Escape to the southern corner of Western Australia, to a region whose natural diversity has created a true playground for you to explore. Hundreds of vineyards run by dedicated locals, rugged coastlines overlooking the sweep of the Great Southern Ocean, as well as sheltered bays and sparkling beaches, towering forests of giant trees and limestone caves filled with impossibly ancient remains, await.
When you’re warming yourself in the sun with a glass of chardonnay in the vines of the Margaret River, or watching killer whales leap through the turquoise waters off the coast, we’ll understand if you can’t resist the temptation to pinch yourself.
The lively seaside city of Bunbury is the gateway to the South West. Surrounded by the nearby rolling pastures and forests of Dardanup and the Ferguson Valley, as well as the charming orchards and farmlands of Donnybrook Balingup, this area makes for an easy long weekend getaway.
Spectacular views of the sparkling Great Southern Ocean characterise this coastal region. Come summer, the towns of Albany and Denmark swell with road trippers. Holidaymakers spend their days here swimming in the area’s calm bays, or intrepid hikers can make their way past the breathtaking sights of the winding Bibbulmun Track.
It might be world-famous as a wine region, but there’s more to the Margaret River than its delicious cabernet sauvignon. Start by checking out breweries, surf beaches, picturesque towns, juicy berry farms and awe-inspiring caves, and you have just begun to scrape the surface.
For a charming country town experience, head on down to the Southern Forests and Valleys. Walk among the striking marri, karri and tingle forests, take a dip in its natural swimming holes, stop by in a country pub and pick up produce from one of the many local farms.
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In the Margaret River, visit the founding winery estate of Vasse Felix at Wilyabrup, which uses minimal intervention practices. Indulge in a long winery lunch at one of Australia’s best restaurants at the Wills Domain cellar door in Yallingup, and book an appointment to sip on a Bordeaux-style wine at Picardy in Pemberton.
Further south in the Great Southern region, grab a takeaway picnic at The Lake House Winery near Denmark to eat a lakeside lunch.
On the banks of the river, the Margaret River Brewhouse delivers cold schooners straight from its onsite brewery, as well as live music at weekends. The Bremer Bay Brewery is yet another lovely brewpub that is dog-friendly.
There’s plenty to do at Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. There are the fossils of Mammouth Cave and the stalactites of Jewel and Lake Cave, Sugarloaf Rock to explore, the Boranup Karri Forest to walk in and the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse to climb.
In summer, head out into Bremer Bay with Whale Watch Western Australia for your chance to get close to the magnificent killer whales. The crew is also a dedicated research team, and it’s them who will be providing educational commentary as you head out to the depths of Bremer Canyon beyond the bay. In winter it’s the turn of the southern right and humpback whales to make their way past Augusta’s Flinders Bay.
In William Bay National Park, the coastal swimming holes of Greens Pool and the nearby Elephant Rocks and Cove near Denmark has indescribably pretty waters to take a dip in. Nearby, take the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park.
Walk the 1.8km heritage-listed Busselton Jetty at Geographe Bay before descending to its Underwater Observatory, or take part in the annual Busselton Jetty Swim in February out past its point.
There are festivals galore in this part of the world, with the Taste Great Southern food festival in May and the Margaret River’s winter Cabin Fever Festival in July and the Gourmet Escape in November.
The Margaret River Farmers’ Market and Albany Farmers’ Market are every Saturday, and the Manjimup Farmers Market is twice a month. On summer Friday nights, you can check out the buzzing village atmosphere of the Balingup Night Markets.
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Book in for a rustic eco-retreat at RAC Margaret River Nature Park in Wooditjup National Park. With safari tent, lodge and powered site accommodation, facilities like climbing forest and camp kitchens complete the picture-perfect family caravan park.
In Yallingup, there’s the pet-friendly Caves Caravan Park, with chalets and camping spots in the shade of the peppermint trees, and beachfront camping at Yallingup Beach Holiday Park.
Free camping is limited around Denmark, but you may have luck around Albany at sites with limited spots like Cosy Corner Beach and Shelley Beach.
For a guaranteed place to rest your head, the dog-friendly Albany Gardens Tourist Park has chalets, caravan and camping sites, as does Denmark’s Rivermouth Caravan Park at Wilson Inlet.
A few minutes from the centre of town, the four-star Margaret River Resort at the River Hotel has self-contained villas, apartments, hotels and motel rooms, as well as a summer pool and tennis courts.
Introduce the little ones to country life at the kid-friendly Fergurson Farmstay in Dardanup. They’ll love feeding farm animals and going for tractor rides; you’ll love the peaceful vibes of the chalets, and how close the Fergurson breweries are.
For a special occasion, the luxurious Injidup Spa Retreat on the Cape to Cape track is a romantic adults-only getaway, with a private plunge pool for each of its secluded villas.
Sleep in the unique light-filled dome tents in the bushland of Mile End Glamping in Yelverton.
For a group trip to the Margaret River cellar doors, you can book the Cullen Wines Homestead on Airbnb. A winery property, the Homestead in Wilyabrup has views across the vineyards and is across the road from the Cullen Cellar Door and Restaurant.
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In Albany, Kate’s Place has a laidback breakfast and lunch menu in an eclectic setting with harbour views. Stop the car for a cheap breakfast or lunch at the Big Apple Bakery in Donnybrook, which serves up sweet and savoury pastries. Need a healthy road trip snack? Go to the organic Spring Valley Orchard to pick some apples between March and May.
The trendy Margaret River Bakery has coffee and European-style brunch, while the sustainable BYO Source Kitchen in Pemberton serves burgers with local suppliers listed on the menu.
Have a hatted, fine-dining experience at Wills Domain cellar door in Yallingup. On a gorgeous estate overlooking the Indian Ocean, take a seat at the award-winning restaurant to try dishes like kingfish with pickled green chilli and pomegranate.
There’s also the winery restaurant at the Voyager Estate, one of the top places to eat in WA. Book ahead for their seasonal seven or four-course degustation menu for plates like cauliflower, caviar and truffle or a wattleseed macchiato.
Dine on generous portions of blackened fish, grilled chilli ribs and more down by the lake at Little Fish in Yallingup, a short drive from Dunsborough.
Just outside of Bunbury in Boyanup, stop by for a weekend meal at the country pub Bull & Bush Tavern. Set in a historic building on the Preston River, there’s even a nature park for kids as well as space for your pooch to have a runaround.
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The South West begins at Bunbury, a two-hour drive south of Perth. The Margaret River region and Pemberton are around a three-hour drive (it’s one of our favourite WA road trips), while Albany takes five hours.
You can fly into the international Perth Airport and go from there, or catch a flight to Busselton Margaret River Airport or Albany Airport.
There are coach services between Perth and Albany (via Bunbury and Walpole), to the Margaret River and to Denmark with TransWA. South West Coach Lines also offers express coach routes to the region.
The South West area has a warm and temperate climate generally, with summer being the peak season to visit.
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