IT'S LYNNY KANSAS
DON'T LET THE RUBY SLIPPERS,
OR THE DOROTHY INSPIRED NICKNAME
FOOL YOU., THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME,
BUT TRAVELING IS FUN.
Western Australia and it's famed Margaret River wine region, sits a mere three and a half hour drive South West of it's capital Perth. Of course the wineries are the main focus of the area, where you can find some major players, big names like Leeuwin, Voyager and Cape Mantelle to name a few. There are also some lovely boutique wineries here as well. The Peninsula from Busselton in the North to Augusta in the South can be driven in just over an hour if you stick to the main highway, or take your time and drive leisurely down Caves Road. To add to the draw of this lovely neck of the woods is the coastline. It is a surfers paradise, with lovely beaches and coves which are also ideal for the less energetic to laze on. The rocky coastlines are fun to explore, throw in some caves, a couple of lighthouses and gourmet food shops - you will have much to see and do.
From Singapore, getting to Perth and subsequently Margaret River, could not be easier. It is also one of the closer destinations, at just under a five hour flying time. Singapore Airlines does a direct flight, as does Scoot, Emirates, Jet Star, and Air Asia. We flew Singapore Airlines, picking up a rental car at the airport for the easy three and a half hour drive to Margaret River.
WHERE TO STAY
Picking our accommodation in Margaret River was tough for us. Not because of the lack of choice, but more about deciding how we wanted to spend our time. Do we want to stay near a beach or in a more rural area which are great for views but not close to restaurants or grocery stores? Our choice was to stay in a lovely rental within walking distance of the town of Margaret River, called Lone Pine Cottage. It was a very lovely house which we would highly recommend. It could be rented as a one bedroom or a two bedroom. Extremely comfortable and well equipped, with fridge, washer, dryer, as well as a pantry well stocked with condiments and staples. Being close to Town gave us the option to be able to go out to eat in the evenings (see a few of our dining recommendations below) if we wanted to; without having to worry about driving. It was also a central position for driving down to Augusta and up to Dunsborough on our explorations. Our rental had a full kitchen and a BBQ, so we could also stay in and enjoy some of our wine purchases from the wineries we visited during the day. Although we had a lovely outside area, it did not have a view to speak of (if you go more rural in your choice of accommodation, you will undoubtedly see kangaroos, as they emerge at dawn and dusk to graze), as the temperatures dropped to around 16C in the evenings, you had to wrap up warm to sit outside anyway (we we there end of Jan/early Feb), so we did not sit out much. Margaret River Town is not massive, practically one strip of road with shops, bars and restaurants. It has a very laid back and casual vibe which we enjoyed, but be warned, everything closes down early in this neck of the woods!! By 8.30pm it was practically all over. Another area to consider for accommodation would be Yallingup, this area would also be a good base for exploring (and roo sightings)!
Click here for our accommodation, Lone Pine Cottage, Margaret River.
Click here for a great map of the Margaret River area showing placement of the wineries and other points of interest.
We also enjoyed these Margaret River eateries.
Morries Any Time - Great tapas for dinner
Where to begin!! There are so many wineries in the area, it is tough to pick which ones to try. As I mentioned, there are some major wineries here, along with some lovely boutique wineries too, making it very hard to decide where to go for a tasting. Some wineries offer lunch, as well as tastings. There are wine tours you can book if you prefer to be driven, giving you carte blanche to taste away to your hearts content. The drink driving laws are strict, 0.05 being the limit, as are the laws on speeding. Our choice was to explore on our own, taking it easy with the daytime tastings and drinking. We were given some recommendations from friends, and our rental also had a great list of recommendations.
Howard Park Leston Vineyard (Burch Family Wines)
Howard Park was our first stop, we kind of stumbled upon it by accident really, but figured it was a good a place to start as any, so we called in. It turned out to be one of our favourites, mainly because of our wonderful tasting guide Ryan, who was fantastic and so much fun. The wines were great, especially their Mount Barker, Flint Rock Chardonnay 2015, the Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 and the Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. The winery has a lovely park like setting, you can also see their barrel room. Interestingly they also produce avermouth, although we didn't try. No food.
