Just a kilometre or two outside the entrance to the Margaret River township on Bussell Highway, there’s an invisible line that locals and regulars alike refer to as the
‘ah-hah’ point. It’s that place where the blood pressure lowers, the breath deepens, and you’re welcomed by a canopy of tall karris and jarrah – the remains of an ancient rainforest that once stretched to Queensland.
The town itself is a cosy tree-lined stretch that sweeps up the small hill from the river, packed on both sides with wine bars, pubs, gift shops, art galleries, gourmet delis, cafes and fantastic restaurants.
While some parts of the region have gone upmarket, the centre of Margs is down-to-earth. If you arrive during the day, the smell of good coffee permeates the main drag. After dark, restaurants and bars bustle with chatter and live music.
So what makes this little town such an epic destination? As the heart and soul of a diverse region, Margaret River has some very special features. For a start, it’s a coastal wonderland of world-famous surf breaks and ancient caves. Then there’s the chance to visit welcoming cellar doors, and no fewer than ten boutique breweries and four chocolate factories, three of them open for tastings.
You may be thinking this holiday sounds hard on the waistline… but it doesn’t have to be. If surfing is not your thing, Margs is a great place to be active, with mountain bike and walking trails in the forests outside town, and loads of activities like kayaking, canoeing and rock-climbing.
There are specialised meditation, yoga and wellness retreats, or casual classes you can join. Pamper yourself at a day spa with a massage, body scrub, facial or beauty therapy.
Hedonistic pursuits and rugged untouched natural beauty aside, the relaxed atmosphere is what makes Margaret River. Locals embody a coastal lifestyle and laid-back attitude, and while they are fiercely protective of their home, they are also welcoming, warm and open to sharing their surreal, enviable existence with visitors. Everywhere you go you’ll hear different languages and marvel that so many travellers journey to experience Margs. But then why wouldn’t they? The good vibes, fresh ocean air and magical sunsets (not to mention the wine!) will keep you coming back year after year.
- You’re in Margaret River; you just have to go wine tasting!
- Let an expert do the driving, by taking a wineries and breweries tour.
- Taste your way around the Margaret River Farmers Market on Saturdays.
- Watch the sun set over the iconic break at Surfers Point, Prevelly.
- Walk barefoot along spectacular shores and see dolphins and whales.
- Outdoor Cinemas mean fresh air, beanbags, blankets, starry skies… What’s not to love?
- Discover fantastic art galleries along Margaret River’s main street.
- Play a round of golf among the kangaroos at Margaret River Golf Club.
- Walk or ride the Rails to Trails to Cowaramup, under a canopy of trees.
- Experience the talents of the region’s amazing chefs, winemakers and sommeliers with a gourmet degustation and matching wine.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver.
Shae Dillon, Sails Too Cafe
Don’t leave town without going for a sticky beak at The Point, one of Margaret River’s most famous beaches. A world-renowned wave, home to the annual Margaret River Pro, and the perfect spot to watch it all unfold. Surfers, kiteboarders, travellers, picture-takers and picnic-goers all come together to take in the view and absorb the action. There’s also a great little lagoon for swimming, a shaded area for barbecues, and lots of lawn for picnics.
Gemma Moore, MargaretRiverStyle.com
“There is no better way to spend a Saturday than indulging in a long
lunch with friends at Leeuwin Estate. The food, wine and service are all outstanding, not to mention the view! If the weather is fine, make sure you request a table on the deck.”
Talei Manners, Stellar and the Chief
“When you come to Margaret River bring something warm, it’s always cooler than you think.”
- Most wineries, cafes, restaurants and shops are accessible for wheelchairs and prams. It’s worth calling ahead and double checking, especially if you’re heading to an out-of-the-way location.
- For a coastal adventure, there is a great sealed track from River Mouth beach to Surfers Point, and down to Rifflebutts Park near Gnarabup.
- Mammoth Cave’s first chamber has wheelchair access.
