A Perfect Match: Margaret River and Perth
The long weekend means one thing to us Perth locals; a road trip to Margaret River.
Come Friday afternoon, the highway is buzzing with resident vacationers on their way to make the most of Margaret River’s rejuvenating combination of surf, wine country, and nature. The long weekend ritual is best continued with a drive straight to the Perth coast, for fish and chips on the jetty at the Fremantle harbour, or arriving just in time for a golden sunset and sparkling ale at Cottesloe beach.
Distance: 270 Kilometers
Time: 5 Days
Day 1: Perth to Margaret River
To skip the sunset peak hour on your way to Margaret River, it’s best to leave around lunch time, or after 7pm. Unless you’re planning to camp, all that’s needed is the usual travel gear, plus some warm clothes for potentially cooler evenings. All other amenities are readily available down south.
Before the drive, Ku De Ta is a scenic setting for breakfast and right near freeway south. Named after one of Seminyak’s most popular venues in Bali, it has the same luxe, casual feel and far-reaching views of the Swan River. 11-minutes away, you’ll find Funcats Watersports for paddle board and kayak hire, where you can spend a morning traversing the river. Alternatively, 20-minutes further south is Precious Breath paddle board yoga at the Matilda Bay Yacht Club, where you can stretch out before driving three hours south.
Once you’re on the road, break up the drive with a pit stop to the Bunbury Markets for coffee. The large farmers market also sells top-quality cheese and dips to take for the journey.
For accommodation, there’s endless options to choose from depending on your needs and the experience you want to have. For a memorable stay and a glamorous camping (or ‘glamping’) experience, Mile End’s opulent geodastic domes are set on a private 144 acre estate, and is only 15-minutes from town, despite seeming remote. For those that prefer to be in the centre of town, Margarets Forest Holiday Apartments is suited for families or larger groups.
To get out in nature and move after the long drive, there’s innumerable walking trails you can research, Canal Rocks to Wyadup is a highlight for its exceptional views of the coast and lookouts for sunset. After the sun is down, Cullen Wines is set amongst peppermint trees and their vineyards, so it’s an ideal evening if you’re after something more upscale. For a casual atmosphere, Morries Anytime specialise in a seasonal and hearty menu, and the Settlers Tavern is just 6-minutes up the road if you want to catch some live music in a quintessential Aussie pub.
Day 2: Margaret River
For a local breakfast, the eclectic Margaret River Bakery is a must-visit, but Sidekick is better for healthy, gluten free options. Afterwards, Jesters Flat offer trail rides and picnic through the forest or the beach, with tours running every day except Thursday. After a morning soaking up the natural surrounds, pit stop at Eagle Bay Brewing Co. It boasts views of the valley to settle your eyes on while enjoying a local brew or lunch. Right nearby is Smith’s Beach, to cool off afterwards in the turquoise ocean.
Discovered in 1899, Ngilgi Cave is an underground chamber of ancient stalactites and stalagmites, open between 9—5pm daily to explore. Also worth a stopover, is the historical Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse; the tallest on main-land Australia and the best angle to see the vast wilderness. For dinner, Piari & Co’s menu transforms with the seasons and is based on a paddock to plate philosophy that flaunts the best ingredients from the south west region, as well as wines from nearby vineyards.
Day 3: Margaret River
Get up and move first thing, with a walk or bike ride through Boranup Forest. You can hire one at Life Cycle Bikes, download a walking map online, or a hard copy at the visitor centre. Afterwards, no trip to Margaret River is realised without setting out on one of the many wine tours available, Bush Tucker Tours being one of the highlights.
For dinner, Swings Taphouse is a cellar door in town specialising in wood fired pizza, local craft beers and a seasonal menu. Highlights include, anchovy and red pepper crostini for starters, and lamb rump with baba ganoush for mains.
Day 4: Margaret River and Perth
Morning: Margaret River to Perth
Perhaps you’re destined further south to Esperance or Albany, or plan to savour more time in Perth. Either way, a road trip is best preluded by a morning dip and breakfast. Smith’s beach fulfils this perfectly, with its proximity to gourmet deli and satisfying brunch spot; Lamont’s. After a three hour journey, Propeller’s stylish alfresco in North Fremantle, is a sunny and reliable place lunch, inspired by middle eastern flavours. Alternatively, grab some healthy takeaway from The Little Concept up to Monument Hill, for a picnic overlooking Fremantle.
For dinner, Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour is the time-honoured site for fish and chips on the jetty at Cicerello’s. For something indoors, Char Char is right opposite and features the same views of the harbour. It’s also conveniently across from Kailis’ gelato stand and a garden piazza to people watch from. If beer is your preferred dessert, the famous ex-crocodile farm Little Creatures Brewery is only a few doors down.
Day 5: Perth
With world-class kitesurfing conditions, Cottesloe Beach is a consistently good spot for beginners and veterans. You can opt for a two hour lesson with Yogaworx or choose a three lesson package. Right across from the beach is Il Lido Italian Canteen, a well-loved setting for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A whole afternoon and evening is certainly required to explore the Old Treasury State Buildings, an ample collection of some of Perth’s most esteemed bars and restaurants, from Petition Wine Bar, Long Chim’s Thai inspired fare, and Wildflower rooftop bar and restaurant, serving haute-cuisine with intimate views of the surrounding sky scrapers.
Day 6: Stay an Extra Day in Perth
Take a drive to the Perth Hills, an area lush with greenery and undulating hillsides where cattle roam and travellers can enjoy the morning bushwalking to Lesmurdie Falls, or visiting Araluen Botanic Park. For a late breakfast, Genesis in the Hills serve fresh and colourful fare on their balcony overlooking the grassy slopes. If you prefer wine country, spend your extra day 20 minutes east of Perth City, in the Swan Valley. Stop off at Taylors Art & Coffee House for an organic breakfast in their back garden, before embarking on a food and wine tour or exploring the many breweries and wineries at your own pace.
If you’ve opted to spend the day in the Perth Hills; pass the afternoon tasting wines at the Millbrook Winery cellar door, before setting down on the restaurant veranda, for dinner on the lake. If you’re in the Swan Valley, discover the brewery, wines, and beer garden at Mandoon Estate before a feast at their restaurant, The Wild Swan. Their a la carte and degustation menu changes with the seasons and features wines grown on the estate to pair with your meal.