A week in: Margaret River, Western Australia. The towns of Dunsborough through Yallingup, and Margaret River itself.
How to get there: Dunsborough is just under three hours drive from Perth airport. Hit the red dust and it’s a single highway straight to the coast.
Where I stayed: In a hired van with bedding but without that pesky shower/toilet combo which is always more trouble than it’s worth. I attempted to make my fantasy come true of hitting the open road free of responsibility, with only a suitcase full of swimwear (and various straw hats) accompanying me. I can confirm pretending you are a care-free surfer girl and not a neurotic Sydneysider is achievable for a one week period. I can also confirm that a van mattress is surprisingly comfortable, and you’ll get a great sleep from within, thanks in part to the doona-favouring weather of WA, which drops to a cool 10/15 degrees.
The beauty with a home on wheels is you can set up shop literally wherever you want (note: not legally of course). We wound our way down the coast from Busselton to the crystal clear waters of holiday favourite Yallingup, where dolphins surfed the waves with a handful of locals. We nestled into the red dust of Boranup’s national park, where Conto’s bush campsite shaded us with Karri trees. We spent our days parked up with the local surfers next to Prevelly’s famed Surfer’s Point, watching the swell and the vivid red sunsets, armed with natural wines from the surrounding vineyards and oozing cheese-laden toasties made with an abundance of produce plucked from the ample producers about. If you do wish to treat yourself and forgo the ‘Endless Summer’ existence, head straight for the cushy comfort of Empire Retreat and Spa, Cape Lodge or Injidup Spa Retreat.
How I spent my days: Reading, swimming, and generally lazing about – all those things you feel too guilty to do on a typical weekend. Mornings were welcomed with a dip into the icy Indian Ocean, or a trek to the nearest surf break for my boyfriend to get his gills wet. Once the icy winds of the Freo Doctor arrived at midday (this was a daily occurrence) we made our way to neighbouring vineyards to sample their juice. Some were kind enough to shelter us for the night, like Iwo and Sarah of Si Vintners whose Rosa Glen winery is not only home to a gaggle of geese, cats, and chooks (and a rogue peacock) but home to some of the best wine in the area (go straight for the Sophie rosé). After days spent traipsing rugged cliffs, spotting emus and swigging wine (not all at once of course) I spent every evening watching a vibrant pink sun descend over the Indian Ocean.
What I ate: Eating, naturally, was a large component to my trip. Western Australia is home to an abundance of seafood, from abalone to marron, and I suggest you buy and cook for yourself where you can. We had campsite feasts of marron and buckets of Tommy Ruff, cooked with unnecessary amounts of butter and salt over campfire barbecues and partnered with produce plucked from the much heralded Margaret River Farmers Markets, held on Saturday mornings. But if you are not so much a hunter or a gatherer, just make way for one of the many fine dining favourites that frequent vineyards. Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate, and Amelia Park are much lauded. But so too is dine-alone restaurant Yarri in Dunsborough, and (for good old pub fare) Settlers Tavern in Margaret River town.
Coffee is also catered to (don’t sweat), coffee vans line all the best surf spots, from Surfer’s Point in Prevelly to Yallingup. Permanent breakfast favourites include The White Elephant in Gnarabup and Yardbyrd in Witchcliffe which boast coffee to rival any cafe in Sydney, and an indulgent, cheesy, savoury muffin I felt the need to indulge in daily.
And then there’s the wine. Leaders of the pack include Vasse Felix and Voyager Estate, each well worth a visit for a glimpse at the buildings alone. Particularly the latter where Cape Dutch architecture and an awe-inspiring kitchen garden tempt a steady stream of guests. I myself am a natural wine fan and there’s also plenty of that to be had here. Si Vintners, as discussed, is a must visit. So too is Dormilona wine (appointment only); Jo is creating some statement-making pet nat and orange indulgences which is now found in some of Sydney’s best restaurants.
Best moment of the trip: Trundling through Boranup’s Karri Forest to find a spot to settle for the sunset. We perched ourselves out on camping tables and chairs, settling in to read while the sun set on the alabaster cliff, our lone neighbours a group of rock fishermen. We drank cold (plastic) cups of natural wine procured from our day’s vineyard adventure, and nibbled on local cheese and honey while dolphins played in the distance. No crowds, no traffic, plenty of cheese.
Where to spend cocktail hour: Oceanside if you can. No matter where you are staying or with whom, hightail it out to Surfers Point in Prevelly (just be prepared to jostle with the surfers for a car park), where a regular crowd who gather to watch the sun go to sleep. There you can tuck into a chilled beer or glass of wine partnered with a picnic of your choosing, though cheese is obviously a non-negotiable for the lactose happy of us out there. If you are feeling peckish there’s also a rather popular fish and chip van that regularly takes up residence in the carpark to cater to the burgeoning population of people who drop down to the point purely for watching the sun dip into the sea.
Why I’ll be back: If you have ever been to Western Australia – and Margaret River in particular – you don’t need me to explain to you why I will never tire of a visit. But those who have not, I’ll simply say it’s magic. It’s an old school surfing spot that hasn’t quite reached the levels of commercialism that the Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay have just yet, nor the crowds. Not only is it home to stunningly beautiful coastline – the likes of which will even shock Australians – and armed with an array of particularly talented producers from wine to cheese, but there’s just so much of it to explore. You need weeks to see the Great Southern stretch alone. I only went so far south as Denmark and know I’ve only seen the tip of the WA iceberg.
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