The neighbouring regions are making headway but the iconic Margaret River Region continues to go from strength to strength, with no sign of slowing down. The Margaret River Gourmet Escape, now in its third year, has cemented itself as an absolute ‘must-attend’ event, and welcomes the return of Heston Blumenthal to its line-up of culinary masterminds in 2014. There’s a new restaurant in Dunsborough, and Margaret River’s Japanese eatery is rapidly growing a legion of fans. The Great Southern Distillery will open up its second venue later in 2014, and the Margaret River Farmers Markets have found a new home at the Margaret River Education Campus, and are open every Saturday. And, once you’ve wrapped your head around the updates, there’s the 150 wineries, beaches, national parks and countless trails to consider…
Top things to do
- Go surfing at a world-class break
- Watch a sunset at Sugarloaf Rock
- Sample the wines around Wilyabrup
- Take a guided tour through a cave
- Go mountain-biking at Secret Witcher
- Walk along the Busselton Jetty
- Take a 4WD to Wonnerup Beach
- Watch the surfers from Yallingup Beach
- Spot whales in Flinders Bay
- Go for a picnic in the Boranup Forest
- Dive the HMAS Swan wreck
- Jump off the pontoon in Gnarabup
- Hike the Cape to Cape Track
All of these and more at www.scoop.com.au/margaretriver
This holiday resort town offers loads for families, with plenty of attractions within easy reach of accommodation, and wineries that are just a stone’s throw away. There are plenty of places to stay, from beachside resorts and apartments to caravan parks and chalets. Sheltered Geographe Bay is popular for swimming and fishing, and also for snorkelling and diving. The jetty stretches out from the bay (it’s the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere) and is a must visit; you can walk its length or ride a train and then delve beneath the ocean in the underwater observatory. The plethora of corals and fish makes for an excellent night dive (book with a local dive company). There’s plenty around for active folk, too – waterskiing and sailing are common pastimes in the Busselton precinct, and the energetic town hosts Ironman, swimming and triathlon competitions throughout the year. Not far away are a series of epic mountain-biking trails at Secret Witcher, or there’s the Ludlow Tuart Forest for visitors who are keen enjoy nature at a more chilled pace.
Dunsborough & Yallingup
The bulk of Margaret River looks angelic next to the twisted terrain along this stretch of coastline, but the dishevelled appearance makes it all the more spectacular. The bordering coast from Dunsborough to Yallingup is home to world-class surf breaks and pretty beaches (try Meelup Beach if you’re after a protected spot). Inland, you’ll find art galleries, wineries and breweries. Cape Naturaliste (at the very point) is the start of the renowned Cape to Cape Track and has a great lighthouse and a whale-watching platform. On the western side of the cape is the magnificent Sugarloaf Rock that can be reached from various trails, one of which is paved for easy access for prams and wheelchairs (the endangered red-tailed tropicbird can also be spotted here). Much of the accommodation in Yallingup (surf break central) has great ocean views; there are spa retreats and many hillside holiday houses available for rent. Dunsborough, on the east-facing side of the headland, is ideal for families – especially for those with young kids – and has an excellent bakery, a number of beachside resorts, and camping grounds. There’s lively nightlife, too, at the local pubs and restaurants, and down the road at the iconic Caves House Hotel.
Margaret River Central
If you want to be in the thick of the best brekkie spots, nightlife, boutique stores and art galleries, base yourself in the hub of Margaret River. Some of the world’s most acclaimed surf breaks are just a short drive from town at Prevelly, Redgate and Contos, and you can watch surfers tackle the huge waves from the lookout at Surfers Point. For a more family-friendly stretch of coast, head to Gnarabup Beach where you can swim in protected waters. Wilyabrup is the busiest section of Caves Road, with a high number of wineries clustered within a 20-minute radius. There is also a variety of art galleries, including the outdoor sculpture garden at Vasse Felix, and excellent fine dining. Cowaramup’s shops are good for supplies, while the tiny enclave of Gracetown is a laid-back holiday spot with great surfing, fishing and swimming in the protected bay.
