Castle Rock from above Credit Matt Deakin

Located on either side of Cape Naturalise are the towns of Dunsborough and Yallingup.

Both have incredible natural beauty, with Dunsborough showing off crystal clear waters in Eagle Bay and Meelup beach, and Yallingup offering crashing beach breaks that lure big wave surfers year round. Since the 1950’s, the towns have been that slice of kid-friendly, summer swimming heaven. The promise of simple days spent under the melaleucas by Yallingup Bay or fish and chips on the Dunsborough foreshore has seen families return time and time again across generations.

Pristine beaches, rockpools, national parks and ancient caves to explore, and endangered animals to meet are no-brainers. But scratch the surface and you’ll find a thriving art scene, excellent dining and your new favourite wineries. The towns themselves have adopted the ethos of people, produce, and place, and you’ll find a relaxed and friendly community of people serving incredibly high standard food.

Whether you’re bringing your family or best friend, this is the place to recharge and revitalise.

1

Step back a million years

Ngilgi Cave in Yallingup was one of WA’s first tourist attractions, popular with honeymooners, and thus Caves House Hotel was built in the early 1900s. The cave is estimated to be about 1 million years old, and the crystal formations around 500,000 years old. It’s humbling to think we’re a mere blip on a mind-boggling time line.

 

2

Discover what makes the wine so incredible

Margaret River has a stellar reputation for producing fine wine, but on your next trip, learn what’s behind that. A new tour by Cape to Cape Explorer Tours and Vasse Felix explores the link between our maritime climate, the granite and limestone layers of the Naturaliste Leeuwin Ridge and the world-class chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

The Cape to Vine tour starts with a morning walk from Smiths Beach to a natural rockpool just north of Canal Rocks. Snorkel the refreshing Indian Ocean water, spy dozens of fish, and listen to stories of Gondwanaland.

Sugarloaf Rock at sunset Credit Jarrad Seng
One of Yallingup's most instagrammable spots. Photo: Jarrad Seng.
3

Enjoy Sunset at the Iconic Sugarloaf Rock

As the sun dips below the horizon, the silhouette of Sugarloaf Rock encased in golden light is truly a sight to behold. It’s one of the most recognisable sights in the region, and will leave you feeling inspired by the sheer natural beauty – there’s just something extra special about west coast sunsets over the ocean.

4

Cast a line with a Wadandi Cultural Custodian

Josh Whiteland is in his element when fishing barefoot on the beaches of Cape Naturaliste, and he recently added fishing tours to his already successful Koomal Dreaming and Cape Cultural Tours repertoire.

Josh is said to be able to spot a school of salmon from his car window, and it’s his ability to read the weather and the ocean that makes this tour such a unique experience.

The coastal fishing tour concentrates on the magnificent beaches and coastal bushlands in the Meelup area. “You’ll get your feet wet and have sand between your toes, while enjoying the beautiful coastline,” says Josh. You might catch salmon, herring or bream among many other local species. After fishing, Josh will prepare lunch (your fish if you catch one!) and whip up a salad of foraged greens to be enjoyed with the cold drinks. It’s a truly unique way to gain a new perspective about this well-trodden coastal stretch.

Fishing Cape Cultural Tours
Cast a line with Koomal Dreaming Tours.
5

Spy rare native animals in a biodiversity hotspot

Smack bang in the middle of one of only 34 biodiversity hotspots, there are over 7,000 plant species in the Margaret River Region, of which 70% are unique to the south west of Western Australia. Rediscover Meelup Regional Park with local experts Mick and Ryan from South West Eco Discoveries.

Depending on the season, conditions and how lucky you are, you might spy dolphins, whales in spring, phascogales, quendas, endangered woylies and western ring-tailed possums, blue wrens and black cockatoos. Mick and Ryan know all the best spots to look.

And, of course, you’ll always see kangaroos. Drive (slowly) along Sheoak Drive, Yallingup, for epic kangaroo spotting opportunities. Then grab a hot loaf of bread from the nearby Yallingup Woodfired Bakery.

6

Bay hop Dunsborough to Cape Naturaliste

Choose your adventure depending on the season.

During summer, pick any beach between Castle Rock and Bunker Bay for some seriously spectacular aquamarine hues, crystal clear water and pristine white sand. Swim, hire a SUP (stand up paddleboard) or explore with a snorkel.

In autumn hike the Meelup Trails, or park at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and pick a trail – the whale watching lookout is beautiful, or take the wheelchair accessible walk to Sugarloaf Rock.

In winter tuck into something delicious and watch the weather roll in over the ocean at Bunkers Beach House or Pullman Bunker Bay’s restaurant.

Spring time means whale watching, and Point Picquet is the best place to do so. The rocky point juts out into deep water, which means even the rare blue whales – even bigger than the humpbacks – can swim past at close quarters.

