Who doesn’t love spectacular scenery, beautiful wineries and breathtaking beaches? Last Christmas we ventured across our vast continent for a family holiday in south-west Western Australia (WA). We had heard so much about the fabulous Margaret River region and our expectations were high. So, did the Margaret River live up to all the hype?
The answer is a resounding, YES for me. There is so much to discover in the Margaret River region. You could easily stay there for weeks and not run out of things to do and I’d recommend 3-5 nights as a minimum. The world-renowned wineries are outstanding, but this region is also famous for its natural wonders. There is no better time to explore our own back yard. So, when the borders open, how do you make the most of a trip to this special place?
GETTING THERE & AROUND
The Margaret River region (from Busselton in the north to Augusta in the south) is located just a 3-hours’ drive south of Perth. To see it you really need to hire, beg or borrow a car and make sure you stay somewhere central so that you have easy access to the main highlights. Simply driving through this beautiful region is an experience in itself. Picturesque Caves Road is dotted with one winery after another and the drive through Boranup Karri Forest is truly breath taking. I’ve never experienced forest on such a vast scale – it feels like it goes on forever.
We were lucky enough to stay at Esuoh, an architect-designed masterpiece in Yallingup and just a hop, skip and jump from so many fabulous wineries, beaches and natural master pieces. Other great locations to stay would include Dunsborough, Quindalup, Margaret River Town and Bunker Bay.
MUST DO HIGHLIGHTS
We stayed for five days in the Margaret River, so were only able to explore so much of this beautiful region, but we were lucky to be with locals in the know and got to see some fabulous sights. Some of my highlights were:
1 TOUR LOCAL WINERIES & CULINARY DELIGHTS
This is an obvious must-do. If you love wine, you’re certainly in luck. The Margaret River is home to approximately 120 wineries and vineyards and is world renowned for its wine and local produce. Many of the wineries have beautiful grounds to explore and also serve lunch and dinner so brace yourself for some serious over-indulgence.
We experienced just a small taste of the wineries on offer. So, collect a regional map, circle the venues that sound appealing and create your own self-drive tour. Select a driver and then eat, drink and be merry!
- Vasse Felix is considered one of the top wineries in Australia and is the Margaret River regions’ founding wine estate. Through their stunning cellar door, they offer everything from wine tasting to the full dining experience with rustic charm and modern edge. A great spot to spend a sunny afternoon overlooking the regions oldest vineyard.
- Voyager Estate is a beautiful winery with distinctive white Cape Dutch style buildings and elegant rose gardens. It has always focused on sustainability and is now certified organic and known as one of the top wineries to visit in the Margaret River.
- Pierro Winery is a small winery well known for producing what’s considered by many to be the region’s best chardonnay. Pierro offers free tastings in a humble cellar door rich with history and character. Expect none of the fuss of the big wineries but they do have free tastings and a giant chessboard out front to entertain the children.
- Cullen Winery does things a little differently with a fully biodynamic, naturally powered estate. Set in beautiful grounds, you can enjoy lunch at the cellar door or picnic under the peppermint trees over-looking the vineyards.
FAMILY FRIENDLY BREWERIES
- Black Brewing Co has something for everyone. Not only does it boast an impressive restaurant over-looking their dam, it has a cellar door, craft brewery, expansive grounds to explore and a manicured island on the large dam. There’s also a children’s playground. We enjoyed a fabulous Asian fusion lunch here.
- Margaret River Brewhouse has great food and high end, locally brewed beer. There is plenty to entertain the children as well with a play area, climbing equipment and a small boat.
- The Margaret River Farmers Market is held every Saturday morning if you would like to stock up with fresh, delicious seasonal produce. You can find it at 272 Bussell Highway, Margaret River from 7:30 – 11:30am in summer, with slightly later hours in winter. This market won the 2018 Most Outstanding Farmers Market in Australia and sells only locally produced food and cut flowers.
- Don’t miss The Margaret River Chocolate Company and Providore for some gourmet food offerings. The kids will love the ‘help yourself’ chocolate buttons and you can pick up something delicious to compliment your wine.
