The Margaret River region has long been a favourite destination for epicures who enjoy long lunches, degustation dinners and an afternoon tipple.
If your idea of a holiday includes fine wine, sunshine and pure indulgence, this guide to wining and dining in Margaret River will have you packing your bags sooner rather than later.
The Margaret River region is ideal for viticulture: the cooler temperatures are perfect for making world-class chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, so you’re in for a treat if these are among your favourite varietals. And if they’re not, be prepared to have a change of heart.
There are 155 wineries dotted around the region, which spans from Busselton in the north to Augusta in the south. Of these, 30 include restaurants and more than 95 feature cellar doors open for wine tasting. While you may not be able to get to them all, there are certainly a few worthy of your “must-do” list.
Vasse Felix is home to the oldest vines in Margaret River thanks to Dr Tom Cullity who decided he’d be a winemaker in 1967. Today, the winery continues to raise the bar with outstanding chardonnay, blanc de blanc and a divine shiraz-based rosé.
In the kitchen, head chef Brendan Pratt creates modern Australian fare with Japanese technique. Dining here is akin to performance art, with all of the meals served on beautiful pottery hand- thrown by local ceramist and master potter, Ian Beniston.
Renowned for its Art Series wines, in-house art gallery and staging of summer concerts, Leeuwin Estate’s in-house restaurant offers five-star alfresco dining with sweeping views. The Leeuwin Restaurant menu curated by head chef Dan Gedge narrows its focus to include local and regional delicacies such as marron, scallops and pearl meat presented as plates of edible art. If you’re looking for an extra-special occasion venue, this is it.
The expansive and meticulously-groomed gardens at Voyager Estate are much adored. But you’re missing out if you visit the grounds without staying for the wine and food. Chef Santi Fernandez is a creative genius who develops his ever-changing menu to match the wine and the seasons. “I love my job. Matching wine with the food means my job is easier,” he says. If tandoori dishes happen to be on the menu when you visit, prepare to be wowed.
Woody Nook Wines
Woody Nook Wines is a local favourite and its smooth graciano has turned many ardent lovers of white wine onto the pleasures of a good red. The design brief here reads ‘rustic-cabin-in-the-woods’ with the cafe and winery located at the end of a long, dirt driveway.
The Nookery Cafe overlooks a forest of marri and jarrah trees that will seduce you into switching off while devouring a shiraz lamb pie and glass of wine to match.
Arimia Winery and Restaurant
Arimia is another off-the-beaten-path winery worth making tracks for. Lunching here requires a little navigation away from the crowds, but you’ll be rewarded. It’s all hands on deck here with many of the menu ingredients nurtured and cultivated onsite.
Sustainability is not only a lifestyle here; it’s a passion. Expect menus to change with the seasons with dishes such as fall-apart tender free-range pork, flakey trout (from Arimia’s own pond) and earthy vegetable dishes such as charred cabbage and roasted cauliflower.
Robert Oatley Vineyards
The manicured lawns, fragrant rose gardens and a stunning stone fireplace in the cellar door add visual value to this wine stop. Many first-time visitors may find themselves leaving with a case of chardonnay.
Churchview Estate is a certified organic winery with a tasting room in a quaint little cottage just off the Bussell Highway near Metricup. Free samples include a range of premium chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz and visitors are more than welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy lunch on the lawn.
When entry to a cellar door is via a footbridge over water and picturesque views for miles, you can be sure of lasting memories (before you even taste the wine). The tasting will take you through the Knotting Hill Estate range, which includes a pretty pink sparkling and a rich fortified wine.
Settlers Ridge Organic Wine
Instead of having a dedicated tasting room at the winery, the winemakers at Settlers Ridge have teamed up with The Golden Jersey, a bike/coffee shop in the centre of Cowaramup (locally nicknamed Cowtown for the abundance of cow statues). All wines are vegan-friendly and organic and the sangiovese and Blend 51 are preservative-free, which makes them ideal for anyone with allergies.
Wine tasting tours
The only thing better than visiting winery restaurants and cellar doors is being chauffeured to them. We all know drinking and driving don’t mix, so why bother with drawing straws to see who’ll be the designated driver?
For a luxurious, private outing to the most beautiful wineries in the region, spend the day with Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia. Take your pick of 16 high-end food and wine excursions that include visits to Voyager Estate, Vasse Felix and Leeuwin Estate. From exclusive tastings in historic vaults to exquisite food and wine pairing to walking in the footsteps of a winemaker, you’ll experience the beauty of Margaret River in pure comfort and style.
If you’re keen on spending the day mingling with other wine enthusiasts, Bushtucker Tours is consistently ranked No. 1. Its small group, all-day winery and brewery tour visits seven estates dotted around the wine region. Lunch is served in a barrel room where you’ll graze over a fantastic spread of native and wild fare, including smoked kangaroo, bush tomatoes, seasonal herbs and locally gathered spices.
Wine + food festivals
In 2019, the region’s most celebrated food and wine festival, Margaret River Gourmet Escape, expanded to include events in Perth and the Swan Valley. Now marketed as the Western Australia Gourmet Escape, foodies can enjoy 10 epic days of premium eating and drinking events. Chef Marco Pierre White has famously called the Gourmet Escape “the greatest show on Earth” so planning a trip around this annual celebration will let you see what all the fuss is about.
Highly recommended is the all-day Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River, and the Gourmet Feast in the Valley at Sandalford Wines in the Swan Valley. Think of these family-friendly weekends as giant marketplaces with plenty of wine tasting and food-inspired demonstrations.
For a next-level experience, the Leeuwin Estate Art Series dinner will have you rubbing shoulders with the epicurean elite as you dine on six courses of sumptuous creations – all paired with a glass of Art Series wine.
Instead of waiting an entire year for the Gourmet Escape to roll around, check out Cabin Fever. This 10-day winter shindig in July will satisfy your craving for warm hospitality, spiced wine, dark brews and eats that are good for the soul.