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Trip Report So much to do, so little time. A long weekend in Margaret River

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My other half and I recently spent a lovely four day weekend in Margaret River, thanks to the rare occurrence of a rotating Friday off and a Monday public holiday.

For those wanting the wordless version, here’s the TripWOW:

I see so many unrealistic proposed itineraries for Western Australia that I thought it might help visitors unfamiliar with the Margaret River region to get an idea of what one can realistically fit into a couple of days. The key word here is ‘region’; Margaret River is indeed a region, extending some 100 km north to south and up to 27 km wide. The town of Margaret River lies about halfway between, some nine km inland from the Indian Ocean.

It stands to reason that such a vast area would have plenty to see and do. There are some ~150 wine producers, a handful of boutique breweries, a distillery, a cheese factory, chocolate shops, coffee roasters, bakeries, restaurants and cafes…a wine and food lover’s dream. There are also beaches, bush walks, forests, caves, art galleries, lighthouses, a waterfall or two…the options are seemingly endless. Business hours are generally between 10-5, so it pays to plan somewhat if you want to fit a lot into a day.

Our days began around 7:30 and ended when the sun went down, currently around 5:30 pm, yet we were only able to do a fraction of what we’d hoped.
We left Perth early in an attempt to beat traffic; a lost cause if there ever were one. The drive to Margaret River generally takes about three hours, but I’m a firm believer that the journey is half the fun, so we seldom take the direct route.

About 50 km south of Mandurah we detoured to Yalgorup National Park, near Preston Beach, and sought out a 90 minute walk I’d scoped out in advance. It was a bit of a wild goose chase. We inadvertently ended up in ‘town’ so we amused ourselves by photographing the kangaroos lounging in the front yards, walking down to the beach, and walking the short (2 km) Preston Lake Trail; the most interesting part of which was the kangaroos on the edge of the lake and the abundance of pig melons.

As we left, we found the track we’d been looking for (Heathlands). It was easy enough to find traveling east, invisible traveling west, only two km from the highway, but no markers along the road. It was getting on towards noon and our stomachs were growling, so we shelved it for next time.

I’d heard good things about Yallingup Coffee Roasting Company and wanted to pop in for a fix, but time was getting away so we forgo the roasters and continued south to Petra Estate Café. We had a nice lunch overlooking the estate’s olive groves; the Bruschetta was lovely - chorizo, artichoke puree and smoked paprika for the carnivore, a more traditional version for me. We stayed on for caffeine and a shared piece of chocolate sponge with cream, accompanied with a Petra invention, olive sugar. Hmmmm. Petra has accommodation, and we’d considered staying here, but in the end we chose to stay further south.

We moved on, but not before popping over to the nearby Yallingup Wood Fired bakery to pick up some of our all time favorite WA bread right from the source, but they were out until 4 pm.

We continued south, next calling in at Cape Naturaliste Vineyard and cellar door, where we had a nice chat, took in some pretty gorgeous views and bought some lovely wine. The grapes here are dry grown and the Torpedo Rocks ’09 Shiraz was a standout.

Then it was on to the Margaret River Farm shop to stock up on venison chorizo as we can’t ever seem to find it in Perth.

The sun was quickly dropping, but we figured we had time for one last stop before they rolled up the sidewalks, so off to Leeuwin Estate we went. As anyone who has ever visited knows, the grounds of Leeuwin are absolutely gorgeous, as is the cellar door. And the wines...if you like Chardonnay, this is the place for you, as they have nine on offer, but at $89 a bottle for their least expensive Art Series Chardonnay, I think I’ll stick to the Riesling.

We figured our accommodation would be difficult to find in the dark as it’s out in the country, so we made hay while the sun was shining and headed that way.

Lovely spot this. Amon-Ra at Ibizan Wines is located in the Upper Chapman Valley, just south of Witchcliffe, about 15 minutes drive from Margaret River (the town).

The listing and my review can be found here:

After getting settled, we drove back to town and had ourselves a chilly alfresco kebab supper at Kappadokia. They no longer have seating indoors, so it’s either the picnic tables or takeaway.

The drive back was seriously dark, but fortunately the property is well lit, otherwise we’d have probably gone off into a pasture.

And that, was the end of a very short Day 1.

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    After a warm cozy night serenaded by frogs, we were up and moving long before the kookaburras had a chance to laugh us awake. The morning was overcast and cold, the air heavy with dew.

    We drove into town for our first of three breakfasts at Morries Anytime, an establishment that has only been around for 10 months, but is thriving, and for good reason. The atmosphere is lively, the service friendly, the food excellent, and the variety put a big smile on this non-egg eater’s face.

    Review here:

    And then, the reason for our early start, we drove to Rotary Park to the Ten Mile Brook Dam trailhead. And we walked. And walked. And walked. I’m not sure what possessed us to walk this trail for the third time, but I now have no doubt that we’ve gotten it entirely out of our systems. The walk is undulating and traverses through forest, but other than exercise and communing with nature, there’s no real payoff; no stunning views, no towering overlooks…you just walk five miles to a dam and then walk back. The 10.4 mile, 16.7 km walk thoroughly and utterly wore us out (took us just under four hours via the winter trail).

