A Relaxing Farm Holiday for All
A unique farm stay experience in the heart of WA's cape to cape region
It’s just gone 5 o’clock and at Big 4 Taunton Farm that means two things: animal feeding for the youngsters and social hour for the grown-ups.
Families and groups are slowly arriving at the Barn, the delightful communal area which overlooks the farm’s lake and idyllic paddocks. People bring blankets to sit on outside in the evening air, open bottles of local wine and watch their children enjoy supervised contact with the farm animals (who are in on this whole feeding thing and are waiting watchfully by the fence at 4.55pm!).
The Barn is actually a huge campers’ kitchen complete with free gas BBQs and a great log fire which sees much marshmallow action as evening falls gently. Some guests return to their RVs or nearby cabins to dine, and some linger watching sport on the television screen ahead or watching their dinner cook. It forms part of a large, grassed recreation area central to Big 4 Taunton Farm Holiday Park and is adjacent to the popular jumping pillow and children’s playground.
Owner Rob Saunders is no longer surprised by the popularity of this aspect of Taunton Farm. “We understand that travellers are a community, and they love to come together to share their experiences and knowledge in a communal setting – just as much as they enjoy their own space at their RV site or cabin,” he says.
Understanding – and catering extremely well to – the needs of their guests is what Rob and wife Julie have done particularly well since they opened Taunton Farm to the public 25 years ago. As farmers with a working sheep and cattle property, the Saunders loved their land at Cowaramup, and when the chance arose to share it, they went along with the opportunity they identified.
One day, some people from Queensland turned up here in a caravan and we said ‘oh, you’re welcome to stay here’ and they loved it,” says Julie Saunders. So, we thought ‘why not build a small transit park’. Well, we stopped at 40 sites!
Such was the genesis of Taunton Farm – an 8 hectare holiday park themed around a working farm which Rob and Julie are still operating ‘on the other side of the fence’. The park opened to the public in 1992 with 2 cabins and 41 sites and the Saunders joined the Big4 franchise the first year after opening. “Big4 was a match for us as they are known for large, well-kept parks and ours is a friendly, clean property located just off the main route to the South West – the Bussell Highway,” explains Rob.
I’m impressed with how immaculate the park and my cabin accommodation is. Slowly over the years Julie and Rob have added more accommodation and now they offer 18 cabins in four different layouts plus an additional 30 RV sites. They deliberately created larger drive in sites which can easily accommodate large buses and motor homes.
“After operating for 25 years, we are now welcoming the second generation of families and friends who love the Taunton Farm experience and they really enjoy being able to set up ‘wagon train’ style and camp encircled – which is easy on our sites,” Rob says.
The location of the large property is ideal for touring the Margaret River region, with Cowaramup being central to the entire Cape to Cape experience. On the doorstep of Taunton Farm are award winning, family friendly wineries, breweries, chocolate and cheese factories and a myriad of other attractions. And best of all, you can bring your own wine (back) to Taunton Farm after a day exploring the district!
I found the park to be a destination in itself. It was my second visit, having had my first experience as a guest at a function for around 200 people held at the School House, a gorgeous old original building which was formerly the Cowaramup primary school that Rob and Julie saved by moving it on site in 2012.
The original verandah was a casualty of the move, but we replaced it, grins Rob.
Everything inside on display – including the home-made cricket set and the coins set into the floor boards – were found under the building.
The framed photos which adorn the school house walls are all of early Cowaramup and a wonderful way of preserving its history for the locals and visitors who make up the guest lists for the weddings, reunions and various functions held at the venue.
The school complements the adjacent Cowaramup Church which completes the Taunton Farm Historic Function Centre precinct. The church was moved on site in 2010, and the Saunders built a catering kitchen onto the rear of the building using the original bearers and joists from under the floor.
Rob, who is quite a history buff and is passionate about the region, said their aim was to retain the authenticity of both buildings throughout their restoration. The result is a credit to all who worked on them. Proceeds from functions are channelled back into the maintenance of the buildings.
“We are booked for weddings, parties, reunions – you name it,” says Rob. “People love the flexibility as they can hire everything they need or just provide their own – and BYO of course. And with 18 cottages and plenty of spacious sites, guests can stay here and no-one has to drive home!”
History has been turned into an asset throughout the park. Not only is the Barn decorated with all manner of farming memorabilia, but the chalets are built on a unique heritage design: the Group Settlement Era cottages of 1920s Margaret River. Characterised by two symmetrical windows with a central door and a wide verandah, these cottages were the first homes for the settlers of the region and there is even an original building onsite forming part of the reception building at Taunton Park.
This building has recently been renovated and extensively extended to create a larger, roomy reception and welcome area for arriving guests. Like the entire park, the farm theme is reflected here with old blackbutt and jarrah fence posts making up the ‘new’ reception desk!
- 5 minutes drive from Cowaramup, 15 minutes drive from Margaret River town and Cowaramup Bay and 30 mins from Busselton
- AAAT Rated ****
- 1, 2 bedroom, family and superior family cottages
- WA Tourism Award Winner 1997. 1999, 2000 and Hall of Fame 2001
- Selected cabins offer wheel-chair accessible bathrooms
- Fully wheel-chair accessible amenities block central to the park