Sydney and Melbourne are arguably the most popular destinations in Australia for international visitors, but did you know that Western Australia is the biggest state? It accounts for approximately a third of Australia’s land mass but receives a fraction of the number of international visitors that Sydney and Melbourne receive every year.
According to Tourism Research Australia, Sydney and Melbourne received a combined 6.9 million international visitors in the year ending September 2018. The entire state of Western Australia welcomed about 955,000 – how disproportionate is that?!
The Margaret River region is one of the most popular destinations in Western Australia and is world-renowned for its outstanding wineries, but is also famous for its stunning beaches, natural wonders and unique landmarks.
The best time to visit is during the Australian summer months (December through February), but the shoulder season is fantastic too. The winter months are extremely cold so if you’re looking to hit the beaches then avoid visiting from June to August. If you want to explore an underrated part of the world, add the Margaret River region to your bucket list now. Read on for what to do in Margaret River, how to get there and where to stay.
There are so many reasons why you need to visit the Margaret River region, beyond the fact that it offers incredible views and landscapes. Click here to read 10 reasons why the Margaret River region should be on your list of places to visit!
How to get to Margaret River and how to get around
Getting from Perth to Margaret River is relatively easy if you rent a car – the Margaret Region is located 3 hours away from Perth. The entire region starts from Busselton and Dunsborough in the north down to Augusta in the south. From Perth your best option is to rent a car (we have used Keddy by Europcar, Budget and Thrifty in the past) to make the drive down south – remember, you drive on the left in Australia!
Alternatively, there are a limited number of buses that you can take via South West Coast Lines, and I’ve also heard good things about this shared airport shuttle service between Perth Airport and the Margaret River region, though it appears to only operate Monday to Friday, and not on the weekends.
Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
Once you are in the area, public transport is pretty much non-existent and private tours and drivers are pricey, so the best way to get around is to self-drive. Parking is plentiful and Google Maps is very accurate – just stick to the speed limits and be alert when driving (especially at night) as kangaroos are known to jump into the middle of the street out of nowhere. Kangaroo collisions are no joke.
If you don’t want to self-drive from Perth to Margaret River, get in touch with DBM Drivers, a locally owned wine tour and airport transfer business. Their rates are extremely reasonable compared to other companies, and were very reliable when we used them for a one-way airport transfer. Full day tours are $350-400 for up to 7 people, and one-way airport transfers are $400 for up to 7 people. Rates accurate as of December 2017.
The best places to stay in the Margaret River region
Accommodation prices tend to be higher in this area, with nightly rates reaching as much as AUD$3-500 during the peak season. To get bang for your buck, make sure you stay in a convenient and picturesque town so that you can explore more of the beaches and coast. I would recommend staying in Dunsborough, Margaret River, Gracetown, Yallingup, Eagle Bay or Bunker Bay. Click here to find accommodation in the Margaret River region!
The best places to visit in the Margaret River region
Wondering what to do in Margaret River? Read on for some of the best places to visit and things to do in this stunning region of Western Australia.
1. Boranup Karri Forest
To give you a sense of scale, see if you can find me in the photo on the right!
Boranup Karri Forest lies between Caves Road and the coast and is filled with pale-barked karri trees. Karri trees are one of the tallest species of tree in the world and can reach nearly 90 meters in height. There is no entry fee and there are small parking areas to the side, so make sure you drive through this amazing woodland during your trip.
2. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is located in the south of the Margaret River region, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. One of the best things to do in this region is to go on a lighthouse tour, just look at this view!
Lighthouse tours (AUD$20 at time of publishing) take place every half hour and is jam-packed with fascinating facts about the history of the lighthouse – the build, the keepers, the multiple shipwrecks prior to building the lighthouse and how operations are maintained (it’s a working lighthouse).
3. Sugarloaf Rock
Aptly named for its conical shape, Sugarloaf Rock is located off the coastline and a popular sunset spot. I don’t usually go out of my way to see a rock, but this one is pretty darn special and is one of the most famous Margaret River attractions.
It’s spectacular both during the day, and during sunset – bring a blanket if you’re headed here to watch the sunset as it can get extremely windy and cold, even in the summer months.
Did you know that the Margaret River region is famous for its delicious wine? Click here for unmissable vineyards & wineries to visit in the Margaret River region!
4. Meelup Beach
Meelup Beach is one of the most popular beaches in this region and it’s not hard to see why – it offers fine white sand, crystal clear water and is protected from wind and waves – what’s not to love? If you are traveling with children, this is the perfect beach to take them to.
5. Point Piquet
Located nearby Meelup Beach, Point Piquet is another beautiful bay with perfectly turquoise-coloured water. This is a great swimming spot to check out and doesn’t tend to get as busy as Meelup Beach if you want the bay to yourself. The water is crystal clear, and offers a nice sandbank for beginner to intermediate surfers when the winter swell hits.
Click here for a selection of accommodation options in the Margaret River region! Tip: need some flexibility? Double check the cancellation policy – most places offer free cancellation!
6. Bunker Bay
Bunker Bay is a great place to grab brunch followed by a dip in the ocean. The long stretch of beach is a great place to soak up the sunshine and is considered one of the top beaches in the region. Bunker Bay Cafe serves up delicious coffee and lunch – the perfect lazy afternoon spot!
7. Injidup Natural Spa
This natural rockpool is located in Yallingup and is a hidden gem in the region. Bring your swimsuit (and sunscreen – the sun is brutal in Australia) and drive here for a fun afternoon. It can be easily accessed by car – take the trail on the left hand side of the parking lot and make your way down towards the coast. Turn right when you reach the fork and you’ll find yourself at the rockpool. You’ll have to climb down so wear appropriate footwear.
8. Canal Rocks
Canal Rocks is natural geographical feature along the coast of the Margaret River region. A natural channel was formed after centuries of erosion from the ocean’s waves and can be explored on foot through wooden pathways.
9. Busselton Jetty
You may be thinking to yourself, “Why is a jetty on this list?” The reason is because it is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere, spanning more than 2 kilometers in length! Walking the entire length will take you approximately 25 minutes.
There is also a small “train” that takes you up and down the stretch of the jetty as well as an underwater observatory where you can check out the marine life. It’s one of the more popular Margaret River attractions to check out if you’re traveling with young children.
10. Hamelin Bay
Hamelin Bay is home to a few unique residents – a fever of sting rays that often swim right up to the shoreline. They’re often found at the boat ramp on the beach where they are fed scraps by the fishermen.
If you’re looking to see the sting rays in Hamelin Bay, choose a sunny day with little to no swell so that the water visibility is higher. It’s also important to be respectful as the sting ray are wild – avoid harassing them or trying to touch them too much.
11. Lake Cave or Ngilgi Cave
The region is also home to more than 100 natural caves, some as deep as a 12-storey building! There are 4 show caves in the Margaret River region that are currently open to the public, and you can join semi-guided tours to explore deep underground.
The Lake Cave near Boranup Forest is spectacular and is suitable for most visitors (children under 4 visit for free) but you’ll need to walk approximately 300 steps down and back up. The stalactites, stalagmites and straws in the cave are incredible and there is also a rare suspended table formation – the only of its kind in the world.
You might also want to check out Ngilgi Cave – the region’s first-ever tourist attraction which visitors were once lowered into via rope. Today, there is a set of stairs and pathways leading visitors through the expansive underground cave – it is a LOT bigger than you might imagine and there are some tight spots to navigate through. Don’t let the small entryway fool you! Tickets cost $22.5 per person for adults, but you can also purchase multi-cave passes at a small discount. In addition to Lake Cave or Ngilgi Cave, your options include Jewel Cave or Mammoth Cave.
Editor’s note: Many thanks to the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association for hosting our cave visits.
12. The Aquarium
The Aquarium, like the natural spa at Injidup, is a natural rock pool that is largely protected from waves and swell. The crystal-clear water is almost a turquoise colour and makes for a perfect swimming spot on a hot day. You’ll have to walk on an unpaved trail for about 15 minutes to get to this secret spot.
Other things to do in Margaret River
The Margaret River region also has one of the longest whale watching seasons in the world: the season runs during the 2nd half of the year and whales are often spotted during their migration. More details here.
If you love wine, then you’re in luck. The Margaret River wine region is home to approximately 120 wineries and vineyards and you can visit these institutions for lunch and wine tasting. Finding it hard to choose which ones to visit? Click here for my article on the top Margaret River region wineries and vineyards not to miss!
The Margaret River region is also one of the best places to get your surf on, especially for more experienced surfers. Click here for more information on different breaks in the area.
Have you ever been to the Margaret River region? Tell me all about your favourite spots in the comments section below!
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