No longer is Margaret River just a small township in the middle of Western Australia’s South West.
These days the name Margaret River encompasses an entire region that includes the city of Busselton, Dunsborough, Yallingup, Augusta and many other communities.
If you’re looking for a travel destination that offers the best in Aussie wine tasting, food sampling, beach bumming, outdoor adventure and lazy relaxing days, you’ll find it all (and more) right here.
Here’s a guide to the top things to do in Margaret River.
Need to know
Base yourself: Busselton, Margaret River townsite, Dunsborough, Yallingup
Average hotel price per room/per night: $140
You can’t go wrong with: Wine, seafood, fish and chips, Italian
Great breakfasts: Al Forno The Cafe, White Elephant Beach Cafe, The Goose Beach Bar
Awesome coffee: The Cure, Andy’s, Yahava KoffeeWorks, Combi Coffee
Top spots for a beverage: The Firestation, Bush Shack Brewery, Settlers Tavern, Leeuwin Estate
Must dos: Wine and craft beer tasting, beach day, fishing, SUP lesson
Best times to visit
Margaret River has a temperate climate, but it can be very changeable. Be prepared and pack accordingly.
Summer is the busiest time to visit but also the best time for balmy beach days and events. Summer temperatures get up to 32 degrees on average and winters can be a cool 14 degrees during the day (lower in the morning and evening, so bring a jacket).
The Margaret River region is a mixed bag of diverse types, behaviours, quirks and cool ideas that combine to attract adventure seekers, nature lovers, fitness fans and gourmet gurus.
Quality wine, craft beer, fine food, live theatre, creative arts, festivals and events, surfing, scuba diving, fishing and extreme sports – it’s all here for the taking.
To get a taste of the outdoorsy, life-loving culture of the region, go for a tandem skydive with Skydive Geronimo over Busselton. There’s no better way to feel alive than by throwing yourself from an airplane, and at 15,000ft you’ll get a true appreciation for the natural beauty of this setting.
Surfers love the South West’s 130 kilometres of coastline that features 75 surf breaks. A popular one is Surfer’s Point at Prevelly. If you’re not a surfer, it’s a great place to check out the tribes doing their thing (and catch a stunning sunset). If you want to learn to surf, get in touch with Margaret River Surf School and book a lesson.
For a gentler afternoon, browse the area’s art scene. Start at Margaret River town’s main street where you’ll find a treasure trove of artsy cafes and handicrafts. The Margaret River Gallery has an array of contemporary art in mixed mediums such as jewellery, paintings, pottery and wooden sculptures. Take a drive along Yallingup’s rural roads to discover hidden art gems like Gunyulgup Galleries and Yallingup Galleries. Visit their websites for details of current exhibitions.
The Wardandi people are the original guardians of the Margaret River region.
Spend some time with Koomal Dreaming in Ngilgi Cave in Yallingup to learn about the history of this fascinating culture. Alternatively you can visit the Wardan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, where you’ll see traditional arts and crafts on display.
British settlers landed in Augusta in 1830 ready to make it their new home. But the rugged coastal settlement failed to thrive, so families like the Bussells moved north hoping for a better life.
The town of Margaret River was established in 1913, seventy-plus years after John Bussell named the famous river. It wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that surfers and wine-makers settled in to make their mark on the region. Today there are over 200 vineyards in Margaret River. The oldest vines are at Vasse Felix, which is celebrating fifty years in the industry in 2017. Wine tours are of course a popular way to explore.
It’s easy to while away a day strolling through historical sites like the Cultural Heritage Museum at the Busselton Jetty, Busselton Museum in the Old Butter Factory and the Old Courthouse/ArtGeo Complex to gather a solid knowledge of the past. And that’s just some of the top spots in Busso (as the locals call it).
Augusta has its own Historical Museum plus the Leeuwin Lighthouse (Australia’s tallest lighthouse on the mainland), which marks one end of the Cape to Cape Track – the other end lies at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse near Dunsborough.
