Distances are relative in Australia. In Ireland, a three hour drive is a long one and can take you clear across the country. Down Under, everything seems to be at least a three hour drive and still leaves you in the sphere of influence of the place you started while at the same time feeling worlds away. This is how we felt when we drove to Margaret River, a top luxury wine region in Western Australia. Margaret River is just a three hour drive from Perth and we love wine so off we went because we were in the neighborhood. Here are nineteen things that we discovered around the Margaret River region on a delightful 3 day road trip.
1. Bunbury Dunes and Lighthouse
Bunbury Dunes represents the halfway mark on the drive from Perth to Margaret River. We stepped out of the car to stretch our legs, look out over the deep blue sea, and admire the black and white checked lighthouse charged with keeping vessels from smashing into the rocks below.
2. Birds of a Feather
Just south of Bunbury, we stopped at Big Swamp Parkland, an area known for its amazing birds. Even in the parking lot we saw western corellas and oh-so-pink galahs.
3. Big Swamp
Big Swamp itself is a series of boardwalks and trails winding their way around a large lake in an otherwise largely residential neighborhood. Consider bringing insect repellent as the flies here were persistent. The scenery was beautiful and otherworldly although I was somewhat afraid that a snake would slither down out of a tree on top of us as we wound our way through the nearly enclosed canopy. Fortunately for us any snakes in the area were uninterested in us and we were left to enjoy our visit. Highlights included the strange musk duck with a disk below its bill and the rather large Australian moorhen.
4. Busselton Jetty
Continuing on our journey, we soon arrived in Busselton, a town known for being home to the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. We set out to explore said jetty and made our way to the very far end over a mile out where we enjoyed stunning views of the sea and surrounding area. It's a good thing that the sea was calm on the day we visited because I noticed that a good chunk of guard rail was missing near the far end. Definitely watch where you are walking!
5. Baby Seagulls
Until the day we visited Busselton Jetty, I'd never seen a baby seagull. I heard chirping as we were taking our walk and looked over at some decaying wooden logs running parallel to the jetty and soon saw the most adorable gray chick taking food from its mum. Amazing!
6. Pizza Wine and Tapas in Margaret River
After our three hour drive (along with the many fun diversions along the way), we arrived in Margaret River ready to sample some of the region's fine wine and food. We walked into Swings Taphouse and Kitchen just before the kitchen closed. We enjoyed a piping hot pizza, a carafe of local red wine and the best Brussels sprouts with bacon that I've every tasted. Yum! I was definitely going to like Margaret River.
7. Birds of a Feather at Rosewood Guesthouse
Sitting down to breakfast at the lovely Rosewood Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast just outside of Margaret River town, we looked out the window and discovered some feathered friends having a nibble at the bird feeder. In the U.S. and Europe, bird feeders are mainly frequented by finches, sparrows, tits, and the like. In Western Australia, colorful parrots come to visit. Awesome!
8. Gardens at Voyager Estates
We got an early start after breakfast to check out some of the wineries in the region. Voyager Estates is known for stunning gardens. The gardens did not disappoint and we even saw some colorful parrots.
9. Wine and Birds at Cape Grace
The bird theme continued at Cape Grace, a winery tucked into the woods down a dirt road. We enjoyed a free wine tasting and then checked out the birds (both caged and free) in the backyard. Apparently the owner has a thing for collecting birds.
10. Winery Lunch at Brookwood Estate
Our next stop was Brookwood Estate for a leisurely lunch on the patio overlooking the wines. We did a very small tasting but decided to forego a glass of wine with lunch since we still had some driving to do. Local seafood with a side of perfectly prepared asparagus was the highlight of the meal.
11. Jumpin' Juniper Estates
After lunch, we stopped at Juniper Estates where we discovered little blue and yellow birds flitting about outside in the gardens. While we were doing our tasting, one of the birds actually smashed into the sliding glass door of the tasting room. We ran outside to see if it was okay. The bird looked stunned and staggered around for a bit but then gathered itself together and flew off. Phew.
12. Kangaroo Feet
Everywhere we were in Margaret River, we encountered bright orange and red flowers called Kangaroo Feet named for their unique shape. The colorful plants always made us smile.
13. Nothin' but Nougat
Western Australia is known for nougat. We took a break from our wine tasting to sample some of the sweet chewy stuff at the Margaret River Nougat Company. Fueled by a bit of sugar, we continued on our way.
14. Margaret River Chocolate
Continuing in the vein of sweets, our next stop was the Margaret River Chocolate Company. The store was huge and featured generous samples of help-yourself chocolate chips. We also were offered samples of a number of the truffles arranged in bags behind the counter. Sweet!
15. Coastal Drive around Eagle Bay
While Margaret River is mainly known for wine, the region also features some stunning scenery. We rounded out our trip with a coastal drive around Eagle Bay.
16. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse at the very end of the Eagle Bay drive also features amazing views of the ocean beyond. The Lighthouse closes early (we arrived around 4 pm and it was already closed) but there is a short path skirting the edge of the headland. We were a little nervous when we saw: Caution: Snakes have been recently sighted in the area. However, we stuck to the trail and although there is no evidence of this...I may have clapped a bit and hummed no snakes, no snakes! to give the creepy crawlers a fair warning that we were in the area. Thankfully, we didn't have a run in with a snake and we could officially call this 3 week trip to Australia 'snake free'.
17. Sugarloaf Rock
Sugarloaf Rock is accessible down a very narrow road not far from the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. Once again the views were incredible and we even spotted a wild kangaroo foraging nearby.
18. Western Australian Sunset
They say that the sunsets in Western Australia are some of the best in the world. We drove to the beaches near Prevelly to see for ourselves. It was a moody and chilly evening on the beach but still, the rays of sun peeking through the clouds hinted at just how spectacular a Western Australia sunset would be on a clear day.
19. Fraggle Rock
As we were waiting for the sun to set, we took a short walk along the beach and walked past this sign: Fraggle Rocks. 'Fraggle Rock' was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. What an amazing way to end our trip to Australia...finding out that a make believe place from my childhood exists in real life!