Margaret River South
The further south you go, the more laid-back things become (and the south is notably quieter in peak season). The waters around Augusta are frequented by whales and those chasing exceptional conditions for wind- and kite-surfing (it gets a little blowy down here!). If you’re in search of the migrating whales, Flinders Bay is your best bet to spot them, specifically between June and August. Avoiding the breeze is tough at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse so be sure to visit in the morning before the wind picks up. TIP Buy a lighthouse pass that includes admission to the caves as well. The much-photographed Hamelin Bay is famous for its resident stingrays and also offers beachside camping and a boat ramp. Pretty Boranup Forest is a must-visit spot for a picnic and a walk, but if you’ve got a 4WD you’ll be able to access harder-to-reach beaches that are great for fishing.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Canebrake Pool (08) 9752 5555
Point Road (08) 9752 5555
Boranup Forest (08) 9752 5555
Warner Glen (08) 9752 5555
Sues Bridge (08) 9752 5555
Conto Field (08) 9752 5555
Wharncliffe Mill (08) 9758 8227
CYCLING & MOUNTAIN BIKE TRACKS
For locations and more information refer to For Lovers of Cycling on pages 82-84.
Margaret River Pines
Type Mountain bike
Time taken to ride 1-3 hours
Busselton Dunsborough Pathway
Type Any bike
Time taken to ride 1.5-2 hours
Busselton Secret Witcher
Type Mountain bike
Experience Mountain-biking proficiency suggested
Time taken to ride 1.5-2 hours
Margaret River Farmers Market
Open every Saturday from 8am to noon. Located at the Margaret River Education Campus. 272 Bussell Highway, Margaret River.
Margaret River Town Square Market
Open every Sunday from 9am to 12.30pm until 28 December 2014. Located
at Margaret River Town Square, Bussell Highway, Margaret River.
Lions Market Dunsborough
Open on the fourth Saturday of each month, 8am to 1pm. Dunn Bay Road/Naturaliste Terrace, Seymour Boulevard.
Foreshore Markets Busselton
Sundays, 7am to 12pm (except second and fourth Sunday of month). Signal Park, Busselton (corner Queen Street and Marine Terrace).
Open on the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 7am to noon. Signal Park, Busselton (corner of Queen Street and Marine Terrace).
Vasse Market Vasse
Community Hall, Saturdays (first, second and fourth Saturday of the month excepted), 7.30am to noon.
Dunsborough Central Markets
Open on the second and fourth Saturday of the month from 7am to noon. Lions
Augusta Colour Patch, Ellis Street, Flinders Bay
Busselton Dolphin Road, Georgette Street, Newtown Beach, Scount Road, Port Geographe, Wonnerup
Yallingup Canal Rocks Road
Margaret River Central Cowaramup Bay, Prevelly Park
Dunsborough Finlayson Street, Elmore Street, Geographe Bay Road (Quindalup)
Margaret River South Hamelin Bay
There is a limit of 20 Roe’s abalone per person per day, and five each of greenlip and brownlip abalone. The size of Roe’s abalone needs to be a minimum of
60mm, while greenlip and brownlip must be 140mm. In the southwest, recreational abalone fishing is permitted from October 1 to May 15 with a licence. For measuring guides and the full list of regulations, head to www.fish.wa.gov.au.
Head to Hamelin Bay and try to bag yourself some crayfish (also known as rock lobster) from November 15 to June 30. Fishermen must have a licence – size and catch limits apply. Divers can only catch crayfish by hand; spears and nets are prohibited. Gnarabup, Canal Rocks, and Kilcarnup beaches are also good sites.
If you have a licence, you are allowed to fish for marron in the Margaret River using a pole snare (all other methods are illegal). Take care to note the exclusion zones however: the river and its tributaries upstream of the Ten Mile Brook junction are off limits, as are the waters within 300m upstream and 50m downstream of the Bussell Highway traffic bridge. The open season runs from January 8 until February 5.
