Margaret River

December 31st, 2001

Our perception has always been that Western Australia is a long way away, but in fact it is a 5 hour direct flight from Brisbane. If you are routed through Sydney, however, it will take a lot longer and be a much more tedious trip.

We, in fact, chose to fly to Adelaide and catch the Indian Pacific train across the Nullarbor to Perth. We love train travel and this seemed like a good opportunity to do something different. Our expectations were not high and we took two friends and a good book to pass the time (2 overnights + 1 ½ days).

As train journeys go it was pretty boring. The Indian Pacific is fairly old and tired, the food very average and frankly there is nothing to see. The highlight was a stopover in Kalgoorli, with a bus trip around this historic gold mining town that sports 24 hour pubs and a vibrant legal red light district.

Our nine days in the Margaret River area only gave us a fleeting impression of this lovely place. The following, therefore, cannot claim to be a comprehensive guide but is simply aimed at giving you a starting point, from which we know you will discover your own gems.

THE BEST ADVICE I CAN GIVE YOU IS TO BUY ‘A Guide to Touring the Wine Regions of Western Australia’ by Duncan Gardner and Julie Williamson — distributed by Rotherbridge Pty. Ltd. (info@rotherbridge.com.au). This is a superb guide with coloured photos of not only the vineyards, but also charming places to stay, galleries and a rundown on the best of the other nearby attractions.

When To Go

The pick of the seasons September, October and November with the best wild flowers to be seen in the early period. However, Fremantle and the Margaret River both have big festivals in November that would add to your experience

Weather

Perth is hot and dry in Spring/Summer but take a jacket for the Margaret River, which can be somewhat cooler. Margaret River wine area borders the coast with a marine climate for the grapes. It is a wild and beautiful coastline and can be quite windy.

Car Rental

If you thought kangaroos were sweet and cuddly, wait until you see what they look like embedded in your radiator after you have run into one at110 km.p.h.

Most accidents in the Margaret River occur at night and involve the wildlife, so rental companies are reluctant to insure travellers for these types of accidents and for travelling after dark. Budget will however, as long as the night trips are short – typically from your accommodation to a nearby restaurant.

This information is important because if you cannot travel at night, you will need to have a substantial meal at lunchtime and take a deli meal back to your hotel, unless they provide meals.

Accommodation

We were particularly keen to stay in smaller, interesting boutique hotels, historic B&Bs and farmstays. Information came from Dawsons Unique Places to Stay, the WA Government Tourist Bureau and the internet. Allow ten days all up to see a little of Perth, a day in Fremantle, 5 or 6 days in the Margaret River and 2 or 3 days further south to Albany. You could spend a lot longer in the southern region around Albany and Mt. Barker if you are into eco tourism, walking in the tall forests and a wilder experience.

The places we stayed at and highly recommend are:-

Cape Lodge – Tel: 08 97556311, Fax: 08 97556322, www.capelodge.com.au
A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this elegantly appointed 18 suite hotel is in a lovely setting. It also has a small inhouse restaurant serving good food. $235-$350 per couple, including gourmet breakfast, in large suites.

Basildene Manor – Tel: 08 9757 3140, Fax: 08 9757 3383, www.basildene.com.au
Listed by the National Trust, this 1912 home has been extended to include some modern courtyard suites overlooking lovely cottage gardens. From $212 for a king suite per couple, including one of the best breakfasts you’ll ever eat. Five minute drive to the township of Margaret River.

Gilgara Homestead – Tel: 08 9757 2705, Fax: 08 9757 3259, www.gilgara.com.au
A classic Australian station homestead, surrounded by gardens of roses and scented perennials. The 23 acres property adjoins a state forest, with a walk through to Meekadarabee Falls and historic Ellensbrook Homestead on the coast — home of the first Settlers Ellen and Alfred Bussell in 1857. From $220-$272 per couple per night including breakfast. A 10 minute drive to the township of Margaret River.

