What's Happening This Winter?
With music, arts, food and film festivals all happening in the region across the cooler months, winter could be rivalling summer as the best time to visit.
Winter is no time to shy away from the Margaret River region. In fact, with music, arts, food and film festivals all happening in the region across the cooler months, it could be starting to rival summer as the best time to visit.
From swaying to sultry late night jazz and scooping up melted cheese by the fire, to hunting for truffles in the southern forests and throwing yourself into puddles of mud, to hitting red carpet film premieres and watching whales move majestically through our waters, winter in the Margaret River region is seriously special.
Jazz by the Bay | 1 – 4 June
Winter might not lend itself to long ocean swims or kicking back poolside, but there’s certainly no better time to haul up in your favourite local bar and listen to some soulful tunes with a wine in hand. And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing for four days straight this June at Jazz by the Bay, which is packing more than 45 live music performances into one extended weekend! Taking place all over the region, you can catch some rocking blues or classic jazz in a variety of the region’s most prominent wineries, bars, pubs, breweries and community venues, almost all for free!
Kicking things off at 5pm on the Friday are The Breakout Lights, featuring guests Nerissa Campbell and Daniel Susnjar at Grounded Wholefoods Dunsborough, but you must be sure to head south and catch the Bonnie Scotts Jazz Duo at Morries in Margaret River later that night. Across the weekend, enjoy the likes of WAYJO, the amazing Jessie Gordon Trio and the Perth Cabaret Collective, plus a whole host of roaming performers in and around Festival Central (Grounded Days Dunsborough), too.
Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival | 1 – 3 June
Winter tends to bring forth a time of reflection, so it’s rather convenient that this year’s Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival brings together an array of thought-provoking and change-making writers, journalists, academics and storytellers right here in our locale. Centred on the theme of ‘Stories That Shape Us’, this year’s festival will explore the role of story in our lives and cultures, and celebrate the power of story in driving meaningful change.
The region will welcome Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks, alongside names like Tony Jones, Rosie Batty, Peter Greste and Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki. With Voyager Estate acting as the festival’s hub, there’ll also be no shortage of wine available whilst discussing matters of such importance and intellect. The festival’s program is full of over 50 panels, keynotes, interactive workshops and feature events, happening across 11 venues around the region – so be sure to plan your visit!
Truffle Kerfuffle | 22 – 24 June
For ultimate winter wayfaring, Truffle Kerffufle is a weekend-long celebration of one of the world’s most luxurious ingredients: the black truffle. The event takes place in Manjimup, making the Margaret River region an excellent launching pad for a scenic 100km drive through the Southern Forests – through Nannup, and then on to Manjimup, an idyllic rural hamlet surrounded by National Park land on all sides.
Manjimup is the heart of truffle country in Western Australia and is quickly establishing itself as a renowned gastronomic centre. Join the morning walk to unearth endless amounts of truffles, and be consumed by their heady aroma. You can even head out with the Australian Truffle Traders, who’ve got the best truffle dogs in the Southern Hemisphere and will share with you all there is to know about the truffle trade. Or, head to one of the extremely tempting satellite events, such as the four-course Hunter’s Breakfast with Scott Brannigan of Fremantle’s Bread in Common. Soak up the artisan vibes at the Festival Village all weekend, meeting farmers and growers and tasting your way through the creations of world-class chefs.
Image Credit: (above) Jessica Shaver, (below) Jessica Wyld
South West Mud Fest | 7 July
For some, winter means cosying up by the fire with a bottomless cup of tea and cake. For others, it means throwing themselves into pits of mud, down slippery slides and over unyielding obstacles at the South West Mud Fest! If that gets your heart racing, then you’re in luck, because this year’s mud fest isn’t far off!
Mud Fest will feature one obstacle and action packed 5km mud course that’s open to the whole family – including your pooch! The course will be uniquely South West: think tractor tyres, bird netting, dams and beer kegs, all out the back of Bootleg Brewery in Willyabrup. Enjoy a shower after the course and then park up in their pop-up Event Village for some of Bootleg’s famous brews and some much-needed food.
Cabin Fever Festival | 13 – 22 July
In preparation for when temperatures really start to drop, late June is a good time to stack on a few extra calories by indulging in the region’s exceptional produce and award-winning wine, beer and liquor. There’s no need to hunt too far: the crew from Cabin Fever Festival have already sorted all the mind-boggling food, beverage and live music based events you can think of to help you put a hold on hibernation this winter!
Whether it’s a pot of melting cheese and a heart-warming cab sav by the fire at Howard Park, an educational (and seriously delicious) sake pairing with the master Sensei Miki at Miki’s Open Kitchen, a long table feast in Cape Mentelle’s mesmerising cellar, or fresh brews and rocking live music at The Beerfarm’s bonfire, Cabin Fever Festival is sure to turn your thermostat up a notch. If you can’t decide what events to hit up or you just want to torture yourself, check out our top 10 picks for this year’s Cabin Fever!
