Margaret River is a Western Australian gem, a region where travellers can enjoy fine food and wine in settings which range from sweeping coastline to picturesque rural landscapes and giant stands of hardwood forest.
The town itself is located 277 kilometres south of Perth in the state’s South West and the valley in which it lies, along with the surrounding region, is well known for its vineyards, attracting around 500,000 tourists annually.
The river and associated town was named after Margaret Whicher in 1831, the cousin of the founder of the regional town of Busselton, John Garrett Bussell.
Margaret River first appeared on a map in 1839. By 1850, European migrants had moved to the area and by 1870 timber logging in the region’s karri forests was underway. The town had a hotel by 1910, which conveniently also operated as the local post office.
After World War I, new settlers were encouraged to make their home in the region. The Western Australian government’s Group Settlement Scheme fostered the establishment of farms in the region and by 1922 more than 100 new settlers had moved into the district.
In the early 1920s regional farming was boosted with the completion of the Busselton to Margaret River Railway, with the Margaret River to Flinders Bay line opening in 1925.
Margaret River is located nine kilometres inland from the Indian Ocean, about halfway between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.
The regional climate is humid Mediterranean, with an average annual rainfall of around 1,130 millimetres, with most falling between May and August. In summer, the weather is warm to hot, offering plenty of sunshine, offset by cool sea breezes.
It is little wonder then that adventurous viticulturists established vineyards in the region, but surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1967 that the first vines were planted. The principal grapes include cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, merlot, chenin blanc and verdelho.
Today, Margaret River is renowned internationally for the quality of its chardonnay, while it’s gravely, loam and clay soil also produces quality cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot, semillon and sauvignon blanc wines.
There are more than 200 vineyards in Western Australia’s South West, which is dotted with picturesque towns including Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker, Porongurup, Pemberton, Manjimup and Albany.
The excellent farm produce emerging from the region has inspired some of WA’s most prominent chefs, leading to the establishment of quality restaurants offering food that compliments the local wines, linked to cellar doors via popular food and wine trails.
Leisurely drives through the wine region can be linked to a variety of overnight stays, ranging from five-star resort to B&B, retreat, spa and caravan park accommodation, taking in everything from wineries to breweries, restaurants, art and craft galleries, olive groves and cheese makers. Margaret River is also noted for its venison, chocolate, berries, coffee, candy, fudge and ice cream.
Beyond the taste sensations, the region also boasts broad expanses of green karri forests, great ocean swells generated by the Roaring Forties which attract surfers from around the world and below ground, a cavernous wonderland of crystalline and calcium creations.
There are several hundred caves near Margaret River, all located within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, with six open to the public.
The most famous is Mammoth Cave, 21km south of the town, which contains fossils dating back more than 35,000 years. The cave was first discovered by European settlers in 1850 and has been open to the public since 1904. Mammoth Cave can be explored by self-guided audio tour and offers partial disabled access.
Other caves open to the public are Jewel Cave, Lake Cave, Ngilgi Cave, Calgardup Cave and Giants Cave.
For more information, visit:
Boranup State Forest, located near Margaret River © Tourism Western Australia
Vasse Felix vineyard, Cowaramup © Vasse Felix
Vineyard in the south west © Tourism Western Australia
Sugarloaf Rock, Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park © Tourism Western Australia
Couple with wine maker at Cape Mentelle winery, near Margaret River © Tourism Western Australia
Food display at the Watershed Premium Wines, located near Margaret River © Tourism Western Australia
Cyclists on Caves Road in Boranup State Forest, near Margaret River © Tourism Western Australia
Mammoth Cave – Wikipedia Creative Commons