Harvey - a lovely country town
The township of Harvey sits 140kms south of Perth along the South Western Highway and is known for its beef, oranges and cheese. With a population just under 3000, it is often driven through on the way to Bunbury or Margaret River, but is well worth the stop over.
The Harvey tourist information centre is on the Perth side of town. There are various displays to entice you to linger longer here. Local artisans have their wares for sale. One room is dedicated to the history of the nearby dam, another shows paintings by talented locals.
In 1885 and 1886, May Gibbs (1877 – 1969), creator of those cute Gumnut babies, and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, lived in the Stirling cottage near Harvey with her family. Her adventures and exploration of the bush was the inspiration for her stories and illustrations. In later years May described her time in Harvey as 'the two happiest years' of her life. She lived in Perth for many years after this.
In the same grounds is a replica of Stirling Cottage, now a cafe and tea room, it overlooks the picturesque tree lined tranquil Harvey River.
The magnificent well-manicured gardens are a delight to wander through or sit and admire whilst enjoying a meal on the wide verandahs. If you have purchased wine at one of the local vineyards, you can BYO to the cottage.
Modelled on the original ‘Stirling’s Cottage, this building features the She-oak shingled roof, jarrah walls and hexagonal shaped wooden paving blocks that fitted together formed a firm floor, of the original cottage. The original cottage was built by convicts.
The thick walls keep the venue cool in summer and a log fire keeps it warm in winter.
Who was this Stirling chap? Admiral Sir James Stirling (1791 – 1865), born in Scotland, became the first Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Western Australia. In 1829 Stirling explored the Swan River area of Western Australia, aboard his ship Success. He named the Canning River, after the British Prime Minister of the time. Stirling Highway between Perth and Fremantle is named after him, as well as many buildings and streets around Perth.
Heading off the highway and into the town of Harvey proper, you pass through the main street. On the walls outside the IGA supermarket are the murals of main street. These are fantastic paintings depicting the industry and nature that the local area is famous for.
I love stopping in at Ha Ve cheese south of town. There are free delicious cheese tastings which helps make up your mind which of their wonderful award winning cheeses to purchase. The cheese is superb. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable about the cheese. The viewing room allows you to see the cheese making production process, and a gorgeous rack of cheeses aging. The shop sells many locally made items, including jams and spreads, artworks, arts and crafts. The ice-cream here gets rave reviews. Outside is a real taste of country Australia, as well as cows, there are camels and emus strutting around.
Often when we drive somewhere, we focus on getting to the destination as quickly as we can. But stopping off along the way and exploring smaller areas, gives me more of a picture of the area. Its history, and the current people of the town are what makes these small rural country towns intriguing. Stop off and taste the local produce, purchase a souvenir, greet the local people. It will be worth it. I had the most delightful chat with the women at the tourist centre and Har Ve cheese, they are well informed and passionate about their area.