Margaret River in Western Australia’s fabled south-western corner ticks an awful lot of boxes for pleasure-seeking travelers.
Less than 300 kilometres south of Perth, the town has some¬how stayed true to its roots and, despite its burgeoning popularity as a tourist destination, retains a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The world-class surf breaks that initially put Margaret River on the map are still drawing surfers from around the world, but now the boardriders have been joined by grey nomads and others eager to discover the area’s spectacular beaches, rugged coastline, amazing caves, stunning wildflowers and great wineries.
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The town itself has, of course, grown, and now offers visitors a great selection of shops, services, restaurants, cafes and van parks. It is also home to an enormous array of artisans, and there is an art or craft gal¬lery on just about every corner.
Despite the many other attractions, it is generally not long before the thoughts of most visitors turns to wine. There are more than 150 wine producers in the region and many offer free cellar door tastings. Taking a cellar door tour is a truly wonderful way to spend a relaxing day. Actually, with both red and white wines to consider and everything from Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to Shiraz and Verdelho to sample, you’d better make that at least a couple of days!
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The area is also famed for its caves … there are more than 350 of them hidden within the limestone ridge under¬neath the Margaret River area. Several are open to the public including the famed Mam¬moth Cave, 21 kilometres from town, which reputedly has fossils dating back more than 35,000 years. Other caves well worth a look are Jewel Cave, Lake Cave, Ngilgi Cave, Calgardup Cave and Giants Cave. These underground wonders are all hidden within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park which also treats visitors to views of dramatic rocky cliffs and stunning beaches, as well as offering superb camping opportunities. Contos Beach, Hamelin Bay and Cosy Corner are just three of the many stunning coastal locations.
Those who like to cast a line and who time their visit right could find themselves stocking up their van’s freezers with Australian Salmon or Snapper. Timing is also critical for those eager to enjoy the best of the wildflower season. The experts say September to November is the optimum time to visit the region from a wildflower perspective with October being the pick of the proverbial bunch. Banksia plants, kangaroo paws, and orchids are just a few of the species that contribute to a memorable explosion of colour.
Wildflower hunters will no doubt venture down the Caves Road to Margaret River’s south, which will also take them to Boranup Karri Forest, where they will find them¬selves dwarfed by pale-barked karri trees towering above them at heights of up to 60 metres. Not surprisingly, given the surroundings, there are some amazing bushwalking opportunities around, as well as a number of short, well-signposted walks from the town’s Rotary Park.