Camping bliss for $50 a week. The Littlejohn family from Victoria (Warren and Renae with their children Philippa 11, Zara 6 and Will 8). Pic: Astrid Volzke
Denmark's Laid-back Charm a Winner
GEORGIA LONEY, The West Australian April 5, 2010, 6:39 am
After years in the shadow of high-profile Margaret River and Busselton, the once sleepy town of Denmark has come into its own as a favourite WA holiday hot spot, with visitors flocking to its old-fashioned camp sites, five-star wineries, rivers and beaches over the Easter break.
The town has defied the tourism downturn in the South-West, recording a steady increase in visitors over the past two years while tourist visits to other WA holiday towns have remained static or even declined.
The town's population was expected to triple to about 15,000 this Easter weekend, its busiest yet.
Parry's Beach - an old-fashioned campsite where a spot next to the beach costs as little as $49 a week - has been full for almost two weeks, with campers staking their claim in the lead-up to Easter.
The quaint 40-site park boasts home-grown vegetables and jams for sale and now has a national reputation.
The Littlejohn family from Victoria had heard of Parry's Beach and Denmark well before they set off on their three-week trip.
Mum Renae Littlejohn said the site was like stepping back in time.
"Everyone had told us about this little place near Denmark and it's costing us about $7 a night to stay here," she said. "You could never get anything like that in Victoria."
Such is the demand on the town's power supply during peak periods that Western Power has a public campaign urging power conservation after widespread blackouts over the Easter long weekend in 2007.
Denmark Tourism marketing director Marie Redman said the rise in tourism had come as the town's permanent population had increased. There had also been an increase in international visitors.
"We're a gateway to the wilderness area, we have the Walpole wilderness on our doorstop … I've seen an increase in visitors (all year round) and I can see that is only going to increase," she said.
Mrs Redman said Denmark was distinctly different from Margaret River and Busselton.
"We're not citified, we're more country, we are still able to capture the country town feeling," she said.
"I mean, I would liken Margaret River to Claremont, that's how I would look at Margaret River, whereas the natural scenery is more captured in Denmark."
Tourism WA regional manager Mark Exeter said a surge in wine-based tourism - the region boasts high-profile wineries Forest Hill, West Cape Howe and Howard Park - meant Denmark was now rivalling Margaret River as a destination for wine lovers.
"Denmark's popularity has increased a great deal over the past 12 to 18 months," he said. "It used to be people would go to Albany and do a day trip to Denmark, and now it's the other way around."