The easiest thing about getting to Margaret River; is actually getting to Margaret River.
Assuming you’ve flown in on the red eye, just jump in the hire car, set the sat-nav and three and half hours later you can be throwing out the picnic rug at Surfers Point just in time to watch the sun dip ever so slowly into the Indian Ocean.
But let’s also assume you’re here to surf. Cracking the code of a coastline containing 75 breaks along a 130-kilometre stretch? Not so easy.
The golden rule, according to, well everyone who lives here, is if you find yourself looking at a good wave, go surf it. As tempting as it is to jump back in the car and go look for somewhere better, the law of averages dictates it ain’t going to happen.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent hours and hours driving up and down the cape looking for a better wave,” says former pro surfer and long time local, Jake Paterson.
So where to begin? The easiest way is to picture the region for what it is, a clump of billion-year-old limestone and granite jutting out into the raw Indian Ocean.
To the north is Cape Naturaliste, as good a place as any to begin your journey.
The eastern side of the Cape is home to several stunning beaches all featuring gin-clear water and squeaky soft sand. To top it off, it’s protected from the buffeting sou-westerly winds that typically kick in shortly after mid morning each day.
The area does require a bit of swell (3+metres) to get going, but there are several spots on offer, all easily accessible off Cape Naturaliste Road. Castle Rock, Meelup and Point Picquet can all be good, but the real jewels in this crown are The Farm and Boneyards.
To access these spots, park at the end of Bunker Bay road and walk south along Bunker Bay. Both offer peaky left and right-handers that can still pack a punch.
Head across to the other side of the cape and things start to get a bit more serious. The first spot of note is Three Bears. Getting there requires four-wheel-drive access along Sugar Loaf Road, but with three distinct waves (Mama, Papa and Baby Bears) on offer, it is worth the teeth rattling drive. The spot works best in a south west swell with anything from east to nor-east winds.
Further down the coast is Yallingup, home to Taj Burrow, Rabbit Hill and Yallingup Main Break, the birthplace of surfing in the southwest.
Rabbits is a serious wave set on a spectacular beach, it works in west or southwest swells and favours an easterly wind. It first came to the world’s attention after its heaving right-hander was featured in Taj’s first two biographical movies, Montaj and Sabotaj. “Rabbits is my favourite wave in the area,” says Jake. “It’s everything you want in a wave, challenging, fun, heavy and always keeps you on your toes.”
Yallingup Main Break in all its glory is a sight to behold, funnelling left and right-handers breaking a short paddle off the beach. Like most spots in the region, it prefers an easterly wind, but given it is fairly sheltered, it can handle a bit of this and a bit of that.
Depending on who you ask, the first surfers set up camp in the Melaleuca trees on the beach back in the 50’s, surfing all day and enjoying the ‘’refreshments” at nearby Caves House of an evening. Leaving Yallingup and heading south along Caves Road is one of life’s little pleasures. The road cuts through some beautiful bushland peppered with the first of many vineyards and rolling hills. Yet, there’s only time to get started before it’s time to slow down, turn into Canal Rocks road and stop off at Smiths Beach.
This glorious beach throws up several different waves of varying difficulty, the most challenging being Super Tubes, found at the far northern end. Put short, Super Tubes is a serious wave breaking over sharp reef in shallow water. As such, it has become the go to spot for visiting professional surfers looking to spruce up a web clip. It breaks best in a sou-west swell on most tides with an easterly wind.
Back out onto Caves Road and down the coast a couple of kilometres is Wyadup Road which leads to Indjidup, home to three breaks, Car Parks, The Point and Pea Break. All break best in a sou-east wind, though The Point can also be surfed in a sou-westerly. Pea Break is the pick of these three spots, though also the most fickle. Car Parks is one of the more consistent waves along the coast and consequently the most crowded.
Adjectives don’t really do justice to the next couple of beaches, so best turn down Moses Rock Road and see for yourself. Moses Rock and Honeycombs can both be found at the end of the road, turn right for Moses Rock (a gentle left hander) and left for Honeycombs. Both prefer a straight westerly swell and easterly wind but are worth a visit regardless for their sheer beauty.
It wasn’t that long ago that the next two breaks, Gallows and Guillotines, were off limits to anyone not in possession of a four-wheel drive or a good pair of boots. Access is off Juniper Road then on to a pot-holed dusty track. Over the years the track has been groomed to the point where any car will get down it (though best not mention that to your car hire company!) These two spots work best in straight west swells and easterly winds and break over reef. Probably not a good spot for beginners but not the heaviest waves in the region either, but the next spot on the coast might just be.
“Gracetown is like a one big playground,” says pro surfer and local, Jerome Forrest.
“There is every type of wave you could imagine on offer within a couple minutes drive. Big, small, high performance and plenty of spots for beginners. It’s incredible.”
Head west along Cowaramup Bay Road and the first sweeping views of the Indian Ocean will come into view and just around the corner and down the hill a bit is North Point, perhaps the most heavy duty, and crowded waves on the coast when conditions align (south west swell and easterly wind). If the swell is over 2.5m pretty much anyone who’s anyone will be out at North Point so in all honesty, it’s worth just posting on the rocks and watching the action.
Alternatively, there are plenty of other waves on offer in Cowaramup Bay. Huzzas and South Point are a great alternative and also good for beginner to intermediate surfers, though you can expect to be sharing the line up with a mix of grommets and “elderly” folk. Both also act as some of the few waves that are still surfable in a south-west wind.
