By Annabelle Lim
Gourmet food? Check. Gorgeous beaches? Check.
A romantic, couple’s getaway? Check. Fun for the kids? Check. Getting away from city life? Check and double check.
It’s hard to explain to people who have never experienced it, the magic of Margaret River. The little town, three hours drive from Perth in Western Australia, is a rural escape blessed with gourmet food and world-class wines, while mixing it up with the laidback charm of a beachside town.
It’s a place where you can rough it out and still get an artisanal loaf of bread for breakfast and handcrafted cocktails with your dinner. And though you are in the country, you can still stay in a comfy fully-equipped holiday home, with a well-stocked shop close by. (Margaret River has three large supermarkets and a Target department store. Not bad for a town of about 14,200 people.) “Margs” does country living in style, and that’s what keeps people coming back for more.
In its early days, cattle farming was the main business in the area, then it became known for its surfing. Wine making started in the ‘60s, and now this beautiful part of Western Australia is getting international attention.
Big foodie names like Heston Blumenthal, Nigella Lawson, and Rene Redzepi have regularly featured in the food and wine festival that is Gourmet Escape (www.gourmetescape.com.au), which runs every November. Chefs love the region for the quality of the produce, as well as for the “bushtucker” which can be foraged from the land.
The area is known for excellent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and as well as wonderful Shiraz and eminently quaffable SSB – Semillion Sauvignon Blanc. Wineries welcome visitors to pop in for a tasting. Best to book a tour if no one is willing to be a designated driver. (Drink-driving laws are taken very seriously all over Australia. The WA limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05.) A few companies will also tailor a wine tour. Winery staff won’t blink an eye if you want to ship wines back home, and can easily arrange for shipping and tax payments. Despite these extra costs, it can still work out cheaper than buying at the supermarket back in Singapore.
Don’t fret if you’re with the kids. There is plenty for them to do too. Most wineries have gorgeous grounds for children to explore, while microbreweries like the Cheeky Monkey Microbrewery and Cidery have full-on playgrounds which kids can disappear into while parents relax.
But it’s only fair to balance a day of tastings with a day just for kids. At Sunflowers Animal Farm, they can feed the inhabitants, from cows and some exotic looking chickens, to kangaroos and humungous pigs. There are two mazes in the area to get lost in, and let’s not forget Olio Bello, which specialises in all things olive oil, The Margaret River Chocolate Factory and the Margaret River Cheese Company where you can taste to your heart’s delight.
Then head to the beach for a surf or a swim. There are some spectacular beaches in the region. Why not find your favourite? Nearby Hamelin Bay, near Augusta, is famous for its Eagle Rays, which come up to you in the water, and Prevelly is home to the surf beach. Australians love the great outdoors, and you’ll be able to rent gear for kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, cycling and much more. It’s hard to do everything in one visit. Which gives you more reasons to go back!