Get to know this world-class wine region that's rich with natural beauty.
The Margaret River region is three hours' drive from Perth and stretches roughly 100 kilometres, from Busselton in the north to Augusta in the south.
The region has everything you could ask for in a country escape. It's best known for internationally recognised wines, amazing local produce and first-class dining. But it’s also home to some of the most diverse and beautiful natural destinations in the country. We’re talking pristine beaches, world-class surf breaks, dramatic cliffs, idyllic bays, tall-timber native karri forests and ancient cave systems. The region is also dotted with luxury spas, artist studios and artisan producers of everything from olive oil and chocolates to soaps and surfboards.
There are 217 vineyards and 187 wineries. The region produces just three per cent of Australia’s overall wine production, but more than 20 per cent of Australia’s premium wine. Wine here isn’t just good – it’s excellent. The region is particularly renowned for cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. There are also plenty of breweries, so beer drinkers won’t miss out.
A visit to the Margaret River Farmers’ Market is a must for anyone serious about food. The region’s produce includes grass-fed beef, pork and lamb; line-caught fish and fresh seafood (including abalone); and pasture-raised free-range poultry and eggs. There’s more: venison, marron, native bush foods, a multitude of fruits and vegetables, olives and olive oils, wood-fired bread, artisan cheeses, chocolates, coffee, ice-cream and other dairy.
Australia’s premier food festival, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, attracts global culinary superstars each November and is just one of the region’s major events. Each autumn, the World Surf League Championship Tour sees the world’s best surfers compete at Surfers Point. Then there’s the Leeuwin Estate Concert Series, Cinefest Oz film festival, Emergence Creative, Jazz by the Bay, the South West Beer Festival, Ironman WA, Southbound music festival, the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival, Anaconda Adventure Race, Cape to Cape MTB, Forest Rally and, new in 2017, the winter Cabin Fever festival. You’d be hard pressed to find any other region in Australia that can boast such a diverse and culturally rich events calendar.
Welcome to Margaret River
When it comes to food, the region covers a lot of ground.
Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are the stars here, but there's plenty more to try, including beer and small-batch spirits.
Explore some caves, paddle into the surf or go shopping.
This deep, eerie cave is named after the mirror-like body of water found inside. Above that hangs the "suspended table", an extraordinary, chandelier-like formation that just about touches the surface of the lake. Unlike Mammoth Cave (less than five minutes' drive away) the dripping limestone caverns can only be visited with a tour guide. Your time with them begins at the cave's entrance – a deep crater packed with ancient karri (red gum) trees. Visit the adjacent Lake Cave Tearooms for a reviving tea or coffee afterwards.
The Margaret River region is littered with spectacular caves. Mammoth is the most readily accessible of them all. The first chamber can accomodate wheelchairs and the rest contain handrails and viewing platforms. Tours are self-guided, by audio. Take your time traversing the caverns. Along the way, you’ll spot fossils of prehistoric Australian megafauna, which were discovered in the early 1900s when the caves were a palaeontology hotspot. At the end, you’ll exit into a tranquil marri (red gum) forest, soundtracked by the whistling calls of purple-crowned lorrikeets, sacred kingfishers, scarlet robins and more.
Stand Up Surfing
The stand-up paddleboarding learning curve is a bit gentler than surfing’s. If you’re keen to get on your feet and feel the wind in your hair, these introductory lessons are an ideal choice. The 10-person, 90-minute classes run daily on the calm waters of Gnarabup Beach between October 1 and April 25, weather permitting. Each is hosted by an Academy of Surfing-accredited instructor. Between May 1 and September 31, eight-person classes are held on the lake at Olio Bello olive farm in Cowaramup and include platters for lunch. Bookings are essential.
There are hundreds of places to stay in the Margaret River region catering for a wide range of budgets. But when it comes to a luxury escape, these three are standouts.
Explore Western Australia's most renowned wine region
You'll need a car to see this expansive region properly. Our itinerary covers three-quarters of the 100-kilometre drive from Busselton to Augusta, but don't be afraid to get lost. Turn down a random road and you're liable to discover unsung family wineries, marron farms, artisan chocolate makers, secluded beaches and more.
0447 427 770
Have some cake for breakfast. You're on holidays, right? This traditional Teutonic bakery specialises in gugelhupf, a crown-shaped sweet or savoury creation commonly found in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. There's a variety with walnuts and speck; a gluten-free type made with almond meal and Gabriel Chocolate cacao nibs; and the classic Vienna with sultana and vanilla. Also on offer: sandwiches, lemon tart and plum pudding.
Bunker Bay to Dunsborough Walk
Bunker Bay to Dunsborough Walk
Start your day with a gentle 2.5-kilometre coastal walk. It can be extended by several kilometres if you're feeling up to it. Between September and early December, whales can sometimes be sighted from the lookouts along the way. Who knows? You might get lucky.
Miki's Open Kitchen
(08) 9758 7673
Miki's Open Kitchen
If you don't have a booking, don't even try getting a seat at this immensely popular Japanese restaurant. Owner-chef Mikihito Nagai is known for his inventive tempura, experienced a la carte or as a degustation. Whichever format you choose, the meal is guaranteed to be theatrical and delicious.
(08) 9757 2398
This pillar of the local community starts to heat up around sunset, making it the perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink. There are 25 wines by the glass and live music on the regular. If you're feeling the vibes, you can stay all night and get stuck into the American barbeque menu.
(08) 9755 5277
Taste the past, present and future of Margaret River at the Cullen Cellar door. Founders John and Diana Cullen were among the region's first wine-makers. Their daughter Vanya has continued their pioneering spirit by applying natural and biodynamic practices to estate's the plantings of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, and the wine-making process itself.
(08) 9780 5911
Walk your lunch off with a self-guided audio tour at Mammoth Cave, which is littered with fossils of prehistoric megafauna. The walk finishes in a tranquil marri (red gum) forest that's home to whistling purple-crowned lorrikeets, sacred kingfishers, scarlet robins and other birds. Lake Cave is a three-minute drive away if you're in the mood for another trip underground.
(08) 9759 0000
Cullen, Vasse Felix and Wills Domain all have outstanding restaurants on site, but Leeuwin Estate is hard to beat for an extended lunch. Dine on the sweeping verandah, taking in spectacular views of the grounds and towering karri forest beyond. After lunch, head to the art gallery downstairs, which features more than 150 pieces, including a Sir Sidney Nolan.
(08) 9756 5000
Vasse Felix is a ten-minute walk or two-minute drive from Cullen. It's the oldest winery in the region and also specialises in chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. At the cellar door you can taste a staggering array of different blocks and vintages of these two grapes, alongside sav blanc and shiraz.