Western Australia’s beloved south-coast holiday spot, Margaret River, is world renowned for its premium wine, mouth-watering produce, white sandy beaches and amazing surf breaks, writes Dimity Noble. Need any more excuses to go?
5 Reasons you should end up in Margaret River
1. Food, glorious food the fresh local produce is so popular that there’s not much left to export beyond the region. Expansion is often avoided for fear of losing quality control.
2. While just three per cent of the country’s grapes are grown here, it is responsible for 20 per cent of Australia’s premium wines. Cellar-door staff are friendly and informative, so get a wine education while on holiday.
3. The beaches are seriously beautiful. You are spoilt for choice with so many heavenly places such as Meelup, Boodjidup, Eagle Bay, Yallingup, Smiths and Injidup.
4. There are so many sporty leisure activities. Dive historic shipwrecks, explore rugged, rocky bays or immerse yourself in crystal-clear waters or thunderous surf.
5. To get back to nature. Take in panoramic ocean views, hill challenges and bush ambience. It would be a challenge to cover them all in one lifetime.
Where is it?
The Margaret River region stretches from Cape Naturaliste 110km south to Cape Leeuwin in the south-west corner of WA. Vibrant towns and quaint hamlets are dotted along the majestic rocky coast and in a pretty, vine-studded hinterland featuring karri forest, rugged bush and limestone caves.
Why is Margaret River so marvellous?
A mild Mediterranean climate makes for a great year-round holiday destination. While a trip could concentrate solely on food and wine – there are more than 100 wineries – adventurous types can choose from countless surf, dive and swimming spots, or explore coastal and inland walking trails.
What to do in town?
Known to the locals as ‘Margs’, Margaret River township (population: 5000) is 10km from the Indian Ocean on the banks of the eponymous Margaret River. Most shops, butchers, cafés, restaurants, supermarkets and medical centres are located along the main street, Bussell Highway. The vibe is laid-back. Park at the Shell petrol station and stroll up towards Wallcliffe Road, where the hub peters out. A must-stop for travellers is Margaret River Visitor Centre, where you can stock up on free maps and brochures galore. If you’re in the market for a new surfboard, this is the place to get it – surf shops are dotted along the main drag.
What to do outside of town?
Go for a drive
Two main roads run from cape to cape: Caves Road takes a direct, scenic path close to the coast. Bussell Highway is a little further inland. An arterial network of back roads links wineries, microbreweries and local providores. All are well signposted. Take at least a day to explore – two would be better.
Shop in Dunsborough
This bayside town just north of Margaret River is full of unique boutiques and interiors stores. Fantastise about decking out your home with decor from Empire Homewares, Unit 2, 58 Dunn Bay Road. For clothing go to Milc, Shop 2, Dunsborough Village Shopping Centre, Naturaliste Terrace.
Get arty in Yallingup
In a rural setting overlooking a lake, off Caves Road, south of Yallingup, Gunyulgup Galleries houses a diverse collection of contemporary West Australian art and design. Eat at the Studio Gallery and Bistro (7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup) while you’re there.
The appropriately named Caves Road hides a wealth of underground attractions. At Ngilgi Cave, Yallingup, semi-guided tours are available through the day. Mammoth and Lake Caves are south of Margaret River in the Boranup Karri Forest, which lies between Caves Road and the coast. The drive is magical as the sun illuminates the red bark of these trees, which grow to over 60m tall.
Walk off any overindulgence
The 135km Cape to Cape Track is for the truly dedicated, but there are shorter walks along the route. From the south end of Smiths Beach, it’s only 2km to Wyadup along cliff tops offer superb coastal views.
Dive off the jetty
The longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere, the 1.8km Busselton Jetty, is the place to be. You’ll find swimming and diving platforms and a unique Underwater Observatory. Access to one of Australia’s most unusual ecotourism sites and greatest artificial reef is no longer limited to divers and snorkellers. Now anyone can marvel at the underwater universe from eight metres below the water’s surface without getting wet. Little ones can marvel at the mermaid tours, ride the jetty train and the whole family can dine underwater.
Where to drink: The Locals
The Margaret River wine region produces internationally acclaimed chardonnay, semillon, sauvignon blanc, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz. Empty the car’s boot and plan for a day of tasting and buying.
Internationally recognised for its wines, it also has a great restaurant. If you’re on a budget, take a picnic hamper, roll out a blanket and enjoy the setting. Alfresco concerts are hosted here in summer.
Address: Leeuwin Estate, Stevens Road.
Wander through the pristine gardens before enjoying a tasting of exclusive, limited-release wines at this stunning Cape Dutch-style cellar door.
Address: Voyager Estate, Stevens Road.
Set among natural bush and vineyards. The stylish restaurant impresses with mod-Oz dishes.
Address: Clairault, Caves Road, Wilyabrup.
Take an outside table at the restaurant here, among the vines of this biodynamic vineyard.
Address: Cullen Wines, Caves Road, Cowaramup.
Houses the Holmes à Court art collection, and the restaurant has won numerous prestigious awards.