The landscape that was tarnished during the 2011 Margaret River bushfires is steadily regenerating, and the affected areas now dazzle during the wildflower season. October is the best month to see wildflowers bloom (more than 2500 species), including banksia plants, kangaroo paws and rare orchids. A few kilometres in from the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse there is an area of vegetation containing small trees that’s a good spot to hunt for orchids. Further along the headlands, red and heath leschenaultia can also be found. The Boranup Forest is also a wildflower hotspot including carpets of blue leschenaultia, purple hovea, red coral vine, native wisteria, wild clematis, karri hazel and wattle. The areas around Ellensbrook, Kilcarnup and Gnarabup hill are also hot tips for the coming years, and right alongside Caves Road are some of the most stunning displays of kangaroo paws.
Tuart Forest National Park (08) 9219 9000
Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park (08) 9752 5555
Yelverton National Park (08) 9752 5800
Bramley National Park (08) 9840 0400
Beedelup National Park (08) 9776 1207
Rapids Conservation Park (08) 9752 5555
Forest Grove National Park (08) 9752 5555
Boranup Karri Forrest (08) 9780 5911
Dunsborough Visitor Centre (08) 9752 5800
Margaret River Visitor Centre (08) 9780 5911
Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association (08) 9758 0166
Busselton Visitor Centre (08) 9752 5800
Augusta Taxis 0417 914 694
Dunsborough Taxis (08) 9756 8688 or 0409 568 688
Margaret River Taxis (08) 9757 3444
Taz’s Taxi (Margaret River) (08) 9757 5178
South West Designated Drivers 0458 217 522
Ngilgi Cave (Dunsborough/Yallingup) Guided tours available
Jewel Cave (Margaret River South) The biggest show cave in WA
Lake Cave (Margaret River South) The only cave in the region with a permanent lake inside
Mammoth Cave (Margaret River South) Self-guided MP3 tours available, with
wheelchair access to the first chamber
Moondyne Cave (Margaret River South) Intimate ‘adventure’ experience tour available
Getting There | The quickest route to Margaret River (via Busselton) is along the Kwinana Freeway and then Bussell Highway. The South Western Highway can also be taken from Perth; it’s slower but more scenic. Daily buses from Perth travel to most parts of the region; book your seat with South West Coach Lines or TransWA. For a speedy trip, fly to Busselton with Virgin Australia. The 50-minute flight travels from Perth twice weekly.
Leavers Week | When the year 12 students around the state officially finish school, the partying teenagers descend on Dunsborough and its surrounds, and it’s not always a pretty sight. Holidaying during this period is possible but probably not advisable (especially for families). Check specific ‘leavers’ dates at www.leaverswa.com.au.
Grocery Shopping | The supermarkets get packed in peak periods, not to mention the fact that prices are a bit steeper than in Perth. You’re better off carting your groceries from Perth, along with an esky of frozen goods, dairy and meat.
Wineries & Producers
If you’re taking a self-guided tour, be sure to visit a tourist centre in Margaret River to pick up your food and wine bible. The Margaret River Region Map and Guide includes more than 150 wineries, breweries, food factories and attractions listed on its A2 page. Use the free map to devise your own wine tour, hunt down gourmet samples, or just use it as a food coaster when you picnic at one of the many scenic destinations listed onthe back of the map. Avoid one of your group being a designated driver by joining one of the many tour options available, from casual experiences to travelling around in a limousines, and encompassing wines, cheese and chocolate. You can even design your own tour.
Besides the surf, Margaret River is also known for its Boranup Forest, which is an epic place for mountain biking. Take a tour on easy-to-ride winding paths between the trees. Most tours feature plenty of stops – every ten to 15 minutes or so – so you can take a break and have a quick chat with the guide. There are rides that can be tailored to your capability so there are tracks with jumps for the adventurous, or leisurely trails for those who are keen to relax.
The caves offer a combination of cool conditions and fantastic surrounds. Of the 150 in the region, a handful have lit, easy-access paths and offer guided tours. The swish, eco-friendly facilities at Jewel Cave include interpretation area, shop and cafe. There are caves along the length of the limestone ridge, from Ngilgi Cave near Yallingup to Lake Cave towards Augusta. Call (08) 9757 7411 for info on tours.
