Margaret River

Once a quiet surfing spot and service town to a prosperous farming community, Margaret River is these days the ultimate smorgasbord of good food, fine wine and spectacular coastal scenery.

Events

March: Margaret River Wine Region Festival

Margaret River emerged as Western Australia's leading and one of Australia's top red wine producing regions in the 1980s, and as a result, is one of WA's most well known destinations. Margaret River is also an ideal base to discover the coastal scenery of WA's picturesque south-west corner.

Margaret River has made itself the hub of one of the most picturesque farming regions in Western Australia. For many years it was much like dozens of other small towns in the state's South West, a support centre for farms (mostly dairy) and a thriving local timber industry. Back then, the only visitors were Perth holidaymakers attracted by the picture-postcard coastal scenery and a number of limestone show caves in the area.

The sleepy town began to awaken in the 1960s when a very astute family began to grow vines there. The vines produced a fine drop of wine and the rest, as they say, is history. Around the same time, the surfing craze had reached the West. Perth's surfing community headed south in search of the perfect wave - and found it on the near-shore reefs off the coast of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. They discovered that the waters around the mouth of the Margaret River produces some of Australia's biggest big surf, and the waves keep rolling in for much of the year.

Together, wine and surf have turned Margaret River into one of WA's premier tourism successes. The main street has a vitality which comes from being a very attractive, trendy shopping venue, with the range of services available attracting a steady and lively custom. Conscious decisions by the local authority have led to low key development being the norm, there are no skyscrapers here. The laid back charm of the South West pretty much remains though the town has a definite up-market feel about it.

The overall production from Western Australia's most famous wine region may be tiny but it accounts for more than 15 per cent of Australia's premium production. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are the star performers and sauvignon blanc-semillon blends have become the region's signature. There are close to 100 wineries in total, so you'll need plenty of time for a leisurely exploration. The Margaret River township and nearby Cowaramup are at the centre of the winemaking activity but the vineyards extend 60 kilometres north and 40 kilometres south.

Surfing

The beaches north and south of the mouth of the Margaret River are premiere locations in the world for surfing. Ranging from challenging big wave locations to small wave fun, there are plenty of strong reef breaks and hearty sandbanks to wet any surfer's appetite.

Best surf spots: North | South

There is more to Margaret River than wineries and surf beaches, however. It is at the centre of the south-west corner of the continent, and as such, the town makes the ideal base from which to explore this very attractive corner of the country. To its north, Yallingup offers great surfing and is also the home to the first of numerous underground caves, part of the cave system which works its way south to Augusta.


Cape Leeuwin

Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste each have historic lighthouses which are open for inspection. Between them are headlands, surf beaches and rocky promontories that are fun to explore and perfect to photograph.

Further south are the huge karri forests of Manjimup and Pemberton. There are many scenic drives through karri country, which are covered in wildflowers during the spring.


Caves of the Margaret River area

The south west of Western Australia has some of the thickest limestone of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge, but despite this, very few large caves or extensive systems have been found, probably because there are very few streams to allow for the development of large systems. A number of caves have been lit and are open for inspection.

A system of limestone caves are located in the Margaret River area, starting at Calgardup Brook and finishing at Ellensbrook. The remains of a Tasmanian devil, a Tasmanian tiger and a giant kangaroo have been found inside Mammoth Cave. These species have been extinct in this part of Australia for centuries.

Just 2km south of Mammoth Cave lies Lake Cave, the most delicate and pretty of the entire southwest caves. Its most outstanding feature is the unique, suspended table formation that was originally two massive columns joined by a sheet of calcite on the cave floor. It looks spectacular reflecting in the dark, icy waters of the lake in the main cavern.

Jewel Cave, 37km south of Margaret River Township along Caves Road, contains a number of interesting crystalline formations including the Waterfall, the Organ Pipe and the worlds largest straw stalactite in a tourist cave.


Boranup

Boranup lies within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park between Caves Road and the coast, and creates a powerful contrast with the rest of the coastline. Tall pale-barked karri trees, reaching 60 metres or more high, dominate the hilly slopes and valleys. Gravel roads suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles wind through the forest to picnic and camping spots. It's just a short walk to Boranup Lookout which gives sweeping views over the forest and the coast west along Boranup Beach to the strikingly beautiful Hamelin Bay.

Augusta-Busselton Heritage Trail

Augusta-Busselton Heritage Trail covers the 100 km from Augusta to Busselton and traces the early history of the area through the movements of the Bussel and Molloy families who settled in Augusta only to move further up the coast looking for suitable agricultural land.

Cape to Cape Track

135 km long, and located within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. It links Cape Leeuwin near Augusta in the south and Cape Naturaliste near Yallingup in the north. It is one of Western Australia's great walks.


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Where is it?

Margaret River is 268 km south of Perth via the Old Coast Road and Bussell Highway.


Brief history

Margaret River, the town and the river, were named after Margaret Wyche, a cousin of the founder of Busselton, John Bussell.  The area was settled as early as the 1850’s, becoming a centre for timber cutting from the 1870’s.  By 1910, the settlement had a hostel which also doubled as a post office.

The town of Margaret River really became established after World War I with the establishment of The Group Settlement Scheme.  This was an attempt to attract migrants to Western Australia and open up the good rural land and establish a dairy industry, which attracted settlers to the town and between 1921 to 1930, over 100 settlers moved into the district. 

The region owes its wine beginnings to Dr. John Gladstone who, in 1965, wrote a report, following the decline of the wine industry in the Swan Valley, suggesting that the cooler climate of the State's south-west region should be considered for growing vines. The first vineyard was established by Dr. Tom Cullen in 1967. The winery's name- Vasse Felix - recalls Thomas Timothe Vasse, a sailor on the French ship Naturaliste who was swept away from his companions in nearby Geographe Bay on 8th June 1801. 

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