2 SWIM IN SOME PRISTINE WATERS
Meelup Beach is a picturesque little cove with serene waters and plenty of sheltered spots to picnic. We hired a paddleboard and spent the afternoon paddling and playing at this lovely spot. With fine white sand and crystal clear water this is the perfect protected beach to enjoy some calm water with children.
Meelup is just one of numerous beaches in the area to take in. Other beautiful beaches include Injidup Bay, Castle Rock, Point Piquet and Bunker Bay. We never made it to Bunker Bay but I’ve heard that the Bunker Bay Café serves up a fantastic lunch and the long stretch of beach is the perfect spot for your stomach to settle afterwards.
One thing I did notice, the South Indian Ocean is a lot cooler than the South Pacific that we are used too. 5oC according to google but to this warm weather girl, it felt like 10oC. You may like to use a wet suit like many of the locals do.
3 EXPERIENCE THE RAYS AT HAMLIN BAY
Although Hamlin Bay is a beautiful beach in its own right, what makes this spot so memorable is the friendly sting rays. This is a real nature experience (David Attinborough eat your heart out).
The rays are found at the old boat ramp and swim right up to the shoreline in the hopes of a morsel of fish. For the best chances of seeing them we were told to arrive between 9 and 10am – and see them we did! There must have been 10 or more of these graceful giants delighting a crowd of onlookers. The rays are gentle and very inquisitive. They will rub their fins on your legs and gently take any offerings of fish. Be respectful of these creatures. The rays are wild and do have barbs on their tails.
4 WALK & SNORKEL THE BUSSELTON JETTY
The Busselton Jetty is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere, spanning 1.8km in length. For a small fee you can walk the jetty in about 25 minutes each way. There is also a jetty train you can catch for an additional fee if exercise is not your thing.
Snorkelling around the piers at the centre or end of the jetty is also spectacular with colourful coral lining the piers and interesting fish darting about. If snorkelling is not your thing you can purchase a ticket to the underwater observatory at the end of the jetty. The tour commences 8m below the jetty via a spiral staircase to the ocean floor. Tours depart on the hour and take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
The Busselton Foreshore is also a popular beach destination for families with its calm waters making it perfect for safe swimming. There is a wonderful playground for children and the fish and chips from Salt at the end of the jetty are fantastic.
5 EXPERIENCE INJIDUP NATURAL SPA
Injidup Natural Spa (off Wyadup Road, Yallingup) is a spectacular natural landmark and hidden gem. We spent Christmas morning at this beautiful spot.
This crystal clear, natural rock pool receives waves cascading through a narrow rock alley causing the water to foam as it enters the pool, giving the illusion of being in a jacuzzi. Sitting with your back against the alley when the water comes shooting through, feels a bit like being pummelled by a spa jet. We entertained ourselves for hours playing and exploring this area.
6 WALK CAPE NATURALISTE LIGHTHOUSE TO SUGARLOAF ROCK
This 3.5km (wheelchair accessible) track is mostly flat (or downhill one way) and offers spectacular coastal views over Cape Naturaliste with fascinating cliffs and headlands along with a stunning variety of flora. Blazing red rocks contrast with green vegetation, striking turquoise waters and the dazzling white of the sandy beach. We were lucky to be with family who drove our car to Sugarloaf Rock, so we only had to walk one way.
Sugarloaf Rock is also pretty special. We climbed the beautiful rock formations in the area and swam in the protected pools at the base. We also spotted pods of dolphins swimming nearby.
7 EXPLORE A LOCAL CAVE
We had recently visited some spectacular caves in New Zealand and were ‘all caved out’ so to speak. For all you cave buffs, this region is home to more than 100 natural caves. I have heard that Lake Cave near Boranup Karri Forest is spectacular. You’ll need to walk 300 steps down and back up. A must do on our next visit.
The Margaret river is a gourmet escape with the added bonus of stunning beaches and spectacular natural scenery. From the undulating vineyards to the lush forests and wild surf breaks – adventure awaits. There really is something for everyone here. I’d love to hear about your favourite spots!
If you’d like to read more about the highlights of our trip to south-WA you can read about fabulous Rottnest Island here.
This article is not sponsored. All thoughts and opinions are my own.