Perth may be one of the most isolated cities in the world, but that’s not to say the ‘isolation’ that surrounds it isn’t filled with wonder. In fact, it’s pretty damn special. We are a little bit in love with the Margaret River region, and once you’ve done this weekender roadie we’ve put together for you from Perth to Australia’s most southwestern corner, our money is on you falling for it too. Ditch the city and head south for a weekend of lush forests and national parks, spooky (but totally epic) caves, mind-blowing wildlife, damn fine fare and wine and moments that are filled with relaxing on top of relaxing. Want to move to Margaret River yet?
And as much as it is about all of the above, there’s no denying that the star of the show is the southwest ocean coast in all its breathtaking glory. We’re talking rugged rocky outcrops, wild and wonderful surf, sensational coastal walkways and swimming spots to fill your heart with Indian Ocean joy. This roadie is all about that coastline, baby.
We’re big fans of a beachy sunrise to start the day, so head to Perth’s most popular city beach and do just so. It’s been the local favourite for over 100 years, and with its iconic offshore floating bell and picture-perfect beachside Indiana restaurant, it’s not hard to see why. ‘Cott’ (as the locals call it) is over a kilometre of the most beautiful white sand, perfect for getting your blood pumping in the morning with a nice stroll. Or you could jump into the waves for an unbeatable kick of adrenaline. It’s the kind of place you could stay all day and never run out of things to do, people to see or beers to drink. But there’s far too much other excitement in line for the day, so best get back in the saddle and go and find some breakfast.
Just a quick drive down the beach from Cottesloe is the spot where you will kick off your day with a bit of food and a lot of atmosphere. Bib & Tucker is a hero of beachside Perth dining, and there could be no better place to enjoy your first meal (and much-needed coffee) of the day than looking out over Leighton Beach and the Indian Ocean. With a menu full of fresh and delicious WA produce and modern Australian dishes, you’ll be well-placed to eat more than you can fit and enjoy every mouthful of it. It’s got all the classics like avo on toast, although their version is paired with crunchy chickpeas, labneh and mint and lemon salad; or eggs benedict, but with ham, brioche bun and apple cider hollandaise. But we would suggest branching out... after all, it’s never too early for their bacon, eggs and mushroom breakfast pizza.
No Saturday morning in Perth could be complete without a trip to the Fremantle Markets, which are, to be quite honest, a Western Australia market institution. Providing fun, food and face painting since 1897 (okay, the face painting might have joined a bit later), the markets are still held in the same hall that they have been for over 100 years, one of the few municipal market buildings in Australia that are still used for their original purpose. Get amongst the vibrancy of the historic market culture, making the most of the produce, homewares, entertainers, and all the rest. There’s also a baby animal farm and a flock of market fairies if you’re travelling with kids or, like the best of us, are still young at heart. Everything that market dreams are made of!
Experience what it’s like to walk on water at the Busselton Jetty, which gives you a pretty unique opportunity to walk nearly 2 km out into the ocean on the southern hemisphere’s longest wooden pier. It does take about 25 minutes to walk to the end, so if you’re not game for that much leg-stretching, a ride on the iconic jetty train is a must. The audio commentary makes it a great way to learn about the history of the jetty, and riding along the first solar-powered train in Australia is a great way to bring a bit of eco-friendliness to your roadie. If you’re more interested in what’s going on below the jetty, book in for a tour of the underwater observatory, departing every hour for a 1 hour and 45 minutes exploration of what happens in the waters of Geographe Bay. We’re sure that the over 300 individual marine species will make it worth your time.
If you like a view while you devour your midday meal (who doesn’t?), make the short trip from the Busselton Jetty to The Goose Beach Bar and Kitchen, and experience beachside dining in true Aussie fashion. This relaxed restaurant is proudly local, with as much of the ingredients in their menu as possible coming from the lands or the waters of the southwest region, and their position right on the beach means you know the seafood is as fresh as it gets. Not only are the fish and chips fresh and delicious, but they are caught sustainably so you can enjoy your lunch in ethical peace. Aside from the iconic F&C, their confit duck is our pick, and it would be rude not to try a few different cheeses to round off your meal.
