Sip and Savour
With more than 95 cellar doors, nine micro-breweries and a handful of cideries and distilleries thrown in the mix, it's pretty clear what the main things to do in Margaret River are. Margaret River is a region begging to be explored through the bottom of a glass. Grab yourself a designated driver or join one of the many winery tours on offer, and discover why this picturesque region is one of Australia’s most famous wine producers. Sample a paddle of craft beer, sniff and swirl your way through the tastings at a cellar door, and sip on a glass of boutique liquor. Wine needs food and there is no shortage of options from which to choose, from rustic, farm-gate-style cafes to swanky vineyard restaurants. Keep an eye out for live music and gourmet events, or why not try a food and wine-matching degustation?
It’s drinking season year round in the Margaret River, but if you’re lucky enough to visit between June and December you instead have a date with a whale – lots of them, in fact. During the latter six months of the year, an estimated 35,000 whales migrate north from Antarctica. You can often see these majestic mammals from the shore, but for a close-up encounter, join a cruise and spot humback, southern right, minke and blue whales frolicking in the water. Augusta, at the southern tip of the Margaret River, is one of the few places where you can see southern right and humpback whales interacting together.
If you thought Margaret River’s natural spoils were confined to beaches, forests and rolling green pastures – think again. Some of the area’s greatest treasures are actually underground. More than 150 limestone caves can be found under Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge – creating a magnificent, million-year-old subterranean wonderland that’s ripe for exploration. One of the top things to do is Lake Cave, about 15 minutes’ drive south-west of the town of Margaret River. Join one of the hourly guided tours and marvel at the suspended ‘table’ of crystal straws and stalactites hovering over the underground lake.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Venture to the south-westernmost tip of Australia and absorb the maritime history at the nation’s tallest mainland lighthouse. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, near Augusta, is situation at the confluence of the rugged Southern and Indian oceans. Climb 39 metres to the top of the tower on a guided tour ($20 adults, $13 kids) and learn about the lighthouse’s powerful beam, which glows with the intensity of a million candles.
Burn off the calories that inevitably come with a gourmet stay in the Margaret River at Busselton Jetty. The heritage-listed jetty extends 1.8 kilometres into Geographe Bay, and is the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. Dating back to 1865, the now-decommissioned jetty serviced more than 5000 vessels in its day. Today you can walk to the end and descend eight metres below the surface to admire the marine life at the underwater observatory. If you’re feeling lazy, take the Jetty Train ($12 adults, $6 kids).
All images are courtesy of Tourism Western Australia (excl. whale watching image, which is courtesy of Tammy Chapman)