Drive through Gracetown, follow the road south on Salter Drive and follow the road to a subtle right hand turn onto a dirt track that will bring you to two other breaks, Cobblestones and Big Rock. Again, like many spots in the region, they break over reef and work best in straight west swells with easterly winds.
If neither spot tickles your fancy, a minutes’ drive away is another car park with a view along a stretch of coast known as Ellensbrook. Home to a multitude of breaks of varying skill level but ones that come at a cost, they all require a lengthy walk. The first three (Ulus, Noisies and Lefties) are relatively easy waves while the next one along, Umbies, has a habit of breaking boards, which can be a dispiriting affair given it’s a solid 30 minute walk to get to.
The remaining couple waves on this stretch are best accessed from the opposite end, which is a brisk 10-minute drive south on Caves Road before turning into Ellensbrook Road.
Ellensbrook Mainbreak is one of the more consistent waves on the coast while nearby Ellensbrook Bombie is capable of throwing up waves in the 15-20 foot range. The remaining spot, known as The Womb, is what you’d call a specialty wave, in that it delivers perfect left hand barrels but also has a habit of breaking bones. Local winemaker and big wave guru Damon Eastaugh famously suffered a horrific compound fracture surfing there some years ago. Approach with caution.
After all that, it’s time to finally head to the breaks of Margaret River and to get there, head south along Caves Road and turn right on Walcliffe Road. Head west past the cemetery and golf course and one the world’s greatest vistas will come into view. The first glorious view of the Indian Ocean as you come around the last bend never gets old. A quick right onto Surfers Point Road will deliver you to the now world famous Margaret River Mainbreak, also known as Surfers Point.
From the car park (conditions permitting) The Box can be seen to the right breaking a short distance out to sea. The Box, much like The Womb is in that “Specialty Wave” category. It’s an intense wave that lurches up out of deep water to break on a shallow jagged reef and is best on an easterly wind.
If you’d rather a beach break, closer to shore is Rivermouth, a haphazard, punchy wave that can be surfable in all wind directions. It’s also the spot that gave birth to the style of many of the area’s up and comers, Jack Robinson, Shaun Manners and Jacob Willcox, to name a few.
“Rivermouth’s a fun little wave when it’s on,” says Willcox.
“It one of the most consistent spots in the area too so you can almost always score a couple of waves there.”
Then there’s Surfers Point itself, easily one of the most consistent waves on the entire coast, but a humbling one at that.
Fortunately, it is made up of two waves, Mainbreak and Southsides, which both offer left and right handers, which tends to disperse the crowd somewhat though most of the attention is focused on Mainbreak. Both draw any swell and can be surfed in a variety of winds (south through to northerly) and can handle some serious size. Mainbreak often reaches 20 feet so it’s worth having a good hard look before paddling out.
To the left of both waves and across the channel is Margaret River Bombie. Many a surfer has been lured across to Bombie only to find it is much bigger than it looked from the safety of the car park. Again, worth a long hard look before paddling out.
Further south is Boatramps, another big wave spot. Slightly more forgiving (and only slightly) than Bombie, Boatramps is a long left hander that requires a big board and confidence in your ability to swim long distances should your leg rope break.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Further along Walcliffe Road are Grunters and Gas Point. Both are challenging waves capable of breaking boards but also offering nice barrels.
The car park overlooking Grunters is a beautiful spot to look out over the ocean though it is also often a hive of activity, due in part to the number of local kids being dropped off before and after school to surf the beach and smaller reef breaks surrounding it. The long stretch of beach you’ll see from the car park looking south is Boodjidup, which like every spot in the region enjoys the predominant sou-west swell with a south-to-south east wind. It can get crowded, though it is similar to the Ellensbrook stretch, the further you’re prepared to walk, the less of an issue the crowds will be.
The remaining two waves along this magnificent coast might very well be the most beautiful and given what’s on offer, that is saying something.
Heading south along Caves Road, the scenery reverts back to stunning rolling hills with cows and horses grazing in the paddocks. Massive trees line the side of the road creating a natural tunnel in some places. Before long, you’ll note Redgate Road, turn here, follow the gently winding road and prepare to be amazed. After a day of surfing heavy reef breaks, Redgate offers a nice easy beach break set among beautiful coastal dunes and ancient granite boulders. It also likes swell from the south to south-west with easterly wind, but its location offers some protection from all the variables, so it is often worth a look when all else fails.
Further down Caves Road is another unforgettable sight. The corner leading into Boranup Forest often catches tourists (and still the odd local) unaware. Seemingly out of nowhere, the sight of hundreds of giant karri trees almost appears to be an optical illusion. Thankfully, a well-positioned parking bay has recently been created and it’s worth pulling over and soaking the spectacle in, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Access to Boranup Beach is via the turnoff marked Boranup Drive and a short drive along a bumpy dirt track (again, do able in most cars, but one you might not want to tell the hire car company you’re planning to take on.) At the end of the track, it’s a short walk over the sand dune to the beach itself, which is several kilometres long. Boranup offers a powerful beach break type wave and can hold waves up into the overhead range. Worth looking at once the swell gets to 3m (as it will generally be smaller) but works just as well when it is smaller.
From there, it’s onwards to Augusta, home to a novelty right hand wave at the mouth of the Blackwood River. It needs swell over 3m from the south-east with a nor west wind to really get going.
Between all the spots listed are a tonne of nooks and crannies known to offer perfect waves in the right conditions that are worth exploring if you have the time. All of which combine to make the Margaret River region the world-renowned surfing spot it is.
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