According to many, Margaret River is all about the art of wine. Or should I say, the art of hopping between cellar doors whilst sampling local cheese and chocolate. Now, that does not sound too bad does it? Except that there is a lot more to this part of Australia than wine. Ready?
The beginning of a love story
More than just wine? Yes, craft beer for example. There are heaps of breweries ready to treat the avid traveller to their best brews. How about a Summer Pale Ale and a Chocolate Stout for starters?
Of course this being Australia, you are never far from a nice little bay with wonderful views… and a barbecue. I love this country.
Next day, you wake up near the ocean to the sound of the waves (romantic isn’t it?) and a few birds. As usual, there is no one else there. The water is tempting but some will hesitate, thinking it is a bit cold. It is, but it is glorious too.
And that, in a nutshell, was our first day in south Western Australia: craft beers, scenic picnic locations and empty beautiful bays:
I think we are going to be good friends.
Pretty lighthouses dot the coastline and tell the story of other times, times were ships full of hopes arrived on these shores. These days, only the braver surfers dare to face the big waves and cold waters of the Southern Ocean.
It is difficult to drive around for more than a few hours without indulging yourself to some chocolate and follow it up with a tasting of local jam and honey. And yes, a beer with a view is not out of order either.
“Beer and chocolate… how about the wine??” – I hear you are saying. Fair point. After all, that’s what everyone comes to Margaret River for. And there is plenty of it. From traditional wine makers who have adopted biodynamic processes to huge wineries with fantastic views. Most of them offering free tastings and some with exquisite restaurants who happily accept two backpackers.
When backpackers start indulging themselves with these sort of treats I believe they become flashpackers. Call me what you want, I’ll have another glass of red with my dessert please.
Forests, hills and vineyards
Then you have the winding roads, which happen to be some of the most scenic of the year so far – and we have driven more than twenty thousand kilometres!. A combination of tarmac and gravel through forests of karri, red tingles and she-oaks, inviting the driver to enjoy each corner as if it was the last one – if only it wasn’t an automatic car!!
Ancient trees raise more than forty metres above ground. But it is not the height of these eucalyptus what makes them so special. Nature has fooled them to believe they are still in the Ice Age, thanks to a series of underground cave systems full of cold water. They just need a small section of their trunk to circulate nutrients around, which means they can withstand small fires, the reason why some of them are hollow.
After the forests, green hills and lagoons and vineyards, a true wonder. Even when the clouds make an appearance in an attempt to ruin what otherwise would have been a perfect day, the charm is still there.
It is like being children again, amazed by anything and everything. And when you think the day is over, a group of kangaroos will appear out of nowhere, classic.
Not long ago someone asked us whether we had come across a place in the last few months where we would consider settling in. Our answer was “no”. In just a few days south Western Australia had changed our mind.
A transit day
Inevitably, on a road trip like this, there are days where one just needs to get behind the wheel for hours. It is in those days when you need a good breakfast.
And it is in those days when finding hidden gems is more rewarding. Like The Lilly, a beautiful wind mill turn into a cottage, the perfect place to lock yourself away and write a best seller. Or drink a few bottles of wine. Or both.
Nothing better to break up the driving than realising that you have lost your wedding ring and have to drive back a hundred kilometres to look for it. It is a good thing that the ring wants to be found.
We are not done with Western Australia just yet. Oh no, the best is yet to come.