There is something inexplicably special about Margaret River and its surrounding region. Located approximately a 3.5 hour drive south of Perth and nestled right in the South Western corner of the continent, it’s becoming something of a tourist hotspot in Australia. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is, but it really stands alone (both geographically and in character!) from the rest of the country.
I guess there is some bias on our behalf, however. We spent over 4 months living and working in the region and we owe a lot to this corner of the world. It was here that we managed to get back on our feet after tumultuous management of finances in Melbourne. It was here that we found well-paid farm work which allowed us to complete requirements for our visa extension. It was here that we met some of the best people from our travels.
On top of this, it was in Margaret River that we learnt to surf, acquired a taste for good wine and really opened our eyes to the stark realities of large-scale farming and the importance of sourcing the produce you consume.
But all of that is subjective to us. You don’t just need to take our own personal experience as recommendation. The region and town itself have won numerous awards for tourism and are slowly becoming the premier destination for domestic tourists. The region’s home to over 100 wineries and award-winning wines, a whole host of boutique breweries, restaurants and bars serving the best fresh produce. All of which are dotted between rolling hills, dense karri forests and swathes of pastoral land.
All of this as well as 135 kilometre stretch of coast which boasts some of the best beaches we have seen anywhere in the world. The world-famous waves are the main draw for many, being immortalised in the seminal surf documentary The Endless Summer and revered in the surfing community for their year-round consistency.
It’s a place where time slows to a grinding halt and the days are kissed with endless blue skies and hazy sunshine. In the hope that all of this has tempted you to visit we have a compiled a guide to the Margaret River region with some of our personal favourite foodie destinations and recommendations for things to do when in town.
Famed for its Mediterranean climate and wealth of fresh, local produce it’s really easy to find cafes and restaurants serving up incredible dishes that celebrate Margs as one of the best food regions in the world.
Colonial Brewery – If pizza and beer are your thing then the Colonial Brewery is the place for you. If you’re feeling peckish on a Friday then head down for $10 pizzas between 6-8pm. Opt for the Japanese style KonniciWA (geddit?!) pizza which is topped with sweet soy wasabi chicken, ginger, coriander, onion and kewpie. Wash it down with a tasting paddle of all of the Colonial Brewery favourites.
White Elephant Cafe – The White Elephant Cafe in Gnarabup was one of our most frequented cafes. Serving up light lunches, delicious coffees and healthy smoothies in an unbeatable location. This cafe is as close to the beach as you can get in the region so make the most of lazy afternoons spent over a lunch here.
Margaret River Bakery – Our favourite pick of the bunch. Chow down on well-priced meals and baked deserts in this kitsch cafe. The Bakery is an Instagram dream, covered in quirky paintings, mix-and-match tableware and the odd vintage chandelier. Set at the end of the main street, Margaret River Bakery is the perfect pit-stop for lunch or a smoothie.
Australia is completely consumed by coffee culture. You can hardly walk through any major city without being confronted by the smell of coffee and the sight of espresso machines at every turn. Margaret River, as small as it is, hasn’t escaped the hype and serves up some of the best we’ve had.
River Smith – One of the township’s newest offerings, River Smith is one trendy coffee spot. Sit outside and people watch over a delicious flat white after browsing the gorgeous gift and homeware shop inside.
Yahava Koffee Works – The home of Margaret River coffee. Yahava is a coffee complex – they roast their own blends on site, offer free tasting sessions, have a great coffee inspired shop and serve up their great coffee in their cafe or via the drive-thru window.
Brew Shack – A favourite with the surf crowd. This tiny, laid back cafe is a great place for a relaxing brew whilst perusing the latest surf magazines or admiring the gorgeous wave photography on display.
Sidekick Cafe – The best cafe in town if your after speedy wifi, great coffee and beautiful organic treats. If you’re more of a tea drinker, try one of Sidekick’s Chai lattes.
First and foremost Margaret River is famed for its wine. Although it lacks the global giants of other wine regions it has an emphasis on smaller, ’boutique’ wineries and is known world-wide for its red varieties. We weren’t massive red wine drinkers prior to our visit here but now we are aspiring alcoholics! And even if you’re not a wine fan (yet) the estates themselves are well worth a visit.
Voyager Estate – Home to one of Ryan’s favourite wines, Girt by Sea (try it!) and set in gorgeous European style surrounds, Voyager Estate is a perfect place to while away an afternoon trying some fantastic wines. Taste a few for free or book onto one of the very reasonable guided tasting sessions.
Leeuwin Estate – Leeuwin is a stunning estate, surrounded by acres of rolling vineyards and countryside. It is one of the five founding wineries in the Margaret River Region and their experience shines through their delicious wines and fabulous restaurant. Make sure you check out the on site Art Gallery and catch one the regular events staged on the sprawling front lawns.
Cape Mentelle – As one of the most respected wine makers in the region, you can expect great things from a Cape Mentelle wine (especially the Shiraz, our personal favourite!). The best time to visit is summer, when the famous Movies at Cape Mentelle begin. Watch a film under the stars with a glass of red and some gourmet fare – perfection!
Vasse Felix – Just outside of Margaret River town is Vasse Felix, a beautiful estate producing some sumptuous wines. Margaret River has the Vasse Felix Estate to thank as it’s the founding winery in the region. If you don’t get lost in the manicured grounds then head straight to the cellar door and work your way through the tasting list. The Blanc de Blancs was easily one of the best sparkling wines I’ve ever tasted.
Once you’ve stuffed your gut with all the wine, cheese, coffee and food you can manage it’s time to get moving and explore what else the region has to offer. As well as a foodie haven the area is a paradise for those that love the great outdoors and the list of activities are endless.
