Sailing Charters WA Meelup Beach

The Margaret River Region is a boaties paradise.

It’s home to some of the state’s most pristine water ways: the Blackwood River, Geographe Bay, and the Indian Ocean, and in all weather conditions there are myriad options for every kind of boating vessel.  Whether you’re fishing, kayaking, sailing, or just taking the family out for the day, you’ll find a number of easy access points to enjoy the water.

Sailing Charters WA Cape Naturaliste Credit Dylan Dehaas
The crystal clear waters of Geographe Bay. Photo credit Dylan Dehaas.

Geographe Bay

One of the particular features that makes the Margaret River Region excellent for boating is the different orientations of its coastline.  Yes, it can be a windy coast, but no matter what way the wind is blowing there is always a sheltered nook somewhere.

In summertime the predominant winds are from the south.  A typical pattern will see easterly winds blowing in the early morning before swinging to the south, and Geographe Bay offers respite from that sea breeze.

From Dunsborough, you can access the Bay from boat ramps at Old Dunsborough and Quindalup.  In Busselton you can launch from ramps at Abbey, Broadwater, and Port Geographe.

Good hauls of whiting and squid can be found here in the summer months, with pink snapper occasionally making their way into the Bay in winter.

Geographe Bay also provides excellent anchorage for sailing boats in the warmer months, and the strong southerlies in summer also make for excellent sailing conditions.

The Bay is home to two sailing clubs: the Dunsborough Bay Yacht Club, and the Geographe Bay Yacht Club in Busselton.

Geographe Bay Yacht Club secretary, Barry Brown, says the Bay is home to world class sailing.  Since 1987, Barry has raced yachts at most of the local weekend regattas throughout the summer season, and says the conditions lend themselves to both the recreational and racing varieties of sailing.

“Geographe Bay for yacht racing is outstanding,” says Barry.

It’s beautiful flat water most of the time, and the wind conditions are really quite variable.  On any given day you could be sailing with wind directions from anywhere on the compass

Those without a vessel or any kind of boating knowledge can still access a variety of maritime experiences in Geographe Bay, with a variety of charter companies operating in the area.

  • Willie Cruises offer sailing in the Bay aboard one of WA’s last operating pearl luggers, Willie, a 67-foot Gaff Rig Schooner.
  • Sailing Charters WA also skipper their 41-foot Beneteau Oceanic cruising yacht around the Bay.
  • From February through to May, Koomal Dreaming offer their Djiljit Coastal Fishing Experience tour, with Aboriginal guide Josh Whiteland passing on stories of the local people and Country, and helping you to catch and cook your own lunch.
  • From January through to April you can sit back and relax while enjoying a 7 course degustation dinner aboard a luxury boat, with South West Cruises.
  • For those who aren’t into fishing but still want to sample some of WA’s finest seafood produce, Blue Manna in Dunsborough offer outstanding seafood fine dining.  Book ahead though, it is popular!
Gnarabup Boat Ramp White Elephant Prevally
The boat ramp at Gnarabup in Margaret River. Photo credit Elements.

Indian Ocean

Much of the regions offshore and nearshore fishing is done along the western coast of the region, between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.  While good catches of demersal fish like Pink Snapper, Breaksea Cod, and Harlequin Fish are available, the primary target for most fishers is the endemic West Australian Dhufish.

Dhueys, as they are colloquially known, is a WA fishing icon, and one of the best tasting fish in the country, if not the world.  A kind of Pearl Perch, it has succulent white flesh and can grow to one-metre and over 20kg.

Recreational fishers should be aware of all bag, size, and possession limits.

Those travelling without a boat can still get on to a dhuey by jumping aboard one of the region’s fishing charters.  Leeuwin Marine Charters operate from Augusta, and Legend Fishing Charters from Dunsborough.  Charters run from December to April, when the Indian Ocean is at its calmest and most accessible.

Gracetown Jetty - Credit Elements
Launching at the Gracetown Jetty. Photo credit Elements.

Those with a boat can access fishing locations on the west coast from Canal Rocks, Gracetown, Gnarabup, Hamelin Bay, and the Augusta marina.  Care should be taken at all locations as most of these are exposed coastal ramps.  Be aware of local tide, wind, and swell conditions, and any forecast change in conditions.  Always ensure the appropriate safety gear is carried.

A $1.6 million upgrade has recently been completed on the Canal Rocks boat ramp.  The jetty is now wheelchair accessible and the ramp has been made safer for launching and retrieving boats.

The Ngari Capes Marine Park also covers a range of different zones from Busselton to Augusta, and caters to a wide range of user groups from fishers, scuba divers, snorkelers, surfers, and kayakers.  Maps of the marine park zones can be found at every coastal boat ramp.

Boating at Alexandra Bridge, Blackwood River. Credit Zac White
Alexandra Bridge, along the Blackwood River. Photo credit Zac White.

Blackwood River

For those seeking a quieter, family-friendly adventure, the Blackwood River is the perfect place. The Blackwood is the largest river in the south west, and begins its journey in the Wheatbelt, running all the way down to Margaret River and Augusta.

There are a number of spots where you can access the Blackwood, with boat ramps at Augusta, Sue’s Bridge, and Alexandra Bridge.  All ramps have picnic facilities and make a great spot to take the family. There is also a water-skiing area at Twinems Bend.

Upriver around Alexandra Bridge is excellent for kayaking and paddle boarding, and the water here is usually calm.

If you’re fishing, try around the estuary for silver bream, whiting, and herring, or upriver for black bream. Crabbing is also popular and casting out some nets can secure boaties a satisfying dinner.

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