Before moving over to the west coast, I was most excited about exploring the famous Margaret River wine region, and so two weeks after making the move, off we went on a day trip down south. The trip was fantastic, but a complete whirlwind as Margaret River is actually a three-hour drive from Perth – and yes, six hours in the car plus a full day of visiting wineries and breweries equals extremely tired passengers. We realised how ambitious we were being when we were given one of the ridiculously large maps of the region at the Margaret River Visitor Centre.
It was only recently that my hubby and I returned to Margaret River to spend a proper weekend there. The Margaret River region is actually a blanket term for Western Australia’s South-West region, which extends from Busselton all the way down to Augusta, with Margaret River town located roughly in the middle. The Margaret River region really has it all: world-class wineries, boutique art galleries and studios, stunning surf beaches, picturesque walking trails, lush forests and plenty of limestone caves to explore; hence why you could easily spend a week here and still not get through everything.
Whether you have a day, a weekend or a week, here are 10 things to do in the Margaret River region.
Things to do in the Margaret River region
1. Taste the best wines in the country
Margaret River is one of Australia’s most celebrated wine regions. Although a relative newcomer to the block (or should I say vineyard?), with the first vines being planted in 1967, Margaret River wineries have managed to pack a punch in a short amount of time, and the region now produces over 20 per cent of Australia’s premium wines. The region itself has a similar climate to Bordeaux, and it is known for its chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon vintages. What I loved most, though, was the distinct and refreshing lack of airs and graces, which made the wine tasting all that more enjoyable.
My favourite Margaret River wineries are Vasse Felix and Leeuwin Estate, as they both offer a winning combination of quality wine and food, excellent service, and attached art galleries. Vasse Felix also has an atmospheric fireplace that is perfect for snuggling up in front of during the wintertime. Voyager Estate takes the prize for the most beautiful grounds, and Stella Bella and Churchview are cosy boutique wineries. Honourable mentions also go out to Cape Mentelle and Cullen Wines. If you’re looking for more expert advice, here is a list of wineries that has impressed my old pal James Halliday.
2. Indulge in a degustation
Where you have wineries, good food usually follows and Margaret River is no exception. Indulge in a degustation with accompanying wines, or snack your way through the day on a selection of cheese and charcuterie boards – I highly recommend Vasse Felix for the latter. For a leisurely lunch, head to Xanadu Wines, Eagle Bay Brewery or Arvina Estate. However, Wills Domain has to be the best meal that I’ve had down in Margaret River so far. Black Brewing also offer a $45 degustation on Friday evenings, but make sure to make a reservation beforehand!
3. Explore the caves of the region
Caves Road winds all the way down from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. As well as being a scenic drive through the enchanting forest of Karri trees, it is also where you can access the caves of the region. Jewel Cave is the biggest public cave in WA, Lake Cave has a lake inside the chamber, Ngilgi Cave was WA’s first tourist attraction and Mammoth Cave allows you to enter without a guide. Purchase a Cave Pass if you plan on making a day out of cave exploring.
4. Follow the artisan trail
From jewellers to textile designers, painters to sculptors, the South-West is home to a number of creatives and craftspeople. And with the spectacular and varied landscapes of the Margaret River region serving as a canvas, it’s not difficult to understand why. Whether you’re a creative yourself, seeking inspiration, or curious to meet the faces behind the works, follow the artisan trail and spend time visiting the multitude of art galleries, and the workshops and studios of local artists.
5. Go on an eco-adventure through a forest
If you’re after an experience that’s slightly off the beaten track, try Eco Adventures, where you can ride an electric quad bike (the first of its kind in the world) through lush national forests. You won’t be travelling at fast speeds, but you will be guided through parts of the forest which you might not otherwise have been able to see, and learning about the history of the environment around you at the same time.
6. Abseil into a chamber
While on the Eco Adventures tour, we were shown some holes in the ground that were entry points into the cave systems below. Some of the holes had grates covering them to prevent you from falling down into the dark abyss, but there were some holes that had no barrier at all! We were told that you can abseil into some of these chambers with Margaret River Climbing Co; however, after seeing how narrow these entry holes were, I would only recommend this activity for those who fall well on the non-claustrophobic side.
7. Find a trail, any trail
The Margaret River region is home to many scenic walking trails, and the most famous of all the trails is the Cape to Cape Track, which extends a mighty 140 kilometres. If you’re not up for the 5–6 day hiking challenge, or simply don’t have the time, then you can also do smaller parts of the track within a day.
8. See where two oceans meet
Cape Leeuwin is the most south-westerly point of Australia, and it is also where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. We happened to be there on a day when there was grey skies and blustery winds, and as we watched the waves crashing violently against the rocks, I couldn’t help but think that it felt more like the UK, than it did WA. There is an admission cost to enter the grounds and to see the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which also includes an audio tour.
9. Walk the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere
It’s a little known fact that the Busselton Jetty is the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and it extends for an impressive 1.7 kilometres – a fact that I only discovered after walking to the end and back. It is also quite possibly the most beautiful jetty that you’ll ever set your eyes on. If you don’t feel like embarking on a trek, there is also a tourist train that you can catch.
10. Get up close and personal with sting rays
Hamelin Bay is not only one of the most gorgeous beaches in the South-West, but during the summertime you can also get up close to wild sting rays that come into shore. These huge rays, spanning up to a metre in size, are very friendly as they are used to human interaction.