Meelup Regional Park SUP Paddleboarding
Hire a SUP and explore the aquamarine hues of Meelup Regional Park. Photo: Tourism Australia | Scott Slawinski.
7

Fly above cliffs, bays and wineries

Scenic Helicopters runs tours out of Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, as well as Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Margaret River airport. Get sky high for an awesome adrenaline experience – doors off, for an extra thrill.

Fly around Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, over Yallingup Beach, Canal Rocks, Meelup and Eagle Bay for a totally different experience to the land-bound one. You’ll see Canal Rocks’ channel, schools of salmon, kangaroos, farms and more.

Make a rockstar landing at a winery for lunch; Aravina or Wills Domain are both perfect.

8

Discover fine art in Yallingup’s Marrinup Drive precinct

Yallingup has attracted artists since the 1970s, with Rob Malcolm and John Miller leading the charge. Browse artworks by renowned local artists at Yallingup Galleries. You’ll find fine art, ceramics, glass, furniture crafted from local timber and superb handmade gifts.

John Miller is a gold and silversmith inspired by the region’s flora and fauna; his jewellery is stamped with tiny animals, birds, foliage or flowers. Visit John Miller Gallery and you might see him melting and pouring ingots, forging bracelets and bangles and cutting, engraving and polishing.

The Studio Gallery brings together our twin loves of food and art; a smart casual restaurant and gallery inspired by the Barcelona Pavilion celebrate the best of West Aussie creativity.

No visit to Dunsborough is complete without a trip to Christian Fletcher Gallery, whose work so many landscape photographers aspire to. Says Christian; “I feel lucky to be born in Western Australia. I’ve travelled all over Australia and I think here in WA we have the best landscapes, and it has so much to offer.”

Visit during Margaret River Region Open Studios to meet a wide variety of Yallingup and Dunsborough artists as they open their private studios for this once-a-year event.

Scenic Helicopters Tours Vineyards wineries
Travel in style with Scenic Helicopters.
9

Brunch, lunch and booze your heart out

Goanna Gallery and Bush Café is 30 years old but keeps getting better thanks to a gallery makeover (Australian designed/made only) and a brilliant kitchen team. Rediscover their creative and totally delicious lunch menu.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Café at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse is a retro delight. Furnished just as it might have been when the keeper and his family lived there, it’s surprisingly comfortable pulling up an armchair and working on a jigsaw puzzle someone else started. Seriously good toasted sandwiches filled with quality ingredients and top-notch coffee.

Wise Wine is unique in the region for having ocean views, and the beautiful al fresco dining area is the perfect place to toast to a great day.

Wild Hop is a popular craft brewery, located amongst gum trees on Wildwood Road. Epic mural art, a beautiful leafy view, tasty menu and adventure playground make this a winning combo. Or visit Eagle Bay Brewing Co for lunch overlooking the farmland and down to the ocean.

Blink and you’d miss Commonage Coffee, Yallingup’s coffee spot on Commonage Road next to Deep Woods Wines. Jules makes one of the best flat whites around.

Lagoon Yallingup has a relaxed, beachy vibe with an elite food offering. A great spot for brunch with cocktails overlooking Yallingup’s foreshore. Request a table upstairs.

A hobby farm-cum-restaurant, Meelup Farmhouse is the place for summertime grazing under gums and house-made picnics on the lawn, or cosy rugged-up lunches in winter, all within a short distance of the iconic blue water of Meelup Beach.

10

Explore the night scene

In a region famous for winery lunches, new bars and restaurants are breathing life into Dunsborough after dark.

Yarri is one of the hottest spots for a delicious meal; a collaboration between chef Aaron Carr and the team behind Snake + Herring Wine. Carr creates exquisite food foregrounding native ingredients, reminiscent of the dishes he prepared at Vasse Felix where he was head chef for 17 years. The restaurant interior is superb with handmade crockery, crafted timber tables, rare plants and a view of lush peppermint trees. Stop for a glass of wine or stay for the chef’s menu.

Blue Manna celebrates the region’s best seafood with spicy Asian flavours. Singapore-style chilli crab comes with a paper apron – it’s a wonderfully messy, hands-on experience.

Bayside Burgers is loosely inspired by American diners, they’re aiming for milkshake bar vibes with booth seating. A bar license means you can stop in for a local craft beer or wine, and there’ll be plenty of sides for snacking options.

Dunsborough is bursting with new secret bars to discover. Har Bar has a vintage nautical theme with a solid cocktail menu. Lady Lola is part deli, part bar, part bistro. Indulge in a negroni or a glass of bubbles and some share plates.

Yarri Restaurant Dunsborough
Settle in for the night at the hatted Yarri Restaurant, Dunsborough.

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