Touchdown at Perth International Airport 1600hrs and the 4 of us, @alilfatmonkey, @tykeonabike, Cumi and Ciki were an excited bunch as we were eager to start our road trip, into the heart of Margaret River. We had a jam packed tour awaiting our inquisitive minds, as you will soon find out.
we’re off on our wild adventure
where the sky meets the land..
The Australian immigration queue kept us for awhile before we were released into Perth officially. They really should have more officers at the counters. It was past 5.30pm by the time we got into our rented Nissan X-Trail. Peak hour traffic had begun (luckily for us, peak hour traffic in Australia only lasts for all of one hour). On the road, the first thing I noticed was how vast the sky is in Australia. Since the land is so flat, you can see forever, out into the horizon and it really spans from one end to the other in an unending manner. Not only that, since we are in December and approaching summer, the sun takes longer to set. At 8pm, there is still some light on the horizon.
Ciki admiring the scenery
oh.. the landscape is breathtaking at dusk..
Our first stop was Busselton, a 2.5 hour drive from Perth. Aggravated by the late departure from the airport and peak hour traffic, we arrived at our accommodation, Aqua Resort, at 9pm in cool darkness. We were totally gob-smacked by the size of this modern home. Nestled in eight and a half acres of mature peppermint woodlands and complemented by beautifully landscaped grounds, Aqua Resort Busselton, offers Beach House accommodation with just enough privacy and the best of contemporary indoor/outdoor living. It’s literally a holiday accommodation on the beach. Too bad the weather was so chilly, otherwise I would have gone for a swim in the ocean. Apparently, this weather of around 14C at night was just nice for the locals , but it was definitely way too cold for a tropical lass like me!
Next day, early morning, we only had time to admire the powder beach sand, and say hello to the local residents as we had to go whale spotting
Luxury Bay Beach House that faces either the sea or the private swimming pool
We met Grant Mott who manages this boutique resort that has only been opened to visitors for less than a year. With a choice from 1 bedroom to 5 bedroom luxury self-contained houses, the Aqua Resort can accommodate the largest of family gatherings(10+ persons) to smaller couples getaways. The Bay Beach Houses overlook Geographe Bay and Cape Naturaliste; while the Grove Beach Houses have garden views with private lawned area. Both types of houses have beautiful hardwood floors, gourmet kitchen, large flatscreen TVs, fireplace and classic modern furniture. Guests have access to facilities such as a beach front waterfall swimming pool, heated spa, gymnasium, sauna and tennis court which we didn’t have time to use.
Nice curves baby!
Bay Beach Houses facing the private pool with chic pool furniture, and gym
Grove Beach Houses with garden views and private lawned area
gorgeous garden view
Aqua resort is a good place for bird watching!
The Aqua Resort is conveniently situated between the seaside towns of Busselton and Dunsborough; within the internationally acclaimed Margaret River Wine Region and a short drive to all the places of interest, that South West has to offer.Add: The Aqua Resort
605 Bussell Highway
Busselton, WA, 6280
Tel: +61 8 9750 4200
Fax: +61 8 9750 4277
Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association had left some fantastic organic produce in our kitchen, and our ‘private travel chef’, @Alilfatmonkey, prepared a yummy and nutritious breakfast with the cooking utensils in the well stocked kitchen at the house.
We then checked out of Aqua Resort and drove 15 minutes to Pro Fisherman’s Wharf opposite McDermott Street, Dunsborough for our whale watching tour provided by Naturaliste Charters.
Our feeder boat came ashore to fetch us to the cruise vessel, keeping our feet dry – what a convenience! We cruised for 3+hours on the magical waters of Geographe Bay aboard the ‘Cetacean Explorer’.
Look over yonder… it’s more ocean
We saw caves, seals and dolphins but did not see any whales.. up till the 11th hour! Then , just like magic, they appeared!
Cumi.. your regular sea-man..
Cumi showing off his Cullmann Backpack LIMA Daypack 600+
I thought it was too small but he managed to carry everything he needed during our daily outings throughout the entire road trip without any backache complaints. The bag even saved his gadgets from some hard mountain bike tumbles later in the trip.
Local residents fishing on a nice cloudy day
Caves at the bottom of the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
We were on the final tour for the season. We circled the bay several times without any luck, but then humps suddenly appeared in the distance, and our skipper rushed the boat closer. A mother and her calf was spotted. They were probably the last ones in the annual migration. Our skipper mentions the mother was probably weak from its long journey from the north and having to feed milk to her baby. It was an amazing sight.
During peak whale season, you will have more spectacular whale-sightings such as the following..
photo credit – Naturaliste Charters
photo credit – Naturaliste Charters
Curious dolphins came to observe us on our way back to the shoreline..
Contact: Paul Cross, Owner operator
Upon docking on the beach, we were met by Chris of Top Drop Tours, who would take us on our vineyard tour of Margaret River. Top Drop Tours private Margaret River winery tours are perfect for couples and small groups wanting to explore the Margaret River Wine Region and meet some of the characters that make Margaret River such a special place. Their Margaret River wine tours are founded on their local knowledge, personalised service, careful selection of quality wineries and thoughtful approach to developing itineraries so that we can fully appreciate what Margaret River has to offer, in the little time we had. Chris himself drove us from vineyard door to door, in his luxury Landcruiser 4WD, sharing knowledge, humour and history on the local scene. At the first vineyard, we had a superb wine tasting session, along with a lunch hamper which was compliments of The Larder – a gourmet produce supplier located in Margaret River.
One of or first wineries we visited was Cape Naturalise Vineyard. Though a smaller vineyard than larger labels, the wines have won numerous awards, and the dogs are 100% photogenic. Monte, the jack russell made it to the 1st page of a Vineyards and Dogs book called “Wine Dogs Australia”. Super cute!
Why should you take up a tour instead or driving out on your own? With over 138 wineries in this area, you would be spoilt for choice. Quite possibly with a limited amount of travel time and very strict laws on drinking and driving, you would need someone to show you around. Bespoke tours with a person familiar with the local wines would be able to customise a program suited your taste preferences while at the same time offer suggestions to try wines which deviate but not too far from your tastes. The program is never fixed which gives you the opportunity to discuss and change your destination as soon as you leave one.Details: Top Drop Tours
Tel: +61 407 443 860
Contact: Chris and Kerry O’Hare, Owners
Top Drop Tours – ride around in a luxury Landcruiser 4WD. That’s the life!
The property now known as Cape Naturaliste Vineyard started life as the coach inn for travellers journeying between Perth and Margaret River on horse and buggy – a journey taking about 3 days – a history going back 150 years. Some later years the property then became a dairy known as Thorn Hill. During this time Whale ships came into the sheltered waters of Smiths Beach to purchase vegetables grown in the valleys rich alluvial soil. In 1970 the surrounding land was discovered to be rich in mineral sands. Cape Naturaliste Vineyard was planted in 1997 by the owner, Craig Brent-White, who purchased the land from a mineral sands company in 1980.
There are three types of wines collections to choose from here. All are equally good. We tried wines from the Cape Naturaliste Collection, Torpedo Rocks Collection as well as the Reserve Collection.
gorgeous place for lunch and wine tasting. and such beautiful dogs to play with!
Cape Naturaliste Vineyard is the first vineyard on the ocean side of Caves Road when travelling south from Yallingup town hall.
look at the view!
After the awesome lunch, wine tasting and playing with the dogs, we then went on to visit another 2 wineries – Heydon Estate and Brookwood Estate.
Heydon Estate is a boutique wine producer located within the world renowned Wilyabrup Valley of the Margaret River appellation. All their wines are single vineyard, estate grown, and harness the synergies of old vines, meticulous viticulture and the art of fine winemaking. The regionality, the soil and hand crafting, combine to create elegant wines of great presence, sitting comfortably amongst the iconic and famous wines of their neighbours. The best of organic, biodynamic and traditional practices are used within their vineyards.We found some rather interesting sporting memorabilia in keeping with our “cricket” theme, at this quaint little vineyard. The wines here are superb. They are aged for several years and ready to drink by the time they reach us, and they have this old world charm about them. This Estate turned out to be top on my list of favourites.
Wine tasting at Heydon Estate
Brookwood Estate on the other hand, is family owned and operated. Trevor and Lyn Mann invested every cent they had in the land and in September 1996 the first plantings went into the ground. These plantings were from pruned canes that they gathered from only the best vineyards in the region and they themselves turned these into root stock to grow their vineyard. All Brookwood Estate wines are made from estate grown fruit that is grown by Trevor Mann. His vineyard has been used as a showpiece for our guests from all over the world and also for other vineyard owners and operators. The wine is all made by Lyn Mann and her daughter Bronnley; it is made in small batches and is processed immediately as it is harvested.
