WA’s Margaret River remains one of Australia’s most unspoilt regions, and a paradise on earth for food and wine lovers, writes Peter Harrison.
Located on one of Australia’s most incredible stretches of coastline, the Margaret River region in Western Australia brings together some of our favourite leisure time activities – food, wine and surf – all in one perfect drive tour-sized location.
For the ultimate gourmet experience of the region, the highlight of the year – as well as one of the highlights of Australia’s culinary calendar – is the Margaret River Gourmet Escape held each November, with a series of events held over the course of the week. The most recent incarnation last year included Neil Perry’s Rockpool pop-up, Hyundai’s Beach Barbeque (complete with oversized tee pees and a live band) and a live Q&A on how to cook the perfect steak with Heston Blumenthal and AA Gill.
A host of internationally renowned chefs including Rick Stein, Alex Atala and George Calombaris all turned up in this unique part of the world together to share their love of food – and a little about how they became chefs in the first place.
The Escape includes the Gourmet Village, a two-day event which showcases a variety of local and interstate wine and food providores, complete with live cooking demonstrations and pop-up bars in a beautiful bush setting.
Outside of the famous Escape, visiting Margaret Rivers wineries any time of the year is a little like shooting the proverbial fish in the barrel – there are so many good ones to choose from.
Situated between the Vasse Felix winery and the Margaret River Chocolate factory is Peacetree Estate Winery. This hidden gem specialises in chemical and pesticide free wine production, producing low sulphur and low acid wines. Run by three generations of Tuckers, the Peacetree Estate name was taken from the olive branch symbolising peace – after one terrible summer of fires.
Men’s Style also visited the Cullen Estate Winery – established in the mid-1970s and priding itself on its biodynamic techniques, the philosophy that centres around maintaining sustainable soil fertility as well as the link between plant growth and the rhythm of the cosmos. The winery pursued 100 per cent organic production of its wine from the late 1990s, gaining it an A-Grade Organic Certification from the Biological Farmers Association of Australia. The commitment to organic methods goes beyond the growing of the grapes – the farm also runs a biodynamic vegetable garden, the produce of which goes directly from paddock to plate to be served in the Cullen Restaurant.
To cleanse the palate after a long lunch over some Margaret River reds, a visit to Eagle Bay Brewing Co is a must. Located on Cape Naturaliste, the picturesque brewery is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and the beautiful Geographe Bay. The brewery’s beers are made from fresh rain water, malted barley, yeast and hops. Beers are filtered and served on site straight from the tanks and into your glass. With a lunch and a late lunch menu both available, settling in here for an afternoon match the six different types of beers with the best local produce available is an easy done thing.
Stays and swims
Unlike yesteryear, accommodation in Margaret River is these days plentiful, with some of the best options located out of Margaret River township itself. The Pullman Resort at Bunker Bay is one of the area’s best hotels, with direct beach frontage, elevated pool and a spectacular dining and bar area which overlooks the entire bay – perfect for a Western Australian sunset, winter or summer.
Aside from its wineries and incredible restaurants, the Margaret River region is also best known for its wild, unspoilt beaches and secret surfing spots all down the coast. Hamelin Bay is one of the most popular, its crystal clear waters and white sand making it a ready-made holiday snap – no Instagram filter needed. Some of the best surf spots, according to the locals, include the Margaret River Mouth, Yallingup and Three Bears. Hang around them on the cliffsides as they assess the best places to spend an entire day surfing some of the best waves along the coast.
Go a little further south and you’re in Augusta – Australia’s most south-western tip and home to the some of the most extensive caves in all of WA (over 150, in fact). Most recently the Moondyne Cave reopened after 10 years, offering visitors guided tours by torchlight.
While the Margaret River region is on the radar of many domestic and international tourists these days, it retains a quiet, unspoilt and truly Australian feel. And if you consider yourself a gourmand seeking a hassle-free food and wine tour that wont leave you hungry or thirsty, it’s an absolute no brainer.