There aren’t many countries in which you could fly for six hours on a domestic flight. With no need for a passport and no limitations on liquids in your hand luggage (which means you can bring back your Margs wine haul in your handbag!). These are just some of the reasons we are totally obsessed with Margaret River. It is also nice to hop off the plane and gain two hours with the time difference.
To begin your trip you have to fly into Perth and rent a car. This is step one, and pretty much the only thing that will be dictated to you over the next seven days. Let your taste buds and sense of adventure propel you along the unspoiled west coast—where Australia ends and the bright blue Indian Ocean begins.
For those new to travelling it can be tempting to try and see everything. FOMO gets the better of you and you run around each new destination trying to get an Insta snap of all the “must-see” spots. The most important thing about successful road trips is not overstretching. Yes, you could drive the entire stretch of the coast in the week and see “everything”; but that is a lot of time spent on the road and there isn’t a Spotify playlist around that could convince the average person to spend their much-awaited time off inside a car. So, with that in mind, the Ultimate Margaret River Road Trip is not all-encompassing. It covers a 750km round trip and roughly nine hours of driving through the week, leaving plenty of time to enjoy everything WA has to offer.
Don’t want to drive? There is also the 135km Cape to Cape walking track…But that is a story for another day.
Day 1 – Fremantle – 30kms
Jump in the car and nip down the highway to Fremantle for the first stop on your trip. This beautiful beachside town is fabulous for stretching your legs after a long flight as everything is conveniently located within walking distance. The marina and Bathers Beach area has a great selection of bars and restaurants if you want to grab a bite. If you can, visit Fremantle on a weekend as the town has a bustling atmosphere and a lot more things are open, such as the awesome Freemantle Markets—full to the brim with tasty food and colourful fresh fruit. Or, visit the waterfront E Shed Markets, offering up souvenirs, jewellery and homewares. Fremantle had a fascinating beginning and you can learn a little about it with a tour of the Fremantle Prison. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed building houses centuries of history and is one of the largest convict built structures in Australia. After a full day of exploring, grab a beer-tasting slab and a wood-fired pizza at the Little Creatures Brewery. Or watch the sun go down, with a cocktail in hand and your toes in the sand, at the Bathers Beach House.
Day 2 – Rottnest Island – 35-minute ferry
You can leave the car at the hotel today as the Rottnest Island ferry leaves from the centre of town. In just 35 minutes you are transported to the car-free island, packed full of amazing activities. Whether you are travelling with a partner, friends, the whole family, or on your own, you are spoilt for choice on Rottnest. By far the best way to see the island is by bike. Hire one in Fremantle and take it with you on the ferry or hire one once you get there. With 63 beaches and 20 bays, the 22km circuit of the island is well worth the pedalling.
Not too hilly, the island’s bike-friendly roads are perfect for a leisurely cycle. Hop off your bike whenever you want a rest, a quick dip, a snorkel, or when you spot a Quokka! These adorable creatures are not shy, so you will be able to stop and get a good look.
Other inhabitants of the island include the playful seals at Cathedral Rocks, colourful reef fish and seabirds. There are no refreshments once you get out of the main town so make sure to take plenty of water and a few snacks. The total journey time is around 3-5 hours depending on your fitness level and how often you stop for a swim. If you don’t fancy the cycle there is also an island bus that you can take, an island museum (only open until 3.30pm), and walking tours.
After all that adventuring, stop in at the beachfront Hotel Rottnest for lunch. The historic hotel currently only has 18 rooms, but watch this space, as within two years they will be building an 85-room luxury island resort. Offering excellent service, fabulous food and a range of awesome live music events, the hotel’s sundeck has a great atmosphere and amazing ocean views. It overlooks the jetty where the ferry docks so you can just walk the short distance over there when you see the boat coming in.
Back on dry land, head to the Norfolk Hotel for the fabulous fare, relaxed vibes and old-school décor. Use this opportunity to try wines from places in WA you won’t get the chance to visit, such as the Chardonnay from the Silkwood Estate in Pemberton.
Day 3 – Lake Clifton and Margaret River – 270kms
Making your way south along the coast to Margaret River stop at Lake Clifton to break up the drive. Take the short walk from the carpark to the walkway which stretches out into the lake giving uninterrupted views of this incredible natural wonder. Tiny micro-organisms (thought to be similar to very early life on earth) have created hundreds of thrombolites along the lake's edge. These living, round, rocky structures create a striking landscape with the Yalgorup National Park as a backdrop. Walk the easy five-kilometre loop around the lake which will take about two hours. Afterwards, pop into the Lake Clifton Winery next door, or take a slight detour onto Caves Road and try a few wines at world-famous vineyards such as Robert Oatley (of Hamilton Island and Wild Oats) or Margaret River region founders, Vasse Felix.