Grab a map from the visitor centre and, for a short walk, make your way to Rotary Park, at the northern end of the town, where several circuit trails begin and end. Choose from the River Walk (2km), Karri Walk (1.5km) or Bridge Walk (3km) and not only will you see abundant wildflowers, but also learn about the history of the region. Best time to visit is from mid-September to mid-October.
LOOK FOR The soft lemon-coloured karri wattle; boronia; and the white clematis, also known as ‘old man’s beard’.
SELF-GUIDED OF GUIDED TOURS: CAPE TO CAPE TRACK
While well known for its spectacular coastal scenery, this 135km track also loops inland across the ridge at several points and takes you through forest and woodland areas. With numerous access points and a variety of wildflower experiences available, it’s best to check with local tour operators for half- or full-day wildflower guided walks. Sections of the track around Wilyabrup Cliffs, Contos Camp Ground, and the Boranup Forest are recommended. Best anytime between September and November.
LOOK FOR On the coast – the bright pink pimelea; the blue fan-shaped flowers of the scaevola; and templetonia, better known as red cockies’ tongue. In the forests – climbing vines such as the red coral vine and native wisteria.
TOURING WITH KIDS
Hopping around Margaret River isn’t just about the adults. Several of cellar doors and breweries have sensibly catered for children! Here are some kid-friendly options.
3 Oceans | Kids’ menu, grassed areas
Aravina Estate | Adventure playground suitable for all ages
Bootleg Brewery | Playground area with white sand, slides, swings and toilet facilities
Bush Shack Brewery | Toys, playground
Cheeky Monkey Brewery | Large grassed area, children’s menu
Colonial Brewing Company | Playground and grassed area
Cullen Wines | Large paddock, children’s menu
Duckstein Brewery | Playground, grassed areas
Eagle Bay Brewery | Playground area
Knee Deep | Tables with toys inside
Laurance Wines | Large grassed area
Leeuwin Estate | Huge grassed area
Swings & Roundabouts | Footballs, cricket, boules to borrow, large grassed area (you can even bring your dog)
Watershed Premium Wines | Children’s menu, grassed areas
Will’s Domain | Playground with sand
Xanadu Wines | Playground and kids’ menu
Not keen to get in the car to see the sights? Why not consider skydiving instead? See the spectacular landscape over Busselton and Margaret River on a 20-minute flight, and jump out at 10,000 feet to land on Busselton foreshore. The best views are of Geographe Bay and the Busselton Jetty, and you can see the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and the unmistakable rows of vines in Margaret River. If you’ve never skydived before, the tandem jumps only take two hours from training to landing, and each jump is personally recorded by your instructor.
Reflecting the vibrancy of Margaret River’s natural landscape and the town’s eclectic beachside culture is a plethora of artwork by local, national and international artists. There are more than 30 art galleries to tickle your fancy – here’s a selection of favourite works from six of the best.
1. DOUGLAS KIRSOP
Catching First Rays | POA
Artist | As a professional and highly acclaimed artist, Douglas Kirsop travels widely through the isolated regions of the north of this vast and timeless Australian landscape. This provides an endless source of fascination and inspiration to the artist, who acknowledges that the ancient qualities and vastness of the landscape also contribute to the challenge of interpreting it through painting. The landscape forms the basis of his subject matter, whether it be figuratively or exploring its abstract properties.
Artwork | “My art is expressed through the language of painting my reaction to a visual experience,” says Douglas. “It may be the play of light over a subject, the movement of water or the colour of the rock, but I am compelled to put it down on paper or canvas. The process and purpose of making art is my way of reasoning my position in the world whose beauty I attempt to reflect and capture.”
Details | Oil on linen, 100x200cm Yallingup Galleries, Cnr Caves Road and Gunyulgup Valley Drive, Yallingup (08) 9755 2372, www.yallingupgalleries.com.au.
2. ANNE SORENSEN
Glow | $990
Artist | Anne Sorensen has been a practising glass artist for more than 25 years. In the last five years, her kiln-formed glass practice has dominated her works, which are personal, mostly anthropomorphic, and often presented in pairs. The artist strives to illustrate an intimacy with her chosen medium, which enables her to communicate her feelings about how we live. Anne is currently the recipient of a Country Arts Mentorship Grant, and has participated in numerous exhibitions and workshops. Her work is found in many private and public collections Australia wide and internationally.