Chalet Arunga – Tel/Fax: 08 9845 1025, www.denmarkwa.com/arunga
Jacqui and John Codee have built a large, comfortable 2-bedroom rammed earth cottage on their cattle farm. Jacqui is an artist and has embellished the cottage with charming artistic touches. Having breakfast in a sunlit conservatory with a very big charolais bull day-dreaming in the green grass on the other side of the glass is a surprisingly restful way to start the day. Jacqui had baked us a Dutch apple pie and stocked the frig with fresh asparagus from a nearby farm, pate and local berries. $220 per night for two couples in two suites(or $160 for one couple), including a delicious breakfast of home made bread, smoked salmon, ham, King Island cheese, home made jams, fresh pastries and fruit. Arunga is between Denmark and Albany. It is off the beaten track so get directions from Jacqui.

Port Mill Bed & Breakast – Fremantle. Tel: 08 9433 3832, Fax: 08 9433 1290, email: portmill@bigpond.com.
Right in the heart of old Fremantle, this tiny 3 room B&B is part of a property which includes upmarket apartments, in an historial flour mill development. From $130 per couple per night, including an English breakfast.

Places to Eat

Again, this is just a few places we found very pleasant, and not a definitive list.
Leeuwin Estate Restaurant at Leeuwin Estate Winery. Excellent modern, casual food overlooking the grassed amphitheater where they hold their concerts. Take a winery tour and check out their art collection downstairs. They commission four major works every year to use on their Art Series wine labels.

Flutes Restaurant at Brookland Valley Vineyard. Attractively cantilevered over a lake, surrounded by trees and manicured vines.

Arc of Iris in the main street of the Margaret River township. This very casual and quirky place is most recommended by locals. Superb food and well priced.

Wino’s in the main street of the Margaret River township. A wine bar/bistro, very casual with good rustic food and reasonable prices.

Vat 107 in the main street of Margaret River township and also offering accommodation. More upmarket with stylish décor and innovative food.

Bacco Port Beach Road North Fremantle. Good modern Italian food right on the front, with a terrace looking towards the port.

Wineries

Over 40 wineries are in the Margaret River area. Read ‘A Guide to Touring the Wine Regions of WA’ for descriptions, however, don’t miss Leeuwin, Cape Mentelle (mention Baguette and they will look after you), Brookland Valley, Voyager Estate (gorgeous rose gardens and good gift shop), Howard Park, Vasse Felix, Evans & Tate and many more.

Other Attractions

Willie is a 25 metre rigged schooner, based on a 1901 pearl lugger. It is in the water around Geographe Bay (north Margaret River area) between September and April, with whales seen between September and December. Evening sails takes place between Dunsborough and Cape Naturalise – gourmet nibbles are served whilst you watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

Gunyulgup and Yallingup Galleries (north Margaret River) – excellent art and craft galleries.

Margaret River Cheese Factory and Margaret River Chocolate Company, both with free demonstrations and tastings (central Margaret River).

Bootleg Brewery serves a range of award winning naturally brewed boutique beers, when you get sick of sampling wine! Pub style lunches overlooking a lake (central Margaret River).

South of Margaret River, heading towards Augusta:
Melting Pot Glass Studio, caves, and the Boranup Gallery with its wonderful jarrah and karri furniture.

The Great Southern — a region east of Pemberton and down to Albany:
This is the largest wine growing area in WA, with wilder scenery. It is less developed than the Margaret River. Other than visiting the newer vineyards, the main attraction is the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. This walk allows visitors to stroll in the canopy of the huge Tingle trees, via six 60 metre suspended bridge spans. Also recommended is a boat trip with Wilderness Cruises to the Franklin and Deep Rivers, leaving Walpole jetty.

Denmark to Albany:

More wineries, including Howard Park (with its big selling Madfish label), and onto to Albany which was the first European settlement in WA. Worth a visit to the Tourism Office to discover the historic aspects, including the goal and old whaling station. Some good accommodation, restaurants and easy access to Mt. Barker wine area from Albany — consult A Guide to Touring the Wine Regions of WA.

Marilyn Domenech, December 2001

2 Responses to “Margaret River”

  1. Jimmyon 11 Jun 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Hey,

    I have heard good things about the 2009 vintage Vasse Felix Cab Merlot from Margaret River.

    http://www.wascene.com/food-drink/vasse-felix-cabernet-merlot-2009/

    Regards,
    James

  2. big lots outdoor furniture clearanceon 20 Dec 2012 at 1:42 am

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for Restaurant and food stories

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