Western Australia is vast and diverse, it is perfect for a road trip. Before I visited I imagined horizons filled orange soil and hot searing temperatures. What greeted me instead as I journeyed south from Perth at the end of winter was moderate temperatures, lush greens, flowers and lots of vegetation, all hugging the ocean as we journeyed by, stopping to soak it up occasionally as we did.
There are many options, the obvious choice for me was to drive to Margaret River, a wine region just over 3 hours drive from Perth, with some lovely pitstops along the way. There are wonderful beaches, great places to eat, limestone underground caves and you can go whale watching.
The main reason you should go is the food and wine, and just to indulge in how gorgeous it all is. Margaret River has 187 wineries and 215 vineyards (as counted in 2015). It is surrounded by the ocean on three sides without extreme seasons providing ideal conditions for producing wine. Wineries mainly produce Bordeaux style wines (semillon and sauvignon blanc blends are common as are cabernet sauvignon and shiraz), Margaret River has been compared to Bordeaux in a dry vintage. The reds are gentle. There are established producers like Leeuwin Estate (who produced their first commercial vintage in 1979) and newer ones like Fraser Gallop (whose first vintage was 2008). Lots to explore and most tastings are free, if you fancy driving yourself winery to winery.
If you have any further recommendations, I would love for you to share them. Please leave them in the comments — thank you!
Perth to Margaret River Food and Wine Road Trip Itinerary
Perth -> Busselton (222 km, 2 hours 30 minutes)
Stop for lunch at Goose bar & Kitchen overlooking the Busselton Jetty and the gorgeous white sandy beach along side. Food here is solid with lots of local produce. I visited in winter and enjoyed a big bowl of hot soup and a glass of Margaret River wine (I wasn’t driving!). Portions are large and the room is gorgeous.
You may also want to do Busselton Jetty tour and Underwater Observatory tour which was sadly closed due to the storm the day before I visited.
Busselton -> Meelup Beach (35 km, 35 mins)
Post lunch walk on a beautiful beach? Yes, I thought so too. Stop here just to sit and soak it all in, or go for a swim.
Meelup Beach -> Ngilgi Cave (14km, 20 minutes)
If available on the day, go on an Aboriginal Food, Cave and Didge Tour with Josh. Josh will bring you on a forage for seasonal foods and medicines and also provide samples before bringing you into the cave and playing digeridoo. Sadly the food tour wasn’t on the day I visited but Josh did show me some native foods and I also loved the cave experience in the vast limestone cave. Josh playing the didgeridoo amidst it all was very moving.
Ngilgi Cave -> Bunker Bay (20 km, 20 mins)
Spend the night at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. We stayed in a 2 bedroom villa just a few minutes walk from the main hotel. The villas are contemporary in decor and very comfortable. The villas have kitchens and so you can cook here (and I love to cook when I travel also, as much as I enjoy eating out). There are several dining options here also, including a buffet breakfast.
Bunker Bay -> Dunsborough (11 km, 11 minutes)
Western Australia has one of the longest whale watching seasons during the annual whale migration of humpback and southern right whales from May to December. It is possible to see whales occasionally from the shore, but I recommend you go on a tour which I did with Naturaliste Charters. It is wonderful to go out on the water, and the people leading the tour were extremely knowledgeable and entertaining. It had been 84 days of constant sightings with whales enthusiastically breaching the water. We saw 5, but sadly none breached, which is very unusual (and if we wanted we could have gone back out the next day to try again). However, I still loved the experience and would highly recommend it.
Dunsborough -> Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River (60 km, 1 hour)
On then to Margaret River properly, our first stop was Leeuwin Estate, a family owned winery and one of the founding 5 wineries of Margaret River, with its first commercial vintage in 1979. Leeuwin produce premium wines, best enjoyed on site in their restaurant with their wine matching menus. There are tasting and a la carte menus, and the wine and food flight is exceptional value for money at $39 with 5 wines and food matches, including some of their premium wines. From the a la carte, the panko oysters with jalapeño are a must also. For mains I had the 45 day dry aged Black Angus sirloin with mushrooms, ginger, green onion and crustacean mayonnaise. Cooked rare as I requested and just lovely. On the side to share, roast squash with labneh and pitachio dukkah. Beautiful.
