Margaret River in Australia is a name synonymous with good wine and gourmet experiences. In addition to that, the region is flourishing with artisanal producers who make everything from cheese to chocolate, from olive oil products to grass fed beef. Thanks to Tourism Western Australia, we had a whirlwind tour of some of the best places to see.
One of the most incredible things we did - winery-hopping by helicopter! How cool is that? Totally the highlight of my trip! I just love flying.
Wild Blue Helicopters conducts scenic tours, winery and brewery lunch packages. They also do wedding and VIP charters. Seven days a week. I wonder if they need an intern. *waves hand*
8655 Bussell HWY, Cowaramup, Western Australia
Call: 1300 73 55 63
This was my first helicopter experience, and I was surprised at how light it all felt. Our pilot Brett who also owns Wild Blue gave us a gorgeous aerial tour and commentary of the Yallingup area.
The Margaret River region has some amazing coastlines. This area started up as a surfing spot, and then the fertile farmlands took centrestage pumping out superior produce. Still, there's plenty of fishing, swimming, and whale watching to do at these glorious beaches.
We even spotted some dolphins in the water.
Yes, a moment for Instagram?
We arrived in style via helicopter to Aravina Estate, prompting curious on-lookers to wonder if we were celebrities or royalty.
Aravina is the most stunning wine destination I have ever seen. It's also an amazing wedding venue.
That's the owner and self-made businessman Steve Tobin and his wife; they had their own fairytale wedding here.
The main building faces the calm lake and has a wraparound verandah. A kitchen garden off to the side supplies the kitchen with fresh herbs and vegetables.
From the car park, guests cross a little bridge into a lush hydrangea and rose garden. The dining area has ultra high ceilings, and a large hall decked with chandeliers has been specially built for weddings and events. A gorgeous powder room or bridal parlour awaits behind the hall, for brides-to-be and perhaps celebrities to prep themselves.
The vineyards are expansive and take up about 64 acres (26 hectares). Here they plant varities like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
The Cellar Door allows you to try out wines. There's a private tasting room too, adjacent to it, complete with plush red seats.
They have one particular wine called Vermentino that's not often seen.
What's truly mind-blowing is the sports car gallery, featuring many vintage models - a 1965 Aston Martin, various Holdens, Ford Falcons, Ferraris and Porsches.
An intricate homeware shop reflects the owner's love of things French and nautical.
Executive Chef Tony Howell, a local celebrity chef, helms the kitchen at Aravina Estate. His philosophy? Good honest food using local produce with not too many ingredients. He prepared for us a really unusual fine-dining lunch which included ingredients like the native Dhu Fish, which apparently is prized as delicate sashimi. But the best item on the menu is the South Australian Short Beef Rib - fork tender but so full of flavour!
61 Thornton Rd, Yallingup WA 6282, Australia
Tel: 08 9750 1111
Open daily: 10am to 5pm
Chris Davies single-handedly makes all the wines and tends the vines at Windows Estate. He and his wife Joanne believe the best wines are handmade using traditional methods. Two of their artisan wines have won gold medals - the 2012 Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Single Vineyard Chardonnay - and they are the Ray Jordan small producer of the year for WA 2012.
4 Quininup Road, Corner of Caves Road, Yallingup WA 628
Open daily 10am – 5pm daily
Tel: 08 9756 6655
One of the best #wines we tasted in #MargaretRiver was from Fermoy Estate. The gregarious Gavin Cahill introduced to us Fermoy's 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon which is the only Western Australian wine served at the official reception for the Royal Wedding of Australia's Mary Donaldson to Prince Frederik of Denmark. The one I really like is Fermoy's 2013 Semillion Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and lively with hints of citrus, snow peas and cut grass. #westernaustralia #seeaustralia #pullmanhotelsAU
We didn't get to see the estate; the wines came to us at the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. This is the award winning red; I liked the white (SSB).
The Canal Rocks are an ancient rocky formation along the coast of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park known for its excellent fishing and scenic bushwalking. There's a natural canal carved into the rocks and you can witness the fury of the ocean with huge waves crashing against the granite outcrops. Top photo taken from the helicopter.
The Ngilgi Caves are steeped in aboriginal lore describing the battle between a good spirit (Ngilgi) and an evil spirit (Wolgine). These limestone caves are about 1 million years old, technically still young caves in the whole scheme of stony things.
There is one part of the cave where if you look up, it's like going into hyperspace. Cool.
The rest of the caves require a narrow descent. Some fairy cave, jewel cave and superdark lovers' corner awaits those brave enough to venture downwards. Oxygen proved a little too thin for us, so we had chickened out.
76 Ngilgi Cave Yallingup Caves Road, Yallingup, Western Australia 6282
Open: 9am to 5pm (Tours depart every 30 minutes)
Closed Christmas Day
GOANNA GALLERY CAFE
Globe-trotting chefs Duncan Timmons (a Scotsman who is now officially Aussie) and Tim Meikle (from New Zealand) have settled down in Margaret River, and set up this rustic and quirky cafe out in the bushland. Despite previously working at a one-Michelin star restaurant, they both decided to go for this casual and unpretentious approach for their cafe.
