Margaret River is no longer just a small township in the middle of Western Australia’s South West.
These days, the name Margaret River encompasses an entire region, and includes the cities and towns of Busselton, Dunsborough, Yallingup, Augusta and many other communities. If you’re looking for a travel destination that offers a superb gourmet food and wine scene, a stunning natural setting, perhaps a dash of outdoor adventure, and plenty of lazy days by the water, you’ll find it all and more right here.
Enjoy this Margaret River travel guide.
Need to know
Base yourself: Busselton, Margaret River township, Dunsborough, Yallingup
Average hotel price per room/per night: $140
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: Gourmet food and wine tour, whale watching tour, surfing 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 you’ll enjoy balmy beach days and lots of outdoor events. Summer temperatures get up to the low 30s on average.
Winter brings cool days and temperatures are generally in the mid teens. 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 true taste of Margaret River’s life-loving culture, go for a tandem skydive over Busselton with Skydive Geronimo. There’s no better way to feel alive than by throwing yourself out of an airplane, and from your vantage point at 15,000 feet, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the natural beauty of the region.
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 local Indigenous history and culture. You can also visit the Wardan Aboriginal Cultural Centre to see their fascinating collection of traditional art.
British settlers landed in Augusta in 1830 ready to make it their new home, but the rugged coastal settlement failed to thrive. Most settlers 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 and make their mark on the region. Today there are over two hundred vineyards in Margaret River. The oldest vines are at Vasse Felix, which is celebrating fifty years in the industry in 2017. Wine tours of the region are very popular.
Over in Busselton (‘Busso’ as the locals call it), it’s easy to while away an entire day exploring historical sites like the Cultural Heritage Museum at the Busselton Jetty, Busselton Museum in the Old Butter Factory and the Old Courthouse/ArtGeo Cultural Complex.
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 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 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. It’s held every Saturday on the south side of the Margs townsite. The grand thing about this market is that everything sold must be produced locally, and there are plenty of gourmet delights to taste-test as you browse at the stalls. Meat lovers can stop by The Farm House’s 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 relaxing pastime that appeals to all ages.
You’ll always find friendly fisherman along the Busselton Jetty, trying their luck for herring, squid, samson and salmon. You can hire fishing gear (and get some good tips) from Justin at Access Fishing in Dunsborough.
Another great way to relax around water is floating. You can do it at the beach or pool (obviously!), but have you tried floating in a sensory deprivation tank? If not, give it a go at Floating Euphoria in Gnarapub Beach. After an hour of drifting on top of high-density salt water in total darkness, you’ll feel like a new person.
If you find physical exercise relaxing (and many of us do), 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. It will take you all the way to Dunsborough (28 kilometres away) if you’re keen.
Do you have any tips to add to our Margaret River travel guide? 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 also spent six months working on 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 a plane — or jumping out of one.
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