Margaret River

Margaret River Wineries – These are a quite a long way south of Perth – about a 3 hour drive or 380 Kilometres away but if you have the time, it is well worth it to travel south from Perth and stay overnight or longer – as it is a truly beautiful coastline with lots to see and do with great beaches, scenery, the wineries, national parks, limestone caves, and interesting places to stay at and restaurants to suit every taste and budget.
There are lots of places to stay in Margaret River, Busselton, Dunsborough and Augusta.

Busselton on Geographe Bay is about 50 kilometres north of the main wine areas of the Margaret River, and is located right on the coast, with the wooden Busselton Jetty running out into the ocean 1.8 kilometres with an underwater Observatory at the end, where you can walk down a stairway to the bottom of the ocean and see all the corals, fish and other life through the glass viewing windows. You can either walk the length of the Jetty or take the Jetty Train. All the water sports are here – from surfing, fishing, snorkelling, whale watching in season, wind surfing and other beachside fun, and there is also lots of walkways, bike tracks, shops, restaurants, bars, golf and accommodation options.

About 27 kilometres west on Caves Road, along the coastline from Busselton is Dunsborough, a small town with nice restaurants, shops, beaches, places to stay and some boutique Breweries such as Eagle Bay Brewery and Bush Shack Brewery all near the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and the 20 metre high Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. Just off the coast at Dunsborough is the wreck of HMAS Swan, which is a great dive site. Follow Cape Naturaliste Road to Bunker Bay – about 13 kilometres where you will find the lighthouse and a small Museum. This whole coastline, the cliffs, beaches and wild landscape makes for great drive and there are also many walking trails too.

Imagine finding a beach called Three Bears, Guillotine, Gallows, Rabbit Hill! They’re real beaches and all these beaches near Yallingup Beach facing the Indian Ocean – one of the best surfing beaches on the coast. Yallingup and nearby Smiths Beach are about 12 kilometres from Dunsborough off Caves Road – a road that runs all the way southwards past many wineries almost all the way to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and the small town of Augusta.

The big attraction, besides the beaches and scenery are the Margaret Valley Wineries, but where the Swan Valley wineries can trace their history back to 1830, the first Margaret River wineries only started in 1967 when the first plantings were made. The vineyard land is located near the coastline, with limestone and clay soils and a unique maritime climate, with the Antarctic 5000 kilometres south and the vast Indian Ocean to the west. This combination of soils and climate has led to some exceptional wines being made, and there are now around 5000 hectares of grapes being grown here – with over 200 wineries, and around 80 of these with cellar Doors where you can sample their wine. Some of the best known wineries here include Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, Evans & Tate and Sandalford, but there are many others including many Boutique wineries.

The Margaret River Visitor Centre in Margaret River (there is a town called Margaret River) is located at 100 Bussell Highway (Tel: (08)9780 5911) and they have lots of information about the wineries and also the other places to see and visit.

One of the area’s big attractions is the various limestone caves that are located in and around the National Park with their spectacular stalactites. There are a number of caves including Calgardup Cave, Ngilgi Cave, Jewel, Lake and Mammoth Caves – you will see signs to the Caves or you can call (08) 9557 7411 to book cave tours.

Augusta in the South of the winery areas is a small town with a number of hotels and places to stay, and it is right on the coastline where the Blackwood River enters into Flinders Bay. There are great beaches, bays like Hamelin Bay where you might be able to see or feed stingrays, Jewell Cave is about 8km away, whale watching June to December and boating and fishing. Nearby is Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Museum which is the most south western point of Australia. The 39 metre high lighthouse was built in 1895 and stands high above the cliffs, facing out to the ocean where the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean come together. Nearby the lighthouse is an old Waterwheel , almost crusted over, and there are great views over the ocean and coastline wherever you look.

Just north of Augusta, off the Caves Road, there is a gravel road called Boranop Drive that does a loop through the Karri Forests before coming back to Caves Road. Karri is a unique timber, and the tall trees on each side of the road are quite awe inspiring.

If you want to see Karri Forests – and have the time, head to Pemberton, 124 kilometres east from Augusta. Karri trees can be up to a thousand years old, and 90 metres high and are unique to Western Australia, along with Jarrah Trees and rare Tingle and Tuart Trees. Pemberton was once a timber town, and is surrounded by Karri forests, with lots of walking trails, and even a tram to take you through the forest. There is also trout fishing and a number of wineries nearby, and for something completely different head to Yeagarup Dunes about 20 kilometres from Pemberton. It is best and more fun to take a 4WD tour of the dunes, as the deep sand needs lots of driving skill to negotiate the deep white sand.
Heading South East from Pemberton along the coast you can head all the way to Albany – which is about 363 kilometres from Augusta, or roughly a 5 hour journey – quite a long way. If you do decide to go this way, head initially to Denmark on the coast.

Denmark is a small town on the coast with cool climate wineries, chocolate, blueberries, Alpacas, Mazes, truffles, bush tucker foods, arts and crafts, giant trees and walks and of course the beach and all that it offers. There are a number of special places to see – the first being the Valley of the Giants and the Ancient Empire Walk in the Walpole Nornalup National Park at Tinglewood (named after the Tingle Trees), a sandalwood plantation at 73 South Coast Rd in Denmark (Tel: (08) 9848 2814) and a Truffle farm at 490 Seven Day Rd Manjimup. Western Australia is now recognized for its truffles, and they have 13000 hazel and oak trees where the truffles can be found by the specially trained Truffle dogs.

Albany is located on Princess Royal Harbour in King Georges Sound, and was the first settlement in Western Australia, first established in 1826, pre-dating Perth by 3 years. See History on this website). The town has a population of around 33,000 people and it has a number of buildings dating back to its early history including the Convict Gaol on Residency Road. The Albany Visitor Centre has lots of information about the town’s history, including its Anzac, Light Horse and Naval history, whaling stories and times of the early explorers. The first Anzac service and the words “Lest we forget” – were said here in Albany when the Troop ships first set sail for Gallipoli in the First World War.

The town is almost surrounded by National Parks with spectacular coastal scenery, and the wind and waves from the Southern Ocean also add to the experience. Off shore HMAS Perth was sunk in 2001 to the sounds of bag pipes to become a dive wreck, and whales and dolphins can often be seen off the coastline. Rock fishing is possible, but you have to be extra careful not to be washed off the rocks.

Torndirrup National Park is also worth visiting to see ‘The Gap’ where the ocean sprays up through the gap in the Rocks and also ‘The Natural Rock Bridge’ is also here too.

Kalgan River is said to be the oldest river in the world, and the Kalgan River Queen riverboat can take you on board to see the river, and even see into the river below through the glass bottom in the boat.

Good food, scenery, history, shopping are all here in Albany, which is about 420 kilometres away from Perth on the Albany Highway.

One of the best things about travelling is not necessarily having a fixed itinerary – just following the road where it takes you, and meeting people that add their ideas to yours as to the best places to travel to. Having reached Albany, you are a long way south of Perth, and you can certainly head straight back to Perth on the main highway, or head slowly back via the other roads and towns that head generally in that direction.

Happy Travelling!
Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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