Features/Road trip series/Multi-arts

Hidden gems in the Great Southern

11 January 2023

WA’s rugged Great Southern region is full of arty surprises for the intrepid road tripper, discovers Ara Jansen.

In the third instalment of Seesaw Magazine’s series showcasing the arts in regional Western Australia, we head into the Great Southern.

Go south and keep going until you hit the southern coast. It’s the mix of rugged coastlines and pristine beaches close to the wilds of the bush which has lured artists to make this region their home. Many of them create works which are obviously inspired by the natural environment.

While you take your art journey, be sure to enjoy a bit of a green prescription and take some time in nature. A gentle walk, a hike or a swim might even inspire you to pull out a camera, sketch block or journal to make some art of your own.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what’s on offer, but it should get you inspired to set off on your own road of discovery.

An odyssey of dance

A group of women stand in the bush, their hands raised to the sky as though cupping a sphere.
‘The Stars Descend’. Photo: Nic Duncan

The Stars Descend is a trail of contemporary dance performances that aim to transform how people see and care for our country.

Directed and produced by dance artist Annette Carmichael, The Stars Descend highlights the importance of climate action and restoring health to the land. Inspired by eco-restoration efforts across the Gondwana Link, Carmichael wants to convey hope to audiences.

The story unfolds at five regional locations in significant ecological areas – including Porongorup and Fitzgerald Biosphere in the Great Southern – between 17 March and 1 April 2023 (the other locations are Margaret River, Northcliffe and Kalgoorlie).

Co-created by Western Australian artists working with local community members, each performance forms a chapter in the over-arching story.

Performances will take place in spectacular outdoor settings to celebrate the rich biodiversity and ongoing restoration along the 1000km ecological pathway.

Follow the The Stars Descend as a 16-day odyssey or watch stand-alone performances in each location.

More info

Take a surf back in time

Discover more than 80 beautifully restored vintage surfboards which document the evolution of surfing at The Surf Gallery at Youngs Siding, not far from Denmark.

This curated exhibition charts the history of surfing from early Polynesia through to the present day.

A sunny room with surf boards hanging from the walls. The light is golden against the wooden ceiling beams and floorboards.
Vintage surfboards at The Surf Gallery

There’s also a collection of vintage surfboards, digitally remastered surf footage from the 70s and a peek into a surfboard shaping bay and workshop.

If you’re a board rider, this is also the opportunity to BYO board and chat about any needed repairs or restoration.

More info

The toyshop for grown-ups

A sculpture of a caterpillar made of what looks like iron, in a bush setting.
One of the large form custom-made pieces by Designer Dirt: Australian Admiral butterfly caterpillar’ sculpture 2 of 4, Southern Regional TAFE. Photo: Carol Duncan

Dubbed by locals as a toyshop for grown-ups, Albany’s Designer Dirt features art, crafts and makings from more than 20 local artists.

Be inspired by jewellery, textiles, metalwork, candles, cards and prints. It’s a creative hub for gardeners, artists and outdoor enthusiasts and has turned into much more than just a landscape supply store since opening 10 years ago.

Owners Jane and Ian Michael flex their own artistic muscles by making large form custom-made garden art pieces, which you might also spy around town and onsite. They also do hands-on workshops.

More info

Discover a drive of sculptures

A sculpture of a violin partially engulfed by what looks like tree roots
One of Darrel Radcliffe’s large wooden sculptures.

Take a slow drive through the bush to enjoy the Chainsaw Sculpture Drive on Mercer Road in Albany.

Created by award-winning chainsaw artist, Darrel Radcliffe, this selection of large wooden sculptures includes a rhino, a cello, a girl with a horse, wandering monks and even a wooden chainsaw embedded in a tree. You might even see the artist working on a new piece.

More info

Immerse yourself in Noongar culture

The interior of the Kodja Place, which includes a model of a Noongar shelter and traditional dot art on the ground.
Inside The Kodja Place

The Kodja Place, in Kojonup, tells the stories of both Noongar and Wadjela communities, side by side.

In the Kodj Gallery, you’ll find a Noongar creation story, as well as Noongar artefacts, personal stories and animal tracks that lead you to the Storyplace, where you can experience stories from both Noongar and settler communities. You can also head to Yoondi’s Mia Mia, a gathering spot that includes two mia mia or kornt, the bush shelters traditionally used by Noongar people.

Head to Kinjarling (Albany) to take an Aboriginal cultural walking tour with Kurrah Mia. There are three walking tours on offer, ranging from 90 minutes to four hours long, to learn about Menang heritage and culture.

