The generously bestowed region stretching from Busselton to Albany, known simply as Your Margaret River Region, attracts more visitors than any part of Western Australia and, increasingly, many of them are travelling alone.
Before it was purchased by Tripadvisor recently, Australian start-up online booking service Dimmi revealed that its table-for-one-bookings had risen by 83 per cent in the past financial year.
Recreational vehicle (RV) travelling singles proudly dub themselves ‘solos’ and are part of a dynamic support group that avidly shares information and tips. Formed in 1997 within the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, the Solos Network now has over a thousand members.
Travel clubs for like-minded singles like WA-based Travel With Me put together itineraries to popular destinations usually chosen by members. Director Annette Porter, who takes solo travellers to Margaret River events such as Leeuwin Estate’s annual concert series and on the popular Cape to Cape Walk (from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin) says experienced solos make up a massive segment of global tourism. “Often solos have previously travelled extensively with their partners and when they find themselves single they want to continue to have adventures exploring the world with like-minded people,” she says.
As a FIFO wife I’m solo half my life, so road testing the Margaret River region for other single travellers was something I looked forward to and planned accordingly. I timed my visit with events like the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival (pictured) (and met many other solos there for this event) and the entertaining Jazz by the Bay, which certainly spread the music vibe around the region.
To me, accommodation, dining and even day touring takes on a different aspect when you are travelling without a companion. Guesthouses are often a first choice, particularly if they have a convivial, communal area to chat over the day’s adventures with other guests or even to prepare meals together. Location is also important; as a single woman safety is an aspect of travelling solo that I consider carefully. Proximity to suitable eateries also comes into play when considering where to sleepover, particularly if the night’s hostelry doesn’t offer meals.
Dining alone is a whole new paragraph. At the low end of the scale is a traditional table for two with the seat opposite vacant and your iPad or book at your elbow. On the upside are comfy, casual chairs – even low lounges – in a group arrangement facing a fireplace or a view. At the top end is the thoughtful restaurateur who provides bar stools and a high bar for singles to dine together alone. This can be either at the restaurant’s bar or, occasionally, purpose built to take in streetscapes or other scenic views. Best of all is the theatrical open kitchen with a sit up bar – watching the progress of the evening from the service side of a well managed restaurant is pure entertainment. Remember too, there are benefits to dining alone: it’s often easier to get a table, and no-one judges what you order!
Taking in the attractions of a destination alone and free of encumbrances can be fun (except when you’ve got no-one to ask the way out of the Yallingup Maze!) Here in the Margaret River region, solo travellers are lucky to have excellent choices for accommodation, dining and day tours. And, the more I explored, the more it seemed to me that the operators I met were empathetic to the needs and wants of single travellers.
Little Shangri-La features a quirky garden paradise where guests can ponder life and enjoy the birdsong.
Cowaramup – The Noble Grape Guesthouse
Welcoming, quiet and well located, the Noble Grape Guesthouse is an easy choice for solo travellers. Parking is close to the comfortable rooms and breakfast is served in the sunny nook accompanied by Port Lincoln parrots making good use of the bird bath outside. This guesthouse makes an excellent base for touring and exploring.
Image: I made friends immediately in Cowaramup!More about The Noble Grape Guesthouse
Margaret River – Wharncliffe Mill Bush Retreat
Solo RV travellers keen on nature will enjoy this new bush retreat as there’s a choice of powered and unpowered campsites plus tents, eco-lodges and dormitories. Out of the way surrounded by bush and wildlife yet only 2kms from Margaret River’s town centre, Wharncliffe Mill also rates highly for its large communal dining and lounge. Think open fireplaces and yarns in winter, and table tennis for all comers year round. Bush walk, mountain bike or just relax with nature in this quintessentially Aussie eco-experience at your own pace.
Image: Be at one with the tranquility of the bush at Wharncliffe Mill.More about Wharncliffe Mill
Margaret River – Margaret River Guesthouse
The array of complimentary home-made afternoon tea is enough of a reason to book, but couple that with a very convivial lounge, getaway nooks outside in the pretty garden and an excellent location (walking distance to the main street) and it’s hard to go past this choice.
Image: Tea for one – glorious! Extra thoughtful touches add to the convivial atmosphere at Margaret River Guesthouse…More about Margaret River Guesthouse
Margaret River – Heritage Trail Lodge
This lodge has both location and style, plus guests wanting a nature ramble can stretch their legs on a trail from the lodge that leads directly down to the river. A delightful airy conservatory and a great range of complimentary newspapers to start the day over breakfast tops this stay off nicely.More about Heritage Trail Lodge
Busselton – Little Shangri-La Bed & Breakfast
Potter Brigitta and husband Eugene have created a quirky garden paradise in their Busselton B&B where guests can ponder life and enjoy the birdsong. Of an evening, international chef Eugene offers a restaurant quality three course meal for $35. After a day’s sightseeing there’s no better way to end the day – BYO and enjoy the company of fellow travellers while Eugene makes a meal to remember.