Call into the tourist office on the high street for more information on individual tours and tour companies.
SUP Down Margaret River – One of our only regrets from our time in Margaret River is that we didn’t get to SUP down the river. Rent out a board and jump in at the town, lazily paddling towards the coast.
Winery Tour – There are many ways of sampling Margaret River’s world-class export. You can spend the day driving around the region and stopping wherever looks pretty, you can join one of the many
booze buses guided tours, cycle from place to place… the list goes on! Just remember to never drink and drive, the region is often crawling with police who can’t wait to breath check you.
Fishing – Margaret River is one of the best fishing destinations in the state. Join a charter to catch the big ‘uns or set up camp along the Rivermouth for a relaxing, and often successful day. There are countless hidden fishing spots to find so fill up the esky and get looking!
Surfing – Wine and waves are Margs’ premier attractions and you can’t leave the region without sampling both. Hire a board and hit any of the 75 local breaks to find out what all the fuss is about.
Margaret River Farmer’s Market – Every Saturday the Margaret River Farmer’s Market takes over the Education Centre on the main street. Frequented by local farmers from all over the region, it’s a great place to try some of the produce Margaret River is becoming famed for.
Drive Down Caves Road Tourist Trail – Caves Road weaves its way along the coast, adjacent to the main drag of the Bussell Highway. The road passes through towering karri forests, passed stunning wineries and rolling vineyards. Take a day or two to drive Cape to Cape, taking in all the beaches and wineries in between.
Explore One of the 150 Limestone Caves – It’s hard to believe that Margaret River is home to so many incredible underground caves. Choose a couple to explore or tag along on a guided tour to find out more about these bejewelled wonders.
Whale Watching – From June to December, the crystal clear waters of the Margaret River Region come alive with migrating whales. Spot them from the shore or join a whale-watching tour to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures.
Walk the Cape to Cape Track – Surely one of the most scenic walks in Australia, if not the world! The Cape to Cape Track stretches for 135km through karri forrests and coastal heath, along cliff-sides and breathtaking beaches. You can tackle the walk across 5-6 days or join the track wherever you please for a shorter dose of exploration.
If you look up photos of Margaret River on Google or in any guide-book or magazine you’re likely to be flooded with images of pristine white beaches and clear blue waters. The beaches that stretch along the coast are some of the best in the world and, unlike other parts of Australia, you’re likely to have the whole place to yourself!
We loved the beaches so much we dedicated an entire post to them! Read more here: The Best Beaches in South West Australia (Or the World!)
With everything that the region has going for it listed above, it’s no surprise that there are a whole host of events put on throughout the year to showcase everything from the good food and drink to the world-class surf breaks that bless it’s shores.
Gourmet Escape, November – Margaret River is quickly becoming one of the best foodie destinations in Australia, with the Gourmet Escape festival testament to this. The escape attracts celebrity chefs and food personalities from all over the globe (Marco Pierre White & Rick Stein graced the festival last year) and is spread out over a weekend of indulgent dinners and eye-opening talks. Not to be missed!
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, April – In April, the best surfers in the world descend on Margaret River for the annual Drug Aware Surf Pro. Find a spot in the sand and watch the fearsome talented bunch tackle the famous Margaret River Mainbreak and death-defying Box.
Our guide to the Margaret River region wouldn’t be complete without mention of all the equally idyllic towns that share this incredible corner of the world. From small beach-side villages to artistic hubs and service towns there’s plenty of neighbouring spots to whistle away the days in style.
Augusta – The most southern point in the region, Augusta is a really sleepy little town with not much in the way of shops or cafes but the bay holds some the clearest water we’ve ever seen in our lives and is a prime spot for dolphin watching. Carry on driving to Cape Leeuwin to see the lighthouse and vast expansive views of the ocean in every direction.
Gracetown – Small town right on the coast and something of a paradise for surfers. With beginners breaks on the southern point at Huzza’s Beach and bigger breaks on the northern shore there’s something for everyone. Failing that the beach itself is sheltered from the winds by the bay and a perfect spot to soak up the hazy WA sunshine.
Cowaramup “Cow Town” – The closest town north of Margaret River. Mainly an agricultural town but there’s a few things worth your time! The town is a site of pilgrimage for cow lovers, with statues lining the streets and even grand, golden cow sculptures in the town park. A few good little cafes and boutique shops, certainly worth a couple of hours of your day!
Yallingup – The Margaret River region is a fairly affluent region enough as it is but if any town screamed wealth and epitomised the Australian dream it’s Yallingup. World famous surfers call this quiet spot home and it’s easy to see why, with incredible homes set back into the cliffs overlooking the endless surf breaks and blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
Dunsborough – A stone’s throw from Yallingup is the slightly bigger town of Dunsborough. Adorned on both it’s north and west by some of the best beaches in the region (Meelup Beach!) the town itself feels like a slightly more relaxed sibling of Margaret River. A big emphasis on surf culture and a local art scene, this was probably our favourite town in the region. Head up to Cape Naturaliste for a spot of whale watching during winter!
Busselton – Busselton is the biggest town in the region and provides essential services to the rest of the region. But there’s so much more to the place beyond that. It has a bustling waterfront and town centre. The highlight is the Busselton Jetty which stretches right out into the bay and even offers underwater viewing points at a small charge!
We love Margaret River and the surrounding region and we know you will too! We hope this guide has been useful and that you enjoy your trip down south.
Have you been to Margaret River before? Let us know anything we should add to our guide via our social media pages.
We’ve included a map of many of the places mentioned above. Happy travels!