One of the iconic pioneers of wine in the Margaret Valley region, Cullen Wines are made up of some legendary stuff. Established in 1966, the vineyard remains small-scale so the high standards are not compromised. Completely biodynamic, carbon neutral and naturally-powered, this is certainly one of the most eco-friendly wineries you can visit in Margaret River, working with the rhythm of nature to get the best out of the earth. And when you taste their wine (our picks are the chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon) you’ll just get it. Join them at their beautiful cellar door for a tasting of the best of their range and a chat with the Cullen team about their winemaking practices, or opt for a private winery tour for an in-depth experience of an acclaimed biodynamic vineyard.
Geological fans beware: this next stop might just blow your mind. The Margaret River region is home to a network of magical limestone caves, showing off the very best of Mother Nature’s talents. Mammoth Cave, just a 15 minute drive past Margaret River, is the most accessible of these, where a self-guided tour will expose you to ancient fossils of larger-than-life animals known as Australian Megafauna. There’s even a 50 000 year-old giant jawbone of one of these beasts embedded in the wall, which is a pretty impressive sight to behold. The entire tour is a complete nature experience, taking you through all the incredible chamber of the cave and back out along a winding walk through marri forest, complete with stunning wildlife and flora displays. Or if you’re a wheelchair-using traveller or a hesitant cave-goer, you can enjoy the first chamber of the Mammoth Cave, which has all the epic you could dream of.
Margaret River is known for being a foodie haven, so the pressure is on for choosing a spot for dinner. We think Morries should be at the top of everyone’s list, combining great cocktails with even greater food, and adding some live jazz to top it off. To get the best out of the menu, you really have to choose a bunch of tapas dishes to share, it’s just the choosing part that will cause you some stress. We’d recommend the chargrilled broccolini with cauliflower cheese sauce, the pork belly with Thai caramel, mint and coriander and the goats cheese terrine with caramelised onion for a whole lot of yums. And you have to admire the talents of head (and award-winning) barman Billy Phillips, whose concoctions are just as famous as the food. The cocktail menu is nicely detailed so you can’t go wrong, especially if you choose a Spicy Fashionista (rum-based with flavours of cardamom, orange, and chocolate) or a Summer Thyme (gin-based with flavours of rhubarb, lime and thyme). Here’s to a long night.
For accommodation in Margaret River, we love a bit of beachside ease at the Prevelly Caravan Park, which offers a range of options from cottages and cabins to powered and unpowered campsites. It’s spacious and shady, and the beach is a mere sleepy stumble away. If you want to go super fancy, get in touch with Wild Goose Camping and they will set up a 4-metre furnished canvas bell tent on your booked site at the caravan park, complete with rugs, stretcher beds and mattresses, bed linen, towels, scatter cushions and blankets. They will even add a touch of glamour with lighting, bedside tables and outdoor furniture. You’ll be so pampered you won’t even know you’re camping.
A leisurely 20 minute beach stroll (or 3 minute drive if you’re the kind of person who needs coffee before exercise) will get you from your accommodation to your breakfast spot. White Elephant Cafe is found right on the beachfront in Gnarabup, and will serve up just what you need to kickstart day two of your weekender trip. With all the breakfast classics, as well as some more adventurous (but equally delish) options, take your pick and run with it. There’s no such thing as food envy here. We’re partial to (okay, obsessed with) the Spanish baked eggs with chorizo and sourdough, and the vanilla bean & cinnamon French toast with salted caramel, poached pear, raspberries, pistachio and vanilla ice cream. Talk about treating yourself.
