This is a classic roadie for the adventurer chasing a sense of nostalgia and freedom. Surfing culture is ingrained in the Australian way of life and whether you surf or not, there is an element of general abandon and good humour that comes with exploring the coast with a few mates. Autumn is one of the best seasons for offshore winds and glassy conditions, and the beginning of winter sees huge swell to the region. It’s no wonder the Margaret River Pro is normally placed at the end of May or beginning of June.
Start in Yallingup – the heart of surf country. This is where the pioneer surfers carved out the first tracks down to the beaches, when the Caves House Hotel was their club house sanctuary, and when a good night’s sleep meant a hammock under the Melaleucas. Smiths Beach on a small day is better if you aren’t too experienced and Yallingup Mainbreak is the place to check if you don’t mind a paddle out over reef. This break, and nearby Rabbits, are local surfer Taj Burrow’s regular haunts so clearly not for the faint-hearted. Rabbits can be hollow, shallow and fast – so you’ll want to be well-practised. At Yallingup Mainbreak, a swim or snorkel in the lagoon is always a great post-surf activity too.
Back in the car, head south along Caves Road and if a local has let you in on the secret, you can check out Guillotines and Gallows. You’ll want a four wheel drive for this stint of the journey as well as a an air compressor, plenty of water and experience with tackling a bumpy drive, but you’ll be rewarded by excellent surf and deserted beaches. Legendary local surfer Kevin ‘Legs’ Merifield is famed for discovering and naming Guillotines back in the 50’s when he called it a ‘cut-throat’ wave. Now an octogenarian, Kevin is a full bottle on most of the breaks in the region, and is still a regular out in the surf.
If you’re looking for a more accessible beach with some community vibes, carry on south to Gracetown. Scenes from the feature film ‘Drift’, about the beginnings of surf culture in Western Australia and starring Sam Worthington, were shot in Gracetown. You’ll realise why when you descend into town. With fibro beach shacks fanning their way around the bay, a quaint general store and an old petrol pump, it really does feel like you’ve stepped back in time. For a mellow A-frame, head to Huzza’s. Famed for its armies of groms and beginners, it is definitely a fun and easier break. North Point handles a heavy swell and is where the Margaret River Pro is sometimes re-routed when the weather calls for it. If you aren’t up for the challenge there, it’s a great place to just sit and watch other surfers get barrelled. Tip: A pie from Gracie’s General Store is incredibly tasty spectator stodge.
The road trip isn’t complete without finishing up at perhaps one of Australia’s most iconic surf destinations. Surfer’s Point in Margaret River is a beautiful paddle out through a key-hole lagoon. If there’s a sea breeze, you’ll find wind surfers and kite surfers enjoying the breaks too. Surfer’s Point has a beautiful vantage point with tiered steps and grass, and food vans will pull in from the late afternoon, as groups of people set up picnics on the lawn. If you’ve arrived here by sunset, you may have timed this road trip perfectly.