Not Far Away – South West WA

Published 31 May 2017   

FRV takes a trip directly south of Bali and discovers a scenic, natural, clean and organized part of Australia.

Aravina Estate near Yalinguy

Written by: DAVID TRAUTS

A trip to Western Australia’s south west from Bali is as easy as 1, 2, 3. There are around ten flights a day to Perth, which takes just over three hours from Denpasar. (Batik Air is starting two more flights a day in June). Those flights ferry Aussie tourists back and forth to their annual holidays in the sun and tourists and residents in Bali can squeeze on a cheap flight most times of the year, without too much fuss nor cost.

Once you arrive at Perth Airport, grab a rental car and you can be in the tree-lined country roads south of Perth within an hour or so. The South West, or Down South as the locals call it, officially starts after you pass the town of Bunbury and consists mainly of the coastal strip from Busselton, Dunsborough and Yalingup in the north, to Augusta in the south, with Margaret River sitting just about in the middle. This is all along the 100 kilometer, winding and downright beautiful Caves Road. Going Down South is all about good surf, great wines, delicious food and if it’s the right time of year, blue skies and warm temperatures. From November through to May is the choice time to visit, but a winter escape also offers its own cooler characteristics.

Margaret River Hotel and main street

Let’s take a closer look.

Surfing. There are some of the best waves in Australia on this stretch of coast and surfers from all over the country and the world are everywhere; on the open roads, down sandy tracks, laying around beaches, working in town and they are both young and old. They are a pretty cool bunch though so don’t expect any trouble from any of them.

But if you are not super fit or particularly young don’t despair. There is Wine. The region has the perfect climate and terroir for producing premium grade wines and since the mid 70’s beautiful wineries with their top quality restaurants have been popping up all over the region. Caves. Have you ever wanted to go deep into the bowels of the earth? Well, this is the place. There are over 100 caves of various sizes and lengths spread from north to south along the aptly named Caves Road, with four large tourist centerpieces. Trekking or bushwalking. Besides the coastal national park strip that borders the coast almost the whole length of Caves Road, one of the highlights is the Karri tree Boranup Forest just south of Margaret River.

Deep in Ngilgi Cave

We stayed in the old Margaret River Hotel right in the centre of town, which was built back in the pioneering days of 1930’s and was renovated in 1986. It was the only pub in Margaret River for 50 years and has an interesting history and clientele, just like the town itself, of farmers, mill workers, later surfers and now tourists from all over the globe. The art deco styling from the 30’s was kept in the renovation with a tasteful mix of local Jarrah timber, high ceilings and ornate, period furnishings in the original building and modern motel style rooms in the rear section. The place to stay is in the front main building with all its history. One curiosity, though is that they don’t serve breakfast in the hotel, which means guests have to find an early morning snack outside in a café on the main street, but everything else about the place was very comfortable. You don’t go Down South expecting incredible service but you do receive genuine, warm smiles and a helping hand.

Tall Karri trees in Boranup

The nature, big trees, rolling pastures and wildlife makes a trip to the South West invigorating and refreshing. Go for a cruise along the dusty, gravel road of Boranup Drive, then a walk through the Karri forests of the area. Don’t just stop the car and take a selfie, get amongst it and breathe in the fresh air under the canopy. If you are a nature lover you can’t get much closer. The beaches too in this area are pristine and while you will need a four-wheel drive to access some, the easy way to Boranup Beach, one of the longest, most isolated, white sand beaches in the area, is by heading to Hamelin Bay. Or another option is a quick trip to isolated Redgate Beach. With a beautiful blue sky above and pure white, almost crystalised sand crunching under foot, the beaches here are beyond belief. The only problem is the temperature of the water, but that too can be refreshing too when you take a plunge into the Indian Ocean.

Pristine Redgate Beach

When lunchtime comes take the road back to Margaret River via Boodjidup to Leeuwin Estate for a winery tour and a delicious lunch on the terrace of their elegant, fine-dining restaurant. A few glasses of the top quality wine in this stylish and culinarily trendsetting location for lunch and a stroll around the gardens is the perfect way to spend a relaxing, holiday afternoon. Another quality wine maker and restaurant is right next door at Voyager Estate Winery, but that can wait until another day.

Other good dining options are Cullen Wines – another one of the vinicultural pioneers of the South West, or Watershed, Xanadu wineries in the same area, or further north closer to Yalingup, the picturesque Aravina Estate. In Margaret River, Teddy’s Big Spoon (Korean) is delicious and great value and Arc of Iris (Modern Australian) is still a winner after many years – try their signature duck dish and garlic prawns. Also try Swings Taphouse for tapas and pizza, and the Settler’s Tavern for decent pub food, drinks and live music.

Cellar door tasting at Leeuwin Estate

Margaret River and the South West region has come a long way in the last few decades. From a sleepy rural, country town and neighbouring farms it is now a bustling centre of tourism, with great food, wines and plentiful smiles from the locals. If you are looking for a quick break or a longer sojourn, jump on a plane and find out what the Margaret River region and the South West of WA has to offer for yourself – it’s not that far away!

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