|The Big Magic Mushroom at Balingup
Quiet rural service centre
Located 240 km south of Perth, Balingup lies in a famous timber, dairy, potato and fruit growing area of the state's south coast. It is a tiny settlement on the road between Donnybrook and Bridgetown.
There is some confusion about the origin of the town's name. One suggestion is that it comes from 'Baylya', the name of a local Aboriginal warrior. Another suggests that it is derived from the Aboriginal word 'balinga' meaning 'to climb'. A third version says that the town was named after a noted Aboriginal warrior 'Balingan' who was born in the area.
Balingup was first explored by Europeans in the 1840s. In 1842 Major Irwin and a small party, exploring the land between Albany and Busselton, make a short detour to the Balingup Brook and in 1849 John Septimus Roe, the tireless Surveyor General, travelled through the area while surveying between Albany and Perth. He noted the wealth of jarrah trees in the district.
The first person to take up land in the area was Walter Padbury in 1859. He was followed by other settlers and slowly a small village grew up on Balingup Brook. The townsite was officially declared in 1898, the same year the railway line was completed from Donnybrook to Bridgetown. Around this time the local hotel, the Nelson Arms, was used as both a drinking hole and as the local post office. Today Balingup is a small service centre.
In recent times the township has acquired a reputation as an alternative lifestyle centre where people fleeing from city life come to relax. In 1975 Fred and Mary Robinson established the Universal Brotherhood commune on the Brooklands property.
There is a small volume, Baylya-Balinga: A History of Balingup, W.A. by A. C. Frost, which covers the history of the town and the surrounding district in great detail.
Things to see:
Old Cheese Factory
It has little to attract the tourist apart from the Old Cheese Factory which has been converted into a popular and successful arts and crafts centre.
The Magic Mushrooms of Balingup
In recent years Balingup has been a drawcard (although the police have worked tirelessly to prevent it) for people wanting to pick and consume magic mushrooms. At a certain time of the year magic mushrooms (ie ones with the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin in them) can be found in the paddocks and forests around the town. The word is out and people come to try and pick them. In most instances they get caught and fined by the local police.