Once a magnet for hippies, surfers and schoolies, Margaret River is now finding favour among gourmands from around Australia and the world.
Postcard-perfect shorelines. White-sand beaches. Towering karri forests: as far as god-given beauty goes, Margaret River in Australia’s south-west hits the jackpot. The good people of Perth are equally fortunate, what with Margaret River (“Margies” in the local vernacular) being just three hours south of the city by car. While many hit the road in search of peace and quiet, more and more travellers are making the journey to sample the region’s burgeoning food-and-drink scene. Initially, it was world-class wine that put Margaret River on the map: now the south-west has equally formidable restaurants to go with all that grape juice. Sweeten the pot with art galleries and luxury lodgings and you’re looking at the makings of a very fine weekend away.
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The vineyard and tennis court that welcome guests on the drive in set the tone for any stay at Cape Lodge. This handsome estate is regarded as Margaret River’s finest bed for the night and for good reason. From the carefully manicured grounds to the genteel service and celebrated on-site restaurant, Cape Lodge is a class act from hello to goodbye. Tastefully appointed rooms are a study in elegance and luxury: many of the rooms overlook man-made lakes, while the stately Residence is perfect for groups of friends and avid golfers (the standalone two-storey home has its own one-hole golf course). The lodge’s proximity to Wilyabrup, meanwhile, puts you in striking distance of pioneering wineries such as Vasse Felix, Cullen and Pierro.
Breakfast at Cape Lodge
For those staying at Cape Lodge, the in-house breakfast makes a terrific start to the day with the spread including the property’s own honey and other locally grown produce.
Lunch at Vasse Felix
When it comes to plotting an eating itinerary, lunch is undoubtedly the region’s strong suit and Margaret River’s myriad winery restaurants offer options galore. Under the direction of long-serving chef Aaron Carr, Vasse Felix remains the south-west’s premier dining experience. Our man’s think-global-cook-local approach yields contemporary winners like raw emu with parsnip and macadamia milk, and clever riffs on marron, the state’s native freshwater crayfish. Order à la carte or opt for the tasting menu and let the kitchen do its thing.
Image: Vasse Felix
Dinner at Miki’s Open Kitchen
At night, it’s all about Miki’s Open Kitchen (08 9758 7673), a specialist tempura restaurant and a strong candidate for Australia’s most unlikely rural restaurant. Reservations are hard to come by: book early for your taste of real-deal Japanese cooking.
Stock up at Yallingup Woodfired Bread
Picking up a loaf of legendary Yallingup Woodfired Bread (7 McLachlan Road, Quindalup) – either at the original bakery in Yallingup or newer Margaret River outpost – is mandatory.
Visit the farmers’ market
Few things encapsulate the region’s strong sense of community than the weekly Margaret River Farmers’ Market. Held every Saturday morning at the Margaret River Education Campus just north of the township, this event is as much about connecting with local farmers and producers as it is an opportunity for locals to catch up.
Image: Kelly Harwood
Ride the wave
For those eager to experience the region’s world-class surf (Margaret River hosts a leg of the surf world championship tour each year), the Margaret River Surf School caters to surfers of all abilities from beginner through to experts.
Culture hunters should strongly consider booking a Koomal Dreaming tour. Led by Wardandi man Josh Whiteland, these tours offer insight into the way of life of the area’s Indigenous Wardandi and Bibbulmun people and includes native food tastings and an introduction to bush medicine.