Because we’d totally understand if you’re not quite ready to leave the coastal heaven that is Prevelly, head out to Surfers Point after brekkie and catch some of those famous west coast waves. The number one surfing location in Margaret River, this is a wild spot to either get the board out (if you’re a bit of a surfie yourself) or just hanging out on the boardwalk and watching the action unfold below. Because of the fantastic surf, we’d recommend leaving the waves to the experts if you’re not confident on a board, and it does mean that if you’re bringing kids to this spot, keeping an eye on them at all times is essential. But as long as everyone is accounted for, there is plenty to explore either in the water or along the limestone cliffs that line the coast.
The water may not be hot at this unbelievable coastal spot, but everything else will feel just like you’ve made a trip to the spa. At Injidup Natural Spa, waves push their way through narrow gaps and over rocks into a clear rock pool, creating all the bubbles and foam necessary to create a natural jacuzzi. It’s a much safer spot to cool off than in the waves so there’s relaxed fun to be had for everyone, especially when the water bubbles through just right to give you a dreamy natural massage. Find a possie and enjoy the pampering of Mother Nature, making sure to take a pic for the ‘gram while you’re at it. It wasn’t so long ago that only the locals knew about this, but now that the secret’s out there, you can flaunt this natural wonder as much as you like.
Get some supplies for lunch at Margaret River’s iconic bakery, Yallingup Woodfired Bread, who bake the most scrumptious handcrafted breads freshly each day. Kneaded and fermented for hours, then hand-moulded and rested, and finally baked on hot volcanic stones, it’s not hard to see why this bread is so popular. And, keeping with the sustainable theme of this roadie, Yallingup Woodfired Bread is certified biodynamic, so rest assured that you are treating yourself and the planet with this purchase. So stock up on a few delicious doughy goodies for a later picnic and try to come to terms with the fact that all other bread will be boring after trying some of this goodness.
This next stop is a little tricky to pin down, because it covers the entire coast of the Margaret River region, or nearly 200 square kilometres. But it’s an easy bet that whichever location inside Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park you choose to put down your picnic blanket for lunch, it will be picture-perfect. For coastal and ocean views as far as the eye can see, the northern point of the park, Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, is a pearl of a spot, and if you need a midday caffeine fix there is even a café in the former lighthouse keeper’s cottage. If you’re looking for a burst of activity, the Cape to Cape Track starts at Cape Naturaliste, which traverses the entire coast (all 160 km of it!) of the national park all the way to Cape Leeuwin at the opposite end. The walk takes 5-6 days to complete in its entirety, but it is easily accessible from many points along the track so completing little sections is simple and oh-so worth it.
Our tip for tackling part of the Cape to Cape Track would be to set off from Cape Naturaliste and walk down the coast to Sugarloaf Rock, one of the many incredible natural sights of the region. The walk to between the two points is 3.5 km, about one hour of walking, and is completely wheelchair accessible with never-ending views of the ocean and the rugged coast the whole way along. Sugarloaf Rock itself is so easy on the eye, it’s one of the most photographed spots of WA, and as the southernmost nesting site of the red-tailed tropicbird, it provides some great wildlife spotting opportunities too. If you want to see this bold crag without having to do the walking, it is accessible by road as well. But we all know that a view is much better when you’ve had to work for it, right?
Bright, bold and colourful, Neho Asian Tapas will herald your return to Perth with a neon-soaked smile. This South-East Asian tapas joint is one of the best spots to eat in the Victoria Park precinct, serving up tasty, full-of-flavour dishes and a fun, vibrant atmosphere. With a menu full of fantastic sharing plates, you can try as many options that jump out at you, and it’s a safe bet you won’t be disappointed whatever you choose. But if you’re struggling to narrow it down, you’ve got to taste the garlic tom yum prawns, the Hatyai fried chicken and the 36-hour rendang short ribs. And you can’t leave without trying one of their legendary desserts. The pandacotta is a must, but hey, why not go for the dessert trio option and get all three. We’ll be right there with you.
Banner Photo Credit: Margaret River