Touring Margs: where it all began
Adam Betar reveals the humble beginnings of his 22-year-old wine tour business
It was the big waves of Margaret River’s coastline which Adam Betar found irresistible when he first came to the south-west of WA. The founder of Margaret River’s original wine tour business, Margaret River Tours, Adam found his way to the region while feeding his love of surfing and fishing as he travelled around Australia. Nothing beforehand compared to the fishing spots and surf breaks off the coast of Yallingup and Prevelly and he decided to stay for a while.
“I arrived here around 25 years ago and immediately felt that this was where I wanted to be,” says Adam.
It seems incredible now to realise that back then, there were no wine tours, based in Margaret River, who could take visitors into local wineries to sample a drop or two of the cellar doors’ chardonnays and cabernets. When family and friends came to visit Adam in his new home, he would take them around the wineries and attractions, filling them in on the history of the region and other nuggets of local information.
“More often than not, my friends would say, “Why don’t you start doing this for a living?” It was this idea that planted the seeds of a business, and the rest, as they say, is history.
For the past 22 years I’ve provided tours for visitors and have never really varied my formula for success,” says Adam.
Thanks to his long-standing connections in the area and a determination to provide authentic, insightful and small group tours, Adam’s visitors are a lucky bunch. They’re able to visit wineries that few other local tour operators have access to – a sign of the unbroken connection between Adam, his tour guides and the wineries that they visit.
I’ve spent a long time building relationships with the places we take our guests to.
“Some of the wineries are very choosy about which groups they allow to visit – like Vasse Felix and Leeuwin Estate for instance. Only a few tours can go to these cellar doors regularly.”
The Full Day Gourmet Wine and Dine Tour begins when either Adam or one of his three other guides (Andy, Matt or Kylie) pick up their guests for the day. This tour officially starts at 10am as you are welcomed at either Stella Bella or Cape Mentelle for the first tasting of the day and then moves on to Leeuwin Estate.
“We never know who will be on the bus from day to day, whether they’ll be young or older, from Australia or anywhere else in the world,” says Adam.
“The way I like to describe it is – yes, there’s an element of performance during a tour and although the script may be similar, the cast is always different.
The tour takes in big-hitting wineries such as Vasse Felix, Stella Bella, Cape Mentelle, Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate and Watershed.
There’s also the opportunity to sample some local charcuterie onboard the bus and the chance to sample artisan smallgoods, made at the Farm House, paired with the boutique wines at McHenry Hohnen’s cellar door. “Sometimes David Hohnen comes out to meet the guests – he’s quite a character,” laughs Adam.
After lunch at Watershed, with a select menu created by talented chef Dan Gedge and a glass of wine, it’s off to three more wineries as well as the Margaret River Chocolate Company, with the opportunity for a private tasting if the venue isn’t too busy. As the tour draws to a close, a visit to the Margaret River Dairy Company provides a gourmet finish, giving guests the opportunity to stock up on cheese, olives and crackers.
Added extras such as private tastings at Voyager Estate and Vasse Felix (the oldest winery in the region) combined with their tour guides’ in-depth knowledge, local experience, happy, helpful attitudes and passion for the region give Margaret River Tours an exclusive edge.
Our guests are often delighted to recommend and share their tour experience on social media and with family and friend and the reviews are easy to find via the Margaret River Tours website www.margaretrivertours.com.
With a maximum of 13 guests per tour, those who join one of Adam’s tours generally find out about the day via word of mouth, the Margaret River visitors centre or social media reviews written by previous customers.
“We’ve had a certificate of excellence every year since we joined TripAdvisor six years ago and because our tours are authentic and professionally hosted, our patrons are assured that their tour with us will be all about great service, food and wine. Our guests are generally more discerning and want a quality wine and dining experience, which we deliver.”
Visitors from around the world and the east coast join Western Australian’s onboard the bus daily and Adam has a promise for all: he’s never called off a tour in 22 years of operating the business.
“If we’ve got two people, we’ll run the tour. We’ve never double booked or not turned up.”
When he’s not behind the wheel of the tour bus, Adam hasn’t forgotten what brought him to Margaret River in the first place. He heads to the ocean whenever he can, keeping secret fishing spots close to his chest and casting a line as the sun dapples the waves, just him and a bucket of bait.