We went here for lunch which we really enjoyed. It's a smaller boutique winery in a lovely setting overlooking a garden area. The food was fantastic, my husband had fish and I had steak which was delicious. Also had our very first experience with Dukkah, which we had never heard of before. This nutty spicy accompaniment to the bread and olives went well with the very lovely 2014 Semillon. Did not do a full tasting here. Have to say that all the wines we came across had screw tops, which is ideal for taking unfinished wine back to base for drinking later.
We called into Voyager very briefly on our way to Leeuwin as they are quite close to each other. The place is huge, our main reason for calling in was because we had heard that the grounds were spectacular, this is absolutely true!! The most gorgeous manicured rose gardens and views really were fantastic. Lunch is available here, but there is no a la carte option, you have to do the full Degustation menu at their restaurant, which although looked nice, did not have as an extensive outside terrace or as nice a feel as we found at Leeuwin and Vasse Felix. We did not even do a tasting here as we really were pressed on time. The grounds are stunning though, so worth a visit just for that.
Leeuwin was another lunch stop for us. One of the bigger more well known kids on the block, it was maybe the busiest place we went to for lunch, glad that we had made a booking. Really loved the restaurant setting here. The food was also delicious, husband and I shared the lamb shoulder which was yummy. We also loved the wines, you can taste as you are seated at your table which was great. They have the best Chardonnay, The Prelude, 2015 Chardonnay was by far one of my favourites. Highly recommend.
We have long been fans of their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, so it was a given that we would call in for a tasting here. Though from the outside the cellar door looks quite understated, once inside you are greeted warmly and can see the barrels on display behind the tasting counter. A particular favourite here was the Cape Mentelle Wilyabrup 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Cabernet Franc. With limited amounts left, it was a given that a couple of bottles made it into our suitcase.
The first winery to be established in Margaret River, back in 1967, Vasse Felix is another major name winery that I feel is a must. We made the error of not having lunch here - an error we discovered once getting to the estate. We had decided to head here early in the day (the wineries and cellar doors typically open around 11am until 5pm, but please check before you head out) and enjoy a charcuterie platter and wine flight in their "wine lounge", before heading elsewhere for lunch. Though we enjoyed this very much, I was really wishing we had chosen to do lunch. The setting was just lovely, a large restaurant with a great terrace overlooking the vines and lawns with interesting sculptures. The wines here were excellent, the staff were super friendly and attentive too!!
Brookland Valley Estates
Our main reason for visiting Brookland Estates was to have lunch at Flutes Restaurant which is adjacent to the cellar door. Lunch here was delicious, enjoyed the setting overlooking a small lake as well as incredible food.
Fraser Gallop Estate
Fraser Gallop was the last winery we visited on this trip. Quite a few friends said we should not miss this one, so we had quite high expectations. The website shows a very lovely house set amongst the vines, which we realised once we got to the cellar door, was the private estate of the owner. The actual cellar door is very small building and was quite underwhelming, compared to some of the others we had visited. The wines were good, but quite honestly, I don't think we tasted a bad wine anywhere in Margaret River the whole visit, but by no means are we wine connoisseurs, we just like what we like.
Just wanted to share also some other wines we tried whilst in Margaret River (purchased from the "bottle shop" and enjoyed in our rental). We enjoyed both of these very much, and if we had more time would have headed to their wineries in Margaret River. Flametree Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2014 andHapps Three Hills Eva Marie Chardonnay 2013.
GOURMET FOOD SHOPS
Cheese, chocolate, olives, candy, nuts, the list goes on as far at gourmet food shops in Margaret River. Hard choices need to be made for sure. We were glad that we made it to the Yallingup Cheese Company. A beautiful setting overlooking a lake, you can also taste wine and olive oil here as the space is shared withAbbey Vale Wines. If so inclined get some of their amazing cheese and crackers, sit on the lovely verandah and chill for a while. Must say, they had the most fantastic camembert and also a marinated feta which was outstanding. The Abbey Vale Chardonnay 2015 was also pleasant drinking.
DO NOT MISS
Dinner at Little Fish in Yallingup was by far my favourite meal experience of the trip. Though they do serve lunch and dinner, (highly recommend making a booking) we arrived for dinner in time to watch the sunset. Loved the setting of this restaurant and the sunset we were treated to was nothing short of spectacular. The food, wine, ambiance and service were all top notch. DO NOT MISS!!!
