Margaret River - Refreshment for Body and Soul
Driving south from Perth in Western Australia you will notice subtle changes in your surroundings the further you go. The landscapes become more characterful, the shoreline more picturesque, the vegetation greener- and then after about three hours drive you enter the Margaret River Region and into a visual wonderland that will take your breath away. The dramatic cliffs and rugged rocks of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Range contrast with the calm waters of protected bays as the road winds its way through rolling farmlands punctuated with fertile vineyards and draped in lush bush. This is one of the premier tourist destinations in the world, boasting a natural diversity other spots can only dream about and a range of attractions that would satisfy even the most critical of tourists.

Beginning just south of Busselton the Margaret River Region reaches south as far as Cape Leeuwin, a distance of about 100 kilometres. Flowing through the centre of the region is the Margaret River, which enters the ocean close to the Margaret River Township, seen as the centre of the region and the place where many tourists choose to base themselves on a holiday here. This delightful small town is home to around three thousand people, and has all the modern tourist amenities you may require. But its the surroundings of this town that really draw the people in- towering forests, sandy beaches and green pastures become their holiday playground. The rocky slopes of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Range provide a myriad of bushwalking and caving opportunities, and helps provide the region with its outdoors oriented feel.

As it lies about ten kilometres inland from the coast, the nearest beach to town is Prevelly, situated at the mouth of Margaret River itself. Now the surf in this region is recognised internationally, and large competitions are held up the coast that attract international visitors from all over the globe. All in all there are over 40 surfing spots up the coast, and it just so happens that Prevelly is one of the best! Nearby is the famed Surfer's Point, where the Margaret River Masters is held each year. Prevelly has a green park right next to it that affords amazing views of the coast, and as if thats not enough, next door at Gnarabup is a calmer and safer beach that is ideal for swimming.

A half hour drive south of the township gets you to the smooth blue waters of Hamelin Bay, where the sandy beach seems to stretch on and on and then culminate in a tall rocky headland. The waters here are exceptionally clear, so snorkelling and diving is very popular, as is fishing and swimming. Whilst in this area pay a visit to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, which is just a few minutes drive away and is situated on the most south westerly tip of Australia. The contrasts between the bright white of the lighthouse and the blue seas behind it are splendid in the summertime, and a tour of the lighthouse is a rewarding and historical experience.

Another main attraction of the Margaret River Region are its wineries. Although wine production only started here in 1967, already it is recognised as having the potential to be one of the great wine producing regions in the world. There are over 200 producers in the region, including some very well known names, and most wineries open their doors to the public. Enjoy sampling their wares and picking up a couple of the bottles that take your fancy, and indulge in the gourmet food that some wineries serve using fresh local produce. If you cannot decide on who is going to be the designated driver then why not go on a guided tour of the wineries- there are plenty to choose from out of Margaret River Township. Complementing the cultured feel that the wineries provide are the numerous art galleries spread across the shire that also make for interesting touring.

On a par with the beauty of Margaret River is the hospitality of the people- visitors are welcomed with open arms, and there is an impressive array of accommodation options that will ensure no matter what your budget or your group size you will find a place to stay that suits. Add to your experience the beaches, the wineries, the scenery, the fishing and the history and you have a world class destination that will keep you coming back for more. Remember that for freedom and independence a rental car is the answer, as it opens up your holidaying options immeasurably.

Gavin Wyatt

Olive Hill Farm is a charming and spacious historic self-contained 3 bedroom country cottage in acres of superb private gardens.