Margaret River is synonymous with many things… award winning wines, delicious local produce, world famous surfing breaks, some of the best beaches in WA, stunning coastline, beautiful green country, an amazing forest and luxury escapes…the list goes on!
With so much to do here, and only three hours from Perth, it is a great place to spend the weekend or even longer.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort
Our first stop on the way to Margaret River was at the magical Bunker Bay. With over two kilometres of sweeping white sand and clear blue water, Bunker Bay is one of the stunning bays on the northern side of this south western corner of Western Australia.
It is also home to the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, where we stopped for lunch. The restaurant is promoting its tapastry menu devised by well known chef Justin North and executive chef Grant Murray to showcase local produce.
Tapas size dishes of tempura zucchini flowers, bourbon glazed pork belly, crispy fried free range chicken with red chilli jam, sweet West Australian deep sea prawns with miso burnt garlic butter and delicious flathead in soda batter and green goddess sauce were winners. As was that amazing view…what a great way to start the weekend!
We could have easily checked in….there is so much to do in this area, it deserves it’s own weekend. The start of the Cape to Cape walk at the Lighthouse is only five minutes down the road, Eagle Bay and the stunning Meelup Beach are just around the corner and if you’re after a local brewed beer or glass of award winning wine, the Eagle Bay Brewing Company and Wise’s Winery are two minutes away! All this before you reach the main town of this area, Dunsborough!
Margaret River is only half an hour down the road but allow time for a detour to Yallingup…a town well known for its surfing beach and rugged coastline.
If time is on your side, check out Smiths Beach and Indijnup as well but for us, Margaret River beckoned.
Saturday is market day in Margaret River
A weekend in Margaret River always starts with a visit to the the local market. The market starts at 8am so if you want to beat the crowd, arrive early. Combi Coffee is waiting for you with freshly brewed coffee.
It’s all here…fabulous breads, delicious local cheeses, the best cannoli outside of Sicily, the freshest juices, an abundance of freshly picked fruit and vegetables, eggs that are still warm and hand fed lamb.
Because it was the weekend of the Gourmet Escape, some of the world’s best chefs were in town and visited the market. I managed a quick word with Antonio Carluccio and learnt that he loved our local indiginous product..bush pepper was a particular favourite of his! Look for his documentary on indiginous food airing the middle of the year.
We spent the afternoon at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape that was being held in the grounds of Leeuwin Estate Winery, tasting local foods, sipping fabulous wines and listening to talks from visiting chefs. On any other weekend, this would be your chance for a visit to one of the many wineries in the area!
Wineries to visit
One of the main reasons to visit Margaret River is the wine..some of Australia’s best wine comes from this area. Drive down Caves Road and you will see the names of well known vineyards on either side. Head into the side roads and more will be waiting for you.
Award winning wines and fabulous food go hand in hand at Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix.
It’s a more casual affair at the family owned Cullens Vineyard where brilliant wines can be enjoyed overlooking the vineyard and platters of fresh food from their own garden are served.
Some wineries only offer wine tastings only….such as the wonderful Howard Park Wines, the wines from Stella Bella and my favourite, those from Mosswood
Knee Deep Winery, Will’s Domain, Hay Shed Hill and Cape Mentelle offer good food and wine as well.
What to do in Margaret River
Visit the beaches
Margaret River Beaches are world famous. If you’re a surfer you will already know the famous surf breaks at Surfers Point near the the mouth of the Margaret River. Names such as Mainbreak, Southside, Bombie, and Fraggle Rock will be familiar. There’s a great viewing platform here to watch the action.
Further around, there’s a protected swimming area where the river meets the ocean.
Nearby, Gnarabup Beach is perfect for families and other water sports. Overlooking the beach is the White Elephant Cafe, the place to go for breakfast, coffee or a casual lunch.
Drive down Caves Road and you will see the signs for Redgate Beach, one of my favourites. A path from the road takes you past rocky outcrops and opens out into a beautiful beach. If it’s a hot day, you’ll need to take your thongs (flipflops!) for the walk!
Hamelin Bay is a little further down the road but well worth the drive if you’re spending the day exploring.
The beach here is probably the best in the area…not for surfers but definitely for families who love its clear blue waters and sparkling white sand.
Where else can you also swim with stingrays. In this protected area, the rays have become so used to people, they will come up to you to see if you have any fish.
Drive through the Boronup Forest
There’s one detour you should make on the way back to Margaret River….
Turn off Caves road into the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and drive through the fabulous Boronup Forest. The tall karri trees here provide a wonderful canopy and with the dappled light coming through the trees, the effect is wonderful.
There’s a great little beach in behind the forest but it can only be accessed by four wheel drive and a walk! We found this whilst doing the Cape to Cape Walk…another great thing to do in the area. Starting at the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, the sign posted walk follows the coast, at times on the beach and at other times on the cliff. The views are fabulous and it’s a walk I highly recommend when it’s not too hot!
Where to eat in Margaret River
Mikis is a fabulous Japanese tempura restaurant. Request a seat at the bar and you can watch the masters at work in the open kitchen.
It’s hard to choose what to order…everything is fresh and sounds wonderful. My suggestion is to choose Mikis Tempura Trust, a seven course tasting meal that is a steal at $60 a head.
Morries. We didn’t have time to eat here but Morries comes highly recommended. On busy weekends in summer you’ll need to make a booking in advance.
Riversmith Cafe is new to the town but it has already made its mark. The food is great, the coffee hot and there’s a fabulous gift shop at the back of the cafe.
Where to stay in Margaret River
We’re very lucky to be able to stay with friends when we visit Margaret River but if I was to choose a place to stay, it would be Basildene Manor. One and a half kilometres from the town, nestled in fourteen acres of beautifully kept gardens, Basildene Manor has an excellent reputation. I’m told that the one thing you can’t miss is their devonshire tea with delicious home made scones and jam!
Airbnb also has properties available for rent in Margaret River.
A weekend is never long enough especially in an area as beautiful as Margaret River. With so many wineries, beaches and restaurants to visit, you’ll be planning a return visit on your way back to Perth!
How would you spend your weekend in Margaret River?
Disclosure: Although we were guests the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort for lunch, this in no way affected our thoughts on the meal…it was truly delicious!