Your first stop in Margaret River is the river mouth. If the surf gods have been kind, rent a board at Surfers Point and head out into the waves for an afternoon paddle. If surfing isn’t your thing visit the White Elephant Beach Café which looks over the ocean and is the perfect location for a spot of lunch an afternoon swim in the ocean.
Arriving in Margaret River town, just a few kilometres from the beach, you will find a European style main street with boutiques, beer gardens and cafés strewn along both sides. Grab dinner at Settlers Pub, known for their live music and smokey barbecue dishes. Portions are huge so sharing is a must if you want room to sample a few more vinos from the local area to accompany your dinner.
Day 4 – Margaret River wine tour – all day
Start your day with brekkie at the Margaret River Bakery, offering fab coffee, tasty pastries, and a range of cooked breakfast options. Enjoy the quaint boho setting with mismatched furniture and a buzzing atmosphere of locals and holidaymakers.
By far the best way to get a real feel for Margaret River (or Margs, as it is affectionately called) is to visit the many wineries spread up and down the region which stretches over 100 kilometres of the coast. If you want to taste as you go, driving isn’t an option, so book a tour with expert local guides such as the team at Grape Escape Wine Tours. Offering and range of different tour options for all types of wine lovers, the tour will take you to some of the hidden gems and local faves of the Margs wine world.
Famed for their sparkling wines, Windows Estate is a regular stop on the tour, run by Western Australian couple Chris and Jo Davies, their two young children, and dog, Bear. Chris does all the work on the vineyard himself and they have a very ‘untouched’ approach to winemaking, allowing the grapes to speak for themselves rather than add or take away flavours during the fermentation process.
Wine tasting is thirsty work, so after a long day head for dinner at the La Scarpetta Trattoria in Margaret River town to fill up on carby goodness—Italian style. They can get busy so book ahead in summer.
Day 5 – Cape Leeuwin and Augusta – 140kms
Today’s adventure takes you to the most south-western point of Australia and the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, just a 45-minute drive from town. Enjoy a tour of the lighthouse and grounds followed by brunch at the café which offers amazing views of the often blustery coast from the cosy glass-encased building.
After taking in the views at the lighthouse make sure to stop and have a paddle in the Southern Ocean before driving back up north. Flinders Bay is historically interesting and ideal for a quick swim.
Undiscovered for centuries, Margaret River sits atop hundreds of hidden underground labyrinths, such as the Jewel Cave, a natural masterpiece crafted by mother nature. The cave tour is fascinating, and it is mind-blowing to imagine the creation of these naturally occurring beauties over thousands of years.
Take the scenic route back towards Margaret River along Caves Road. If you are feeling adventurous (and have an appropriate car) take the even more scenic route along the unsealed Boranup Drive to see the magnificent Karri trees. These native Australian trees are amongst the tallest in the world, reaching upwards of 90 metres. If you don’t want to drive the whole track you can just drive into the Boranup Karri Forest Lookout which is a few hundred metres off Caves Road.
For your last evening in Margs, head to Morries for happy hour cocktails and tasty tapas.
Day 6 – Yallingup and Busselton – 85kms
Pop into Yallingup Beach for a morning swim. If the weather isn’t looking too great head to Canal Rocks to walk along the bridge built into the sea cliffs and get some ocean air. Hop back in the car and drive the 20 minutes to Busselton, your final stop before heading back to Perth. Grab some lunch at the Goose Bar and Kitchen overlooking Geographe Bay. Make sure to try the local Stella Bella sav, if you didn’t get a chance to visit them on your trip. Book a tour of the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere for after lunch and check out the local sea life from the underwater observatory.
Drop into the Old Firehouse for dinner, they have craft beer and locally made house wine on tap which perfectly accompanies their range of tasty share plates.
Day 7 – Perth – 225kms
If you have time before you fly, and space in your luggage for more wine… Check out the Swan Valley Wine Cruise to the Sandalford Estate. This full-day experience leaves Perth at 9.45am, returns at 5pm and includes wine tastings, behind the scenes tours and a vineyard lunch. Back at the Airport… You can relax in knowing that the return leg is a considerably shorter flight. Just long enough for a quick nap and an episode or two of the Netflix series you missed out on while gallivanting.
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