DROP IN ON THE LOCALS
Walk the section of the Rails to Trails from Cowaramup to just south of Margaret River – it’s nice and flat, with a canopy of trees. In summer, take a dip at Gnarabup Beach, 10 minutes from Margaret River. There’s a doggy beach, too, if you’ve got your pooch in tow.
I love packing a picnic and heading to Boranup Beach with my hubby. We spend the day there surfing and diving for crays.
Boranup Forest and the walk around Mammoth Cave are favourites of mine to explore.
You can’t beat watching the sunset at Surfers Point, with friends and
a delicious wood-fired pizza.
DO AND SEE
This commanding limestone cave is a natural time capsule, its large chambers home to the ancient fossil remains of extinct megafauna. Entry to Mammoth Cave is easy, with wheelchair access through the first chamber. Go at your own pace along boardwalks, using the self-guiding audio headsets. The cave is open 9am to 5pm, last entry is at 4pm.
Take a guided tour of the region’s only cave to be blessed with
a permanent lake. The tour is short, but the reflections of the ceiling on the water are extraordinary and well worth the 300 stairs. Tours depart every hour on the half hour, from 9.30am to 3.30pm.
CHECK OUT THE VIEWS AT GRACETOWN
Watch the enormous surf roll in across the curve of Cowaramup Bay in Gracetown. Elevated vantage points offer great views any time of day, but the sunset is particularly lovely, turning the water from silver to gold. Sheltered by a southern headland, there’s a calm swimming beach down off the ridge. The walking here is great too, along a section of the Cape to Cape Track.
CANOE THE MARGARET RIVER
Hire canoes by the hour down at the Rivermouth Beach, and take yourself on a private adventure on the tranquil river. If you prefer a guide, there are several tour companies that incorporate canoeing into their daily expeditions.
Dozens of independent artists and craftspeople have workshops, galleries and studios in the region. You can customise your own art trail over a leisurely drive – a map by the Margaret River Artisans shows you their locations. Pick one up from any of the galleries.
WATCH THE WHALES
It’s hard to miss the whales as they go by on their way north each winter – Moses Rock, Gracetown and Surfers Point are great vantage spots. There are even a couple of cafes, restaurants and accommodation choices that have front row seats. Failing that, jump on a whale-watching boat tour from Augusta Harbour in Margaret River South.
No visit to Margaret River is complete without a trip to the beach. Gnarabup is a favourite – this calm and beautiful shore is very popular with swimmers and stand-up paddleboarders. The outer limestone reef shelters swimmers from big swells, and a headland to the south makes it a great place to escape the winds. The water is so clear you can see where the rocks meet the sand at the edge of the reef. In the corner, is a seasonal cafe that overlooks the ocean, making it perfect for your post-swim coffee.
RAILS TO TRAILS
If you fancy walking or riding off some of the amazing food and wine you’ve been consuming, take the Rails to Trails track from Margaret River to Cowaramup. A firm limestone track, it travels more than 20km along the old railway line and passes through an arboretum, bushland, vineyards and farms. You’ll find a couple of wineries within reach if you can’t resist, or wait until you get to Cowaramup and check out the various gourmet stores, fudge makers, cafes and cellar doors.
CHECK OUT COW TOWN
Lovingly known by the locals as Cow Town, Cowaramup is a little township just north of Margaret River. Andit has cows everywhere. Well, fibreglass ones anyway – 42 of them, life-sized Friesian cows and calves that have taken over the town and can be spotted in the streets, parks and shops. Cowaramup also holds the world record for the most number of people dressed as cows.
LEEUWIN CONCERT SERIES
Under a starry southern sky, with the majestic backdrop of karri trees, Leeuwin Estate’s concerts are magical experiences. There are two concerts, both bringing big-name artists to the region and featuring exceptional musicians. Mar.
Dubbed the ‘anti-conference’, this festival brings together like-minded creatives from across the globe for a four-day sensory overload. The southwest’s own ideas-fest is an influential celebration of creativity where concepts get off the ground. Mar.
