Not only a place for phenomenally fine wine, Margaret River also offers plenty to the nature lover, thrill seeker and adventurer – sometimes all at once.
By Fleur Bainger
Imagine sweeping in to one of Australia’s most highly regarded wine regions aboard a seaplane, abseiling down a rugged cliff face or zip lining through forests to the sound of native birdsong. Margaret River combines the good life with equal shares of buzz and excitement.
Strap in to a seaplane floating on Perth’s wide Swan River, and after a fly-by of the city’s row of sky scrapers, travel at low altitude to Margaret River. Swan River Seaplanes will have you there in about one hour, and on touch-down, Top Drop Tours (twice awarded Australia’s best tour operator) will whisk you away for five hours of informed wine tasting, convivial winemaker meeting and lunchtime feasting. This luxury experience rates high on the excitement metre – particularly when you land on the water at day’s end.
If cliffs, rock faces and tight spaces are your thing, then your pulse will quicken with Margaret River Climbing Co. Feel the chill of the wind as you lower your body 10-40 metres (33-130 feet) down the black, rugged seaside cliffs at picturesque Wilyabrup (the heartland of the region’s premium wine). Stepping over the edge gets the heart pumping, and can be done on a half or full-day tour, combining cliff abseiling with either rock climbing or a cave abseil and crawl, or you can do all three.
Feel like a celebrity as you helicopter in to a winery for lunch with Flying Corkscrew. You'll see Margaret River’s stunning coastline before landing at your choice of the region’s best cellar door restaurants (choose from Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate and Vasse Felix) for a long, lazy lunch. Depending on your selected location, you will also land at other cellar doors on the way, enjoying wine tasting experiences either before or after your meal. The private experience is available from November to April; a maximum of six people can relax in the chopper’s window-wrapped cockpit.
Test your strength with a new high ropes course and fly like a bird through the tree canopy while hooked onto a zip line. Multi-level courses at Forest Adventures South West will see all family members swing and climb on flying foxes (there are 11 of them), suspended bridges and Tarzan rope. Zoom along for more than 150 metres (500 feet), conquer a 13-metre (43-foot) base jump, tackle a bike on a wire and dangle on rope spider webs. Found in Ludlow Forest, it’s a 10-minute drive north from the town of Busselton and suitable for people aged seven years and up.
Quad bikes are often associated with farming life in the Australian outback, but you can also jump onboard one of these high-revving beasts in Margaret River – with a significant difference. Eco Adventures use locally engineered eco bikes, which run on electricity and use low inflation tyres, so they’re quiet and kind to the sensitive national park tracks you explore. Drive through tall-tree forests, learn about its natural history and the furry and scaly creatures within, with excellent commentary.
Fancy savouring smoked kangaroo, the twang of lemon myrtle, marinated emu and bush tomato? “Bush tucker,” as it’s called, is on the menu during a canoe tour run by Bushtucker Tours. Paddle along the waterway the Margaret River region is named after, passing Aboriginal sites, native wildlife habitats, caves and cliffs. Stop for a picnic lunch like no other and return by 2pm.
With Margaret River now an important stop on the world surfing pro tour, you might be tempted to try out the waves for yourself. Take a private or group lesson with former Australian pro champion Josh Palmateer, or send your kids out with his team. Surfboards are provided and classes are staged at the beach at Margaret River's river mouth. Margaret River Surf School is another good option for all ages, held at Redgate Beach.