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Hits and Misses - A Long Weekend in Margaret River


Mar 30th, 2011, 11:04 PM
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Hits and Misses - A Long Weekend in Margaret River

For those wanting the short version, here’s the slideshow:


Day 1)

Yet another hot day predicted, we leave Perth at 7:30 am, pointed south. We’ve got John Street Café in Cottesloe in mind for a pre-trip breakfast. Bill’s quest to sample every version of Eggs Benedict in Western Australia continues, I opt for a plum and almond muffin and a hashbrown. The flat whites are very good, as is my food; the atmosphere is lovely on this quiet Thursday morning under the Norfolk Pines. Sadly, Bill isn’t remotely impressed, declaring John Street’s Eggs Bennie his least favorite to date ($32.50 total).

We locate Stirling Highway, meander through downtown Cottesloe and begin the painfully slow drive through heavy traffic towards the CBD. Forty minutes later (9 am), we’re finally on the Kwinana Freeway pointed south. We spontaneously decide to make a detour to Mac Nuts WA, to stock up on their smoked macadamia nuts…we exit on Mundjong Road, make a right on St Albans, a left on Doghill and presto, we’re there…they’re not officially open for the day, but they let us in anyway.

In record time, we’re back the Kwinana headed south. The landscape is dry and parched – it’s evident that we haven’t had a drop of rain in 51 days and that it’s been one of the longest and hottest summers on record. We’re beginning to wonder if the misery will ever end.

There’s not much to look at until 55 kilometers north of Bunbury, where we officially enter the South West. Gnarled trees appear almost immediately. We take the Bunbury Bypass and we’re soon on the Bussell Highway, entering the Shire of Capel. I seem to remember Capel having something to do with cheese, so we detour into the tiny town to take a peek. It’s cute, but there’s no sign of cheese, so we continue our drive to Busselton, via the Ludlow Tuart Forest Tourist Drive, a pretty detour through heavily treed forest, before re-joining the Bussell Highway, six km north of Busselton, where we arrive just before noon.

The Busselton foreshore is busy, it’s uncomfortably hot, but we decide to get some exercise and walk the 1.8 km Busselton Jetty. We purchase a jetty day pass ($2.50 each) and set out, reaching the underwater observatory in about 20 minutes. We’re not interested in the observatory, we’re just there to walk, so we explore for a few minutes and then head back. We’re soaked with sweat and cursing the heat by the time we reach shore…it’s late March, where oh where is autumn?

I notice a sign for Simmo’s, the ice cream shop that everyone who visits WA seems to plan their trips around, a place I’d never heard of until a few months ago. We absolutely must investigate. Bill chooses licorice and vanilla, I go for mango macadamia nut and ginger cinnamon. We’re each given a small cup with two small scoops and told we owe $14. Yikes, this stuff better be good!

It is good, but certainly not something I’d go out of my way for. The flavors are definitely interesting, but suddenly, that $8 liter of Classic Vanilla Connoisseur that I have in my freezer at home seems like a really good buy.

We leave Busselton around 1:20 pm, admiring the colorful flower filled roundabouts and the enticing blue of Geographe Bay as we work our way out of town. We turn towards Dunsborough via Caves Road, where we locate Cape Naturaliste Road and drive towards Bunker Bay.

The plan is to explore a bit and perhaps have lunch at Bunker’s Beach Café, which is exactly what we do. What an idyllic spot this is…the unassuming café faces the sparkling white sand and vibrant turquoise water of Bunker Bay – the view is glorious, but the flies that pester us in the open air café are a royal pain. We settle in for a semi-relaxing lunch, opting to share the Yallingup sourdough bread with Millbrook EVOO ($6) and the warmed selection of olives, venison chorizo, tomato, garlic and basil dip ($16) as an appetizer. As a main we share a smoked mozzarella, venison chorizo, onion with tomato and rocket tile fired pizza ($18), with a glass of wine each (total for lunch $60).

The food is lovely, the location divine, we’re off to a good start.

We continue our drive towards Margaret River, calling in at Lamont’s for a tasting and a look see. Lamont’s in the Swan Valley is one of our favorite Friday lunch venues, so we’re curious to take a peek at the Margaret River version.

Our next stop is Clairault Winery, which we discovered on a previous trip. We adore this winery, liking every single wine we try, the beautiful grounds and the entertaining chat we have with the gentleman pouring the wine.

It’s getting late, so we pop into the IGA in Margaret River town for a loaf of Yallingup Wood Fired bread, cheese, salami and fruit before heading 16 km east of town to seek out the first miss of the trip, our accommodation, Rosa Brook Stone B&B.

