If my earlier entry made you think Margaret River is all wine and alcohol, let me assure you now that it’s not. Even if you’re not a fan of wine, there are plenty of fun, family-friendly attractions for travelling families like the animal farms, mazes, mini golf courses, scenic beaches, etc. that will occupy you as much as wine-tasting can, so if time is not an issue, do stay for a couple of nights.
I love how we were surrounded by the vast nature (it made me feel very very small). I love peering out of our rental car window as it whizzed by the endless green pastures where dairy cows graze serenely alongside the farm dogs and fluffy sheep. I love the idea of us falling asleep in the wilderness. I secretly love the thrill of cruising on the roads in pitch dark (thank goodness I’m not the driver). Granted, I would not be able to survive living in remote conditions for extended periods, but it is extremely therapeutic just getting away from the hectic city life for a bit to savour the simplicity and peacefulness of the country.
How funny that I’m writing about simplicity and peace as I’m going through one of those distressing and punishing periods at work. Reminiscing of a holiday past, dreaming of a vacation that could be. Let’s just say it’s my way of licking my wounds, heh. Anyway, here are some of the food experiences we had and natural attractions we checked out in Margaret River in-between wine-tasting.
Bush Shack Brewery
We were brought here for lunch during the wine tour and I thought the set-up felt very much like one of those summer camp sites in the movies (think the original version of The Parent Trap).
I can’t remember the flavours we tried but they offer unique brews like Chilli Beer, Chocolate Beer, Dirty Dan’s Dark Delight and Strawberry Blonde.
We chatted with our fellow participants in the rustic shack that housed the restaurant. It got a bit cold so after filling my tummy, I went over to the fireplace near the round pool table to get in some heat.
Margaret River Chocolate Company
Three big bowls of chocolate pastilles greeting visitors at the entrance, rows and rows of chocolate in all forms, whiffs of cocoa, and know you know you’re in a chocolate store. It was more like a store than a factory even through there was a window where you could peer through to see the chocolate-making machinery.
The chocolate pastilles were really rich and delicious. As we browsed, we kept going back for more of their free samples. Couldn’t resist leaving with two big bags of those pastilles in milk and dark chocolate flavours. We used them to make fondue for our families (over three consecutive weekends) after we came back.
Natural Olive Oil & Soap Factory
The soap factory was started by a couple when their children were diagnosed with eczema and dermatitis and could not react well to commercial soaps. They were then inspired to research and seek natural and healthy products as a solution, and decided that making their own soap would be the best way since they would be able to have control over the ingredients that went into it.
As you enter, the aromas of essential oils and soaps would waft into your noses. You would be able to get a view of their little soap-making factory as you explore the store and slap on lotions and oils from their sample bottles.
We saw workers cutting up bars of soap, wrapping them with plastic films and fastening each soap with a ribbon. There were also rows of empty bottles which were filled manually. It’s all so… original, for lack of a better word.
There were also other cute knick-knacks like a pink nail grooming set, cute apron, and floral gardening boots, which I successfully resisted.
Vasse Virgin Tasting Room
Right next to the soap factory is a tasting room where delicious gourmet condiments can be sampled. There was a selection of locally and internationally sourced table olives, and Vasse Virgin hand-made tapenades, vinaigrettes, etc.
Margaret River has a well deserved reputation for premium wines with a depth of flavour and intensity. The same conditions that go to produce these flavours in Margaret River grapes also produce wonderful flavour characteristics in olive oil – intense fruit characters with strong pungency and peppery aftertaste.
Definitely worth visiting if you’re a fan of olives.
Cape to Cape Track
The Cape to Cape Track is a pathway that runs for 135km down Margaret River, mostly along the west coast, alternating spectacular sweeping cliff-top views with stretches of pristine beach. We did not walk all of the track – no thank you, really – but merely stopped by as we were driving up to Cape Naturaliste one evening.
The blistering winds made the cold very painful indeed, but I’m glad we managed to stop and catch, even for a brief moment, a spectacular view of the sunset :)
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
Of all the attractions we had planned to see, I looked forward to visiting the lighthouses most. This lighthouse is located in the Geographe Bay region, a 30-minute drive from where we stayed in Yallingup. We had intended to do quick visit before dinner but unfortunately, it had closed for the day when we arrived so I could only look wistfully at the lighthouse from the parking lot.
The upside was, because it was turning dark, the lights had been turned on so we spent five minutes staring at it (and trying to capture the brightest of it on our cameras).
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Whatever I missed out with Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, I more than made up for it with this stop. We set off early on our last day and drove for more than three hours from the north where we were to the southern tip of the region where Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is located. We were really lucky it was THE perfect weather to visit because we learnt from our guide later that just the day before, visitors had to brave the wind and rain to get to the lighthouse, and couldn’t get in a decent picture!
Standing at 39 meters high against the stunning blue backdrop of the ocean meeting the sky, this is Australia’s tallest lighthouse. It is also located at the meeting point of the Indian and Southern oceans.
In case you’re wondering, the topmost photo in the collage below has not been edited at all. Spectacular sight, isn’t it?
On top of its physical magnificence, the lighthouse also serves as a silent guardian to the thousands of ships that sail past it every year. We learnt that there was only ever one shipwreck at Cape Leeuwin (the S.S. Pericles in 1910) but thankfully, all passengers and crew were saved as they were able to make it to shore with the guidance of a signal fire that had been lit by the lighthouse keeper.
We huffed and puffed our way up the scarily narrow steps to the top of the lighthouse. To think that before it was automated, the poor lighthouse keepers have had to heave gallons of fuel all the way to the top during their shifts.
We spent a bit of time at the top admiring the scenery below, laughing at miniature people, watching the waves lapping against the shore and of course, taking photos from every angle of the lighthouse like the enthusiastic tourists that we were. It was a very informative tour and the sights and knowledge it had to offer was worth every penny it costed.
The Augusta region boasts of some of the most unique and stunning cave experiences in Australia, namely Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave and Jewel Cave. I decided if we didn’t have time to experience all three caves, we should at least visit one and Mammoth Cave happened to be along the way as we drove up Caves Road from the lighthouse.
We had the luxury of exploring at our own pace as it was a self-guided tour. As you enter the limestone cave, the temperature will dip slightly and you will see an array of formations angle off in all directions. I read that this cave is a natural time capsule of sorts and is home to the fossils of hundreds of extinct species.
It was quite fun exploring the cave but I can imagine it being scary for kids since it can get dark and creepy. And I don’t think bringing a squirmy baby or toddler is a good idea since it can be quite dangerous. Call me paranoid but it’s not like you can just pluck them off a stalagmite if they fall off the board walk. Hur.
Something funny to share: We took dozens of photos of the stalactites and stalagmites in the cave but when we got back and tried to rotate them, we realised we didn’t know which way was the right side up – they all look the same!
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To end this entry and wrap up on our Margaret River adventures, I leave you with some of my favourite scenic shots.
Driving to nowhere
Sheep and greenery
Beautiful rock formation
Read the rest of my Perth travelogue:
Part 1 – Tapping is home
Part 2 – City sights
Part 3 – Yallingup Luxury Retreat review
Part 4 – Winery-hopping in Margaret River
Part 5 – The other side of Margaret River
Part 6 – Busselton Jetty
Part 7 – Fremantle
Part 8 – Sorrento Quay & my birthday