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? Margaret River offers it all, along with world-class wine and dining, incredible walking and cycling trails, and a year-round calendar of unique events.
The region is one of Australia’s most compact yet strikingly diverse holiday destinations. Now, with Jetstar flying from Melbourne to Busselton four times a week, interstate and international visitors can experience this unique part of the world via a direct flight.
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 uncroweded beach.
4. Experience Events in Unique Settings
From Autumn through to Spring, the Margaret River region has a solid line up of events celebrating food and wine, adventure sports, and cultural showcases.
From April 22nd – May 2nd, Margaret River becomes a surfer’s playground for the Margaret River Pro. Kelly Slater, John John Florence, and Taj Burrow have won the trophy for the Pro in years past, and there is always a buzz in the community at this time of year, whether you are a surfer or not. Mainbreak, colloquially known as ‘the point’ in Margaret River, becomes a hive of activity during The Pro. Tiers of lawn forming a natural theatre seating, become the perfect viewpoint for spectators watching the competition. There are also satellite events and music for kids, keynote speakers for environmentalists, and extra public entertainment held over the 12 day period.
For arts lovers, visitors can also catch the Margaret River Region Open Studios from late April to early May. More than 100 artists open their studio doors to visitors, offering up a chance to visit private art studios and meet established and emerging artists like Leon Pericles, Rachel Coad, Rebecca Cool, and Ian Mutch. The Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival in May offers a wonderful setting for book lovers to engage with international writers, and Jazz by the Bay in June gives visitors the opportunity to hear the sounds of Jazz in local bars, and within the natural amphitheatre of the underground caves.
For culture lovers travelling later in the year, catch CinefestOZ Film Festival (Australia’s biggest regional film festival) in Busselton. Strings Attached Guitar Festival is also a wonderful three day event celebrating guitar makers, players, and enthusiasts.
If food is more your thing, time your trip to the Margaret River region with Truffle Kerfuffle or the internationally renowned, Gourmet Escape.
5. It’s a Whale Watchers Haven
Melbourne’s towering skyscrapers might offer phenomenal views of the city, but one thing you won’t spot is a beautiful mother humpback whale moving calmly through the ocean with her calves in tow. From June to early December, this sight is a common one in the waters of the Margaret River region, and 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. Rug Up for Cabin Fever Festival
While the Margaret River region is famous for its summertime, the buzz and character of the region doesn’t disappear throughout winter. In fact, with the Cabin Fever Festival running over ten days in July, the amount of seam-splitting comfort food, fireside brews and good vibes to be consumed goes through the roof. The Festival draws together a bunch of gourmet chocolate, cheese and coffee appreciation events, wine dinners, degustation menus and bonfires, at which you can mix and meet with locals and travellers alike. Showcasing the very best of what the cooler months in the Margaret River region have to offer, Cabin Fever Festival is made up of more than thirty unique events at some of the region’s most iconic venues, as well as at some of the hidden spots that you just wouldn’t see otherwise.
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.
Tucked down the southern end of the cape, you might have guessed from their name that Boogaloo Surf & Yoga is a top pick for active glampers. The Augusta campsite is full of gorgeous bell tents, all ready and set up for you on arrival. All you need to do is unpack, roll out your yoga mat and get your zen on.
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.