The menu is seasonal and produce driven so it will have changed by time you get there, but the standard of cooking is high, the food is interesting and the room is gorgeous. Highly recommended. After, head to the art gallery downstairs where original art commissioned primarily from Australian artists for the Art Series wine labels is on display.
Dinner at Morries
After a day indulging in wines, we headed to Morries in downtown Margaret River for dinner, noted for their small plates and cocktails. Their are also local wines and craft beers from the state on a well tended list. There is a tapas menu with an Asian inflection as well as a la carte. Highlights of my meal were a master stock pork belly with Thai caramel and micro coriander, tender, sticky and sweet; the tempura whiting with apple, pine nut remoulade and lemon and the mini burgers with Japanese chicken and with beef. The cocktails were very enjoyable. Occasionally there is live music and an oyster bar, so try and coincide your visit with one of these nights. Fun! And well executed.
Stay at Basildene Manor
I loved my stay at Basildene Manor. A boutique hotel in a heritage property originally built by Percy Willmott, a lighthouse keeper at Cape Leeuwin. The hotel is charming, not least because of the old house and the wonderful well maintained gardens, but also the service which is generous and kind without being over bearing. Breakfasts and served in a bright conservatory overlooking the gardens and are very good. I was told they had one of the best breakfasts in Margaret River, and I found this to be the case on my trip.
Margaret River Discovery Tour
Sean from Margaret River Discovery Tours describes is lively and passionate about Margaret River. He wants to showcase more than the wine, we joined him on a Margaret River Discovery Tour which was a perfect follow on from our day of wine tasting and indulging the day before. The day starts with canoeing on Margaret River before tasting some local honey, the likes of which I had never tasted before. For lunch we headed to Fraser Gallop wine estate , an exciting and up and coming winery, where we enjoyed a tasting with the winemaker with a picnic lunch featuring the best of Margaret River produce. We finished our day with a walk along the Cape to Cape Track along the Wilyabrup Cliffs. Rich with flowers, the air was fragrant and salty from the ocean just below.
All tours have a maximum of 6 people. You can go hardcore into wine if you prefer on a Best of the Best Wine Tour (where you will taste over 20 wines).
Breakfast at the White Elephant Cafe
A short drive outside Margaret River, this gorgeous cafe overlooking the sea is a perfect place to say goodbye to Margaret River. Food and coffee at the White Elephant Cafe are both very good. I had the pork toasty with pork rillette, seeded mustard béchamel, cheese, fried egg and rocket. The perfect thing to set me up for the drive back to Perth.
The Road Back to Perth
Gather yourself a lovely picnic lunch to enjoy on the road back to Perth by stopping at these lovely producers.
Margaret River -> Yallingup Woodfired Bakery (44 km, 40 mins)
The bread here is pretty special. Sold on an honesty system, you take the bread your want leaving the money for the baker to gather later.
Yallingup Woodfired Bakery -> Yallingup Cheese Company (11 km, 11 mins)
Yallingup Cheese Company sells their handmade cheeses (produced from jersey milk) along with locally produces pickles, crackers, dukkah and other bites. You can do wine tasting next door also, as well as olive oil tasting.
Yallingup Cheese Company -> Vasse Virgin (32 km, 36 mins)
Vasse Virgin started off as a skincare company, a result of a couples desire to create natural skincare products to ease their children’s eczema. Now they also produce olive oils and food. Stock up on some oil to have with your bread, dukkah, excellent olives in a variety of marinades and don’t miss their sensational macadamia nut pesto. Just behind Vasse Virgin is Bahen & Co Chocolate, one of the best chocolate producers in the state. I had hoped to visit but sadly they were no longer opened to the public, so I bought some at Vasse Virgin for our picnic en route back to Perth.
Vasse Virgin -> Perth (273 km, 3 hours)
If you have any recommendations, I would love for you to share them. Please leave them in the comments.
I travelled to Western Australia with Tourism Western Australia, who sponsored this project. I flew with Qatar Airways, who fly daily to Perth from 4 UK airports. As always, I have complete editorial control.