Margaret River is a name synonymous with great Australian wine.
It once referred to a single township in the middle of Western Australia’s South West, but these days, the name Margaret River encompasses an entire region — including the towns of Busselton, Dunsborough, Yallingup, Augusta and many other communities. If you’re looking for a travel destination that offers a superb food and wine scene, a stunning natural setting, perhaps a dash of outdoor adventure, and plenty of lazy days by the water, ‘Margs’ was made for you — and it’s just three-and-a-bit hours’ drive south of Perth.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Margaret River.
Margaret River is a mixed bag of diverse types, behaviours, quirks and cool ideas, which combine to attract adventure seekers, nature lovers, fitness fans and gourmet gurus. It’s the ideal place to push your boundaries. Forest Adventures South West’s highest challenges are not for the faint-hearted, but there are six rope courses to choose from, ranging in height for ages seven and up. If you want to attempt the longest zip-line in the park, you’ll have to climb 19 metres above the ground by way of a hanging log ladder (which is super challenging!). If that doesn’t get the adrenaline pumping hard enough, give the 13-metre-high base-jump a go!
Surfers love the South West’s 130 kilometres of coastline, which features no less than 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 hang ten, book a lesson with Margaret River Surf School. By the way, you can’t go past Hillzeez Down South Surf Shop for all your beach, surf and skate needs. Margaret River town, Busselton and Dunsborough each have a Hillzeez store.
To get amongst the region’s arts scene, start in the main street of Margaret River town. Here you’ll find a treasure trove of artsy cafes and handicraft shops. The Margaret River Gallery showcases contemporary art in a mix of mediums, including jewellery, paintings, pottery and wooden sculptures. Take a drive along Yallingup’s rural roads to discover hidden arts 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), however it wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that surfers and winemakers moved in and made their mark. Today there are over two hundred vineyards in Margaret River. The oldest vines are at Vasse Felix, which celebrated fifty years in the industry in 2017.
Over in Busselton (‘Busso’ as the locals call it), it’s easy to while away an entire day exploring historical sites like the Busselton Jetty, Busselton Museum in the Old Butter Factory, and the Art Geo Cultural Complex (which includes the old Busselton Courthouse). Construction of the epic Busselton Jetty began in the 1860s. Today it extends almost two kilometres out into Geographe Bay, making it the longest timber jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. At the shore end you’ll find a museum and interpretive centre; at the far end, a superb underwater observatory. You can walk between the two or hitch a ride on the jaunty red jetty train.
Augusta has its own museum, along with the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland). It marks the southern end of the famous 123-kilometre-long coastal Cape to Cape Track. The other end is at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, near Dunsborough.
Margaret River is famous for its gourmet cuisine and fresh food scene. So much so, that all things food and wine are celebrated at the annual Western Australia Gourmet Escape (formerly the Margaret River Gourmet Escape). Don’t worry if you can’t make the festival in November. There are plenty of choices for quality, farm fresh produce and drool-worthy dining all year round.
Start the day right with a filling breakfast at The Good Egg in Busselton. Think fluffy pancakes or thick waffles topped with berries and whipped cream. And the coffee is the best in town.
When mid-day hunger strikes, head to Dunsborough for a casual lunch at Occy’s brewhouse, an eatery with massive burgers and 18 taps of cold beer.
For something a bit more upmarket, try the Eagle Bay Brewing Company. Their back deck overlooks rolling rural countryside, and the wood-fired pizzas and share boards always impress. While you’re in the ‘hood, also drop by family-run Eagle Bay Olives. Enjoy a wander in their grove of 1,200 trees and sample the wares it produces.
For a special night out, you can’t go past the Indigenous-inspired seasonal menu at Dunsborough’s Yarri Restaurant and Bar. Yarri sources ethically and sustainably farmed and foraged ingredients, and presents them at their delicious best. Expect to be wowed by this experience.
It’s a bit of a drive to Little Fish in Yallingup, but it’s worth the effort. Try the blackened fish or the ribs, and leave room for dessert. The oozy chocolate fondant is the best.
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. Notable favourites are the Italian treats by Claudio Biscotti, the roasted hemp seeds from Vasse Valley, and the always scrumptious sourdough from Margaret River Woodfired Bread.
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.
If you find physical exercise relaxing (and many of us do), hire a bike at Busselton and South West Rent-A-Car and head to Busselton’s foreshore. 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.
And finally, it would be just plain wrong to come all the way to Margaret River and not do a bit of relaxed grape grazing. In addition to Vasse Felix, pay a visit to Amelia Park Wines at Wilyabrup and Cullen Wines in Cowaramup. Amelia Park’s state-of-the-art set-up is seriously impressive, but traditional winemaking processes and values are at the heart of everything they do. Sampling their range in the gorgeous wood-panelled tasting room that overlooks the estate is a treat.
Family-owned Cullen Wines has a more old-school feel, but this certified A Grade biodynamic vineyard and winery (under the stewardship of chief winemaker Vanya Cullen) is renowned for its cutting-edge approach to organic viticulture.
For more information, visit www.margaretriver.com.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Margaret River? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
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.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.