I’ve prepared a review of this B&B and I’ll post it on Trip Advisor as soon as they heed my request to have it added to the site. Suffice to say, we were very disappointed, and the accommodation detracted from our time in Margaret River.

We spend sunset on the verandah of our B&B, sipping wine, nibbling cheese and bread, listening to birdsong and some odd sounds from the swamp next door. And it actually begins to cool off – halleluiah!
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Mar 30th, 2011, 11:27 PM
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Day 2)

We’re up early, out the door and on our way to a promising breakfast venue I’ve scouted out – The White Elephant at Gnarabup Bay. It’s deliciously chilly and I briefly regret not tossing my jacket into the car…it passes all too quickly though; we’re in for another hot day.

We order at the counter, select a table and settle in for a nice alfresco breakfast overlooking the ocean with its fierce waves and the ever present Australian black fly. This seems to be a popular spot with surfers and dog owners. Unsurprisingly, Bill orders the Eggs Benedict; I select the scones with cream and jam, of which the waitress enthusiastically approves, and of course we order flat whites ($32.50 total). The food is very good, the atmosphere relaxing and friendly.

Sated, we stroll the boardwalk to the overlooks, encountering a surfer sizing up the waves. He greets us with “any questions”? We respond with “any answers”? The mystery man immediately recognizes and comments on our accent. Turns out he’s one of us, having immigrated to WA some 35 odd years ago. We have a nice chat, and then continue our walk.

The early morning chill is a distant memory as we begin our day’s exploration. We begin at the Margaret River Chocolate Company where the calorie consumption begins in earnest as we each indulge in a spoonful (or two) of free pastilles and gulp down a hot chocolate, milk for Bill, dark for me, both good ($10 for two).

Our next stop is Providore, which is located directly behind the chocolate shop and has the same owners. We’re tempted by some wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen as we peer through the glass window to watch the goings on. We poke around the shop a bit and then head out to explore the organic garden. It’s not even 10 am and it’s already bloody hot. Ugh.

The rest of the day is spent wine tasting and eating…We visit Bettany’s, which has an interesting hot chili rose, Graylyn Estate, which makes a mean fortified, Vasse Felix, where we meet Kristen from Florida and fall in love with the grounds, Knotting Hill, where we meet owner Brian, a lovely man making fantastic wines on a stunning estate.

By mid afternoon we need nourishment, so we head to Olio Bello, one of our favorite Margaret River purveyors of fresh, tasty eats. We have a leisurely, (albeit hot) alfresco lunch under the olive trees, noshing on their homemade organic fettuccine. Bill chooses the Papa Bello Venison Bolognaise; MR minced venison, cooked in rosemary and lime oil, and a spicy rich pasta sauce with garlic, onion, mushroom, basil and spinach. Not to be outdone, I select the Premium sauce, complete with venison chorizo, roasted red peppers, caramelized onion, garlic, basil, chili and pine nuts. Both are oh-so-good, and incredibly filling ($19.50 each, BYO, free corkage!).

We round out the day with visits to the MR Venison Farm Shop, Fonti Farm Cheese, and a second visit to MR Chocolate Company for some late afternoon caffeine and a shared slice of cake that sends us both into sugar shock…and here I thought I was full. Oink, oink.
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Mar 31st, 2011, 12:35 AM
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Day 3)

We’re up early again and on our way to Blue Ginger Café in MR town, which has been recommended. We find an interesting little café attached to a specialty food store, and…no cook. It seems he has called in sick, there’s talk of copious amounts of Pinot Noir…our visions of a hearty breakfast are dashed. We opt for flat whites and bemoan our bad luck, then decide to make the trek to Hay Shed Hill instead (also recommended).

Hay Shed Hill is situated in the Willyabrup Valley – the location is lovely, the bright and airy café looks promising, so we grab a seat and peruse the decidedly limited menu, which seems to showcase…toast. Bill chooses the scrambled free range eggs on toast with salmon ($18.50). I go for the Yallingup wood fired fruit toast with jam. Nine dollars-fifty cents gets me two slices of toast, a pat of butter and a small dish of jam…hmmm. Bill’s not particularly impressed either – his eggs are undercooked and bland, he’s wishing he had some hollandaise or…something. We’re both significantly underwhelmed…$35 for this? We feel robbed.

We leave the cafe disappointed and begin the day’s exploration. Our first stop is McHenry Hohnen, home to some nice wines and some delicious looking cakes. I’m really tempted…but still feeling guilty about the previous day’s chocolate orgy. We leave with a bottle of their Shiraz and Red Zinfandel (shhh…don’t tell anyone).

Then it’s off to Edwards Wines for a few tastes…after which I’m suddenly and inexplicably wined out…is this possible? It’s not even noon!

