Your Ultimate Mid-Year Getaway
10 reasons you need to head to the Margaret River region this winter
The Margaret River Region has a certain otherworldly allure. Where else can you explore underground caves, walk among towering karri trees, hear the thumping echo of monstrous swells, and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean all in one day? The Margaret River region offers it all, along with world-class wine and dining, and incredible walking and cycling trails.
Stretching from the family-friendly beach town of Busselton down to the seaside nature hub of Augusta, the Margaret River region is an enticing mosaic of pristine natural wonders, undulating vineyards, premium wineries and world-class restaurants, towering forests and incredible coastal panoramas. Only 110km end to end, you can explore the whole thing in one trip – but you’ll definitely leave wanting more. So before the city blues really start to set in, check out these ten reasons why you should make Margaret River your mid-year getaway.
1. The Coast Is Your Own
The rugged cliffs and pristine bays of the Margaret River coastline are about as far from bustling city life as you can get. Nestled into a cave-carved limestone ridge, the region is bookended by two picturesque capes – Cape Naturaliste in the north, boasting unparalleled views of tranquil Geographe Bay (home to bottlenose dolphins!), and Cape Leeuwin in the south, which in the colder seasons takes on a desolate beauty as the roaring Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean meet. The Cape to Cape track connects these two points and offers walking and hiking opportunities that take you to some of the most untouched pieces of the coastline and some incredible viewpoints, including over the hallmark Sugarloaf Rock and the little-known Wilyabrup Sea Cliffs. As you meander this self-guidable track, you will find yourself entirely alone, surrounded by nothing except fresh, salty air and vistas of the expansive big blue. The track will even take you right down onto the shores, where you can squelch your toes in the bright white sand and meditate for a moment to the sound of crashing swell. Make sure you look out for migrating whales as you walk!
2. Experience World Class Food and Wine
It’s no secret that Margaret River boasts internationally recognised gastronomy and world-class winemaking. In the way of wine, the region is unique in the global industry due to its proximity to the coast – the cooler temperatures and coastal proximity make for distinct varietal characteristics. Margaret River is best known for its fresh yet complex Chardonnays and lively, warming Cabernets, but winemakers across the region are also innovating new wave wine. You can visit cellar doors almost any day of the week and receive guided tastings of the region’s premium wines – some wineries even offer tours of their vineyards, which give you a glimpse into the history and process of winemaking in the region. In the same vein, the region is also home to an ever-increasing number of breweries, cideries and distilleries, which offer a more casual atmosphere, a variety of enjoyable beverages and usually a downright delicious lunch. Speaking of eating, your trip to the Margaret River region will not be void of exclusive dining and a taste of the freshest, highest quality local produce there is. In winter, chef’s around the region make use of marron, a freshwater crayfish endemic to Margaret River and surrounds, as well as Hapuka (deep water fish), ground saltbush (foraged from the region’s coastal plain) and abalone. Some wineries also host fine food restaurants which provide the perfect winter hideaway: imagine a bottle of peppery Cabernet enjoyed over a long lunch, surrounded by nothing but grapevines, dams, lakes and forest. Modern Australian dining is certainly the dominant cuisine – and much of this is influenced by Aboriginal seasonal knowledge and made with native ingredients – but you can also sink your teeth into top quality Japanese, Mediterranean tapas and hearty, family style Italian.
3. Access Adventure
The monotony of everyday life can really diminish your sense of adventure, but visiting the Margaret River region will send that sense into overdrive. Caves Road, which connects the small beach town of Dunsborough to Margaret River and, further south, Augusta, is a narrow winding road that slithers through jarrah and karri forests and cuts around vineyards big and small. And then of course, there’s adventure to be had in the many unique pockets of the region and the diverse experiences they play host to. Alternative tours are on the rise in Margaret River, so if you love to do things differently and get a sense of exclusivity, these are for you. Imagine touring the entire stretch of cape to cape coast by helicopter, taking a sip ‘n’ cycle tour through forests, zip lining through tall trees, or catching a break at an uncrowded beach.
4. Experience the Taste of Truffles
Winter in the Margaret River region means truffles, and top chefs from around the region hero the product on their menus. Vasse Felix, Cape Lodge and Yarri are a selection of restaurants where you can taste the prized local treasure.
Truffles and pasta are a classic combo. As Vasse Felix, you’ll find pappardelle tossed through a pecorino and burnt butter emulsion with cured and confit egg yolk and a generous amount of truffle. Of course, you’ll need to choose a perfect match from the wine list. Brendan Pratt, head chef at Vasse Felix suggests a Cabernet Sauvignon match due to the savoury earth driven style you find in Margaret River. “Truffles are also a great match for our Chardonnays as they tend to lend themselves to similar flavour and texture profiles that we see when we match a dish with our Chardonnay. Ie. butter, garlic, a little sweetness, lightly smoky, very mild acid, miso, earthy vegetable”, he says.
