Much to do in Margaret River | Travel
Forget Byron Bay, Noosa or Jervis – if you’re a Sydney-sider looking to take a long, lazy and luxurious break, I implore you to visit Australia’s answer to Cornwall, the Margaret River.
Whilst the town itself sits approximately 270km from WA's capital city Perth, the region of Margaret River refers to the whole of the South West peninsula, spanning from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south. And boy, will you find a wonderland of surf, fine dining, exquisite wines and breathtaking coastline in between.
Here I’ll take you through the region’s best spots for eating, sleeping and doing – and this was what we could fit into 10 days!
If you’re a foodie, you’re spoilt for choice in Margs. Many of the wineries, as well as being some of the most outstanding wine producers in the country (more on that later), also offer stunning Modern Australian cuisine, with impressive degustation menus giving the option to pair your wines to your chosen dish. For me, my top meal was a close call between Voyager Wine Estate and Vasse Felix – both offering a menu resplendent in flavour and matched beautifully to the dishes we were served.
If a picnic is more your thing, Margaret River Gourmet Merchant is a must-visit for oodles of cheese, chutney, gourmet crackers and olive oils. Find them in Cowaramup (known locally as Cowtown - you'll soon see why!)
As a self-confessed coffee addict, it would be remiss for me not to include some of the best places to get yourself a cup of Joe. We actually found that the best coffee also came at our most favourite location – Bunker’s Beach House. Situated at the northern tip between Eagle Bay and Cape Naturaliste, this gorgeous little gem absolutely wins the award for best breakfast view – ask for a table in the sunshine and you’ll be able to sip your latte whilst glimpsing the turquoise hues of the Indian ocean below, as it gently laps against the white sand. The beach itself is large and mostly sheltered from big waves thanks to the outer reef, though much of WA experiences the Pilbara desert wind so if you’re unsure always swim at a lifeguarded beach between the flags.
You can’t go to the Margaret River and not visit a winery – in fact, driving up and down Caves Road, one of two main thoroughfares, you’d be hard pushed not to count over a dozen wineries in any 5km stretch. They’re practically calling your name! With space in abundance in Margs, almost all of the vineyards are set amongst breathtaking acreage, with sweeping vistas across the vines and beautifully tended rose gardens. Aesthetics aside, there’s a reason Margs has earnt its reputation as one of the best wine producers in the country (and in many cases, the world, with Vasse Felix recently picking up the gong for best New World Winery). Producing small batches but of high, luxurious quality, investing in a Margaret River reserve is to invest in a family keepsake – the majority of these wines get better with age, and so it lead that we now have wines for our upcoming 30th, 40th, 50th birthdays and any other occasions that may crop up in between!
The region is well set-up for sending cases of wine interstate, so if you’ve not enough luggage allowance there’s still a way of getting your favourite Cab Sav to the comfort of your own home for you to enjoy.
It was a close one to call, but my favourite wineries were:
Fermoy Estate, Cullen Wines and Cape Mentelle are also all worth a visit. All of the three mentioned above have breathtaking grounds, so plan to spend an afternoon there or take a picnic to enjoy on many of their manicured lawns. If you’re visiting in the summer months, Cape Mentelle also runs Movies at Mentelle, where you can kick back and watch a film in comfy bean-bag sofas with a glass of their finest Chardonnay – not a bad way to spend an evening!
Our trip to WA involved a stay in three different places, but the best of the bunch was Eight Willows Retreat (formerly the Willy Bay Resort) in Metricup. Understated luxury as well as being serene and peaceful, this modern chalet had a fantastically equipped kitchen and a BBQ on the patio, as well as gorgeous roll-top bath and rainforest shower. You’re well placed to visit some of the most renowned wineries (being just a short drive from Vasse Felix and Cullen Wines) and Cowtown is just 10 minutes away for groceries (or more wine!).
If the amazing food and exemplary wineries aren’t enough, then you’re going to be bowled over by WA’s beautiful beaches. From Eagle Bay in the north, via the natural spa at Injidup, the incredible surf breaks at Gracetown, to the tranquil shores of Gnabarup and the popular White Elephant Café, you’re never short of options. Yes, WA is known for being a little sharky, but most of those beaches listed are protected by an outer reef and therefore any curious sealife (and in fact, several locals told us they barely get any marine life at all in the Geographe Bay region – you’ll instead find them in abundance nearer Perth and Rottnest Island).
Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was our afternoon spent on horseback with Jester’s Flat Equestrian. I’ve been lucky enough to ride on a few beaches in my riding career, but this occasion blew them all out of the water, not least because we actually got in the water with the horses for a post-ride cool-down. Our host Paul, a WA local and former polocrosse international team player, was so genial and put us all at ease, and trusted me with his stunning steed Skylark, an Australian Stock Horse and half-sister to his homebred stallion. Cantering along a white sandy beach with dolphins porpoising in the distance might be clichéd, but it didn’t make it any less magical. Paul made sure to look after the experienced and newbie riders, letting us veterans canter on whilst hanging back and imparting some friendly advice to Ben (who did brilliantly despite only having been on a horse a handful of times). I’m already planning our visit back to the region to do Jester’s five day, four night ride. Their horses are absolutely to die for!
A visit to the Margaret River wouldn’t be complete without a trip to its icon, the Busselton Jetty. At 1.8km, it’s the longest timber pile jetty in the world, and was once used to export timber in a very shallow harbour (it’s only 9 metres deep at the end of the jetty). For $34, you’ll get a return train ride and a tour of the Underwater Observatory, one of just five natural aquariums in the world, and which provides a wonderful way to see marine life if you prefer to stay dry. If you’re peckish after, grab a coffee at The Goose and then head to the Shed Markets at Abbey for Singapore Street Food, before browsing their collection of kooky homewares and wellbeing products all housed in a shady warehouse.
Finally, you can't go far in Margs without hearing about its legendary Farmers' Market, a staple Saturday-morning fixture first founded 13 years ago. You'll find everything from honeys and jams to cheeses, nougats, pastries, olive oil, chocolate and of course, wine! The Market has a comforting community feel, with local musicians serenading the crowd (on our first visit there was two young kids playing a ukulele, the second a chap with some bagpipes!) and a bar run by a local charity, school or sports club. We stocked up our larder ahead of our Christmas Day feast, safe in the knowledge that the produce has been grown and reared by those friendly faces you find behind the stalls - the truest form of Farmers' Market. Even if you've got your supplies already, heading here for some pastries and coffee is a gorgeous way to spend a Saturday morning and watch the world go by.
And so it was that with a sense of fullness, peace and wine we boarded our flight back to Sydney, vowing we'll one day make the move to the west and forever bask in the beauty of the Margaret River.