DRUG AWARE PRO
Watch the best of the best take to the famous waves at Surfers Point. Flocking there from all over the world are the big names in surfing, such as eleven-time world champ Kelly Slater, plus many more top surfers who take on the Margaret River break. Apr.
During this two-week event, artists from around the region open their studios to the public, allowing art lovers to step behind the scenes. Meet more than 80 local artists and see how their works come to life. And, of course, you can purchase some exceptional one-off pieces at a great price. Apr.
READERS AND WRITERS FESTIVAL
As a celebration of literature, the Readers and Writers Festival heralds the beginning of winter in a celebration of the ultimate indoor activity. Arts Margaret River’s flagship event brings together more than 30 acclaimed writers from across Australia and beyond, to share the secrets of their craft. May.
CAPE TO CAPE MTB
The Cape to Cape MTB is the nation’s largest multi-stage mountain bike race, covering the entire Margaret River region. Attracting top athletes from around the world, the event weaves its way through vineyards, bush and small towns, and along the coast. Oct.
Cape to Cape MTB (photography Elements).
Food and wine superstars from across the globe descend on Margaret River for this three-day extravaganza. The line-up is usually a closely guarded secret until nearer to the release of ticket sales, however, we can tell you that past events have attracted acclaimed chefs including Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Bottura and Davide Scabin. Get your tickets early because the popular events sell out fast! Also book your accommodation well in advance to avoid disappointment. Nov.
Running in the warmer months, this is a great way to spend a balmy evening down south. Think wine, cheese, picnic rugs and a good movie, set among the beautiful vineyards of Cape Mentelle. Nov-May.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver.
EAT AND DRINK
The Margaret River Region, always known for exceptional wineries and world-class surf, has now expanded its repertoire of innovation and excellence into the hallowed ground of the international food scene. This metamorphosis began years ago with much-loved restaurants attached to wineries. Recent acclaim for the region’s Gourmet Escape event has burned brightly, but it’s the determined effort of exceptional local chefs that makes eating out in Margaret River a delight worthy of any distance travelled.
If you just want a good coffee, you’ll find an abundance of great cafes along the main street of town. Many have funky or rustic settings, and are great spots to watch Margaret River’s myriad cultures go by. If you hanker for pastries, you can also try the bakery, complete with retro, Grandma-style decor.
Another hub is on Station Road, where you can get yummy fresh greens before wandering deli aisles and sitting down to another coffee. Head to Prevelly and Gnarabup and you’ll find a couple of cafes with awesome ocean views that are perfect for breakfast after a morning swim.
Margaret River’s wineries not only bring fine wines and dining options to the table, they’re also gorgeous places where you’ll want to stay for hours. Leafy decks with sublime views of vineyards, farmland and the bush provide the perfect backdrop for a lunch experience. Enjoy the surroundings together with delectable food and premium wines – the perfect ingredients for a long, long lunch.
Choose from wineries with architecture that oozes opulence and amazing in-depth food and wine, or casual and rustic boutique delights.
If you’re not a wine person, fear not – the Margaret River region is also home to award-winning breweries, open daily and with an impressive line-up of beers on tap. You’ll find everything from traditional pale ales and pilsners to some pretty creative concoctions – definitely worth a try! Most of the breweries in Margaret River have their own restaurants, serving up great food to complement the beer, and some are kid-friendly. Visit on the weekend and you’ll more than likely find a live band playing some tunes.
While most of Margaret River’s premium produce is served at the wineries and local restaurants, you can buy and taste produce direct by wandering around the local farmers market on a Saturday, or visiting the many farm gates or providores. Cheese, chocolate, nougat, fudge, ice-cream, grass-fed beef and lamb, venison, organic sun-ripened fruit and vegetables, seafood, organic dairy, free range eggs, French, German and wood-fired breads, chutneys, jams, olives, oils and coffee are all on offer – and that’s just scratching the surface.
TIP If you’re looking for local olive oil, head out to Olio Bello. The oil is divine, as is the range of beautiful locally made skin-care products. There is also a great cafe, ideal to just relax and take in all Margaret River has to offer.