Kurrah Mia also has a shop, which includes educational books, boomerangs, kodjas (grinding stones), taap (knives), message sticks, hand-painted cards, silk scarves, hats and bags.

More info

Follow the Art and Craft Trail

The 2023 Southern Art and Craft Trail (28 September – 8 October) usually includes the towns of Albany, Torbay, Kronkup, Elleker, Little Grove, Denmark, Walpole, Mount Barker, Lake Grace, Nannup, Kojonup and Gnowangerup.

More than 50 venues including cafes, wineries, galleries, local businesses, community halls, libraries, art centres, studios and pop-up spaces exhibit art. There’s a huge diversity in the work which ranges from textiles, painting, sculpture and jewellery to printmaking, photography, pottery and woodcraft.

Across the trail artists will also hold demonstrations and studio talks. Check the website or pick up a booklet to lead you along the trail.

More info

Around Torbay

Two women pose with a selection of ceramics. Behind them are two framed pictures. The colour palette is neutral.
L-R Narelle Clark Meleah Farrell share space near West Caoe Howe

On the way to Denmark, you’ll find Meleah Farrell’s photography studio on the doorstep of West Cape Howe National Park. Her gallery is nestled amongst 10 acres of beautiful coastal, wildlife-protected bush. Walk the beautiful bush path to discover this hidden gem amongst the Marri trees.

Sharing this space is The Coastal Studio, showcasing the work of potter, porcelain maker and floral designer Narelle Clark who creates handmade functional pottery.

Located not far out of Albany, Torbay Glass Studio & Gallery has been a working studio and gallery for 35 years. They create multi-dimensional artworks, fused stained glass and copper foiled stained glass windows as well as etched, painted and slumped glass panels, while the gallery is filled with glass objects, large bowls and platters including etched glass and glass jewellery. The dedicated gallery features paintings and pictures by invited artists.

Food glorious food

Plenty of wineries have now added art to their offerings so tastings and lunch at your favourite place are now paired with the opportunity to stimulate another sense.

If food is your form of art, then Taste Great Southern (4 – 14 May 2023) will tickle and intrigue your palate. Across Albany, Denmark, Mt Barker, Frankland River, Porongorup and Katanning the festival will feature long lunches, unique dinners, degustation, premium pairing events, community markets, music events, wine sessions and more.

More info


Check out ArtSouthWA for a directory of Great Southern members which includes details about artists such as Abigail Parker, Adventures in Wood (a collective of woodworkers), textile maker Ruth Halbert and fine artist and jeweller Zoe Phreo.

More info

Arty and historical Albany

Maritime artefacts.
Inside the Museum of the Great Southern

Albany’s Vancouver Arts Centre is a vibrant community arts centre and gallery and hosts many local art groups from spinners and weavers to the film society, pottery, floral and camera clubs.

Drop into the Museum of the Great Southern to see their static and travelling exhibitions. The museum overlooks picturesque Princess Royal Harbour, on the site of first European settlement in Western Australia.

If you walk out the back, you’ll see the Brig Amity which was used in several voyages of exploration and settlement in Australia in the early 19th century.

Other museums in Albany include:

And don’t forget to check out the WA Museum’s WAnderland website for more ideas!

Heading elsewhere?

This is the third instalment of our Road Trip series. Check out part 1: Tripping into the Wheatbelt and part 2 – Hit the road for Southern Sensations (the South-West).

Pictured top: ‘Raindrop Firepit’ by Designer Dirt at Misery Beach. Photo: Lata Photography

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

Past Articles

  • Master and apprentices leave you thirsty for more 

    A collaboration between Thirsty Merc’s Rai Thistlethwayte and WAAPA’s contemporary music students showcases creativity and talent. It’s also loads of fun, writes Ara Jansen.

  • Blasko adds a tender touch to Twelfth Night

    Singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko may not seem like an obvious choice of composer for Bell Shakespeare’s retelling of Twelfth Night, but as she tells Ara Jansen, there’s more to this comedy than initially meets the eye.

Read Next

  • Reading time • 10 minutesFringe World Festival
  • Carina Roberts and Gakuro Matsui in The Nutcracker How to watch ballet

    How to watch ballet

    16 November 2023

    If you’ve booked tickets to Christmas favourite The Nutcracker and you’re not sure what to expect, look no further! Rita Clarke has you covered.

    Reading time • 10 minutesDance
  • Reading time • 7 minutesMulti-arts

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio