About three hours’ drive south of the state’s capital, Perth, the Margaret River area produces about 3 percent of Australia's wines, but is responsible for about 20 percent of Australia's ‘premium market’ wines. From its humble beginnings in the late 1960s, over 100 boutique wineries are now nestled here.
Despite the towering native eucalyptus forests and kangaroo crossing signs, the Margaret River region looks and feels a lot like Northern California. Its temperate Mediterranean climate produces a wide breadth of many varietals of whites and reds – with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay being the standouts. Explore the region’s rugged coastline, huge caves and historic lighthouses while visiting intimate boutique wineries and overnighting at top-notch lodges. This uncrowded, mellow southwest corner of Australia is worth the trek, and the wines will not disappoint.
Photo courtesy Steel Wool via Flickr/CC
Get Your Bearings on the Margaret River
Book a Room at Cape Lodge
Set on 40 acres with its own vineyards of Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, the Cape Lodge is one of the best places to stay in the Margaret River, and even in all of Western Australia. It’s the only property in the state listed in the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World portfolio.
Vasse Felix Winery - Where it All Began
The Margaret River can thank its wine legacy to a cardiologist from Perth. It was 1967 when Dr. Tom Cullity, after a year searching and scouring endless sites, finally found what he believed to be his ideal land of “red gravel in redgum country, with clay about 18 inches below the surface.”
Paddle the River
One excellent way to enjoy the great Australian outdoors is by canoe. Bushtucker Tours run a full-day cave and canoe tour beginning at the mouth of the Margaret River, near where it empties out into the Indian Ocean. With a local guide, you paddle in 2-to-5 person canoes into the deep “bush,” where you learn about Aboriginal medicine plants and wild food products, and have a chance to get up close and personal with wildflowers, native forest and wildlife (don’t worry – no crocs in these parts!). You also get to explore the many caves the area is known for. Bushtucker Tours has been owned by the same local family for over two decades.
Watch the Waves at Surfers Point
Home to the Margaret River Pro surf tournament, Surfers Point is an internationally renowned surf spot. It’s the main surf break along the area’s southwestern coastline and it nearly always has great waves – often up to twelve feet or more. Some pro surfers opt for a Hawaiian style tow-in by jet ski to get the biggest breaking waves. The parking lot here is nearly always full with surfers and onlookers gasping at the riders getting perfectly “tubed” before the waves crash on to a shallow reef. The waters are electric blue and green, and kept a toasty warm thanks to the current coming southward from the Tropics. Unless you’re a title-holder, you may want to safely stay on dry ground at Surfers Point.