As one of Australia’s most prolific wine regions, Margaret River has long since drawn wine snobs and wannabe viticulturists to its sunny vineyards in the country’s South West. What many travellers (and locals) may not realise is that this area is so much more than just a destination for wine lovers— among several hundred award-winning wine estates, Margaret River is also home to some of Australia’s most spectacular white sand beaches and best surf breaks, infinite secluded swimming holes, a thriving food and art scene, and a real abundance of stingrays, kangaroos, and even migrating humpback whales.
Whether you come for the wine and stay for the vibrant orange coastline or come for the squeaky beaches and stay for the gourmet food and wine pairings, “Margs” is a sure highlight of any trip to Australia, and very likely to ignite a life-long love affair with our seriously underrated West Coast. Here are all of my top recommendations for what to see and do in Margaret River, including the best wineries and restaurants, my favourite beaches, and heaps of tips on getting here and around.
1 | Visit the best cellar doors
More than 200 vineyards, hundreds of award-winning wines, and countless cellar doors are concentrated around Margaret River, making wine tasting one of the principle draws to South West Australia. This region is particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and critically-lauded Chardonnay, ranking among the country’s finest and routinely beating out wines from the Burgundy region of France in blind tastings.
Thankfully, it’s incredibly easy to drive yourself around to cellar doors in Margs, sampling the region’s best wines at internationally recognised estates for $0-10. Among the many wineries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in Margaret River, these are my top 10 picks:
- Vasse Felix: the oldest winery in the region with some really spectacular wines and a beautiful cellar door, especially impressive reds; $10 tastings
- Hay Shed Hill: small cellar door and restaurant with good wines in the Wilyabrup Valley
- Xanadu Wines: great, easy drinking wines at a reasonable price and excellent on-site restaurant with pairings
- Happs Wines: personable tasting experience in a gallery setting in Quindalup; great dry reds and Chardonnay, plus chesse and cracker nibbles between tastings
- Voyager Estate: beautiful gardens and great reds on the higher end; $10 tasting of mixed reds and whites
- Brown Hill Estate: small family-owned winery with great wines at a good price, including excellent Chardonnay and Muscat and upper-priced reds that are especially delicious
- Aravina Estate: impressive selection of reasonably-priced whites and reds, plus a great restaurant and casual cafe with wood-fire pizza; free tastings
- Leeuwin Estate: large, impressive 5-star winery home to a range of award-winning wines including “best red under $40” (Shiraz); $25 for a winery tour and tasting
- Stella Bella Wines: beautiful winery near central Margaret River with amazing reds, particularly their Shiraz
- McHenry Hohnen Vintners: unique biodynamic vineyard using their knowledge of seasons and moon cycles to harvest the best possible grapes for their delicious wine, particularly an excellent GSM-blend
2 | Join a wine tasting tour
Although conducting your own solo wine tasting tour of Margaret River can be incredibly fun, I’d still recommend hiring a driver or joining a tour for at least one day to get the most out of your visit. Margaret River Tours offers an awesome full-day Gourmet Wine & Dine tour, which includes tastings at 6 different wineries, an incredible 2-course lunch and full glass of wine, afternoon picnic platter, and chocolate and cheese tastings, all for $170 per person.
With all the convenience of a well-organised tour, a local guide with extensive knowledge about wine, and a company that has established good relationships with all of the wineries you’ll visit, Margaret River Tours still tailors the day to each small group, making the experience feel like a private tour, but without the price tag.
3 | Injidup Natural Spa
One of the most spectacular and Insta-famous swimming spots in South West Australia, Injidup Natural Spa is just 30min north of Margaret River in beautiful Yallingup, an easy afternoon excursion on a hot day.
This naturally-formed rock pool off Injidup Beach, with its bright orange stones and foaming turquoise water, is seriously stunning, and so worth the short drive out of Margs. Enjoy the intense froth of nature’s jacuzzi as water crashes over the rocks, scramble along the rounded boulders, or just admire the scenery from above.
Top tip: The true Injidup Natural Spa can get a bit busy on weekends or during the holidays, but a quick wander around the coastline reveals yet more beautiful swimming holes that can be enjoyed completely to yourself (pictured above).
4 | Busselton Jetty
Busselton Jetty, built more than 150 years ago and stretching an impressive 1.8 kilometres over sheltered Geographe Bay, has been made famous as the longest jetty in the entire hemisphere. At just 45min north of Margaret River, it’s an awesome place to visit in between wineries or on the drive down from Perth.
There’s a whole host of things to do in Busselton, including strolling along the entire length of the jetty ($4 admission), catching the little train to the far tip ($14), visiting the Underwater Observatory for a glimpse below the surface, or swimming in the salt water pools at the beach.
