After a big year in 2018, the Aussie House Swap administration manager and I, packed our bags and headed south to attend the 2019 Mona Foma festival in Tasmania. Being the first year held in Launceston, it was a great opportunity to check out this part of the world. I hadn’t planned on visiting Launceston any time soon. I ‘d been to Hobart a few years prior and loved it. The only reason I went to Launceston was because the festival had moved there. I knew absolutely nothing about Launceston but boy was I pleasantly surprised. It is the perfect location for a house swap holiday!
My little family of four started our South Western WA adventure in Perth. On our way south we decided to get off the highway and take some country roads through rural WA. After catching up with friends in Boddington, (population a massive 1,107), we had a lunch stop in Collie.
Collie has a cute main street but its main drawcard is the free water park. Located in the CBD, there are electric barbecues, grassed picnic areas, tables and seating, and of course some fun water sprinklers to run through. It’s a great spot to stop for a break while on the road, especially in the summer.
Our first stop in the Margret River region was Busselton, a coastal town popular with WA locals on holiday. It was lovely to see lots of families holidaying together, although they would have saved a lot of money if they had been house swapping instead of paying for their accommodation :). We stayed at Geographe Bay, just out of the main area of Busselton. The beach there is much quieter and the water's so clean and still. No good for surfing but great for little ones wanting to splash around, or older ones keen for a relaxing lie on the sand.
As this was a family travel adventure we were on the road with our two teenagers. Scary thought I know, but fortunately this quiet beachside paradise provided opportunities to lie in the sand for the 15 year old and boogie board fun for the 13 year old, so everyone was happy.
After a taste of beach life it was time to venture further south to Margaret River itself. As we drove along we could see more and more vineyards on both sides of the road, with inviting signs offering cellar door bargains, local pale ales and chocolate port. I could tell already that this would be my kind of place. It took all of my strength not to grab the wheel and spin the car into one of the driveways, Fast and Furious style! However I quickly remembered that I had two children in the car so the wine tasting would have to wait.
The Margaret River main street itself is seriously cute! So many old buildings that have been tastefully refurbished. I sampled many a coffee from the various cafes and didn’t find a bad one! To keep the kids happy we headed to Millers ice creamery. Okay, maybe the big kids also enjoyed a scoop of the best salted caramel ice-cream we have ever had. Margaret River is certainly a place that takes their dairy produce seriously.
We decided to test out the fine dining options in town. Elkamo wine bar and restaurant have an extensive wine selection, both local and International, and their cheese and tapas plates are mouthwateringly good. After a happy hour Prosecco, we moved onto the Arc of Iris restaurant for dinner. It’s a simple looking restaurant on the main street but with amazing food and an entirely female staff, including the head chef! Our meal and service was divine. I enjoyed the best ragu fettuccine I have had since visiting Italy in 2106.
After a few days enjoying the town centre, we set off to check out the local area around Yallingup, only a 40 minute drive from Margaret River. The drive itself was torture! Row after row of wineries, micro breweries, restaurants, and we just had to drive on by. It wasn’t a case of the kids nagging “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”, it was me crying “Can we stop please? Can we stop PLEASE?” But I’m happy to say it was one of the best days we had.
Ngilgi cave was simply breathtaking. The whole family was mesmerised as we walked deeper and deeper into the cave. It was like entering another world; the huge crystal formations, the luminescent colours, even our 15 year old was impressed! There are many other stunning caves in the surrounding area under the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge including Lake cave, Jewel cave and Mammoth cave. All with their own unique beauty they are all well worth visiting.
So after cave adventures, ice-cream sampling and some bush walking on the great walking tracks around Margaret River, the moment had finally arrived. Four perfect hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon visiting some of the regions best wineries. It was well worth the wait! We started at Voyager Estate which is a huge winery with manicured gardens and gorgeous architecture. Despite the size and ultra modern feel the service was still very warm and friendly. We were lucky enough to sample a few of their products, from the award winning 2012 Shiraz to the 2016 Chenin Blanc.
For something on the other end of the scale, we then visited McHenry Hohnen, a small biodynamic winery where they produce everything as naturally as possible. Their Sauvignon Blanc was divine, and all the wines were paired with some of their deli meats they produce onsite.
The final winery of the day was Vasse Felix, Margaret River’s founding wine estate. Established in 1967 by, it is surrounded by the region’s oldest vineyard. The Estate building offers the perfect blend of old and new with the rustic charm of exposed wood, and the modern minimalism of granite and steel. This was the perfect place to stand at a gorgeous wooden bench looking out through the floor to ceiling windows and enjoy a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon. How’s the serenity!
So I’m happy to report that it’s possible to enjoy all Margaret River has to offer…even with the kids. There are so many family friendly adventures to be had, and you can sneak in some fine dining and local wine tasting. On our trip we sadly neglected the many up and coming local craft breweries. Oh well, just one more reason to plan our next holiday!
South West WA truly is a beautiful place. It’s a great family holiday destination with delicious food, friendly people and breathtaking scenery. This is a part of Australia that is definitely worth a visit.