Image: The perfect place to ponder the next step of your journey.More about Little Shangri-La
Augusta – Baywatch Manor Augusta YHA
Solo travellers of any age will enjoy this upmarket budget accommodation. Guests have the option of upgrading to private ensuite room with river and sea views and, like many places in the Margaret River region, the WIFI is free. A character place with loads of comfy settees, rugs, even gorgeous old stairs. The kitchen is great and is highly recommended for self catering as the hostel is near the supermarket and shops.More about Baywatch Manor
Augusta – Augusta Hotel Motel
The restaurant and bar here is very welcoming to solos and the food is good, the staff smile and the views are excellent. The bar overlooks the Blackwood River and the ocean. The motel is within walking distance to the river and the IGA to restock supplies. Ask for a cabin at the front of the motel – the views are amazing.More about Augusta Hotel Motel
Yallingup – Caves House Hotel
This is a classy place and the joint was jumping – literally – to the sweet sounds of Jazz at the Bay. The Grand Dame of Yallingup is a beautifully and lovingly restored historic 1939 building graciously occupying a choice spot on the hill. A continuous stream of events keep it busy and entertaining for solo travellers, as do the locals who will happily have a yarn with a newcomer in the timeless lounge and public bar. Welcoming log fires in winter with cosy corners, and great live music weekly plus lovely traditional pub darts, pool and free WIFI.More about Caves House Hotel
No need to muster courage to step inside – solos are welcome here!
Margaret River – Muster Bar & Grill
Free WIFI, excellent tapas and good service are three great reasons for anyone to visit Muster. The wine list is great and many of Margaret River’s best wines are available by the glass. This is modern Australian cuisine done well and, as noted above, there’s something compelling watching a great kitchen restaurant service operate. You won’t be bored for a moment and the staff are very friendly.
No need to muster courage to step inside – solos are welcome here!More about Muster Margaret River
Margaret River – Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
This is a trendy place in the main street of Margaret River. The atmosphere was warmly welcoming (from both the fireplace and the staff) and the menu is extensive – tapas, pizza and a really wide choice of modern dishes. There’s nice seating for solos on high stools overlooking the street and plenty of cosy seats inside too. Naturally, there’s great local wine available – try the Swings and Roundabouts label – it shares its owners with the restaurant.
Swings on Margaret River’s main street is a super choice.More about Swings Taphouse and Kitchen
Margaret River – Morries Anytime
Relaxed and professional, Morries is a local institution – in the nicest way.
Staff approach and greet solo diners like old friends, and there’s a seating choice of inside at the buzzing bar or outside on the street on bar stools looking out. Sit on a high chair and have a cocktail – you’ve earned it – and reflect on the menu. The food looked and was sensational.
A row of perches with a street view at Morries.More about Morries Anytime
Dunsborough – Clancy’s Fish Pub
With live music often and a choice of cosy seating for singles to snuggle up to a book or an iPad, Clancy’s is a good choice. A very reliable menu, friendly welcoming staff and best of all – fast service!More about Clancys Fish Pub
Wine for Dudes wine tours ‘get’ us ladies and this tour is an excellent day out for anyone.
Eco Adventures – Electric Quad Bike Tours
Ecobikes (electric quad bikes) are smooth, incredibly quiet, comfortable and emission free (perfect for exploring Your Margaret River Region) and this tour takes you to spectacular coastal vistas and lush Boranup forest glades. Best of all, Gary the guide gives everyone an iPad and then operates it centrally on a mini wifi network so you get a great visual commentary of fascinating stuff like the bush’s extinct megafauna and the coast’s shipwrecks – highly recommended!
Kitted out. Being solo means there’s no weight on the back, either!More about Eco Adventures
Taste the South Tours – Wine at Night
Instead of spending the evening alone, make the call and get on board with this great idea. The tour takes off at 1.30pm, visits excellent wineries, has plenty of interaction with winemakers and farmers and includes a tapas style dinner. Owners Sabine and Zig have terrific passion for the region and what they do. I’m certain their other daily tour, the Classic Wine Tour which departs at 10.30am and returns at 5.00pm, would be equally fun for solo travellers.More about Taste the South
Wine for Dudes – Daily Tour
Wine for Dudes wine tours is not, as the name suggests, just for dudes – they ‘get’ us ladies too and this tour is an excellent day out for anyone. John, who also happens to own the business and has a long pedigree in tourism and wine, was our guide. What I liked was the quality and variety of the places we went to, the unrushed pace of the tour (I think from memory at one winery we had no less than 12 wines in a tasting!) and John’s great idea of mixing up the day’s manifest to suit the time of year, requests from guests on booking, etc. We ended the day over a ‘cleansing ale’ at a brewery, which was a great note to finish on.
Together alone – with Wine for Dudes owner John O’Connor.More about Wine for Dudes