow goes down way too easy on the rocks) to a pink-hued gin that sings with notes of southern forest cherries. Honestly, you’ll struggle to pick favourites.
The whole experience is incredibly special and we reckon it’s one of the best ways to familiarise yourself with everything this beautiful slice of WA has to offer. We’re already dreaming of our next stay!