Margaret my Darling

Margaret River is, by definition, one of the coolest regions in Australia! It has everything. Beaches to forests, DSC_0624 (800x532)

mountain biking to wineries,

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breweries to farmer’s markets,

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and playgrounds to sheep shearing. Throughout it all runs this common vibe of relaxation and peace.

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The area really took off in the 60’s when a bunch of surfers built some shacks overlooking some great surf breaks at Prevelly, Gracetown and Yallingup.

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Now, the ‘shacks’ have morphed into mansions and the hippies are left to live in their vans in the carparks, still overlooking the surfbreaks! Then, in the 1980s, the falling price of wool meant the local sheep farmers had to diversify, which lead to the establishment of the many wineries and breweries around the place.

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We spent the first week in Yallingup in a premier caravan park overlooking the ocean.

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The surf was gigantic one day, and miniscule the next, but gorgeous every day! It wasn’t much of a swimming beach, rather surfing, learning to surf, bodyboarding and paddleboarding.

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Luckily there was a pretty epic playground where we spent most afternoons.

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Somehow we accidentally arrived just as the Margaret River Pro was about to kick off at Gracetown.

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It was a fluke, but a happy one! It is an event on the World Championship Tour which meant we got to see the likes of Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Gabriel Medina and CJ Hopgood surfing.

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Day one there were hardly any spectators, but by the weekend the crowds really kicked in which gave it a great atmosphere.

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It was won by Michel Bourez in the end in case you were wondering…..

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In between surfing related activities, we checked out some amazing wineries and restocked our wine cellar with the gorgeous, sophisticated Margaret River wines.

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The wineries themselves were absolutely ostentatious in their design and sometimes we felt a little under-dressed! Especially when there was a chandelier in the toilet!

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The Eagle Bay Brewing Company was a great place to sit and have a beer and the kids got to run amuck on the grassy hill and the sandpit full of Tonka trucks.

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What a great set up! Duckstein Brewery had another great playground, a delicious Heffeweiss (wheat beer) and was the most stunningly pretentious building built overlooking a man-made lake.

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Cheeky Monkey was another brewery with a playground and the best ever wood-fired pizza.

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Gabriel Chocolate factory imports their own cacao beans from all over the world and makes the most delicious single-origin chocolate.  Mmmm mmmm.

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All with free samples of course! Bettany’s Nougat factory was also worth a visit (they had wines too!), but we have never had as good a pistachio nougat as that one that Nathan used to distribute. You have spoiled all other nougat for us Nathan! Though we will keep trying….

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Our favourite notable wine was the House of Cards Rose.

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Just a very small family run place with a few golden retrievers dozing at the door and a beautiful summer wine.

One other brilliant place we came across is a cafe called ‘Chocolatte’, in Dunsborough.  IMG_7302 (800x800)

It was a winner on so many levels!

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We moved camps down to Wharncliffe Mill just outside of Margaret River itself. It had a glut of mountain bike trails all through the forest and was a really nice ‘eco’ camp. We were told about it by a couple of nomads some months ago and wouldn’t hesitate to on-recommend it.

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Margaret River was a nice little town full of backpackers and the river was more a creek but it hosted the most fabulous farmer’s markets where you could sample absolutely everything!

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Watermelon, mead, feta, dukkah, olive oil, preserves, bread, smoked salmon, olives, wine, chocolate, don’t have lunch before you go, just graze your way around the stalls! And of course what these savvy farmers have realised is that if you let people have a taste, it’s going to lead to a lot of sales if you have a tasty product.

We might have spent a couple of days more, but our ‘eco’ camp was booked out for a school group so, after nearly 2 weeks, it was time to move on. We were headed north again, but not really sure where.

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The Yallingup Shearing Shed was on the way. It was only $10 per adult and was one of those really surprising and entertaining and educational things.

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It is a working sheep farm with about 4000 head of merino sheep which are farmed for their wool.

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When they reach 10 years, they are then sent to the Middle East to make curries. (Not live export, the question was asked). Merino wool is the softest wool in the world, and Australian shearers are the best in the world. You fed some sheep, watched the shearing display, sorted some wool, watched the border collie round em up, then the kelpie move em up, watched some more shearing and then bottle fed the lambs.

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The boys were a bit funny about participating, but I enjoyed feeding the baby anyway! Did you know kelpies are border collies that were bred with dingos?

Busselton is a little town with a long jetty just on your way out of Margaret River region and Geographe Bay.

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It is the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere actually at 1.8kms.

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The weather was glorious and the water was sparkling as we passed through for a coffee break.

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We took a detour out to Donnybrook which is the home of Granny Smith apples, and also the home of ‘Appleworld’.

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The biggest and best free playground in the Southern Hemisphere.

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It was well worth the detour! It’s funny as you travel around how many times things make these claims as the ‘best’, ‘biggest’, ‘longest’ ‘tallest’ thing in the ‘state’, ‘hemisphere’, ‘world’, ‘universe’!  They don’t always live up to their claim either.

So, with our wine cellar full of goodness, our South West sojourn came to an end.  It was the beginning of a new era as we set our sights on Perth!

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Until next time, Margaret my darling!

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