Exploring the Margaret River Region from Cape to Cape – Wine, Waves and Caves
Exploring the Margaret River region from Cape to Cape – from Cape Naturaliste and Bunker Bay in the north to Cape Leeuwin and Augusta in the south – will give you a taste of Western Australia’s best wine, waves and caves.
Driving from Perth to Margaret River is one of the easiest and most satisfying drives you can do in Western Australia, if not Australia. But once you arrive, exploring the Margaret River region for its outstanding wineries, superb surfing beaches, and magical underground caves, is even more fun.
Exploring the Margaret River region means exploring Margaret River wines. One of Australia’s most acclaimed wine regions, the sunny Margaret River is home to some sensational wineries, award-winning wines, and superlative restaurants overlooking scenic vineyards.
Margaret River is also the spiritual home of surfing in Western Australia and Margaret River’s Surfers Point is the most iconic and accessible spot on the coast, home to a World Surf League Men’s and Women’s Championship surfing contest held annually around March-April.
The Margaret River region is also home to some 350 limestone caves hidden beneath the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, formed from water that has seeped thorough the porous limestone rock and calcium carbonate that has shaped the stalactites and other fascinating formations.
Exploring the Margaret River Region from Cape to Cape – Wine, Waves and Caves
Getting to Western Australia’s Margaret River Region
If you’re travelling from the UK, Europe, Asia or beyond, there are countless flights to Australia, including direct flights to Perth, the Western Australian capital. From Perth, you can rent a car and drive down in around three and a half hours. See our Perth to the Margaret River road trip (link above) for more details and stops along the way. That route ends at Cape Naturaliste, below.
Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park
Stretching 120 km from Cape Naturaliste and Bunker Bay in the north to Cape Leeuwin and Augusta in the south, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is marked by a wild, windswept coastline, ruggedly beautiful cliffs, striking granite rock formations, flowering-heath covered headlands, and stunning sandy beaches.
The park is home to abundant birdlife, rare species of wildflowers, including the Dunsborough Spider Orchid and the Naturaliste Nancy, towering Karri trees, and some 360 limestone caves and tunnels. Sealed and 2WD-suitable gravel roads give access to the lookouts and walking trails.
At Cape Naturaliste, you can visit its truncated white lighthouse and from September to December, you can see Humpback and Southern Right Whales. Cape Naturaliste also marks the start (or end) of the Cape to Cape Walk, which can be done in small sections. More on that in another post.
Alternatively, you can do the easy 3.2km Cape Naturaliste Track, which takes you through small limestone pinnacles to a whale lookout boasting gobsmacking views over Cape Naturaliste.
Driving Caves Road
From Cape Naturaliste Road, where our Perth to the Margaret River road trip finished, you’ll need to backtrack to Caves Road. Caves Road extends all the way from Busselton and Dunsborough in the north down to Augusta in the south and is the main road through the Margaret River region.
You could easily spend a few of your days exploring the Margaret River region on scenic Caves Road alone, especially between Yallingup in the north and Boranup in the south, between which there is an abundance of stops along the way at wineries, breweries, restaurants, food producers, and art and craft galleries, such as Gunyulgup Galleries, which specialises in contemporary art, ceramics, pottery, glassware, and jewellery by local artisans.
From Yallingup to Prevelly
Margaret River is not only known for its wines, it’s also one of the best regions in Australia for surfing. Beaches, reefs and points along the 130 kilometres between Capes Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin make up what is generally known as the Margaret River surfing region.
As you drive south along Caves Road, one of the first turn-offs you’ll see will be for Yallingup. The small seaside settlement of Yallingup – Aboriginal for ‘place of love’ – is stunningly set on a hillside overlooking gorgeous Yallingup beach, easily one of Western Australia’s best beaches.
Yallingup Beach, along with nearby Smiths Beach and Injidup Beach, offers some of the best surf breaks in the world. The car parks are generally busy with an endless stream of surfers watching the waves and chatting about the best spot to surf that day.
As well as the spectacular surf, the coastline itself is some of the most dramatic around. Canal Rocks in particular provides some wonderful photo opportunities. When you’re done snapping your Instagram shots, return to Caves Road, then turn right and follow the road south for 38km to the turn off right (west) onto Wallcliffe Road, to Prevelly, 4kms away.
Prevelly is not only one of the most picturesque places on the coast, it’s another of the Margaret River region’s most famous surfing spots and one of Australia’s best surfing beaches.
Swells hit the coast here virtually year-round, with the best conditions in winter and spring. There are a wide variety of breaks but the region is renowned for its powerful surf, so beginner surfers should seek out a surf school. Keen surfers should pick up a surfing map of the region from the tourist office.
Prevelly is also home to the Greek Chapel of St John, a memorial dedicated to Crete’s Preveli Monastery, which protected Australian and other Allied soldiers during World War II.
Architecture buffs will enjoy admiring the stylish holiday houses here. In the last decade, the beach shacks here and right down the coast in communities such as Prevelly and Gnarabup have been replaced by sleek architect-designed holiday houses and real estate prices have rocketed, yet all the hamlets still retain a laidback feel which made them so appealing in the first.
Backtrack along Wallcliffe Road to Caves Road and continue directly ahead some 5km inland to the Margaret River town, turning left on the Bussell Highway, the main road of the town centre.
