Widely known as the Jewel of the South West, Margaret River in Western Australia has been globally touted as one of the finest holiday destinations down under. A confluence of quaint country charisma and urban sophistication, the region offers the tourist nothing but the best with a bit of nature, some sand and surf, a little adventure and a quality hub to wine and dine.
Resplendent forests, glistening white beaches, pristine waters, lush meadows, world class cuisine, boutique shopping and artisan retreats are found within a few kilometres of each other, making the region ideal for a romantic drive or walk. Margaret River is named after Margaret Whicher, cousin of the founder of Busselton.
Although the most popular time to visit would be the Australian summer, the town offers something special to the visitor all year round. You can take early morning walks through the beautiful forest in autumn, spend cozy nights around a burning fire with good friends in the winter, watch the wildflowers bloom in spring, spend lazy hours by the beach in the summer and wash it all down with some of the best wine in the world.
Located 280 km from Perth, a three-hour drive from Western Australia’s capital city is the best way to get to Margaret River. You’ll know you’re nearing the beautiful region when you start spotting vineyards. If you don’t have a car, it is advisable to rent one, as a vehicle is more convenient for sightseeing. Accommodation is available for all budgets.
Margaret River is about 9km from the Indian Ocean and has a humid Mediterranean climate with 1130 mm of average annual rainfall. Summers are usually very warm coupled with sea breezes.
Take a tour of the Margaret River town, home to around 5000 people. A modern visitor hub, the town boasts supermarkets, restaurants, cafés and specialty shops to cater to tourist needs. Take a walk along one of the numerous Heritage Walking Trails that the town opens up to. Feed your soul at the St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church constructed of rammed earth on Wallcliffe Road. Notice the remarkable details on the stained glass windows. If you have time, pay a visit to see “Kate”, a steam engine built in England in 1889 at the Rotary Park.
Although, Margaret River isn’t a coastal town, it has its fair share of immaculate beaches in the vicinity, the closest being Prevelly Beach. Drive down to this stunning location, home to the Margaret River-Indian Ocean estuary and feast your eyes on the picturesque scenery. Take the road from the top of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge to find yourself on a ceaseless coastline fringed by a mammoth blue ocean. Gnarabup Beach nearby offers you the swim of a lifetime.
The Margaret River coast is internationally renowned as a Surfer’s Paradise. Head up to Surfer’s Point at Prevelly to eye local surfers battle the waves. If you make it in time for the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, a world class surfing competition, you will be amazed at the sights of these surfers taking on exhilarating waves. After that adrenaline rush, if calmer waters beckon, you could always pack up to Meelup, Eagle Bay and Bunker Bay for a relaxing seaside picnic of delicious food and local wine.
Speaking of wine, you cannot leave this region of fine wine without sampling the delectable culinary delights it has to offer. A gourmet paradise, Margaret River allows you to dine on fresh seafood, local organic beef, truffles, artisan cheeses, handmade chocolates and scrumptious fudge, all made locally. Wash down your meal with a local beer at the boutique breweries or a glass of the region’s famous wine.
Spend a day or two touring the area’s award winning vineyards and wineries. The temperature, rainfall and soil are all conducive to grape harvesting. First established in 1967, these relatively young vineyards have created world class Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. Some wineries you might want to frequent are Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix and the pro environment Cullen Winery. Do visit the Wine Tourism Showroom in the Margaret River Visitor Centre to up your wine knowledge where you can experience bottle and glass displays, wine tastings, sensory display and wine making apparatus. If you’re more of a beer person, don’t fret. Breweries are plenty too.
Margaret River is home to hundreds of caves, all housed within the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. Of the six of these open to the public, the multi-chambered Mammoth Cave takes the cake. Located about 21 km south of the town, it houses fossils dating back 35,000 years. You can explore the cave by yourself with an audio guide. The other five caves you can visit are Jewel Cave, Ngilgi Cave, Calgardup Cave and Giants Cave. If you are an experienced cave explorer, you can access most other caves with a permit. Don’t forget to visit CaveWorks, an interpretative centre at Lake Cave. It is also a regional centre to help preserve the delicate living geology and ecology of the area.
For a change of scenery, lose yourself in the Boranup Karri Forest between Caves Road and the coast. A regrowth forest just over a century old, keep your eyes peeled for the Karri, the third highest tree in the world and the pale barked trees looming a minimum of 60 metres high. Visit in spring to watch the forest turn into a canvas of colour with the wildflower in bloom as far as the eye can see.