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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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