Top 10 Things To Do in Margaret River
The Margaret River Region is a veritable cornucopia of jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery, phenomenally good food & drink and warm hospitality. With the completion of the Forrest Highway, this idyllic rural escape is now a very easy two and a bit hour drive from the centre of Perth and should be on everyone's to-do list when visiting Western Australia, whatever the time of year. Below you will find my Top 10 Things to do when visiting the region; I tend to like eating, drinking and sitting in front of fires, as such my suggestions will predominantly reflect these interests with possibly an afternoon amble thrown in for good measure.
1. Visit the Vineyards
The Margaret Rivier is ubiquitous for wine and in particular Chardonnay and Cabinet Sauvignon. Whilst there is an almost endless number of vineyards to choose from I feel you really need to focus on a few, if only for the mental well being of the designated driver. There are three vineyards which are in my opinion the cream of the crop and are the must-dos, they are Pierro, Clairault and Xanadu. Pierro & Clairault are very close together just off Caves Road just south of Yallingup and Xanadu is a touch south of Margaret River and very close to Voyager & Leeuwin Estates which are my suggestions for a great lunch.
Pierro is located to the North of Margaret River at Wilyabrup and has a well-established history having been founded by Dr Michael Peterkin in 1979. The cellar door tastings are very friendly, and there is no charge made to sample the more expensive tastings. Pierro is considered to be one of Australia's leading maker of Chardonnay, and their Pierro Chardonnay is a must try. The cellar door also sells the Fire Gully wines which are excellent and as they tend to be less expensive than their Pierro cousins they do stretch the wallet that little further while still being a beautiful wine.
Address: 4051 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6280
Hours: 10am–5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9755 6220
Clairault apart from having produced some exceptionally good wines for the last 40 years is a beautiful venue to visit in its own right. You pull in through the impressive limestone walls to follow the gently meandering driveway taking in some immaculate pastoral scenery. Free wine tastings are held daily, and you will find the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable. There is an excellent cafe open from 11am-4pm daily if you were looking for something light to eat or a coffee, I can highly recommend the cheese plate. Here is their menu to give you an idea of what will be on offer Spring Menu 2018.
Address: 3277 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6282
Hours: 10am-5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9755 6225
Xanadu was established by Dr John Lagan in 1977 just south of the Margaret River township, and since then it has gone on to become one of the regions, if not Australia's leading wine producers. Their wines are often ranked in the high 90s by James Halliday, and they currently hold the coveted Halliday 5 Red Star Status which places them comfortably in the best of the best category. Wine Tastings are held daily in a converted artists studio/gallery, and there is plenty of room at the bar in case you happen to arrive at the same time as a large group.
Address: Boodjidup Rd, Margaret River WA 6285
Hours: 10am–5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9758 95002
2. Enjoy a Spot of Lunch
There are few things in life quite so satisfying as tucking into a beautiful meal of lovingly prepared local produce while overlooking stunning rural countryside and sipping on a glass of wine native to the region. There are two restaurants in the Margaret River that provide this experience in spades, and they are both located just south of the Margaret River township, Leeuwin Estate and Voyager Estate.
Leeuwin Estate is world famous for its outdoor concerts and its Art Series wines and is the benchmark by which other Margaret River vineyards are measured. The drive up to the main building along an undulating road surrounded by impeccably maintained grounds is a wonderful introduction to this elegant epicurean delight.
The beautifully appointed indoor/outdoor restaurant with its elevated views out over a manicured meadow surrounded by towering Karri trees is as pleasant a venue as you will find anywhere. Weather permitting if you can get a table on the verandah I would strongly recommend doing so.
The restaurant is open daily for lunch, and you can choose between the à la carte menu or the degustation menu. The degustation is a six-course $109AUD menu with two matched wine options, current release wines for $46AUD or museum release wines for $82AUD. Whichever way you go I am sure you will be delighted by Head Chef Dan Gedge's skilful interpretation of Margaret River's finest ingredients.
Once you have finished enjoying your lunch, I would highly recommend heading down to the museum where you can enjoy the stunning artwork. Apart from over 150 paintings, many of which you will see gracing their Art Series wine labels, there are some beautiful wooden tables and metal sculptures. The museum is open daily between 10 am - 5 pm.
Address: 18 High St, Fremantle WA 6160
Hours: 10am–5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9759 0000
Voyager Estate with is crisp Cape Dutch architecture and stunning gardens should be on everyone's to visit list when in the Margaret River, founded by Michale Wright in 1978, this vineyard is a testament to the love and attention to detail that he and his daughter have lavished on it over the years.
The restaurant is housed within the beautiful main building, with its soaring wooden beams, large windows and wrought iron chandeliers it has a wonderful sense of space and light. While the warm colours on the walls and rich upholstery make it an extremely inviting venue.
There are two set menus to choose from, the first is the 7-course Discovery Menu, for $110AUD per person, this is their signature menu and is a sophisticated yet satisfying dining experience. Their head chef Santiago Fernandez has put together a menu that best exemplifies the regional specialities; my favourites are the marron and venison. If you are going to opt for this menu, there is also the optional wine pairing for an additional $70AUD.
Then there is the 4-course Discovery Menu, for $80AUD, this is perfect for those of you who may not have time to enjoy the full seven courses, as it allows you to select your favourite dishes from the full menu. The 4-course Discovery Menu also comes with suggested wines, but there is no set pairing option. There is also a children's menu available upon request.
Whichever menu you opt for you will be in for a wonderful lunch, an opinion shared by the 2018 Good Food Guide who recently awarded the restaurant a one Hat rating. The restaurants' ethos to produce food that is locally sourced and sustainable while working closely with the estate's winemakers is undoubtedly a receipt for continuing success.
Address: 18 High St, Fremantle WA 6160
Address: Stevens Road, Margaret River, WA 6285
Hours: 10am-5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9757 6354
3. Visit a Chocolate Factory or Two
There are two chocolate producers in Margaret River, and you should visit both as they are both brilliant in their different ways. The Margaret River Chocolate Factory has a range of chocolate products that staggers the imagination, whilst Gabriel Chocolate is positively puritanical in its quest to produce the highest quality chocolate bars.
The Margaret River Chocolate Factory
No visit to The Margaret River would be complete without a visit to the iconic Margaret River Chocolate Factory. This is the original Margaret River Chocolate factory opened in 1999 and is home to over 200 mouthwatering chocolate products. As you enter you will be offered a free chocolate tasting of chocolate drops in either dark, milk or white chocolate, this is always popular with the kids.
Behind glass counters, you will find an incredible selection of handmade truffles; my favourites are the liqueur filled ones. And then everywhere you look you will see stacks of chocolate bars, bags of toffees, bottles of chocolate sauces, gift hampers and cocoa powder. This really is the closest most of us will come to experiencing Willie-Wonkers' world.
There is also a cafe which serves light savoury and sweet dishes, coffees and of course amazing hot chocolates; the brownies also deserve an honourable mention. I challenge you to leave the Margaret River Chocolate Factory without buying something - I have never been able to.
Address: 415 Harman's Mill Rd, Metricup WA 6280
Hours: 9am-5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9755 6555
Gabriel Chocolate is Western Australia's first bean to bar chocolate makers; they transform pure cocoa beans into luxuriously finished chocolate bars. At their custom-built facility in Yallingup, the World's finest cocoa beans are hand sorted, roasted and winnowed to produce cocoa nibs that are the basis for their fantastic range of single source chocolate - the best way of thinking about it is as chocolate's version of single malt scotch.
I love visiting Gabriel's, the highlight for me is tasting the various chocolates and talking to their friendly & knowledgeable staff who explain the different flavours that each region's bean produces. The best way I can describe the experience is travelling the World through the medium of chocolate - there is even a world map on the wall to help you track your journey.
Gabriel's varies the percentages of their dark chocolate from 58% as with their Ecuador which has natural notes of sweet coconut, cherry & french vanilla up to 99% in their Venezuela Chuao which has a flavour of blueberries, plums, molasses & vanilla. There are a host of different chocolates to choose from and I am sure you will find one that you love, my new favourite is their Dark Mint Chocolate which is amazing, as it actually tastes like a natural mint bush!
Address: Caves Rd & Quininup Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm
Phone: (08) 9756 6689
4. Climb down into a Cave
The Margaret River region is home to some of the World's most stunning caves. While there are six caves to choose from, there are two in particular which I would recommend exploring. They are Lake Cave and Ngili Cave.
Lake Cave is absolutely breathtaking, taking its name from the permanent lake within, the reflections of the stalactites, stalagmites, straws and columns on the water make the cave feel twice as large as it is. Lake Cave is the deepest of the open caves and to access it you will descend the 350 steps of the stairway, remember to watch your head on the way out.
You will be taken on a guided tour and learn the history of the cave as well as the different rock formations. The cave is beautifully lit so that the walls and ceiling are bathed in warm white light, and the walkways are firm and easy to navigate. At one point on the tour the guide will turn off the cave lights, and you will get to experience the amazing peacefulness of the all-enveloping darkness. The tour costs $22AUD per Adult and $10AUD per Child.
Address: Caves Rd & Conto Road, Forest Grove WA 6286
Hours: 9am-5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9757 7411
The Ngili Cave is my other recommendation due to its mesmerising array of crystals and a brilliant light show. Ngili is also fun to explore as, unlike Lakes Cave where your time in the cave is carefully curated by the guide in Ngili you are given time to investigate on your own. You will be able to discover the wonderful secrets of the cave using stairs and underground paths which have been carefully designed to maximise the stunning views of the rock and crystal formations.
Ngili is a very popular cave in the peak seasons of Spring and Summer, and it is well worth booking in advance, you can do this on the margaretriver.com website which I have included a link to below, there are also options to visit multiple caves as well as the Cape Naturalist Lighthouse and thereby save money.
Address: 76 Yallingup Caves Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
Hours: 9am-5pm Daily (First tour at 9:30am, Last entry at 4:00pm)
Phone: (08) 9757 7411
5. Go for a Walk
The Margaret River Region is rightly famous for its rugged natural beauty & incredible ocean views, and there is no better way to take advantage of these than by going for a walk in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
The most famous of the walking tracks being the Cape to Cape Track which extends 140km from Cape Naturalist to Cape Leeuwin, crossing ridgelines and beaches it provides stunning views out over the Indian Ocean. To cover the entire Cape to Cape track is a five to six-day walk, as such it is not for the faint-hearted or anyone looking for a weekend getaway, that being the case there are many shorter walks that loop around to bring you back where you started whilst still taking in the magnificent scenery.
There are two locally produced guides to help you with either the whole of the Cape to Cape Track or the circular day walks; they are The Cape to Cape Track Guidebook and Walking Round in Circles. There is also a very good Cape to Cape Map Pack which has very detailed topographic maps of the track to help you plan your walk.
As I am on the topic of maps, there is an excellent regional map by Hema which I can highly recommend, it is the South West Corner Map. The map is double-sided, on one side there is a fully indexed Margaret River Wine Region Map listing cellar doors, opening hours and varieties of wine available. The other side the map extends to cover the Southern Forests regions, Pemberton is well worth a visit if only to visit the Picardy winery (amazing Pinot Noir & Shiraz).
6. Laze by the Beach
The Margaret River Region is truly blessed with some of the World's most stunning coastline and with that comes some amazing beaches. It is quite common that you will find yourself to be the only person walking alongside a turquoise blue sea on pristine white sand. There is a vast range of beaches to choose from, and here you will find a comprehensive rundown of 67 of them Top Swimming & Surfing Beaches, but if I had to pick just two, they would be Bunker Bay Beach and Meelup Beach.
Meelup Beach is a wonderful place to spend the day, with its protected water, green areas and white sand. There are also very good facilities such as ample parking, bar-b-ques, toilets and grassy areas to lay out a picnic blanket.
