Western Australia’s Margaret River looms large in the minds of most travellers for two reasons: it’s one of the best places in the world to sample great chardonnay and cab sav wines, and it’s the secluded surfing spot world champions descend on each year for the Margaret River Pro. But there’s far more to see and do in this beautiful part of the country than wine tours and surfing – though they’re must-dos, too. Follow our guide to the top experiences to have in town and beyond.
Explore incredible caves
The intricate, labyrinthine limestone caves beneath Margaret River’s Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge look like something out of a fairytale, with sparkling crystal stalactites dripping from above and underground lakes so glassy, you’d swear they were a mirror. The four main caves (pictured top) – Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave, Jewel Cave and Ngilgi Cave (pictured above) – can be explored on a guided tour for greater insight into their secrets. At Ngilgi Cave, you can delve deeper underground (45 metres, to be exact) and follow the ancient curves along a long-forgotten riverbed.
Eat at world-class restaurants
Many of the region’s wineries are as well known and lauded for their onsite restaurants as they are for the drops they produce. But if you want to break up the long lunches among the vines, try Miki’s Open Kitchen for a fusion of Japanese cooking techniques and local produce; Dunsborough’s Yarri for fresh plates that align modern Australian dishes with indigenous ingredients; or Settlers Tavern for elevated pub grub and a brew made on the premises.
Take a tour of the region’s top wineries
Vasse Felix (pictured above), Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate, Arimia: the Margaret River wine region reads like a roll call of some of the best wineries in the world. With more than 200 vineyards, it’s impossible to get through them all in one trip so your best option is to take a wine tour tailored to your tastes and interests (complete with a designated driver). Cheers Scenic and Winery Tours runs full- and half-day tours that take in the wineries, breweries and distilleries, as well as private custom tours. Margaret River Unplugged offers gourmet excursions and a luxury option where you’re ferried around for the day in a Mercedes-Benz convertible.
Surf or swim in picturesque bays
Even if your board skills are more starter than Slater, there are plenty of spots in and around Margaret River to practise, or just chill out and swim in the turquoise water. Main Break Beach (pictured above) is considered one of the top breaks for experienced surfers (and are therefore ideal for watching in awe from the sand as well), while Redgate Beach is ideal for beginners; the Margaret River Surf School runs regular lessons. Want to simply splash about? Eagle Bay, in Meelup Regional Park, is a stunning arc of sand buffeted by baby waves and great for snorkelling and diving, too.
Stay at the best accommodation
Hotel choices in Margaret River run the gamut from luxe beachside resorts with every amenity you can think of for unwinding, to quaint countryside bed and breakfasts and fully serviced apartments in the centre of town. Pullman Bunker Bay Resort Margaret River offers sparkling Indian Ocean views, an enormous sun-lit pool and deep soaking tubs, while Mile End Glamping gives you the chance to admire nightfall’s indigo sky from your enormous dome tent. For a more tranquil escape, Cape Lodge (pictured above), in nearby Yallingup, is a beautifully appointed country home with manicured gardens and its own vineyard, close to some of the region’s award-winning cellar doors.