Hearty breakfast fare and great coffee: what a great way to start the day. This is the Spanish breakfast with spicy chorizo sausages, scrambled eggs and paprika-fried potatoes.
This place isn't just about food; it's also a small art gallery for local artists and a gift shop.
But the food is indeed a huge draw. The coriander pesto is amazing with the Yallingup Woodfired bread. Look how richly yellow the scrambled eggs are with Margaret River free range eggs.
Tim and Duncan's cafe is normally closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but they specially opened for us on that Monday, and we even got to see their sweet little ones!
GOANNA GALLERY CAFE
278 Hayes Road, Dunsborough WA 6281
Tel: 08 9759 1477
Breakfast Wed - Sun: 8.30AM - 12PM
Breakfast weekends: all day from 8:30AM
Lunch (Wed-Sun): 12-3PM
CLOSED MON & TUES
If you love olive oil, you'll be in heaven here at Vasse Virgin. This business began when Louis and Edwina Scherini’s three young children were diagnosed with eczema and dermatitis; they were warned by doctors not to use soaps or shampoos. They started making their own safe, chemical free soap and discovered the healing power of olive oil. Boom!
Scrubs are bestsellers here too. In general, the scents are all quite delicate and subtle. Here they use only 100% pure essential oils and plant extracts to perfume the products.
They now also feature a gourmet range of olive oil and related food products too - olives, balsamic vinegars, dukkah, food condiments and pastes. Generous samples ensure you know what you're getting before you buy.
135 Puzey Road, Wilyabrup WA 6280, Australia
Tel: 08 9755 6111
Opening hours: 10am – 5pm daily (closed Christmas and Boxing Day)
Ever curious about how chocolate is made? Gabriel will show you the steps. He gets cacao beans from all over the world, and subjects them to the same process, but each one results in chocolate that has flavour nuances tied to the soil of their origin.
If you do come here - they have the best Rocky Road chocolate ever! I have never liked Rocky Road until I tried this! Amazing.
Lot 14, 3220 Caves Rd, Yallingup 6282, Australia
Contact: 089756 6689
Open daily from 10am to 5pm
EAGLE BAY BREWING COMPANY
Margaret River is not just about wines; there's serious craft beer here too. We tried six different kinds - Kolsoh, Summer Ale, Vienna Lager, Mild Ale, Pale Ale and Extra Special Bitter - at Eagle Bay Brewing Company.
This is a family run brewery. Third generation local farming siblings Nick, Astrid and Adrian d’Espeissis decided to handbrew beer while their dad continued the cattle and sheep farm.
They serve food too, focusing on fresh local produce. We didn't get to see the brewery but the eatery has an expansive view of the farmland. Kids get to run around freely while parents sit back and nurse a beer. So much space to enjoy!
EAGLE BAY BREWING COMPANY
236 Eagle Bay Road, Naturaliste WA 6281, Australia
Contact: +61 8 9755 3554
Open daily 11am to 5pm
CAPE NATURALISTE LIGHTHOUSE
This historical lighthouse started operations in 1904 and still continues to function today. Previously three lighthouse keepers who lived in the cottages nearby took shifts to wind the clockwork and replace kerosene or whale oil in the burner. Today it's all automated, so the last lighthouse keeper retired in 1996.
This is the panoramic view of from the top of the lighthouse. It's said to be an excellent location to view Humpback Whales, Southern Right Whales and the rare Blue and Minke Whales on their northern and southern migrations.
I'm amazed at the gorgeous prisms at work. Every lighthouse in the world has its own code, by the way. This was all designed in 1700s.
The lighthouse one of the shorter ones, so it's easier to climb. At some others, there might be over 300 steps! The poor lighthouse keepers there!
The lighthouse guide has a stern face but fabulous sense of humour. When I stepped into the lighthouse, I had a strange feeling...like something was in there, perhaps a spirit looking at us from above. The guide most jovially confirmed that there had indeed been at least one death here - a relief lighthouse keeper who had a heart attack.
He then told us about the cottages - one of which is also purportedly haunted. This caused some of our group members to flee in rather acrobatic ways.
Oh I loved this lighthouse.
CAPE NATURALISTE LIGHTHOUSE
Dunsborough WA 6281, Australia
Contact: +61 8 9755 3955
Opening hours: 9.00am-4.30pm daily
We also had the great fortune of riding around in the WiFi-enabled minivan from Adams Tours! What a life-saver this was, because Internet access on the go meant we could upload all our stuff onto social media almost immediately. But we were told quite humorously by our friendly driver Diane to look up from time to time to catch the lovely scenery!
See the rest of the stories on this Western Australia media trip here! There are about 4-5 bumper posts, so you might have to click "older posts" to see more.
This media trip was made possible by Accor Asia Pacific, Scoot and Tourism Western Australia