My pick of Bunker Bay Beach has as much to do with the stunning beach as it does with Bunkers Beach House. There is no better way to start the day in my opinion than with a walk on the beach followed by a tasty breakfast. Bunkers Beach House is a real find, with its beachside veranda and uninterrupted views out over the Ocean. The coffee is first rate and the food superb, I can highly recommend the Smashed Avacado, and Fried Eggs with Farm House Black Pudding here is their full Breakfast Menu.
Address: Farm Break Ln, Naturaliste WA 6281
Hours: 8:30am-3pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9756 8284
7. Visit the Light House
The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse holds a number of records, firstly it is the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia, offering unparalleled views out over the surrounding seascape, perfect for a spot of whale watching from May - September. And secondly, it is the most south-westerly point of Australia being located on the exact point where the Indian Ocean intersects with the Southern.
This famous historic landmark crafted from local limestone in 1895 is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the Margaret River Region, explore the workings and history of this operational Lighthouse. There is also a good coffee shop on site, perfect for a hot drink on a cold winters day. Visit the Margaret River website to book your tour.
Address: Leeuwin Rd, Augusta WA 6290
Hours: 9am-5pm Daily
8. Indulge your senses
No visit to the Margaret River is complete without a visit to Vasse Virgin, the olive oil factory. Vasse Virgin is a trove of indulgent delights from their beautifully handcrafted oils, soaps & scrubs to their gourmet food range. If I told you that their olives taste amazing, you would probably not be too surprised. Nestled amongst the vines this wonderful family-owned business is a haven of quiet tranquillity.
For those of you looking to learn more about the making of soaps and oils then Vasse Virgin offers classes and workshops. The classes range from 30 minutes to half-day workshops, allowing you to get your hands dirty in the best possible way.
Address: 2 Rosa Brook Rd, Margaret River WA 6285
Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9757 2999
9. Enjoy a Cleansing Ale
Micro-Breweries have become all the rage over the last 20 years, and not surprisingly Margaret River has its fair share to choose from. There are two which I would definitely recommend dropping into and trying their wares.
Colonial Brewing Company
Probably the most famous of the micro-breweries is the Colonial Brewing company, and to be quite honest it is not so micro as it used to be, having been hugely successful since its founding in 2004, so it would probably be more accurate to call it a craft beer brewery.
What I really enjoy about the brewery is that you can choose between two tasting boards, the first is a sample of their core range, the beers which they are renowned for and that you will find on tap throughout WA, they are safe and delicious. Then there are the project beers; these are extremely small batch beers that push the boundaries of flavour. The last time I was there I tried some confectionary flavoured beer, I can't remember what type exactly but it was definitely some form of pink candy. So if you want to play it safe stay with the core tasting but if you are feeling adventurous, then the project beers are a lot of fun.
Address: 29 Osmington Rd, Bramley WA 6285
Hours: 11am-6pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9758 8177
The Bootleg Brewery is the perfect spot to sink a cold brew on a hot day. The brewery is built overlooking a gorgeous lake and is surrounded by rolling green grass and trees.
Bootleg has a very relaxed vide, there is often live music, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. The beers are excellent and plentiful, and the menu hosts some good pub favourites.
Address: 37 Wildberry Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6280
Hours: 11am-5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9755 6300
10. Soak Up Some Culture
The Margaret River Region has always been a very popular place to settle with artists and as such the locally produced artwork is of the highest quality. The best way to experience the widest range and best examples of this artwork is by visiting some of the galleries in the Margret River Township.
The most notable of which is the Margaret River Gallery, where you will be able to enjoy the paintings and sculpture from a diverse range of highly regarded artists. You will also find that many of the larger vineyards will have artwork on display, notably Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix.
Address: 1/4 Charles W Ave, Margaret River WA 6285
Hours: 10am-5pm Daily
Phone: (08) 9757 2729
Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading my suggestions for where to go in this amazing corner of Western Australia. My wife and I have made Margaret River a yearly pilgrimage for as long as I can remember and we absolutely love bringing friends and relatives to visit, it never fails to impress. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comments below.
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