Chef Tony Howell at Cape Lodge also delivers truffle on the menu offering a classic French take of the delicacy. Expect wintery dishes such as French gnocchi, beurre blanc, spinach, comte, and freshly harvested shaved truffle.
5. It’s a Whale Watchers Haven
The coast between Augusta and Busselton sees 35,000 whales travel the stretch of coast annually. It is quite a sight to spot a beautiful mother humpback whale moving calmly through the ocean with her calves in tow. From June to early December, you can get a prime spot to see it from, too. Multiple chartering services take visitors out to see migrating whales pass through the Leeuwin-Naturaliste waters, where sightings of breaching humpbacks and flicking whale tails surprise and excite. These majestic creatures are mesmerising to watch as they move through the water with ease, but you don’t have to be on a boat tour to see them. The region’s coastline provides many vantage points for whale watching, including the two lighthouses that stand tall at either end.
6. Explore Underground Caves
It is difficult to choose the best cave tour in Your Margaret River Region. You can marvel at the reflections on Lake Cave’s permanent lake, be dwarfed in Jewel Cave’s enormous chambers and take it easy on the Mammoth Cave self- guided tour. At Yallingup’s Ngilgi Cave (pronounced ‘nilgi‘), you will learn the Aboriginal legend as you look up at limestone shawl formations– or delve deeper into the cave on an adventure tour. Formed approximately 1 million years ago, a number of these complex and fragile karst systems are open to the public. Go inside and be amazed by these massive labyrinths decorated intricately with limestone crystal formations. You can also find Megafauna fossils – giant creatures that roamed the forest 50 000 years ago. Tasmanian devil and thylacine bones have also been unearthed. Cave tours range from ‘at your own pace’ self guided tours, guided tours along boardwalks, to crawling and climbing adventure tours.
7. Hit the Trails
While the Margaret River region is famous for its summertime, the options for adventure do not disappear over winter. The Margaret River region is home to an abundance of biking trails and tracks for all levels. Families can access the forest trails in and around the Margeret River starting at The Hairy Marron (where bike hire is also available). Busselton and Dunsborough offer fantastic bike tracks along Geographe Bay where facilities en-route allow you to stop for coffee or whale-spotting along the way. Augusta has some great unbeaten tracks too, and taking in the rugged coastline along the marina, Flinders Bay and towards Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is a stunning way to take in the elements.
8. Watch Indian Ocean Sunsets
It’s a fact: there is nothing better than watching the sun set over the ocean. You can’t put a price on the incredible sunsets of the Margaret River region, which cast bright pinks, purple and orange across the sky and light up the ocean. Pull up a seat on the sand (perhaps with a bottle of Margaret River wine purchased on your wine tour earlier that day), or find a spot in the rocky coastline to sit and enjoy. Cosied up in a jumper and sipping on a glass of red, watch as the sky changes colour and the sun dips below the horizon – you’ll want to stay forever.
9. Go Glamping Under the Stars
Glamping adds a touch of glamour to an outdoor expedition while holding onto the heart of a real campout with those things money can’t buy: nights under the stars, special company and an open fire. Whether your idea of luxury involves a plush doona, a bell tent or a full on bathroom in your outdoor abode, the Margaret River region features something for everyone. Mile End Glamping is the ultimate in barefoot luxury. Tents are fully equipped with a private outdoor spa bath and BBQ deck. Inside, the bathroom comes complete with a rainfall shower that you can jump straight into your king-sized canopy bed from. With a canopy of Jarrah, Marri, Peppermint and Eucalypt trees surrounding the accommodation, animal lovers and bird watchers will be in for a field day.
Olio Bello’s offers an unforgettable lakeside glamping experience on its spectacular 320 acre organic olive farm, only minutes from the pristine beaches of Gracetown. Surrounded by 8000 olive trees, the property boasts six luxury safari-style bungalows nestled around the lake. Guests can wander through the olive groves, enjoy a long lunch in the Cafe, sample oils, gourmet and organic produce, or just sit back and catch the sunset as it sweeps in across the lake.
10. Learn About Local Aboriginal Culture
The Margaret River region is home to the Wadandi and Bibbulmun people of the Noongar nation, who have walked on and cared for this country for tens of thousands of years. Today, Aboriginal people share their cultural knowledge and unique seasonal understanding of the region through cultural tours available to visitors. These tours take you to traditional meeting places and landmarks where native food sources still abound, and share with you traditional hunting and fishing techniques, toolmaking, song, dance and language. Experience a traditional Welcome to Country, go fishing with a Traditional Owner and taste freshly caught fish smoked on the shore, journey into Ngilgi Cave and hear the sound of the Didgeridoo resonate within it, or have a bush tucker inspired gourmet food experience whilst looking out over the Leeuwin-Naturalise waters. These experiences are a unique way to connect to boodja (country) and to gain insight into both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture.
This article was originally written by Emma Pegrum in 2019 and repurposed in 2020 by Your Margaret River Region’s marketing team