Australia is one of my favorite places to visit. There’s just so much greenery, great food made with clean fresh produce and lets not forget-awesome shopping! I’ve been to Sydney and to Melbourne several times to visit family and friends and its always such a treat. Apart from the big cities, I’m always hearing that Australia has so many other amazing places to visit. One of those being the infamous Margaret River, south of Perth, Western Australia. So last year, my hubby surprised me with a trip to Margaret River for my birthday and we headed down under to the lush countryside. After about a three and a half hour drive, we entered arguably one of Australia’s foremost wine territories. Not only is it known for its exuberant and internationally renown wines, we discovered some of the most hidden goodness gems such as the Vasse Virgin olive oil farm and some amazing (and at times, indulgent!) cheese and chocolate family run businesses, that are just out of this world!
Before the trip we had to decide whether we wanted to jump on another flight, take a bus, or drive from Perth airport to Margaret River. Although it would take a bit longer, we decided to opt for the more scenic option and drive (and besides, having car to explore Margaret River is a must!). We had arranged the rental car beforehand, but there are a couple rental car companies available at the airport so it shouldn’t be a problem if you decide to just rent one on the spot. So once we arrived at Perth airport we went to pick up our car and the gentleman at the sales desk suggested we pay a bit extra for the GPS and insurance. The GPS is a no brainer since both my hubby and I have never been there before, but we weren’t too sure if we needed the insurance. We were a bit hesitant thinking that they were just trying to get a bit more off of us, but being the cautious travellers we are, we decided to take up the offer anyways (which proved to be a good choice as we did have a little incident with a wayward kangaroo – apparently this is very common!). The drive down to our “retreat” was so tranquil and peaceful and with all the lush greenery and animals to see along the way, time wasn’t an issue at all!!
We stayed at the Injidup Spa Retreat, and as it was still quite new, it was in almost perfect condition. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the cheerful reception staff and all in all, the “retreat” catered to travellers who wanted all the elements of hidden luxury but with complete and unencumbered privacy. There are 10 retreats – all of which are self-contained with all you need to enjoy your stay – such as your very own plunge pool, large living and dining area with a romantic open fireplace, beautiful and breezy view of the Indian Ocean and a large master bedroom. One of the quirky and unique things about our retreat was that it provided for a “self-service” style of living – meaning you bought your own groceries and made your own meals as there was no onsite restaurant – but…. they did provide a fabulous starter hamper filled with wine and plenty of organic goodness such as olives, chocolate, fruits, cold cuts, cheeses, crackers etc. In addition, the retreat was surrounded by great quality eateries and as obtaining fresh produce was so easy, if you enjoy cooking like we do, you would take advantage of this and cook in your retreat. Last but not least – you’re not in Australia if you don’t have the traditional Aussie “barbie” so on our veranda we had huge barbie which was on regularly for breakfast and for dinner.
Like pretty much everywhere in Margaret River, or more so Australia in general, the front desk closed at 5pm so if you were to need anything urgent in the middle of the night you would have to call the emergency number. Also, one thing we realised was that our internet connection would get lost whenever the front desk would shut down for the night. Since the hotel was unaware of this issue it was obvious no one had complained. Yes, it was incredibly quiet (except for the hypnotic crashing of the ocean waves at night as we slept) and nicely secluded, such a great place to relax and take a break from the city life, but no internet? No emails? No Facebook? Is this possible? Once our panic mode settled, we thought why not take this opportunity to zone out and shut off from all the hustle and bustle. Well, at least for the time we were in the our villa. :p Never been done, but was a nice change!
Now that the hotel and internet issue was settled, it was on to explore!! Our stay was for 5days, but I could have seriously stayed for weeks! During those days we had copious amounts of amazingly fresh and organic food and wine. These are some of the places we visited and I strongly recommend. There are so many amazing places and restaurants, if I were to name them all it would take me awhile so here are my top 5 picks……
Leeuwin Estate-Besides the incredible wine and outstanding ambience, the food was phenomenal! We celebrated my birthday by having lunch here and it was just unforgettable! All the ingredients for the dishes on the menu are fresh from the farms nearby and together with the serene view-the experience is nothing short of amazing! Breakfast or lunch here is strongly recommended, followed by a stroll around the beautiful estate.