    Never too knackered for wine tasting, we sought out The Grove in Metricup (they also have accommodation). This vineyard/liqueur factory/distillery/brewery/café has a libation for everyone, and it was hopping on this long weekend. We purchased a liqueur tasting ($5 each) which included four liqueur samples and one cocktail sample. We mixed and matched, giving us twice the variety without going overboard on the alcohol (although the cream topping was probably just as dangerous). It was an interesting stop (and expensive, as we just had to buy some Lemoncello and Jaffa liqueur). I wouldn’t mind returning sometime to try the gin. And the wine. And maybe even the beer. Heck, maybe I'll just stay here.

    Then it was off to Olio Bello in Cowaramup, one of our favorite haunts from trips past. It was busier than we’ve ever seen it, but we had no trouble getting an outdoor table, where we settled in for a lovely lunch under the olive trees; both choosing the hand rolled fettuccine with venison chorizo, roast capsicum, garlic, basil, chili, parmesan and EVOO. Not only was the food fresh and excellent, but it really felt good to sit down for awhile.

    After our pasta feast, we turned around, and worked our way back through the town of Margaret River, which was crazy busy, and headed to Yahava Koffeeworks. Yeah, I know, we have a Yahava in the Swan Valley, but I was in need of a pound (that’s yank speak for 500 grams, or 454 grams if you’re fussy) for my cold toddy at home and we were right there.

    Our final stop was Watershed Winery, the grounds of which sent me on a photo snapping frenzy trying to capture the gorgeous setting in the waning light as the sun began to drop.
    Watershed has a restaurant and a café in the same large room, both overlooking the vines through floor to ceiling glass. Once we figured out how it worked, we took a seat in the café, where we sipped flat whites and noshed on some well deserved calories – panna cotta with a citrus topping and an incredibly decadent dark chocolate mousse-like cake that was so rich I could only eat 2/3 of it (shocking, I know). Spouse to the rescue. We also sampled their wines at the cellar door, leaving with some of their dry and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc.

    We returned to our comfy digs in the country to sip wine on the patio amongst the raucous kookaburras as we watched the sun dip below the horizon; a very short Day 2 had come to an end.

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    Thanks guys.


    After another frog filled night; we woke to another cold dewy morning and drove into town for another good breakfast at Morries.

    It was too early to do much and we were too walk-weary to attempt another track, so we followed Walcliffe Road to Prevelly Beach to explore, then on to Redgate Beach to watch the surfers and fishermen. We followed Conto Road to its end and poked around Conto Spring for no reason other than it was there.

    We continued south on Caves Road through a tunnel of trees to Boranup Gallery. Oh my. This place is a timber lover’s dream…jarrah, marri, blackbutt, mucho gorgeous furniture, so many pretty things, and most of it quite dear, $35,000 for a jarrah table, $42,500 for a grandfather clock made from marri. Needless to say, we left empty-handed save a couple of Emma Blyth magnets, but it was fun to look.

    We continued south through Karridale, surrounded by beautiful thick forest, turning off at Hamlin Bay, the sun making a perfectly timed appearance. We watched the fishermen, the frolicking kids and a few stingrays that came right up to shore; photo nirvana.

    As we worked our way back north via the Bussell Hwy, a sign for Hamlin Bay Wines caught our eye, so naturally we investigated. This winery/café is located in yet another beautiful spot and makes a nice Sauvignon Blanc.

    We then turned towards Rosa Brook to visit Brown Hill Estate, a recommendation from the owner of Amon-Ra. What a find; Brown Hill produces some fantastic dry grown reds and the owner is a complete hoot.

    Hoping for some lunch at Clairault Winery, a favorite from past visits, we drove to Wilyabrup, but were met with disappointment. The café was chock-a-block with hungry looking customers and the sole café employee we saw looked completely frazzled. The guy behind the bar wasn’t faring much better and had more tasters than he could deal with, so we bailed.

    We were getting worried about finding a place to eat so late on a busy long weekend Sunday, so we made a mad dash back to Olio Bello hoping they could fit us in. They could and they did, so we had an encore pasta lunch, topped off with a shared brownie and flat whites. Lovely.

    Our day had been rather inefficient, we hadn’t planned our driving route particularly well. We’d forgotten how big the region is, how widely spaced the attractions are, how much there is too see and do and how little one can fit into a day.

    As we drove back south through the town of Margaret River we made one final effort to locate some Yallingup Wood Fired Bread, this time at the IGA grocery store. Not surprisingly, they’d sold out and didn’t expect any in the morning due to the public holiday. Oh well.

    We drove through Rosa Glen on our way back to our accommodation, thinking we’d pop into the Berry Farm, but it was 10 minutes before closing; so we just drove through the countryside instead. It was incredibly picturesque, even more so as the setting sun cast long shadows across the seemingly endless grape vines as Day 3 came to a close.


    Our final frog serenade, another overcast dewy morning. We dodged sheep poop as we walked through the vineyard at our doorstep, and worked our way into the state forest for a wee walk before packing up.

    We bid adieu to Amon-Ra and drove into town for a final breakfast at Morries; grabbing the last available table. After three mornings of Eggs Benedict, the other half proclaimed they were the best he’s had to date in WA. Strong praise indeed.

    Opting for food instead of an early start, we got caught in the end-of-holiday traffic headed north. It took us about 3:20 to get home, not too bad considering all of Perth seemed to be on the highway.

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