CinefestOZ | 22 – 26 August
A winter getaway in the Margaret River region is already a way to escape reality, but August sees this taken to the next level with the arrival of some of Australia’s highest calibre filmmakers and stars for CinefestOZ. Now running for more than 10 years, CinfestOZ is Australia’s premier destination film festival and emphasises Australian and French Film – so expect more than enough opportunities to slip into the realm of the silver screen come August, interspersed with your whale watching and winery combing.
Plan your holiday’s itinerary around the amazing events on offer, including beachfront red carpet film premiers, cosy sidebar short film screenings, film themed lunches, free community screenings and industry soirees, where you can rub shoulders with the makers and the muses of the world of film!
From June to August, Cape Leeuwin waters host an estimated 35,000 whales as they migrate from the Antarctic to our warmer waters. The Margaret River region is one of the best places to whale watch in Australia; we see them in greater numbers, in more unique combinations, and for longer than anywhere else.
Their first point of call is down at Flinders Bay in Augusta, where you can see the rare phenomenon of Southern Rights and Humpbacks interacting. Later in the season, you can see Humpbacks and their newborn calves as they return from up north, nursing their young from September to early December in Geographe Bay. Experience these incredible creatures out at sea with one of the region’s many Whale Watching Charters, or find a good land-based vantage point along the Cape to Cape and keep your eyes peeled. The Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouses are also some of the best spots to see these amazing creatures from throughout the season!
It’s not just headline events that make this region an ideal winter getaway destination. It’s the little things, too. The spectacular sunrises, or the wild and woolly ocean swell. Meeting the friendly, fun-loving locals is also a big part of the true Margaret River experience, and there’s no better way to do that than by hitting one of the local pubs to catch some live music.
The region has a rich relationship to music, with major music festivals like the legendary Leeuwin Concert and the Nannup Music Festival having graced the scene for decades now. Having hosted the likes of John Butler, Dan Sultan and Peter Garret, the iconic Settlers Tavern has become the region’s default live music hub. For a dose of quintessential West Australian hospitality and some solid live music, head to Settlers on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night throughout winter.
While Settlers might be leading the charge, other venues in the region are doing their bit to bring live music to the Margaret River region and its visitors too. If you’re up Yallingup way, both Caves House Hotel and Swings & Roundabouts Winery offer live music on Sundays, the former in the evening and the latter over lunch until 3pm. Further south, head to Cowaramup’s Colonial Brewing Co every Saturday for live music until 9pm or to The Beer Farm on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to catch blues and rock in a true country setting. In the Margaret River township, night owls can also enjoy the Margaret River Hotel, which pumps out live tunes every Friday and Saturday night, the Swings Taphouse & Kitchen Sunday Sesh with live music from 5pm – 8pm, or Brewhouse, where live music can be enjoyed amid pizza and pints from 4.30pm – 10pm every Sunday.
If there’s one activity that actually gets better in winter, surely it’s hunting for fresh produce at one of the region’s many farmers markets! Winter brings a whole new life to the region, with the increased rainfall bringing us treats like blood oranges and grapefruits, oranges and mandarins, persimmons, truffles and turnips. Of course, that’s in addition to the usual haul of locally made artisan bread, cheese, olive oil, pasta, and honey!
Saturday morning’s in Margaret River are for bustling through the local Farmers’ Market, where you’ll find locals doing their weekly shops and visitors searching for gourmet delicacies. After shopping, you can grab breakfast and coffee while enjoying the festive atmosphere created by live music and dancing children! This iconic market has been running for more than 13 years and has become the region’s staple, but there are many others to visit across the region.
Check out all of the region’s produce merchants and markets to fill your stay with wintry goodness!
Caves & Lighthouses
The ultimate rainy day activity, a caves and lighthouse tour is essential to any wintery Margaret River region trip. What better way to wait out the woolly weather than by heading underground, into some of WA’s largest and most spectacular show caves, or by heading up two incredible working lighthouses and catching a glimpse of the tragedy and triumph that’s taken place throughout the region’s maritime history.
Start the day north and hit Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and Ngilgi Cave before lunch. Climbing to the top of the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse rewards visitors with pretty epic views, plus the newly refurbished precinct allows you to walk out onto a viewing deck that provides uninterrupted 180-degree views of the big blue. Ngilgi Cave, by contrast, takes you down below the region’s limestone ridge where you’ll learn about the rich Aboriginal dreaming story from which the cave gets its name.
Head south exploring Mammoth Cave and Lake Cave within the incredible Boranup Karri Forrest along the way, before getting down to Deepdene to see Jewel Cave, the largest show cave in Western Australia and one of the most spectacular attractions in the whole of the South West. Finish the day by heading out to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta, where you can witness the meeting of the Southern and Indian Oceans, and maybe even see some migrating whales!