Learn and Grow
If you’re interested in the growing side of things, go online and see what Fair Harvest is putting on during your stay. It could be an informative talk about permaculture, a wander through the gardens, or a special sourced-from-the-garden cafe lunch.
There’s so much more you can do at the cellar door. Experience the subtle differences between the vineyards and winemakers by theming your visit to taste particular wine types (known as varietal tasting) at each winery. Or you might like to book in for a vertical tasting, offered at some wineries. This is where you taste different vintages of the same wine, discovering the nuances of growing-season conditions, style evolution, wine-making variations and bottle age.
Sean Blocksidge, Margaret River Discovery Co
“One of the most spectacular sections of the Cape-to-Cape coastal walk is accessed via the Margaret River mouth sandbar, and takes you around Cape Mentelle headland and across to Kilcarnup Beach – a stunning protected paradise of sea life and pristine sand. Spend some time on the limestone cliffs watching for whales, and see if you can spot the osprey nest on the island rock. Allow three hours return, and take a picnic lunch and a bottle of Margaret River semillon sauvignon blanc in the backpack!”
Gemma Moore, Margaret River Style
“For something a bit more traditional, take the region’s famous Bushtucker Tour, from quiet paddling down the majestic Margaret River to wine and beer tasting, with wildfoods hand-made in Margaret River.”
- Fantastic’ ponies are available at the horse-riding schools and retreats, where the kids can try riding, take lessons, or go out on a trail ride by lead rein.
- Mammoth Cave is a great place to take the kids. It has an enormous open entry with relatively flat boardwalk and short stairs to viewing platforms. The cave gently gets more intense as you go further in. The self-guided audio tour means you’re free to drop in on your own schedule.
- Rotary Park, near the entrance to town, has a great playground, complete with barbecues and ablutions, friendly ducks and a suspended bridge over the river. Stretch your legs on a lovely forest and river walk up to a dam.
- If you want to totally spoil the kids, there are lolly shops, chocolatiers, fudge factories and ice-creameries galore. Some have great play areas.
- The southern headland at Gnarabup Beach creates a sheltered spot, ideal for beachcombing and sandcastles.
- Prepare for complete confusion and giggles at the Amaze’n Maze, just four kilometres south of Margaret River.
- Pat, feed and cuddle some gorgeous soft furry animals at one of the animal farms, or bed down for the night at a farm stay.
Deciding where to stay is a choice you’ll be happy to take on. The scope and variety of places to lay one’s head in Margaret River is exceptional, with everything from extravagant resorts to self-contained apartments, villas, hosted accommodation, boutique luxury stays, backpackers, quirky farm stays and more.
In town There are hotels, townhouses and executive rentals right on the main strip. Central to everything, you can stroll to markets or to get your morning coffee.
Take your pick of dinner spots and wine bars without having to get in the car. Most surprising, much of the town accommodation is in walking distance of a backdrop of forest and trails.
The Coast Wake up to the sound of the ocean, and head out for an early morning surf or walk on the coast, then head back to your beach house or chalet for a culpa.
The Countryside For the ultimate escape, awaken to the tranquil sounds of bushland birds and the scent of eucalypts. Immerse yourself in forest, bushland or vineyard settings with a blazing fireplace – choose from a cosy transformed barn, cottage or homestead, or the luxury of a winery estate.
TIP Make sure to book well in advance for peak seasons (end of December, January, April school holidays and long weekends). Mid-week, winter and longer stays offer extra value. If you’re not attending the Gourmet Escape or Leeuwin Concert, try to avoid these weekends, because prices usually sky-rocket.
To find out more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver.
Margaret River is an easy 270km self-drive south of Perth. Take the Kwinana Freeway south and follow the signs to Busselton, then Margaret River. Or for a more scenic route try the South Western Highway.
TIP Leave early to avoid the Friday after work rush!
If you prefer not to drive, multiple coach services depart Perth CBD and Perth Airport daily, or you can fly to Busselton. Hire cars, tours and personalised tours are available from Perth, Bunbury, Busselton and Margaret River.