My favourite way to enjoy the jetty, though, is to actually get underneath it— Busselton Jetty is said to be Australia’s largest artificial reef and the thousands of wooden pylons supporting the boardwalk also support a vast and vibrant assortment of marine life, including small sharks, colourful fish, seals, octopus, and stingrays. BYO snorkel gear or hire for $15 from the local dive shop.
5 | Indulge in a gourmet lunch
In addition to its seemingly endless selection of phenomenal wine, Margs has emerged in recent years as a real frontrunner on the Australian foodie scene. With heaps of high-profile chefs and critically-aclaimed restaurateurs scattered across the Margaret River region, many located on-site at equally wonderful wineries, there is no shortage of multi-course meals or gourmet wine & food pairings to be found.
Treat yourself to the finest foods and most enticing flavours at one of my favourite restaurants in Margaret River:
- Will’s Domain: winner of countless awards, this outdoor restaurant set above a stunning vineyard in Yallingup serves up flavour combinations that will truly blow your mind (go for the 3-course set menu)
- Xanadu: simple but superb restaurant with mouthwatering dishes (I highly recommend the lamb) and great lunch wine pairings, located on-site at Xanadu Wines in Margaret River
- Rustico at Hay Shed Hill: tapas-style restaurant looking out over the beautiful vineyards of Hay Shed Hill in Wilyabrup, offering an amazing 7-course set menu with favourites like fried goat’s cheese in honey (a must-try!) and large-pan mussel paella
- Aravina: large restaurant and winery situated in lush gardens near Yallingup, formal dining or casual wood-fire pizza available for a picnic
6 | Sugarloaf Rock
Just off the coast of Cape Naturaliste, a small granite island juts out of the turbulent sea, a dramatic spectacle against the already stunning orange coastline of South West Australia. Sugarloaf Rock is a popular and easily accessed viewpoint about an hour north of Margaret River, and one of the best places to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.
There are a few short walking tracks leading out to various viewpoints over Sugarloaf, as well as the epic 123km Cape to Cape Walk from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. This is said to be one of the state’s finest multi-day bush walks, affording unparalleled coastal views and an abundance of fascinating geology as it meanders south from Sugarloaf Rock towards Augusta, a sure bucket-list item for any avid hiker visiting Margs.
7 | Stingrays at Hamelin Bay
There are so many beautiful beaches and great activities around Margaret River, but my absolute favourite and top recommendation will ALWAYS be Hamelin Bay. Just 25min south of Margs, Hamelin Bay Beach is home to a consistent population of enormous Smooth Stingrays, Black Stingrays, and little Eagle Rays, all of whom will swim right up to the shallows and brush against your feet.
Despite delivering a fatal barb to Steve Irwin’s heart and earning quite a reputation from the incident, stingrays are actually incredibly docile creatures and, as long as you give the animals basic respect, there’s no real risk of getting stung at Hamelin Bay Beach. To be safe, keep an eye on your feet when walking through the water to avoid stepping on anyone, try to maintain a reasonable distance, and definitely don’t feed the stingrays. Again, common sense.
The rays seem to mainly concentrate around the boat ramp at the far end of the beach (to the left, if you’re walking from the main carpark), and you certainly won’t struggle to see several dozen on a good day. Hop in the water with a snorkel for a close encounter away from the crowds or just stand calf-deep in the water and wait for giant stingrays and little eagle rays to come right to you. This is seriously such a magical experience and one that doesn’t cost a thing, so if you only visit one beach during your time in Margaret River, make it Hamelin Bay.
Best time to visit Margaret River
Given its southerly position in WA, Margaret River’s beaches are best enjoyed in summer, early autumn, or late spring (around October-March), when the weather and the water will be warmer. If you’re only here for the wine and food, though, actually anytime of the year is great, with shoulder season (outside of December-February) offering cheaper prices and far fewer crowds.
Getting to & around Margaret River
Most all visitors to Margaret River will arrive via plane into Perth Airport, which has regular flights from all major Australian cities, as well as direct flights from London, South Africa, the Middle East, and heaps of cities in Asia. Margaret River is about 3hrs south of Perth and the easiest way to make the trip is by hiring a car.
There are 8 hire car companies at Perth Airport, including Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise, but there are also cheaper companies located just off site. Ace Rental Cars has a fleet of slightly older cars (around 5-10 years old, but still perfectly safe) and has dramatically better prices as a result. Even after arriving into Margs, having your own car will really increase your freedom to explore the greater Margaret River region and beautiful surrounding areas, as the best beaches are well off any route serviced by tours or transport.
Check out this 1-week itinerary for the perfect trip around South West Australia: PERTH TO MARGARET RIVER TRAVEL GUIDE: 1-WEEK WESTERN AUSTRALIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY