The Ultimate 3 Day Mother-Child Getaway
Jacqueline Alwill, author of nutrition and wellbeing blog The Brown Paper Bag, tells us how she carved out three memorable days in the Margaret River region with her young son, Jet.
The Margaret River region is a well known destination for family holidays and for mothers wanting to spend some quality time with their kids. But how exactly would you spend three days carved out just for you and your little ones in the Margaret River region?
Jacqueline Alwill, author of nutrition and wellbeing blog Brown Paper Bag, recently spent three days in the beautiful Margaret River region with her son Jet. We asked her to share some insights into creating the perfect getaway for mums and their young ones, just in time for Mother’s Day!
For those in the coastal crew, a stop in Busselton is for you. Busselton is home to the amazing 1.7km jetty which you can experience via the Stocker Preston Express, an electric jetty train. The jetty train journey offers a beautiful view back toward Busselton, over the divine clear waters and (if you’re there at the right time) some sightings of dolphins too. It’s the perfect little family activity whilst in the cute coastal town.
Following the train ride, stop by the most highly recommended ice creamery in Australia’s South West – Busselton Gelato. To be honest we bee-lined to Busselton based on this recommendation from a waiter in Shadow Bar in Perth. If a holiday isn’t oriented around foodie attractions – is it even a holiday?
Our journey onto Margaret River and afternoon arrival at our accommodation at Margaret’s Beach Resort is a breeze and we are welcomed with the most generous hamper of delicious local cheese, muesli, fresh milk, local yoghurt, crackers and baguettes from Gourmet Food Merchant. Our hamper is an arvo saviour, not to mention our first delicious taste of the Margaret River region’s produce, before heading on to a twilight horse ride.
Yep, twilight horse ride…. magic, right? We are already falling in love with Margs, and the journey has only just started.
Our twilight ride with Humble Horse takes us through the bush in the surrounding area on the gentlest of horses we’ve ever encountered. Jet’s face of delight is completely divine whenever we are on horseback, so this was on our to-do list no matter what, but by twilight with the light and sounds of the Aussie bush surrounding us, it truly is something else. Following each twilight ride, Humble Horse sets up a cheese platter for you and your fellow riders to enjoy too.
An early start the following day is made with a tour of local certified organic, biodynamic and permaculture founded farm – Burnside Organic. These food and nutrition related, educational and inspirational experiences are those I crave when travelling through any region, and the knowledge offered to us throughout the farm tour by Lara McCall (founder, farmer and mother) was phenomenal.
And, while fruit picking wasn’t (for once!) on our agenda in Margaret River as it usually is on Jet and my travels, we found ourselves naturally immersed in the experience all the same, picking and devouring the organic produce as we walked and learned. Burnside Organic is a self-sufficient family farm not only growing produce but offering bungalows for accommodation, a vineyard and winery. For the wine lovers reading, a bottle of Burnside’s Zinfandel (organic, and preservative and sulfur free) is the most delicious souvenir.
From Burnside it’s time to get lost – the best way to travel, right? Although this getting lost is a tad different because it comes in the form of Western Australia’s giant maze experiences.
Mazes in Margs
Yallingup Maze, which is a 20 minute scenic drive through Margaret River’s most notable vineyards from Burnside Organic Farm is our first let’s-get-lost stop. The maze is the biggest timber built maze in the Margaret River region and the first maze experience Jet and I have had together.
Mazing (is that the term?) is one of the best ways to bond/compete/challenge/shoot water pistols/get totally lost as a family. And, if it’s not getting lost together, then just outside the labyrinth of walls, Yallingup Maze creates family connection with a jumping castle, cafe and more puzzles than we’d ever laid eyes on. Puzzles that will have you focused (or flailing) for hours and totally switching off to anything else, which is precisely why the family run business offer so many of them – to make it a time to switch off, become immersed, and reconnect as a family.
So, at this point I’m going to reveal that in all honesty, prior to travelling to Western Australia and Margaret River on this occasion, my perception was that it was a place for surfers and wine aficionados. I didn’t think family holidays were the ‘thing’ to do in Margaret River. Within 12 hours of being there, I am proven so very wrong, and if it’s not ice cream, jetties, twilight on horseback and mazes that convince you, then stay with me, let me introduce you to the next stage of our adventure.
Not one but two giant mazes exist in the Margaret River region (and as I understand several more)! And as for getting lost, well, taking an unexpected road found us at Yallingup Maze, but then on the journey back to Margaret River, we directed our map to a second phenomenon – A Maze’n, Australia’s largest hedge maze. This is 100% utter family delight for the outdoor, active, problem solving, garden adoring, be lost and found again loving crew. Read: Jet and yours truly.
A Maze’n is located just a few minutes outside of the main Margaret River township and is the most beautifully manicured maze and garden. You can totally lose yourself in the green walls of the maze, and then, should you choose, lose mini golf to your 8-year-old son. Kids’ natural skills with mini golf never cease to amaze me.
Following all the maze action, an afternoon-evening is spent wandering through the lovely township of Margaret River. Pottering and absorbing the warmth of the local community before an early night with snuggles and movies. Perfect down time as a family.
Now, our second full day in Margaret River proved quite the unique combination of outdoor adventure meets history, organic wine with exceptional food and ending with a charming surprise too.
Eco-Adventures Quad Biking
Meeting in the middle of the Boranup Karri Forest, the day begins with an epic Eco Adventure on eco-electric quad bikes through the forest. I’m not sure who was more stoked – both Jet and my face were so ecstatically lit up as we jumped on a quad bike together and journeyed through the forest.
The team from Eco-Adventures are bursting with knowledge of the forest, cape and surrounds and enlightened us with the history and stories of the custodians and settlers of the area. It is an eco-adventure seriously not to miss, in particular when travelling with younger kids who may not yet love the idea of long bush walks to absorb the natural environment. We may well be coming back in the future to do some of that when Jet is a bit older…
Hamelin Bay Stingrays
From Eco Quad Biking, we’re given the locals tip to head further down through the forest, a magical scenic drive, and onto Hamelin Bay to ‘pat’ the giant stingrays. Hamelin Bay is stunning, and there are most definitely some giant stingrays present but ‘pat’ them? Umm, I think I’ll keep my patting to our puppy dog. It is a great experience though, witnessing the sheer size of the rays and on a warm day braving the water is an option too.
From Hamelin we shoot a back up along the coast to Willyabrup and inland to the organic and biodynamic vineyard of Cullen Wines. This is a moment for any foodie or wine lover to melt into their happy place. A tour of the Cullen Vineyard and winery enhances our knowledge and understanding of biodynamic farming methods and viticulture and Jet has all the questions about the vines – love.
Lunch in the Cullen Restaurant following the tour is phenomenal. With produce on the menu drawn from the Cullen garden and surrounding Margaret River region, the restaurant creates an abundance of organic flavours in each dish with Cullen Wines to match for a deliciously long lunch and an afternoon of warm sunlight overlooking the vineyard.
We continue on from lunch that afternoon to the tiny but awesome town of Yallingup.
Yallingup appears to be a hidden gem in Australia’s South West, which is probably its greatest appeal. It’s a quiet, sleepy town with an insane bakery, the Yallingup Gugelhupf, providing all the refuel treats after what can only be imagined as endless surfs. We take a short drive down to see the stretch of beach at sunset before heading onto a family retreat at Premalaya.
Premalaya (accommodation, community and retreats) is a beautiful haven of relaxation with the gentlest energy, warmth and kindness from Hayley and her family who run the retreat. With its beautiful spacious black timber lodgings, you can take quiet in your own spacious apartment, or enjoy the activities increasingly on offer.
On a personal note, for Jet and I, arriving to a family of similar ages and interests, keen to jump on the trampoline, kick a footy or shoot hoops was the loveliest of surprises. As a mum, Premalaya allowed me to sculpt out the time to practice yoga for the first time in many months. Small things make such a difference, don’t they?
Our sleep at Premalaya is deep and peaceful, so we are ready for an action fueled day of exploring the rest of the Margaret River region.
Smith’s Beach, Canal Rocks & Injidup Spas
‘Absolute wonder’ are the only words to describe these stunning locations around the Yallingup area. Smith’s Beach is a hit for the avid big wave surfer, long walks on the whitest of sand, or simple afternoons enjoying a picnic. And whilst our time there was short, it would undoubtedly be a location to return to with a number of accommodation options in the area too.
Canal Rocks showcases a dramatic rock formation with waves crashing through the canals carved throughout. Words don’t do these places justice. Photos can do better, but experiencing it is what would do most. And that you should.
From Canal Rocks head on to Injidup Spas. A natural oceanic spa set on the coast, I’ll go out there and say – this is my absolute highlight in Western Australia. I could sit for hours and absorb what Mother Nature has created here. The most crystal clear of waters and waves funnelling through intricately woven channels into the natural spa – it’s mind blowing. As locals tell me, Injidup was only recently (the past 3 years or so) put on the map for visitors to the Yallingup area. For this we are beyond grateful; Injidup simply cannot be missed.
Yallingup Surf School
Our oceanic adventures move further on to Yallingup Beach with a surf lesson with Yallingup Surf School. Surf lessons are definitely something the whole family can enjoy, even though I may have been the only mum in a school holiday surf camp; but moving right along… Run by Crystal and her gorgeous family, we are taken into the warm (ish!), relatively shallow but safe reef waters in the corner of Yallingup Beach which creates the perfect learner environment. And whilst the waves are consistently cranking out the back for those more experienced surfers, we confidently (well, Jet more so than I) catch some of the more reasonably sized waves to get our surfing hit.
With surfing and ocean exploring comes an insane appetite, and we venture on to the locals’ absolute favourite restaurant – Yarri in Dunsborough. Yarri showcases a fusion of modern Australian cuisine and a tribute to the Aboriginal custodians of the land integrating Australian bush native ingredients, to create an insane menu.
Chef Aaron Carr is present in the kitchen and upon being seated at the kitchen bar we immediately connect and launch into conversation on the inspiration and ingredients poured into the menu. The bar nibbles to start are a flavour explosion with burnt pumpkin, nori and togarashi and a corn red pepper and manchego croquette.
The main course delivers on everything I crave – barramundi, tomato, fennel, pistachio and clams. Feeling inspired, this may well carry back to Sydney with me for a recipe influenced by our travels to WA – stay tuned.
FAREWELL TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA, FOR NOW…
A final morning visit to Yallingup Beach reveals the biggest, cleanest swell we’ve witnessed in our travels through Western Australia, plus a delicious brekky at local haunt, Shaana Cafe. As we jump in the car from Margaret River back to Perth and continue home to Sydney, I turn to Jet and ask for his favourite part of our holiday. He ponders a little. “I loved lots of things in Western Australia Mum,” he said, “but I really liked that we didn’t have to rush and we could just relax together.” And that really does sum it up. Western Australia, whilst on one side can be an action packed, eco-adventurer’s, adrenaline seeker’s dream, is just as much a family fuelled, wine and food loving, totally chilled experience too.
Jacqueline visited the Margaret River region as a guest of the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association and Australia’s South West. This blog has been adapted from a piece Jacqueline wrote for her own blog, The Brown Paper Bag.