We meander down tree lined Caves Road towards Augusta…there are very few other cars on the road and it’s nice and woodsy down this way. We detour to Hamlin Bay. Oooo, oooo, oooo! Fantastic! How have we missed this on previous visits? The bay is a startling vibrant blue set against stark white limestone rock – a feast for the eyes. The flies are annoyingly abundant and it’s grossly hot, but we explore the boardwalks and paths anyway, soon finding ourselves on a section of the Cape to Cape track, with no place to hide from the sun.

We retreat to the car and continue driving south on Caves Road, rejoining the Bussell Highway four km north of Augusta. We wander around, exploring the bays and residential areas from the air conditioned comfort of our car, then drive out to Cape Leewin Lighthouse, where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet; the most south westerly tip of Australia.

I'm momentarily distracted by the Augusta Bakery as we pass back through town. I pop in to investigate and impulsively purchase a chocolate croissant; a disappointing stale lump of bread devoid of chocolate, most of which goes into the bin.

We head back to Margaret River, stopping in town at Kappadokia for a kebab…we’ve loved this place on previous visits. Bill has a chicken kebab, I have falafel with feta ($22 total). They’re not as good as we remember…it seems today just isn’t our day.

We’ve lost steam, so we work our way back to our accommodation, stopping at Stella Bella Winery for one last wine tasting. The woman who helps us is friendly and fun, but unfortunately, my taste buds are shot, all I can taste is garlic sauce from my kebab; it’s time to call it a day.
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Mar 31st, 2011, 01:21 AM
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Day 4)

We’re up with the birds; out of our accommodation by 7:20 am. We need caffeine, so we head directly to Yahava Koffee Works, which is…closed…they don’t open until 9 am, which isn’t all that unusual here in WA (but very frustrating). We drive through town, and briefly consider the Bridgewater, a café on the main street in town that had been suggested by a woman at Stella Bella. Apparently they offer a full buffet breakfast ($22 each), but no a la carte menu. Nah.

Another pass through town finds us at The Urban Bean. Bill is surprised to find Huevos Rancheros on the menu, which he orders and proclaims worthy. I opt for a ham, cheese and red onion croissant, which is tasty. The flat whites are excellent and on our table mere minutes after we’d ordered – good on ya! ($32 total).

We pop into IGA to pick up one final loaf of Yallingup Wood Fired Bread, and utilize the cleanest public loo we’ve seen in ages – it was truly sparkling – well done IGA.

It’s just before 9 am and we’re on the Bussell Highway headed north. We make one small detour, diverting onto Old Coast Road near Australind, where we follow the banks of the sprawling Leschenault Inlet, an area we didn’t know existed (surprise!). Otherwise, we pretty much drive straight back to Perth, arriving just before noon (and yes, it’s still hot).
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Mar 31st, 2011, 08:56 AM
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I'm reading!
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Apr 2nd, 2011, 04:32 PM
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You're making me hungry! Great reading, thanks Mel.

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Apr 3rd, 2011, 01:16 AM
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Mel,I do enjoy your trip reports, almost as good as being there myself.
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 01:52 AM
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As a former W.A. resident (born and bred) - and one who still maintains they have the best beaches ever - I just want to run and jump into that gorgeous water - and then have a beautiful meal.

I do miss my beaches and that hot,east wind!

Thanks for reminding me of my 'home'.

Great report...
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 04:36 AM
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Thanks guys.

That east wind is hot alright, will autumn EVER get here???
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Apr 6th, 2011, 10:50 PM
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Wow! You really had a great time didn't you? You also almost made me cry! I miss that place so much. First time I went down that way was 1964 and the last time was 1994! And at least a dozen times in between! You didn't mention the rammed earth church in MR. Did you not see it? It was a revolutionary idea at the time (back in the '80's) especially as it was the RC priest who did all the leg work to get it built!
Did you do the Leeuwin Estate as well as the others? We had a great time there in '94!
We can't wait to get back there again!
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Apr 6th, 2011, 11:49 PM
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Hi Michael -

We've visited Leeuwin Estate on a previous visit. No, I don't recall seeing the rammed earth church, but we didn't spend much time in the town of MR, just the surrounding areas. Never enough time to see it all - we've visited the region 4-5 times and have barely scratched the surface.
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Apr 20th, 2011, 06:30 PM
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As always, you've taken us along with you on a lovely trip. Thanks!
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Apr 21st, 2011, 06:33 PM
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Nothing to do with your trip to Margaret River at all. I have been doing some research for our trip to Denmark, Scandinavia, next month and was amused to have your trip report on Denmark WA come up instead.
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