Cheap & Cheerful
School Holiday Inspiration
Fun doesn’t have to cost the earth, in any sense of the phrase. Lizzy Pepper finds a wealth of ecofriendly adventures in the Margaret River region that won’t hit you hard in the hip pocket. Welcome to the south west – where there’s fresh air, starry night skies, pristine beaches and awesome forests.
What a joy it is share the wonder of nature with our kids – and what better place to explore than one the 34 global biodiversity hotspots – and the only one in Australia? Here are 11 amazing family adventures that don’t cost the earth; they help kids appreciate our environment, and won’t break the bank.
Meet the Woylies
A Woylie is a critically endangered nocturnal marsupial that looks like a quokka but hops like a kangaroo. They’re protected by a fox-proof fence at Yelverton Brook Eco Retreat, where we arrived at dusk and walked through the bush to a clearing. Guides Ryan and Michael put on a billy of tea, called the woylies by shaking their food tin, and within minutes we had seven greedy quendas and three shy woylies grazing by our feet.
Not just for kids and international visitors, anyone who loves native animals should do this tour. Also on offer: eco tours around Cape Naturaliste.
South West Eco Discoveries, Meet the Woylies.
Tour, runs every evening, year-round. Family (2 adults, 2 children) $120.
Sunset kangaroo safari
This kangaroo tour takes place on Neil and Coralie McLeod’s family farm just a few minutes from Margaret River. We drove across paddocks in Neil’s lovingly restored 1962 red Bedford Truck, into the bushland where Western Grey kangaroos jumped nimbly between trees. Some roos came up close for a photo, others lazed about in the shade – the kids were ecstatic.
Neil makes billy tea on the campfire, and slices up Coralie’s excellent homemade orange cake. Sitting by the creek, breathing in the scent of eucalypts and marvelling at vivid wildflowers at sunset – this is the life!
McLeod Tours, Sunset Kangaroo Safari Tours, runs daily 5.30pm in summer.
Adults $55. Children $35.
Hedge maze and gardens
A real hedge maze right here in Margaret River – and it’s quite a challenge finding your way in and out. We could easily have spent a whole day here playing mini golf, having a BBQ lunch (BYO supplies, the BBQs are free), admiring the gardens and relaxing on the lawn. There’s a playground and café too.
Did you know that native Australian plants are pollinated by birds, and northern European plants are pollinated by bees? Hence the fragrant rose garden was abuzz with bees, and there were parrots, cockatoos and other birds among the native garden.
TIP bring a pram or pushchair if it’s hot and your kids are young. The maze was built with families in mind and is wide enough to accommodate one.
Amaze’n Margaret River, 9978 Bussell Highway. Open 9am-5pm. Family mazeand garden (2 adults, 2 children): $63.
Busselton Jetty Train
All aboard the shiny red train for a journey on the longest wooden jetty in the world! The famous jetty is the pride of Busselton, and its survived cyclones and fires in its 151 years.
The shiny red solar-powered train takes you 1.8km out to sea, where you’ll find the Underwater Observatory. Observatory tickets cost a little more, but it’s worth it to see the coral, fish, starfish and other critters that call the jetty home.
Busselton Jetty. Jetty open 24 hours, Train 9am-5pm.
Adult return train ticket: $13.50. Child (age 3-14): $6.75.
Fruit grows on trees, not at the supermarket! What a joy it is to see your kids excitedly picking fruit and eating it. There’ll hopefully be apples growing at Wonky Windmill in January/February, but check the website first. We visited in spring when the whole orchard was perfumed by orange blossom – what a glorious scent! Buy a combo ticket and you can also feed the animals – rabbits, guinea pigs, alpacas, goats, horses and kangaroos.
Wonky Windmill, 218 Yelverton North Road.
Adults fruit picking: $12. Children: $10. Fruit and feeding the animals: extra.
Mountain biking at Dunsborough Country Club and Meelup Trails
Bring your bikes or hire from Bike Shed – they have standard and premium mountain bikes perfect for hitting the trails. Lee from the Bike Shed suggests the Dunsborough Country Club trails for younger kids – he’s even seen pre-schoolers on balance bikes on these trails. Families with teenagers will love the challenge of the Meelup Trails, 7km with ocean glimpses.
Enter opposite Endicott Loop. Bike Shed, 1/10 Clark Street Dunsborough.
Adult half day premium bike hire: $60. Children: $20.
Ever wanted to run away with the circus?
Festival Circus Training Week
This incredible circus summer school encourages young circus, gymnastic and dance trainees to partake in a two-week program that caters for everyone from tiny toddlers all the way to teen and adult performers. Developing their skills in acrobatics, hand-balancing, aerial arts and object manipulations, this is an opportunity to connect and train with the best circus professionals from all over the world. The opportunity to discuss career paths and professional development with their peers is an invaluable resource, and one of the reasons that Australian circus festivals are so popular. Those with a serious ambition to run away with the circus can participate in a third week performance intensive and present their new works in the Big Top at the West Australian Circus Festival.
The summer school takes place from January 21 to 25.
Book at lunarcircus.com/
Surf, swim and snorkel
Nothing beats a refreshing dip at the beach. I’d recommend the beaches on Geographe Bay for families with younger children – Meelup, Castle Rock, Dunsborough, Quindalup and Busselton beaches are relatively calm and sometimes quite shallow. Yallingup Beach lagoon is also great for kids – it’s enclosed by reef, but the water is colder on the ocean side.
Fancy hiring a standup paddle-board, kayak, body board or snorkel? Head to peaceful Meelup, where there’s beach hire, plenty of shade and free BBQs. Alternatively, cruise the Margaret River on a kayak or standup paddle-board – they’re available for hire from Rivermouth Road, Prevelly.
There’s surf schools in Yallingup and Margaret River for kids and adults.
Sunset BBQ at Surfers Point
Top off a beautiful day with a sunset BBQ at Surfers Point. Take an esky with all your meats, salads and cold drinks, or grab picnic supplies from The Larder or Blue Ginger. The free BBQs come with the best ocean view ever. There’s no playground, but a big grassed area, so bring your cricket set or frisbee.
Stargazing the milky way
Minimal light pollution makes for fabulous stargazing. Find a comfy patch of grass – ideally near the beach so you can enjoy the sound of the ocean, and marvel at the stars.
Make it educational with a stargazing app such as SkyView.
There’s a big population of endangered ringtail possums living in the peppermint trees of Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River. You’ll find them in the peppies after dusk, just take a torch and wait quietly. Local groups Geocatch and Nature Conservation run free possum night walks – check their websites for details.
Visit geocatch.asn.au, natureconservation.org.au
Cruise the Blackwood in a dinghy
The Blackwood River runs 300km, emerging in Flinders Bay, Augusta. Check out this peaceful river on a boat, kayak, Indian canoe or stand up paddleboard.
Augusta Boat Hire, 1 Ellis Street Augusta.
Movies under the stars
It seems that we can’t get enough of the outdoor movie scene in Your Margaret River Region – what began as the territory of flagship winery Cape Mentelle in Margaret River has now spread across the region, with screenings taking place in Busselton, Dunsborough and Yallingup.
Children’s movies are featured heavily in the timetables, with favourites such as Frozen, Smurfs The Lost Village and The Search for Santa Paws.
For more information about Summer’s outdoor cinema sessions visit: https://www.margaretriver.com/stories-your-outdoor-cinema-roundup-2017/