Margaret River Town
Located on the banks of a picturesque river and set amid fragrant bushland, yet just a short distance from the coast and national park, the bustling yet laidback town makes the best base for exploring the Margaret River region, one of Australia’s premiere wine regions in addition to a surfing capital.
You can easily spend a couple of hours strolling the lively main street of Margaret River town, crammed with gourmet food shops, art and craft galleries and chic boutiques. Its gastronomic eateries and lively cafés and wine bars are a saviour in the evenings when the winery restaurants are closed.
The visitor centre has loads of information and maps on the wineries and beaches and can book tours and accommodation. Use one of their winery maps to explore some of the dozens of outstanding wineries in the Margaret River region area.
Margaret River Wineries
Exploring the Margaret River region means exploring Margaret River wines. You’ll find many of Margaret River’s best wineries along the Bussell Highway between Carbunup River and Cowaramup and between there and along Caves Road right up to Yallingup. There are more wineries in the area south of Margaret River, between Wallcliffe Road and Redgate Road, and even more east of Witchliffe.
Spend a day tasting wines at the cellar doors and trying delectable gourmet food when you visit some of the best Margaret River wineries, including Voyager Estate, Evans & Tate, Vasse Felix, Sandalford, Lenton Brae, Amberley Estate, and Cape Mentelle Vineyard.
Make sure you enjoy a long lunch at one of the fine winery restaurants or cafés, such as those at Leewin Estate, Xanadu, Palandri and Hamelin Bay, and allow time to visit some of the gourmet producers where you can sample local beer, cheese, preserves, olive oil, truffles, venison, berries, fudge, and chocolate.
Plan your day carefully as most wineries and their restaurants close around 5pm. If you’re continuing your driving holiday you may wish to have your wine purchases shipped home so they don’t spoil in the boot of your car.
Margaret River Caves
For some, exploring the Margaret River region means exploring caves. From the Margaret River township, drive along Wallcliffe Road to Caves Road where you’ll find the turn-offs to the main caves of the Margaret River.
The Margaret River region is home to some 350 limestone caves hidden beneath the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, formed from water that has seeped thorough the porous limestone rock and calcium carbonate that has shaped the stalactites and other fascinating formations.
The most interesting is Jewel Cave, which has an impressive long 5.9m straw stalactite, while Lake Cave is the prettiest with its illuminated stalactites and stalagmites reflected in the mirrored waters of its underground stream.
Lake Cave is the deepest cave with more than 300 steps leading down to the entrance. Only a handful of caves are open to the public and all except for Mammoth Cave must be visited on guided tours.
All of the caves are located on access roads just off Caves Road: Lake Cave is near Conto Road, Jewel Cave and Mammoth Cave are near the intersection with Bussell Highway, while Ngilgi Cave is up near Yallingup.
Hamelin Bay and Augusta
A few days spent exploring the Margaret River region usually ends with a peek at the peaceful little hamlet of Hamelin Bay and a windy walk to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta.
Hamelin Bay is a former timber port with a lovely sheltered beach that is ideal for swimming, beachcombing and fishing, and some shipwrecks offshore to keep the snorkelers and scuba divers happy.
The turn-off to Hamelin Bay is on Caves Road, 3.2km from Bushby Rd in the north and 13kms from the Bussell Highway turn-off to Augusta south.
The charming seaside holiday town of Augusta, at the mouth of the scenic Blackwood River, is a popular spot for fishing, windsurfing and whale-watching. It is also one of Western Australia’s oldest settlements, after Albany and Perth, with several significant historic sights, including a petrified Water Wheel constructed in 1895.
The engaging little Augusta Historical Museum has fascinating exhibitions on the history of the area, its pioneers and the many shipwrecks that occurred on the treacherous reef offshore.
From the Bussel Highway, continue south through Augusta’s town centre and follow Leeuwin Road for 7km to Cape Leeuwin.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Desolate, windswept Cape Leeuwin marks the end of the long-distance Cape to Cape Walk. Named after a ship by its Dutch captain in 1622, it is home to the striking Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, mainland Australia’s tallest lighthouse, and one of its oldest.
Built in 1895, it’s still operational, and is of great historical significance. It was here in 1851 that Matthew Flinders began the ambitious job of mapping Australia. The cape is a good place to watch whales migrate from June to September, while at other times of year you can spot dolphins and fur seals. There’s a popular café, gallery and shop at the entrance to the site.
Where to Stay in the Margaret River Region
You’ll need to devote a minimum of a few days to exploring the Margaret River region so you’ll definitely need to stay somewhere between the two capes.
In the heart of Margaret River town, we loved The Traill’s elegant light-filled apartments with spacious living rooms and well kitted out kitchens. While the French provincial touches of the Marine Penthouse are charming, the Deco Penthouse has a long terrace overlooking the main street of town. Within minutes you can walk to cafés, restaurants, wine bars, pubs, and two excellent supermarkets. If you prefer to be by the beach
Located on Yallingup Beach Road, Cape Lodge is the Margaret River region’s most luxurious boutique hotel and is justifiably popular. There are a variety of well-appointed rooms and suites, and a wonderful lake and gardens to stroll while working up an appetite for the much-loved restaurant.
Near Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 10kms northwest of Dunsborough, has sweeping bay views, a stunning swimming pool, award winning spa, and villas with kitchens and direct beach access, while the Empire Spa Retreat is set in a stone and timber farmhouse on 12 acres of vineyards, with alfresco dining overlooking a lake and dam, and a fireplace if you’re staying in winter.