Margaret River is famous for its locally produced gourmet cuisine.
So much so that it honours all things food and wine at the annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape. Don’t worry if you can’t make the festival though. There are plenty of choices for quality, farm fresh produce and drool-worthy meals all year round.
For a casual lunch, head for the Bush Shack Brewery. The main draw here is the beer, but the rustic, natural setting and no-fuss menu offers the full meal deal.
For something a bit more upmarket, Eagle Bay Brewing Co is the go. The back deck that overlooks rolling rural countryside may trap you here for a few hours. The wood-fired pizza and the share boards will always impress.
For a special night out, go to Little Fish in Yallingup. The secluded restaurant is a bit of a drive but it’s worth the effort. Try the specialities: blackened fish or the ribs – you won’t be disappointed. Remember to leave room for dessert. The oozy chocolate fondant is the best.
You are spoilt for choice for top things to do in Margaret River that involve a spot of retail therapy.
Sticking with a food theme, don’t miss the Margaret River Farmers’ Market held every Saturday on the south side of the Margs townsite. The grand thing about this market is that all the wares must be locally produced. Meat lovers can stop by The Farm House stall for the best lamb, pork and beef in the land.
If you dig natural fibres, check out Margaret River Bamboo Basics online. Bamboo shirts make the best travel wear. You’ll also find them at the Sunday markets at Signal Park in Busselton.
You’ll pass through the cute little cow-themed town of Cowaramup when travelling along the Bussell Highway. Feel like a kid again at the Candy Cow, before stepping next door to Mukau – a darling shop with a huge range of beautiful gifts, art, toys and stationery.
You can’t go past Hillzeez Down South Surf Shop for all your beach, surf and skate needs (all the main towns have skate parks – Busselton being the biggest and best). Margs and Busselton each have a Hillzeez.
Fishing is a calming and relaxing sport that appeals to all ages.
It’s also a favourite pastime here. You’ll find friendly fisherman along the Busselton Jetty at all hours trying their luck at herring, squid, samson and salmon. To hire fishing gear (and get some good tips) see Justin at Access Fishing in Dunsborough.
Another great way to relax with water is floating. You can do this at the beach but if you haven’t tried floating in a sensory deprivation tank, give it a go at Floating Euphoria. After an hour in total darkness, drifting on top of high-density salt water, you’ll feel like a new person.
If you’re looking to mix relaxation with fitness and scenery, hit the bike path. Hire a bike at Busselton & South West Rent-A-Car and head to Busselton’s foreshore, just a block away. The flat, paved path is perfect for a sunny cycle that will take you all the way to Dunsborough (28 kilometres) if you’re keen. They also rent SUP boards and kayaks.
Five tours we love
See some of the best of the region on this fabulous Margaret River canoe tour. A cave walk, swim and awesome Aussie bush foods feast are also included!
Get into the Margs gnarly vibe on a two-hour group surfing lesson. A surfing instructor will assist you to get upright – starting with a beach demonstration, then encouragement in the water as you capture your first wave. All gear is provided. Great for young and old.
The northern Margaret River region is packed with spectacular natural landscapes. Complete with the region’s only live underwater video feed direct to your tour vehicle, on this tour you’ll visit top nature and wildlife viewing locations and enjoy a gourmet tasting platter along the way.
What could be better than a wine tour in Margaret River? One that includes cheese and chocolate as well! While the experiences on this tour change with the seasons, guests will always enjoy three wine experiences and three gourmet food stops. Delicious fun!
Visit the family owned Leeuwin Estate winery and enjoy fine wine, food and culture. Spend some time in the art gallery to view works by Australian contemporary artists that have featured on Leeuwin’s ‘Art Series’ labels. You’ll also enjoy a tutored wine tasting and gourmet lunch.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Margaret River? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand and Australia. She even spent six months working on board a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book or zooming in on a beautiful scene. She’s also likely to be boarding an airplane…or jumping out of one.