Top Ten: Spring School Holidays
Keep the kids happy this spring
How lucky are we in Western Australia, being able to send our kids to school and have a holiday – so many Aussie families are still home schooling and staying home.
The best spring holiday adventures are outdoors, so Lizzy Pepper has curated some of her favourite family activities with a good dose of environmental education. Important note: be sure to book ahead for any bookable experiences to ensure you don’t miss out. Enjoy!
School holiday fun for the whole family at Jesters Flat
Saddle Up for a Horse Ride through the Bush
The next best thing to owning a pony is to take one on a bush ride, right? My daughter, aged eight, dreams of converting her bedroom into a stable, so a ride through wildflowers, marri trees and wattle at Jesters Flat is a special treat.
Named after Australian poets and arts figures, handsome Australian stock horses are bred and raised by the Jesters Flat team. We rode brother and sister horses, Clancy [of the Overflow] and Paterson, on a Beginners Bushwalk, led by competent and caring trainers who love the wildflowers and native flora too. This particular tour is taken at walking pace, perfect for young children or first-time riders.
They also offer Saddle Club, and a range of horse rides including through Boranup Forest, a beach ride in Busselton and multi-day riding retreats. Book ahead as tours fill up quickly.
Walk Softly on Country
My only regret about school – I wish we’d learnt more about the traditional owners of this beautiful land. Jump aboard a Ngilgi Cave Cultural Tour with Koomal Dreaming for an incredible new perspective on the Aussie bush. Josh Whiteland is a Wadandi cultural custodian and an incredible storyteller, sharing knowledge of his saltwater ancestors and his love for his home, Cape Naturaliste.
The whole family will be mesmerised by Josh’s firelighting demo – especially if you too spent hours as a kid unsuccessfully rubbing sticks together, as well as a didgeridoo performance in Ngilgi Cave’s amphitheatre with its awesome acoustics. The tour takes you through native Aussie bushland where Josh points out food and bush medicine, then into the ancient Ngilgi Cave. Essential stuff for Australians of any age.
Kids will love exploring the crawl tunnel at Ngilgi Cave these school holidays
Discover a Subterranean Crystal Palace
Did you know that over 100 limestone caves lie beneath the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge? That’s why it’s called Caves Road! Four of these highly decorated caves are open to the public to enjoy, and Ngilgi Cave and Mammoth Cave are both particularly good for younger kids. I recommend a baby carrier on your front for babies, leaving both your hands free to hold the handrail as these caves have some serious stairs.
Ngilgi Cave in Yallingup has the famous Tunnel of Doom and a semi-guided format, so after a 15-minute intro, you’re free to explore at your own pace. The Tunnel of Doom is optional, and your kids might opt to do it dozens of times if you’re lucky. Perfect for burning off energy.
Mammoth Cave in Boranup Forest, south of Margaret River, is awesome for younger kids too. You’re given an audio guide on arrival, and you can walk straight in – no waiting for a tour at a set time. It’s an important megafauna fossil site, with bones on display in the cave and sculptures of the extinct creatures at the entrance.
Explore the Whale-derness
September-October is peak hour on the Whale Super Highway – this is the time to check out some cetaceans and teach your kids about beautiful whales. Southern right, blue and humpback whales migrate through the region, and you can see them on a whale watching charter or from select land lookouts.
Whale watching cruises depart Dunsborough and Busselton in spring, as 35,000+ whales swim through Geographe Bay. Naturaliste Charters, All Sea Charters and Legend Charters have beautiful big boats or catamarans with toilets and tea or coffee making facilities, and they’re great for sighting whales. For something totally different, Jet Adventures’ sleek red jet boat often has whales and dolphins swimming around it, and the smaller boat means you’re eye-ball close.
For land-based whale watching take a tour of Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse where the eagle-eyed guides are always on the lookout, recording thousands of whales each season. There’s a series of walking trails from the lighthouse; take the whale lookout walk which is about 2 kilometres each way – take an off-road pram for younger kids, and watch out for snakes. Point Piquet on the Eagle Bay-Meelup Road is also fabulous for whale watching, with its 270-degree bay views.
The whales come out to play at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, spot them over spring school holidays
See Coral and Fish – Without Getting Wet!
Kids love a miniature train ride, and the Busselton Jetty Train offers superb bay views as you chug 1.8 kilometres along the historic jetty – the longest in the southern hemisphere. At the end of the jetty, the adventure begins. The Underwater Observatory was built in Fremantle and floated down to Busselton, and there’s so much more to learn thanks to brand new interpretive signage installed during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The Leeuwin current brings warm water into Geographe Bay, helping create a unique maritime ecosystem for coral, sponges, octopus, starfish and fish. They even spy the odd seal, whale and mermaid through the huge Perspex windows, 9 metres below the surface.