MORE THAN JUST WINERIES
Margaret River has much more than just wineries in it's arsenal for visitors to the region. We enjoyed exploring the coastline with it's rugged rock outcrops, beaches and bays, both gentle and surf worthy. There are many underground caves to explore all along Caves Road. Leeuwin Lighthouse was an interesting visit. We also headed to Eagle Bay, Dunsborough and walked the almost 2km long Busselton Jetty. There are of course many gourmet food shops, artisan and craft shops scattered amongst the wineries too!! Lots of choices.
A mere 10 minutes drive from Margaret River Town brings you to the coastal towns of Prevelly and Gnarabup. Lovely walks around the coastline and lovely beaches. We particularly enjoyed going for breakfast at the White Elephant Cafe at Gnarabup which overlooks a lovely beach. Rivermouth Beach, a drive further north up the coast is also fun to explore with a very interesting sculpture of a mermaid "Layla" sitting on a rock, suckling a baby whale, by the artist Russell Sheridan. Apparently this is one of many sculptures and art pieces on the Margaret River "Public Art Trail" spread throughout the area.
On the most south-westerly tip of Australia sits the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. Well worth a visit. You can climb to the top with a guided tour. Only a 50 minute drive down scenic Caves Road, or the faster Busselton Highway.
THE CAVES OF MARGARET RIVER
There are some amazing limestone caves to explore, most accessible along the Caves Road. On the way back from Cape Leeuwin, we called in at Jewel Cave but had just missed the hourly guided tour, so we drove another 20 minutes to Mammoth Cave. This huge cave has self guided tours, so you can walk around it at your leisure. Warning though, there are lots of stairs. Still, quite amazing to witness the amazing underground formations. There is also Lake Cave and Ngilgi Cave.
EAGLE BAY, DUNSBOROUGH AND BUSSELTON
Setting out from our rental fairly early one morning, we drove North, heading for Bunker Bay and Eagle Bay, the far north-western corner of the Margaret River peninsula, just around 45 minutes drive. In this area stands the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and some amazing rocky coast line with beautiful beaches. On a recommendation from a friend, we headed for breakfast at Bunkers Beach Cafe at Bunker Bay. This great little cafe which is next to the Bunker Bay resort, was a lovely spot for breakfast. We sat on the terrace overlooking the dunes and the beach. The only downside had to be the flies. They were particular bothersome here, we had not really had any issues elsewhere. Apparently mid December to end of January is particularly bad for flies. There are lots of walking trails in this area, including one to the Lighthouse, although we did not do it. After breakfast we drove over to Sugarloaf Rock for more views of the coastline. Lunchtime found us in Dunsborough, a small town with a few shops and restaurants. Came across a great little cafe here called Wild and Woods, wow this place had some amazing teas, coffee's, smoothies and a fabulous array of food items, locally sourced which looked oh so mouthwatering. Dunsborough has a beach and a lovely park/boardwalk, perfect for sitting and sipping for a while. From Dunsborough to Busselton is another 30 minutes of driving, passing along the way opportunities for craft shops and even more wineries and cellar doors, if you are so inclined. The historic Jetty is the major attraction in Busselton. You pay a fee to enter the jetty, you can either walk the almost 2km jetty, or for a little more, catch the jetty train. There is also an underwater observatory at the end for viewing of the sealife of Geographe Bay.
GRACETOWN BAY AND CANAL ROCKS
Gracetown was a lovely little spot, so nice we went back twice. A sheltered beach, it is ideal for children. We just enjoyed getting a coffee from the hipster Sunsets Cafe there and sitting on the rocks at the beach for a while before heading off on further explorations. Canal Rocks is another coastal spot worth heading to. This is also an ideal sunset watching spot. Although we were not there at sunset,
We really enjoyed our time in Margaret River. Enough to keep us busy, but at the same time relaxing and laid back. Maybe the hardest part was deciding which wineries to head to, truly, so many choices, your time can be filled very easily, as well as your rental fridge and suitcase!!
Recap of the Wineries we visited:
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