Address: Vasse Felix, Cnr Harmans Road South/Caves Road, Cowaramup.
Where to drink: Vineyards
Hayshed Hill Winery
The café here offers benchmark Australian and international cheeses and gourmet deli supplies. Stay for lunch on the balcony overlooking Wilyabrup valley. Kids can play cricket or boules on the lawn below – the equipment is free to use.
Address: Hayshed Hill Winery, 511 Harmans Mill Road, Wilyabrup.
Knee Deep Wines
Grab a stool and sit up at the bar for tastings, or sit out on the veranda and enjoy a delicious lunch. The vines are within arm’s reach.
Address: Knee Deep Wines, Lot 61 Johnson Road, Wilyabrup.
Owned by Darren Haunold, whose ancestors were making wine in Austria back in the 14th century. Take in an art exhibition, enjoy an insightful tasting, then linger over a signature tasting plate.
Address: Will’s Domain, Cnr Abbey Farm and Brash Roads, Yallingup.
Where to drink: Microbreweries
Wine may be Margaret River’s most revered liquid asset, but beer lovers are increasingly well catered to.
Eagle Bay Brewing Companies
Sit outside and catch glimpses of the ocean at this family-run boutique brewery.
Address: Eagle Bay Brewing Companies, 236 Eagle Bay Road.
Colonial Brewing Company
A popular family destination with a relaxing indoor/outdoor setting.
Address: Colonial Brewing Company, 265A Osmington Road.
Cowaramup Brewing Company
Set in beautiful garden surrounds with a great kids’ playground.
Address: Cowaramup Brewing Company, North Treeton Road, Cowaramup.
Where to eat: Casual Dining
The Urban Bean
Margaret River town centre is lined with cafés, and The Urban Bean packs coffee with punch.
Address: 157 Bussell Highway
Margaret River Bakery
If the kids are in tow, head to this place just near the Shell petrol station and take your snacks over to Rotary Park. This shady riverside location has excellent picnic and barbecue facilities.
Address: Margaret River Bakery, 89 Bussell Highway
A gourmet deli filled with local produce. It’s hard not to leave laden with local olive oil, nougat and takeaway gourmet meals.
Address: The Larder, Shop 2, 99 Bussell Highway
The Sea Garden Cafe
For a special view on a shoestring budget, take a ten-minute drive from central Margaret River to Prevelly Park. You can’t miss it on the way to the bay. The café offers amazing breakfasts and casual lunch or dinner. Better still, you can grab takeaway pizza or fish and chips and head to the beach.
Address: The Sea Garden Cafe, Mitchell Drive, Prevelly
This pub has been around since the 1970s and is an institution for evening drinks (or lunches for that matter). The pub restaurant is renowned for its impressive wine list and use of local produce. Most nights, music sets range from blues, roots, rock, pop, reggae and dub.
Address: Settlers Tavern, 114 Bussell Highway
Where to eat: Farm Gates
Farm-gate shops sell local olive oil, cheese, meats, nuts, chocolate, ice-cream and bread. Take an esky or cool bag and be sure to work backwards from 4pm, when you should be hitting one particular Yallingup bakery.
Yallingup Woodfired Bread
The smell of up to 400 loaves wafts from this bakery’s volcanic-stone ovens at 4pm. No-one reaches their car without tearing off the warm, robust crust.
Address: Yallingup Woodfired Bread, Lot 27 McLachlan Road, Yallingup
Margaret River Venison
Try the sensational venison sausages infused with a dollop of red from nearby Edwards winery.
Address: Margaret River Venison, 5103 Caves Road
The Providore is a great place to stop because it combines vineyards and olive groves with kitchen gardens, a gourmet shop and café.
Address: 448 Harmans South Road, Wilyabrup
The Margaret River Chocolate Company
Need we say more? The Chocolate Company is conveniently next door to Providore.
Where to eat: Fresh Food Markets
Margaret River Farmers’ Market
Held every Saturday all year round. Open 8am to 12pm from April to the end of October and 7:30am to 11:30am from November through to the end of March. Pick up seasonal produce direct from the growers.
Address:Margaret River Education Campus, Lot 272 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River.
Held the first and third Saturday of every month from 7am – 12 pm, in and around the Vasse Hall. Fruit and veg are sold here, but you’ll leave with items you had no intention of buying: delightful kids’ aprons made from vintage fabrics, wrapping paper, cards and the world’s best ginger fudge.
Address: 8 Kaloorup Rd, Busselton, Western Australia 6280, Australia
Margaret River beaches
The region is a world-renowned surf haven, showcasing some of the most consistently spectacular surf. With over 50 breaks peppered along the coastline, you’ll find one to suit most skill levels.
The break off a headland near Prevelly is a must. Its massive swell hosts up to 200 of the world’s top surf pros for the Margaret River Drug Aware Pro surfing competition each April. Just south in Prevelly Park you will find a protected beach, a jetty for fishing and a pontoon in the summer.