Wine tasting at Brookwood Estate
We also met David who is the manager at this Estate. He and his wife own and run their own business known as Lady Marmalade Margaret River. Lady Marmalade Margaret River produces an exciting range of home made freshly baked cakes (available whole or by the slice) and delectable sweet treats and are sold at the local Farmer’s market. They also produce Craythorne Country House range of traditional fruit cakes and jams, relishes, pickles and chutneys which showcase the diversity and quality of locally grown produce.Details: Lady Marmalade Margaret River
Owners: Bethany Beha and David Stredwick
Address: PO Box 449, Cowaramup, WA 6284
Mobile: 0425 264 875
Driving along to our next destination, we marvel at how close we are to nature. Seems like city life is but a distant memory…
Karri trees – world’s tallest hardwood trees
They grow cheese here in farmlands! … actually just hay wrapped up for transport
Frisian cows are so friendly. They come to you to have their photo taken
Finally, we reach our next place of accommodation, Burnside Organic Farm. Lara & Jamie McCall and their three sons have put 14 years of passion into changing their property into an intensive certified organic farm. Burnside is a remarkably productive 15 hectares with commercial crops of wine, eggs, macadamias, avocados, capers, olives and animals. The farm is family owned and operated, as it is the McCall’s aim to be self-sufficient, growing and consuming their own food. Staying at Burnside allows you to learn about organic farming without having to be too hardcore about it yourself. Sort of like a gentle induction into organic living – this intensity really suits me just fine;) After all, I am a city gal, and it does take some getting used to.
the road that leads in towards Burnside Organic Farm
farm life is about to begin..
While the McCall’s were away, we were greeted by Ange (below) who was babysitting the farm.
top right (clockwise) – the lovely, animated, Ange Packer who helps mind and tend to the Burnside Farm when the McCalls(owners) are away; me trying to hook up to the wifi so that I can upload photos to FB so you guys can see them!; The adorable kids of Ange Packer. The youngest one had an affinity for Cumi, because he road his bike everywhere with him;)
Burnside Organic Farm is situated half way between Busselton & Augusta. Perfect for exploring the whole Cape to Cape region. It is centrally located between town and the beach, and surrounded by National Park and dairy farms. Pristine white beaches, spectacular caves and world renowned wineries and restaurants are all nearby. The shops and other facilities of Margaret River town are only 5 minutes away by car, and surfing and the spectacular beaches of Gracetown and Prevelly are only about 15 minutes drive from where we were.
There are four huge, contemporary bungalows, at Burnside. North facing with solar passive design, built from natural materials. All units are fully self-contained with a full kitchen, dining area, spa baths and bedroom furnishings. Some bungalows have views of the olive grove, native Marri trees and National Park.
On Sunday morning, we got a chance to learn more about this certified organic farm, when we went for the half hour walk, to see the organically certified crops and permaculture principles on a small farm scale. Since the owners were away that weekend, we were met by the lovely Ange Packer who helps mind and tend to the Burnside Farm when the McCalls are away. It was awesome seeing just where our organic breakfast baskets came from each morning! Ange told us that everything is farmed here and everything down to the cheese in our baskets are made by the owners of this farm. How awesome is that? And when the harvest time arrives for the olives, neighbours and friends get together to help pick the olives or contribute their expertise in the process then each party gets a share of the work completed. This group effort may happen for different crops and animal slaughter. A commune type of living that works well here where labour and equipment costs are expensive. A win-win situation for all!
Zuchini flower. Doesn’t it look delicious?
Everyone helps out at the farm!
Toad with a BIG ONE.
So much organic vegetables, you never grow hungry again here. Guests are allowed to pick their own vegetables to cook. Take only what you need and leave the rest for others.
Animals are also an important part of the farm and are rotated through the crops. We got to help feed the chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, geese and chickens. As we walked around there were loads of native birds, insects, lizards and frogs in the gardens – indicating a healthy environment for these animals to proliferate in. Next to the farm is a national park where wild kangaroos would come into the farm. Cumi spotted a mother with her joey in her pouch the evening earlier.
the boy and his chook
mummy’s little helper
Ange shows the boys, how to pick up a chick;)
go the whole hog..
Alpha Male Pig!Add: Burnside Organic Farm
287 Burnside Rd
Margaret River, WA, 6285
Tel: +61 8 9757 2139
Later that night, we went for our dinner on the main street of Margaret River and stumbled upon the local community Christmas Concert at the corner of the main street. The locals were out in full force, merry making and singing Christmas Carols.
Feels like the entire sleepy town of Margaret River has congregated in town to sing christmas carols
Children’s voices sound the sweetest!
Which brings us to the end of Day 1 and 2 in Margaret River. There are many more tales and adventures to come.. Stay tuned!
Our fabulous trip and adventures in Western Australia, was sponsored by Tourism Margaret River and Tourism Western Australia.