Cape Mentelle-Even if you’re not a ‘wino’ I’m sure you’ve heard of Cape Mentele. Unlike Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentele was more catered to wine tasting and distributing. Having said that it is a must visit to try out the several different types of wine and to at least get a bottle to take back home. You must try a their wine made from Zinfandel grapes – for that extra earthy full bodied wine! We went in thinking to get a bottle or two but we ended up get a whole case and having it get shipped back home (together with the case we picked up at Leeuwin Estate!).
Vasse Virgin– The moment you turn in the side street you are guided by beautiful, statuesque trees that lead into the olive garden estate. So even before you arrive at the welcome centre you are already put in a calm state of mind ready to explore the world of olives. After about a 2-3min drive in, you reach a small welcome centre/souvenir shop where you can find pretty much anything and everything related to olives available. You’re free to sample all sorts of olive oil, olives, and even olive oil based organic beauty products for all skin types, which you can later purchase to take home with you. They even offer cute little homely souvenirs that perfectly reflect the vibe of Vasse Virgin.
Gabriel Chocolate (Yallingup)-As soon as you step foot in the quaint little shop you are welcomed by a gush of chocolate aroma. From raw cacao beans and nibs, creamy milk chocolates, velvety dark chocolates (all that you can sample on the spot-AWESOME!) to freshly brewed organic coffee, Gabriel’s Chocolate is near heaven to any chocoholic, like myself! If the five different types of chocolates weren’t enough, we went back a second time to get some cacao beans to take back home as well.
The Horse Resort-There’s no better way to set yourself apart from the hustle and bustle our bodies are naturally attuned to than taking in the beauty of lush countryside on horseback. The people at the Horse Resort make you feel totally comfortable and all the horses are very accustomed to people so it is even a great experience for those that have never ridden a horse before. We spent about 30min getting friendly and familiar with our horses and to learn the basic riding rules. After ‘Fortune’ (my horse) and I became friends and comfy with each other, it was off on our 1hr trail ride around the forest led by our stable guide. Such a calm and serene experience!
Now, for my birthday I wanted to check an item off of my bucket list so thought SKYDIVING??! Took a bit of time to build up the courage, but since Australia is known to be one of the safest places to skydive thought this was the perfect chance. With lush green fields and a perfect view of the sparkling river and even a glimpse of the ocean, it just had to be done. Wow! I must say, it was THE most amazing experience I’ve had so far! Thrill, excitement, action and whole lot of adrenaline…..it was AWESOME!! So if you have some time you may want to consider giving the peeps at Southern Skydivers a visit.
The drive from where we stayed took about 1 hr to Busselton (2.5hrs from Perth). The professionals will walk and talk you through the steps, then after you are dressed and strapped up you take a 20min flight up to your drop point. We jumped at 14000ft! (YUP! FOURTEEN THOUSAND FEET!!!!), but you can choose to jump at 10,000ft if you’re not feeling so daring. The whole way up, the team jokes and makes you feel totally at ease (well,as much as they can whilst your whole body, mind and soul is completely enveloped with the insane concept that you will drive head first out of a plane!). Then about 5min before you take that plunge you get harnessed to your tandem pro diver, you say a prayer in your head (or a couple of hundred!), then off you go swimming in mid-air! My words are no where near close to what the actual experience is like! OMG! PHENOMENAL! After the jump, I’ve decided I will and MUST go back and do it again or even learn how to do it myself! EEEK!
From the moment we left, I was miserable as all I wanted to do was go back to Margaret River!! 😦 It was one of the most idealistic escapes I have had so far; the amazingly fresh produce, Michelin Star quality cuisine, tasty and dreamy wine country, picturesque landscape and the warm and friendly locals provided for one of the most memorable holidays I have ever had. I want to go back and I will go back soon!
For more information on Margaret River check out www.margaretriver.com