We visited in late winter when the visibility wasn’t quite as good as usual, so a virtual reality experience with 3D goggles added to the fun. There’s time to take photos and admire the life-size whale murals at the end of the jetty before the return train ride to the foreshore, and excellent Sea Play by the Bay playground.
Meet the Woylies
Suggested age 6+
What an inspiration to learn that the kind people from Yelverton Brook Eco Retreat have built a massive – and massively expensive – electric predator proof fence to protect the native wildlife, including the endangered nocturnal marsupial Woylies.
You can meet these gorgeous little critters – known fondly as the ‘kung fu roo’ thanks to their distinct hopping style – on a Meet the Woylies tour with South West Eco Discoveries. Brothers Mick and Ryan run the twilight tours, picking you up from your accommodation and driving you to the eco sanctuary. You take a short walk through the bush as they point out ancient balga (grass trees) and seasonal wildflowers, arriving at a clearing where you’re served billy tea and cookies. Guides Ryan and Michael call the woylies by shaking their food tin, and within minutes we had seven greedy quendas and three shy woylies grazing by our feet.
Anyone who loves native animals should do this tour. Also on offer: eco tours around Cape Naturaliste.
Delectable treats to be found these school holidays
Eat all the Chocolate and Candy
You can’t come to the Margaret River Region and not visit the chocolate factory, right? With an array of scrumptious chocolatiers to choose from, you’ll be on a happy sugar high for days.
Gabriel Chocolate, The Margaret River Chocolate Company and Temper Temper all offer fabulous chocolate tasting experiences, exquisite handmade chocolate and great coffee, too. Personally, I love Gabriel’s hot chocolate and fresh cookies, The Margaret River Chocolate Company’s choccy bilbies (a fundraiser) and Temper Temper’s design-your-own bar. The newest choc-on-the-block is Yallingup Chocolate, from the team behind Commonage Coffee Co, with a beautiful store filled with sweet treats and plenty of space for kids to run around and burn off some steam.
Also check out Candy Cow in Cowaramup for locally made sweet treats, including addictive honeycomb.
Find Yourself in a Forest Maze
Yallingup Maze is crafted in wood, and the owners change it regularly lest local kids get to know the way out by heart. They also have great coffee and homemade food, and a nature style playground.
A Maze’n Margaret River is popular with young couples – and it’s an absolute credit to its garden-loving creators. A true hedge maze, and quite challenging, there’s also beautiful gardens to explore, mini golf, and a BBQ picnic area as well as a full café.
Boranup Forest Maze is another great place to stretch your legs and get lost amongst the maze’s hedges. Just off Caves Road the kids will add some Fitbit steps running and exploring.
Fly through the forest these school holidays with Forest Adventures South West
Fly through the forest
Age 4+ and 7+
Budding Tarzans, there are two fabulous zip line and high ropes courses in the region.
Just outside Dunsborough next to Clancy’s Fish Pub is the excellent Next Level Monkey Business which welcomes cheeky chimps aged 4 years and older. They have low-to-the-ground obstacles and zip lines for younger kids, right up to The Mega Zip which has you flying over the lake. Awesome for families with children aged 4 and older.
Outside Busselton in the world’s last remaining tuart forest, you’ll find Forest Adventures South West. Hailed as “the adult’s zip lining course that kids can do too”, dial up the adrenaline and get ready for some serious tree top challenges. Perfect for families with slightly older kids, you have to be 7+ years to tackle the ‘family friendly’ courses. As a guide, my brave eight-year-old blitzed course 4 (of six), which has a suspended totem swaying ladder, climbing 18 metres up into the trees before enjoying nine consecutive zip lines. Awesome!
Looking for more school holiday inspo? Check out these family-friendly things to do in Margaret River.