Popular surf spots include Windmills (ideal for the less experienced surfer), Three Bears (for the more experienced) and Shallows, a sand-covered reef break that’s great for all levels.
Typifies the coastline: golden sand backed by slopes rising into the national park, with multiple walking trails. The southern corner offers sheltered conditions, a small lagoon and easy swimming.
Has protected lagoons enclosed by reef formations: ideal nooks to bathe with young kids. Quieter Injidup Beach is sublime.
South from Yallingup has conditions perfect for snorkelling.
Is even further south, with great surf, rocks and sheltered areas.
Meelup Beach, Eagle Bay and Bunker Bay are located between Cape Naturaliste and Busselton. Their north-facing location usually counts out surfing, but swimming, snorkelling, sailing and lazing are high on the agenda. The beaches here provide the perfect sanctuary from the prevailing winds that set in by 11am most days all along the west coastline. Afternoons often offer glass-like water conditions.
Be sure to take the scenic Meelup Beach Road as you head out from Dunsborough. Meelup has ample barbecue facilities, toilets and even a soft-serve ice-cream van that seems to never leave. But it can get crowded most summer afternoons.
Venture just a few kilometres further along to Eagle Bay where turquoise waters lap red rocks and unblemished sand. About 3.5km of coast between Dunsborough and Cape Naturaliste, incorporating about ten bays, is inaccessible to cars.
Margaret River for families
Hop on a horse
The Horse Resort offers guided rides for all levels through rolling paddocks, dams, creeks and forest.
Address: Osmington Road, Margaret River
Address: Amaze’n Margaret River, 9978 Bussell Highway, Margaret River; Yallingup Maze, 3061 Caves Road, Yallingup
Talk to the animals
Visit more than 200 animals at Sunflowers Animal Farm and Farmstay. 248 Caves Road, Margaret River; www.sunflowers.com Visit the cold-bloods at Naturaliste Reptile Park, cnr Bussell Highway and Wildwood Road, Carbunup, or go to the birds at Metricup Bird Park, Metricup Road, off Bussell Highway.
Give them a treat
Simmo’s Ice Cream has more than 100 flavours and a fantastic grassed playground.
Address: 161 Commonage Road, Dunsborough
Where to stay in Margaret River
In addition to the places listed below, you can find more mid-range and affordable accommodation options at www.margaretriver.com. Check out www.privateprop.com for deluxe holiday house rentals in the region.
Riverview Tourist Park
A garden setting with forest walks to the main street. Cabins and powered sites available. Expect to pay $90-120 for a deluxe cabin.
Address: Riverview Tourist Park, 8-10 Wilmott Avenue
Gracetown Caravan Park
Enjoy the peaceful bushland setting just 2.5km from the beach. Superior cabins for two are in the range $100-$200.
Address: Gracetown Caravan Park, Cnr Caves and Cowaramup Bay Roads
Yallingup Beach Holiday Park
There are knockout views here. Walk to the beach, or enjoy sunsets from your cabin porch. Van/tent sites cost from $10 to $20, whilst ensuite cabins for two range from $115 to $260.
Address: Yallingup Beach Holiday Park, Valley Road, Yallingup
There are loads of B&Bs to choose from in Margaret River, but this (pictured left) is the pick of the bunch – a free-standing two-bedroom, two-storey, Balinese-style villa that boats a spa with a view. Autumn rates are from $260 per couple mid-week.
Address: River’esque, Ashton St, Margaret River
Petra Olive Oil Estate
Conveniently located between Dunsborough and Yallingup, Petra Olive Oil Estate offers dog-friendly luxury farmstay chalet accommodation for couples set on a stunning property with views across the olive groves and picturesque dams. Guests and visitors can try and buy Petra’s award-winning Extra Virgin Olive Oils, gourmet deli products and a stunning range of EV Olive Oil Skincare at the Shed Door Tasting Room & Farm Shop located on the estate or shop online.
Address: 251 Sheoak Drive, Yallingup
Injidup Spa Retreat
The region’s luxury spa resort. Tucked discreetly into the hillside above Injidup Beach, all ten villas offer uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean and their own plunge pools.
Address: Injidup Spa Retreat, Cape Clairault Road, Injidup
An adults-only, Dutch-style country estate nestled into its own secluded vineyard and surrounded by stunning forest and parkland scenery. It is just minutes away from beaches and its lakeside restaurant is firmly established as one of Australia’s truly great culinary experiences. Expect to pay from $475 per night for a Garden View Room.
Address: Cape Lodge, 3341 Caves Road, Yallingup
Smiths Beach Resort
This five-star luxury resort offers guests beachfront access, coastal walk trails, Lamont’s gourmet deli, café and restaurant, an infinity swimming pool, tennis court and neighbouring world-class wineries. Their gourmet deli and café supplies local and international wines along with boutique beers and local produce, so you need not venture further than the beach.
The Resort offers eight different accommodation styles perfect for couples, small and extended families and corporate groups.
Address: Smiths Beach Resort, Smiths Beach Road, Yallingup