5 Margaret River Adventure Highlights
Best explored when balancing indulgence with adventure; here are 5 ways to balance your mind, body and palate in Margaret River.
A destination of striking variation; Margaret River combines dramatic sea cliffs that drop into windswept coastlines, with the stark beauty of Cape Leeuwin, winding rivers, and towering Karri forests. Surrounded by water on three sides, it attracts surfers seeking world-class waves and wine producers taking advantage of the maritime influence on the vineyards. Identified as having the closest environment to Bordeaux in Australia, the region is responsible for 20% of the country’s premium wine production, each bottle taking on different characteristics of the local area it was grown in.
Over the years, I’ve learned that Margaret River is best explored when embracing its food and wine culture, but keeping it balanced with some adventure. You can experience the terroir of Margaret River first hand, by canoeing, or hiking, before visiting a nearby cellar door to taste the hard-earned, salty spray of a Cloudburst Cabernet.
Caving and Abseiling
Between the Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, is an untouched expanse of land developed from millions of years of weather-beaten rock to shape rugged granite headlands and limestone cliffs. With a large network of 150 limestone caves, exploring the National Park from its underground chambers is as breathtaking as the landscape above.
The Lake Cave + Mammoth Cave
Located inside a large sunken forest, the majestic Lake Cave is the most actively dripping in the south west. Hanging stalactites almost touch the tranquil lake inside the cavern, which mirror dazzling crystal formations above. The cave is preserved through offering guided tours only, beginning with a long descent down a 350 rung staircase. It’s worth pausing once, or twice to look up at the towering karri trees as you lower further into the hollow.
The largest and easily accessible of all caves in the region, The Mammoth Cave is only a two-minute drive, or a half-hour walk away from the Lake Cave. It’s also one of the only caves that contain fossils, like the jawbone of a 50,000-year-old giant marsupial and others that you’ll learn about during the self-guided audio tour that’s available.
Abseiling the Sea Cliffs
Above ground, The Margaret River Climbing Co takes you abseiling at the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge from 10, to 40 meters down the sea cliffs depending on your skill and confidence level. Climbing from age 11, Mick Dempsey or one of his staff host the climb, leading guests through scenic Boranup, where you’ll abseil into crystal chambers up to 70 meters below the forest floor, before ascending slowly back into daylight.
A short 11-minute drive north from Mammoth Cave, is McHenry Hohnen winery; a 30-year-old biodynamic vineyard. Their process focuses on soil and vine health to decrease intervention with the winemaking process, resulting in wine that’s expressive of the variety, season, site and surrounding ecosystem. Even taking into account lunar cycles and astrological influences, the vineyard manager Mike Sleegers, makes wine with the philosophy that “a better environment gives you better wine” and you can sample them at his Burnside Vineyard.
Canoeing the Blackwood River
The Margaret River region is also home to the Blackwood River, the longest continual river in Western Australia. To sightsee from a different angle, Surf ‘n’ Dirt Adventure Tours take canoe tours down the Blackwood River after a mountain bike and picnic in the forest, ending the day with a visit to some nearby boutique wineries.
Currently taking their tours through Arlewood Estate; a close-knit team that’ve been producing since the 80’s. They moved the vineyards to Forest Grove in 2009, a cooler region that resulted in finer, fragrant and complex wines, earning them the prestigious Dark Horse Winery of the Year Award.
Those travelling without a surfboard, or prior surfing experience can hire a board, or take lessons with Margaret River Surf School. With waves breaking for all levels, the breaks below are chosen for their levels and proximity to outstanding wineries. The unique maritime influence on the vineyards of Margaret River is a huge defining factor on the wines, which you’ll taste at each winery in varying degrees.
Although this spot suits all experience levels, Redgate is a perfect beginner break when the swell is small, with unimaginably glassy and aquamarine water on a clear day. Right nearby you’ll find Redgate Winery, a 40-year-old family owned vineyard with a reputation for producing top-quality and exclusive wines.
The variety of Smiths beach break with both a left and right hand wave, as well as a left hand point break, makes for a great intermediate surf spot. For beginners, Yallingup Surf School runs lessons for people of all ages and abilities, supplying warm wetsuits and soft boards for learners. Just a five-minute drive, or an hour walk away is one of the most popular wineries in the region for a Sunday session; Swings and Roundabouts. The vineyard sits on sun kissed rolling hills with plenty of grass to relax on. Ask to try their premium range and learn about the balancing act between nature and the winemaking process.
Locally known as ‘Carparks,’ the sizeable swell at Injidup carpark, means it’s best reserved for advanced surfers. Ideal when the waves reach six foot or head height, it’s relatively straight forward to surf despite the size. After a morning or afternoon surf, Windance Estate is another private owned and ecological winery that’s won 16 trophies and 52 gold medals, so their wines a must-try while you’re in the region
Mountain Bike Through Boranup Forest
Alternative to walking, you can follow old logging routes in Boranup Forest with a mountain bike, hurdling over light obstacles on a beginner or intermediate ride offered by local company; Dirty Detours. For something more adventurous, they run advanced tours along a technical single trail through the forest. Their all-inclusive tours, include superior Kona and Giant mountain bikes, pick-up and drop off, as well as snacks for the journey. For those that want to hire a bike and explore the trails in their own time, Lifecycle Bikes in Margaret River offer an extensive range of models for hire, along with local information about trails.
Just a 12-minute drive from Boranup forest, Voyager Estate sits temptingly within immaculately manicured gardens and a restaurant offering their four, or seven course discovery menu. Taste wines straight from the barrel and discover the history of Voyager, before a well-earned seven course meal inspired by their winemaking process.
Hike the Cape to Cape
One of the regions first wineries opened by Tom Cullity, Vasse Felix offer an amazing ‘Cape to Vine’ Tour, taking you along some highlights of the famous Cape to Cape trail before retreating to the estate for a well-deserved three course set menu paired with the wines.
With floating glass fire pits and doorways to private tasting rooms lodged on the side of a hills, it’s worth a visit just to soak in the structural beauty of the winery itself. The tour starts early morning and finishes with a walk through the vineyard to learn about the unique geology and climate that defines their wines. By the afternoon, you’re gifted with a bottle for the road from their premium selection — but make sure not to veer off Tom Cullity Drive before visiting Peacetree Estate. The blue weatherboard, boutique vineyard is family owned and hand picks and presses their exquisite, award-winning wines that you can taste at their cellar door.