Jesters Flat Horse RidingOpen 6 days a week, closed Thursdays. Opening hours change seasonally.Great For: Child Friendly,Horse Riding,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign
1549 Rosa Brook Rd, Margaret River WA 6285
Koomal DreamingMonday to Sunday 9-5pmGreat For: Child Friendly,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign,Walking & Hiking
Yallingup Caves Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
Ngilgi CaveSemi-guided tours of the show cave. Ngilgi Cave Centre open 9.00am - 5.00pm. Tours depart every half hour from 9.30am - 4.00pm daily. Extra tours during peak holiday times. Closed Christmas Day.Great For: Rainy Day,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign
76 Yallingup Caves Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
Mammoth CaveSelf-guided audio tours. Mammoth Cave Centre open 9.00am – 5.00pm. Cave entry from 9.00am - 4.00pm daily. Extended opening during peak holiday times. Closed Christmas Day.Great For: Disabled Access,Rainy Day,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign,Wildflower Spotting
Caves Rd, Forest Grove WA 6286
4.6 From $90
Naturaliste Charters - Whale Watching & Eco ToursMonday - Sunday: 8:30 AM until 4:30 PMGreat For: Child Friendly,Fishing & Boating,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,TWA Campaign,Whale Watching
25 Dunn Bay Rd, Dunsborough WA 6281
Legend Charters Whale Watching & Deep Sea FishingMonday - Friday: 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM
Saturday - Sunday: 8:30 AM until 2:30 PMGreat For: Child Friendly,Fishing & Boating,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,Sunny Day,Whale Watching
25 Dunn Bay Rd, Dunsborough WA 6281
All Sea Charters Whale Watchingevery day 8am till 7 pmGreat For: Child Friendly,Fishing & Boating,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,TWA Campaign,Whale Watching
21 Spinnaker Blvd, Geographe WA 6280
5 From $69
Jet AdventuresMonday - Sunday: 7:00am until 7:00pmGreat For: Adrenalin Activities,Child Friendly,Fishing & Boating,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign,Whale Watching
4.6 From $14
Busselton JettyMonday - Sunday: 9:30 AM until 4:15 PMGreat For: Child Friendly,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,Scenic Spot,Scuba Snorkelling & Diving,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign
3L Queen St, Busselton WA 6280
Yelverton Brook Eco RetreatMonday - Sunday: 8:30 AM until 9:00 PM
118 Roy Rd, Metricup WA 6280
5 From $60
South West Eco DiscoveriesMonday - Sunday: 8:00 AM until 7:00 PMGreat For: Birdwatching,Nature & Wildlife Spotting,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign,Walking & Hiking,Wildflower Spotting,Workshops & Classes
2/9 Yale Cl, Abbey WA 6280
Gabriel ChocolateMonday - Friday: 10:00 AM until 4:30 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM
Sunday: 10:00 AM until 4:30 PMGreat For: Child Friendly,Dine In,Rainy Day
Caves Rd & Quininup Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
Margaret River Chocolate CompanyMonday - Sunday 9am -5pmGreat For: Dine In,Rainy Day,Takeaway
415 Harmans Mill Rd &, Tom Cullity Dr, Metricup WA 6280
Temper TemperOpen Daily 9am - 4pmGreat For: Rainy Day
68 Bussell Hwy, Cowaramup WA 6284
Candy Cow7 days a week 10am - 4pmGreat For: Rainy Day
Shop 3/69 Bussell Highway, Cnr Bottrill St, Cowaramup WA 6284
Yallingup MazeGreat For: Child Friendly,Outdoor Playground,Takeaway
3059 Caves Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
A Maze'n Margaret RiverOpen Thursday to Monday 9am until 5pm Currently closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays School holidays and long weekends - open every day Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day & Good Friday New Years Day 11 am until 5 pmGreat For: BBQ,Child Friendly,Disabled Access,Outdoor Playground,Picnic Spot
9978 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River WA 6285
Boranup Forest MazeOpen 7 days a week 5am - 8pmGreat For: Child Friendly,Children's Attraction,Sunny Day
6 Maze Rd, Karridale WA 6288
Next Level Monkey BusinessOpen 7 days a week during school holidays. For detailed hours visit the website.Great For: Adrenalin Activities,Child Friendly,Dine In,High Ropes & Rock Climbing & Zip Lining,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign
1710 Caves Rd, Dunsborough WA 6281
Forest Adventures South WestMonday: 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM
Tuesday - Wednesday: Closed
Thursday - Sunday: 9:00 AM until 5:00 PMGreat For: Adrenalin Activities,Children's Attraction,High Ropes & Rock Climbing & Zip Lining,Outdoor Playground,Sunny Day,TWA Campaign
12 Ludlow Park Rd, Busselton WA 6280
Yallingup Chocolate & Commonage Coffee Co.Monday: 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM
Tuesday - Wednesday: Closed
Thursday - Sunday: 8:00 AM until 4:00 PMGreat For: Dine In
855 Commonage Rd, Yallingup Siding WA 6282