Artwork | This piece developed from the idea of expressing emotions using the tonal changes of glass and its natural translucent qualities. This is achieved as the glass goes through three separate firings to alter its density, causing it to glow. The outer layer is carved, allowing the inner colour to shine through.
Details | Kiln-formed and carved glass, 17x25cm Gunyulgup Galleries, Gunyulgup Valley Drive, Yallingup (08) 9755 2177, www.gunyulgupgalleries.com.au.
3. BEN PUSHMAN
Lost Ceremony | $1200
Artist | Ben Pushman is a Nyoongar artist, and his people are of the Minang language group that originates from the areas around Denmark in Western Australia. Ben’s paintings are about his experiences of being an urban Aborigine, and the issues that he has had to deal with, such as loss and the finding of meaning. One theme that runs through his work is about scarification, which marked the body of an initiated Nyoongar man and formed part of traditional Nyoongar visual language.
Artist | “I see my younger brother Ben’s work as remembrance for tribal law, for ritual, for rites of passage, and for the strength of spirit given to those who continue to respect it,” says his sister Tracie Pushman.
Details | Acrylic on board, 23.5x100cm Holmes à Court Gallery, Cnr Tom Cullity Drive and Caves Road, Cowaramup (08) 9756 5000, www.holmesacourtgallery.com.au.
4. PALLA JEROFF
Desert Girl | $21,000
Artist | Born in Urmchi, China, Palla Jeroff was chosen by the Chinese government at the age of 17 to study fine art, and in particular, oil painting. Since then, Palla has adopted Australia as his country and has transferred his artistic talent to a new land. He is known for his wonderful rich colours, which capture the spirit of the Australian landscape. He also captures its people in a way that is quite unique and authentic.
Artwork | Desert Girl is a celebration in thick, deftly applied oil paint. Using an Australian palette, Palla captures the feminine power of this lone figure in an isolated landscape that is hauntingly beautiful.
Details | Oil on linen, 137x111cm Jahroc Galleries, 83 Bussell Highway, Margaret
River (08) 9758 7200, www.jahroc.com.au.
5. JILL KEMPSON
View of Antibes | $5500
Artist | Jill Kempson is greatly inspired by her environment. Italy, France and the southwest of Western Australia have always captured her interest, due to the fascinating light, and sense of mystery or otherness that each place exudes.
Jill’s enchanting style captures beautiful scenes that evoke memories of place while hinting at a sense of otherworldliness.
Artwork | Between April and June 2013, Jill was an artist in residence at Villa Fontaine in Antibes, France. This historic villa is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean. International artists are invited on behalf of the Antibes Town Council to spend time in this exceptionally beautiful region of the world. In return, the artist donates a work created during the residency, which is placed in the Council’s permanent collection. View of Antibes captures beautifully the intense light and colours of springtime in France.
Details | Oil on board, 85x85cm Margaret River Art Gallery, Shop 4, 1 Charles West Avenue, Margaret River (08) 9757 2729, www.margaretrivergallery.com.au.
6. DI TAYLOR
Gone Fishing | $3000
Artist | Di Taylor first started her artistic career by studying at the National Art School in Sydney, and has since become a prominent West Australian artist. Di exhibits nationally, and has had solo exhibitions in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Margaret River, Yallingup and Broome. “To be complacent is not an option, I strive to be inventive, creative, inspiring and always compassionate,” she says.
Artwork | Gone Fishing is an illuminated image of the bright yellow light of early morning. As the landscape slowly awakes to the rays of the sun and the water reflects the sky, one lonely fisherman heads out to sea. “I have deliberately used poured paint – which is the purest translucent pigment suspended in a clear medium – to create powerful colour and freedom of form,” Di says. “By throwing the colour onto the canvas with my bare hands, I’m able to create great movement and energy in the sky that lights up the painting.”
Details | Acrylic on canvas, 101x101cm The Studio Gallery, 7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup (08) 9756 6371, www.thestudiogallery.com.au.