Western Australia

    Beyond the Vines: Margaret River region by sea, land and sky

    February 2, 2021suzanne

    5 min read

    While it’s not hard to fill a long weekend swirling your way between Vasse Felix, Cullen Wines, Xanadu and Amelia Park, the Margaret River region has so much more to offer than world-class wineries. A winery and foodie tour is a must, of course, but don’t leave without also experiencing the region’s natural beauty, cultural connection, incredible wildlife and jaw-dropping adventures both on and off the land.

    Unlike many of Western Australia's popular regions, Margaret River is close to Perth and wonderfully compact. It’s barely an hour’s drive between the northern and southern gateways of Busselton and Augusta, so you can putter down from the city in your campervan, base yourself by the beach or in hills, and have all these activities within easy distance of your campsite. Let’s go!

    1. Experience Noongar culture

    When visiting Wadandi and Bibbulman country, an experience with award-winning Koomal Dreaming should be high on your itinerary. There’s a variety of full and part-day experiences led by Wadandi custodian Josh “Koomal” Whiteland, whose introduction to the oldest living culture on Earth will stay with you long after you've said your goodbyes. A day with Josh will see you foraging for bush foods, learning about native plant medicines, fire-lighting, tool-making, visiting significant sites and enjoying a traditional lunch prepared on site. Undoubtedly the highlight of these trips is venturing into Ngilgi Cave to hear the Dreaming stories and a live didgeridoo performance that is heightened by the cave’s natural acoustics.

    2. Meet a woylie on a star-spangled bushwalk

    Otherwise known as a brush-tailed bettong or locally as a “kung fu quokka”, these rare mini marsupials might be the cutest native critters you’ve never heard of! Sure, a woylie is no bigger than the palm of your hand but what they lack in size they more than make up for in adorable after-dark antics. When the sun goes down the woylies come out to play and a guided bushwalk into their protected habitat gives you the chance to be entertained by their incredible agility and lightning-fast reflexes. With a mug of billy tea and some biscuits in hand, and the Milky Way winking up above, it’s the perfect sunset activity for the whole family – not to mention ticket proceeds go towards the conservation of these precious critters.

    3. Explore the coast and countryside on horseback

    Beach rides with Jesters Flat in Rosa Glen

    Image via Jesters Flat

    For something a little different to your usual hiking and cycling routes, saddle up and go for a wander along Margeret River’s gorgeous horseriding trails. Jester’s Flat at Rosa Glen is a vineyard and an equestrian farm offering a range of guided horse riding tours for novice to advanced riders. The picturesque lanes and farmland, the trails weaving through native bushland, and Margaret River’s famous Karri forest all make for an unforgettable horseback adventure. The Beginner Bushride is ideal for kids (aged six and over) or enquire about multi-day camp out if you’re up for a longer adventure.

    4. Stand Up Paddle through Blackwood River National Park

    Travel less than 45 minutes from Margaret River town, hop on your SUP and explore the twists and turns of the Blackwood River. Gliding amongst serene bushland, you’ll see waterbirds fishing, eagles soaring overhead and maybe even a roo or two. This flat, sheltered location is beginner-friendly but if you don’t have your own gear, there are small-group guided trips available where you’ll learn plenty of new paddling skills and safety knowledge, and enjoy a tropical fruit picnic at the end. Bliss!

    5. Witness the winter whale migration

    Image via All Sea Charters

    The Margaret River region is blessed with a six-month long whale watching season that kicks off in June, when an estimated 35,000 humpback, southern right, minke and blue whales migrate from Antarctica to Western Australia’s warmer waters. Stunning coastal tracks, lookouts and the two lighthouses that stand like twin sentinels at Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin are fantastic vantage points to watch for whales from afar. However it's a whale-watching cruise from Busselton, Margaret River or Dunsborough that'll give you that up-close jaw-on-the-floor encounter with these majestic giants. If you're visiting out of season but keen to get out on the water, be sure to ask the local operators about offshore snorkelling and wreck dives on offer.

    6. Go on a subterranean adventure

    Deep beneath the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge which stretches between the capes, you’ll find more than 100 limestone caves, and a number of these exquisite chambers are open to the public every day of the week. The region’s main show caves are Mammoth Cave, Lake Cave, Jewel Cave and Ngilgi Cave, each spectacular in their own way, from dazzling crystal displays, see-through pools and ancient megafauna fossils. Self guided and guided tours are available for all abilities, including thrilling adventure caving expeditions in your onesie and hard hat.

    7. Get your high on a scenic heli ride

    Image via Scenic Helicopters Margaret River

    It’s clear the Margaret River region has a lot of cool stuff going on, and a scenic flight over famous wineries, beaches, cliffs, forests, farmland and caves is a memorable – and surprisingly relaxing – way to take it all in. Scenic heli flights start at a pocket-friendly 20 minutes, but for a real brag-worthy experience in Margaret River, you can combine your flight with a winery tour, visiting three iconic cellar doors for total sky-and-wine time of five hours. Anniversary or birthday? Impress your better half by having the pilot drop you off for a romantic picnic in a secluded beach location, or ask about customised itineraries and adventures such as cape to cape flights, brewery tours and heli fishing.

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