48 Hours in Margaret River | A Taste of Western Australia's Wine Country
Nestled in the picturesque countryside of Western Australia, the Margaret River region is a paradise for wine enthusiasts, food lovers – and of course, surfers (which we are not)!
With its stunning vineyards, pristine beaches, and charming towns, it's no wonder this destination has become a must-visit for travellers seeking a taste of the good life. Join us on this whirlwind 48-hour adventure that saw four old friends explore the food and wine highlights of Margaret River, from luxurious accommodations to exquisite dining experiences and, of course, unforgettable tastings.
Our journey began in Perth (following a late-night flight from Sydney), where we refuelled before embarking on the scenic drive south towards the Margaret River region. The three-hour drive took us through rolling hills, verdant forests, quaint towns and expansive farmland.
Checking in at Eight Willows Retreat (our chosen accommodation due to its proximity to the vineyards), we were greeted by the estate's impressive entry and tranquil beauty. Set amidst 30 acres of native bushland, the retreat offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, and our modern, well-appointed cottage provided all the comforts. With spacious rooms, a cosy gas fireplace (and reverse cycle air conditioning), the cottages are fully self-contained with kitchens decked out with Miele appliances, no less.
We could quite easily have put up our feet and relaxed in front of the fire, but with no intention of cooking, an empty fridge and only 48 hours to check out the area, we decided to venture into the town centre instead.
This charming township of Margaret River is about 20 minutes from Eight Willows and serves as the vibrant heart of the region, offering a delightful blend of eclectic shops, fashion boutiques, galleries showcasing local artisans and a range of restaurants promising the gastronomic delights we were seeking!
We stop in at Charcuterie Margaret River to pick up some supplies and find a vast selection of cheeses, meats and other goodies, including a collection of uniquely Aussie products made from crocodile, kangaroo, emu, wild boar and buffalo, as well as a considerable range of venison products.
Our next stop is the Margaret River Distilling Company, which we’ve been told (at the local Visitor Information Centre) is a must for spirits enthusiasts seeking a taste of the region's finest gin and whisky.
Stepping into the tasting room, we are greeted by the inviting aroma of botanicals and oak barrels and seated on plush leather couches with a tasting menu that could have kept us there for a full day (and likely resulted in us being carried out). Guided by knowledgeable staff, we embark on a journey of discovery, learning about the intricate distillation process and the carefully selected ingredients that create their signature spirits. We also discovered that the area is one of only 34 biodiversity hotspots in the World, which is reflected in every spirit they craft.
The gin tasting offers a range of handcrafted Giniversty Gins, each infused with locally sourced botanicals, allowing us to explore a medley of flavours and aromas. Moving on to the range of Limeburners Whisky, we delve into the world of aged spirits, appreciating the rich complexity and smoothness that Margaret River Distilling Company's whiskies are known for. Each tasting included a paired ‘morsel’, which served to amplify the spirits' qualities. Unable to choose between gin and whisky (a first-world problem I know), I purchase a bottle described as a marriage between Giniversity and the award winning Limeburners Single Malt Whisky. This gin has spent over 12 months soaking up the juicy goodness of a Limeburners American Oak barrel, imparting a stunning golden hue and gentle caramelised oak and vanilla flavours. Difficult to tell if it’s a whisky or a Gin on the palette, but hugely enjoyable neat.
As evening falls, the town comes alive with an enticing array of restaurants, cafes, and wine bars, offering diverse cuisines and showcasing the region's acclaimed wines. Whether it's enjoying a leisurely meal at a sidewalk cafe or sipping a glass of local wine while overlooking the river, the township of Margaret River invites us to slow down, savour the moment, and immerse ourselves in its unique blend of culture, nature, and culinary delights.
The first of which is morries for an early dinner. A lively restaurant in the heart of Margaret River town, the vibrant atmosphere and diverse menu make it a favourite among locals and visitors. Reputed to be more of an institution than a restaurant, we were lucky to nab a table in an almost full venue (at 6pm on a Thursday!)
The tapas-style dishes are meant to be enjoyed together, which proves to be quite a challenge, given that each item we sampled was incredibly moreish. Think Shark Bay Prawns (with amarillo, celeriac remoulade and charred spring onion) or Beef Cheek (with polenta, jus and confit onion). My favourite was the Char-Grilled Cabbage – I’d never been a fan of cabbage but find myself a new fan!
We awake the next day refreshed (albeit hungover) and eager to explore the renowned wineries of the Margaret River. Our first stop is Fermoy Estate.
Fermoy is one of the original established vineyards of the Margaret River region. It is owned by Perth brothers Aaron and John Young and is known for its elegant wines, particularly Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. In fact, the Fermoy Cab Sav was the only Aussie wine served at the wedding of Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, to Princess Mary – so it’s a reputation that’s been well-earned. Next on our itinerary is Evans & Tate, another of Margaret River's pioneering wineries. Established in 1974, it has played a significant role in shaping the region's winemaking industry. Here, we delve deeper into the art of wine tasting, guided by Cellar Door Manager Sonja, who shared insights into the region's terroir and winemaking philosophies while simultaneously tailoring an extensive wine tasting to four very different palettes. As we sip on the delicate flavours and admire the vine-covered landscape, it's clear why this region has gained international acclaim for its wines.
On the second evening, we head to Margaret River Tuck Shop for a relaxed dining experience perfectly suited to wornout wine tasters! With its centrally located rustic fireplace, this casual yet sophisticated eatery showcases the best of Margaret River's produce, focusing on seasonal and sustainable ingredients. Tonight I was pleased not to have to share, and greedily guarded my Margaret River Wagyu Beef (with native bush tomato mojo, chimichurri, hand-crushed duck fat potatoes, chipotle aioli, native dukkah). Side note – the duck fat potatoes were to die for.
No visit to Margaret River is complete without experiencing Vasse Felix, the oldest winery in the region, so the drive back to Perth took a detour in this direction. With its stunning vineyard views and contemporary cellar door, Vasse Felix is a true gem. We immersed ourselves in a comprehensive wine tasting that started with bubbles and ended with two wine club memberships and a couple dozen wines arriving in Newcastle a week later…. But that’s a whole other story.
While the tasting itself was fabulous, there is so much more to explore at Vasse Felix. The original winery has been converted into an Art Gallery showcasing a seasonal program of exhibitions from the Holmes à Court Collection, while The Vault provided a fascinating time capsule of Margaret River wine history, including every vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon ever made at Vasse Felix, alongside a historical exhibition that traces the history of the winery. My only regret was leaving before the restaurant opened.
As our 48 hours in Margaret River drew to a close, we spent the drive back to Perth reflecting on the incredible experiences we'd enjoyed in this idyllic corner of Western Australia. This slice of paradise genuinely lived up to its reputation as one of the world's most captivating modern wine destinations. The biggest takeaway – 48 hours is nowhere near enough time to explore this area and taste all it offers. Margaret River – we’ll be back!
(Note – this travel was unsponsored and undertaken at the expense of the writer).