4 day splurge in Margaret River

By Marla D · Jan 21, 2016

The Trip — splurge in Margaret River, WA

Duration — 3 nights, 4 days

Origin — Perth

Type of Trip— Beach, Food, Gourmet, Kangaroos, Luxury, Wine, Road Trip

Average temperature— 28 degrees during the day, 19 at night

Mode of Transportation — Car

Cost — $500 / person / day

Accommodation — Empire Retreat, Yallingup

Food and drink — Clancy’s Fish Pub, Cullen Winery, Studio Gallery and Bistro, Voyager Estate, Goodfellas, Dunsborough Bakery, Plumtree and Ivy (town of Williams)

Our Experience

My fiance and I had 2 friends and my sister visiting us over the New Year for 3 weeks. One was from Spain, one was from the US and the other was from Canada. We can’t get enough of Margaret River and wanted our friends to experience it as well. On the 3 hour drive from Perth, we had a stop planned at the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury to have a swim encounter with the dolphins ($165 / person). Just after hitting the road, we learned about a massive forest fire that had shut down all the coastal highways. The dolphin encounter was going to be a no go, but it was literally a now-or-never moment for our friends to visit Margaret River, so we all decided to settle in for a long drive as we took the 7 hour detour on the Albany Highway instead of heading back to Perth. We rolled into Yallingup with just enough time for 2 cellar door tastings (most wineries close at 5pm). We went to Wills Domaine first and loved the beautiful setting and good wines, then drove just down the road to Pierro where we bought an exquisite chardonnay and tried a delicious blanc de blanc. The Pierro cellar door is very understated, a bit dusty even, no A/C and is equally unpretentious. We loved it for those reasons and for the delicious whites. Next we checked in to our stylish and cosy Empire Retreat. After freshening up we took a quick drive down to Chapel Beach beach to watch the sunset. We spotted a couple of dolphins in the distance which was lovely. We had dinner reservations at Lamonts restaurant and received lacklustre service (extremely long wait time to greet us, then to seat us, then to take a drink order, then no interest us) so we left without eating, despite what appeared to be a good menu. Instead, we had a casual dinner at Clancy’s fish pub which had friendly pub service, ok food and a good atmosphere.

cellar door of Pierro

Day two was designated for touring vineyards in the Yallingup area. When we have more than a day to spend, we like to split Margaret River from Yallingup because it entails a fair amount of driving. We had a delicious breakfast at our hotel (included in the rate) and then made our first stop at Aravina vineyard. I remember it being pretty with some good sparkling wines, but it wasn’t memorable beyond that. On to Woodlands Winery, just a few minutes drive from Aravina. Woodlands was a great experience. No formal tasting counter, very laid back but knowledgable service and a suite of delicious reds and whites. Each of us bought a few bottles here. After Woodlands it was time for one of our favourite places to lunch, Cullen Vineyard. We love the picnic benches on the deck or on the grass instead of sitting inside. The sweeping vineyard views are a feast of their own and the food is always fresh and simple, the vegetables and herbs coming from their very own garden. After lunch we had a special stop organised at Mosswood winery. Mosswood is by appointment only and is a very unique experience. The staff take you to various buildings on the property which are involved in different aspects of the wine making process. We got to try both reds and whites direct from their oak barrels while they were still aging. We then went to another cellar and tried the range of currently available wines. Very cool experience. Afterwards, we went back to our room to freshen up, before going out to dinner at Studio Gallery and Bistro. It was absolutely delicious (I had the Cape Grim filet) and very lively at 8:30pm when we arrived. It’s not always easy to get a restaurant booking for dinner in Margaret River, simply because the wineries themselves close at 5pm so the options are reduced.

Lunch at Cullen Winery

Mosswood Winery Experience

Day 3 was supposed to be a beach day and Southbound Music Festival to see Courtney Barnett. Unfortunately the bushfire was still raging and the Southbound festival was cancelled. We went to the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse from some history but it was so hot (32 degrees) and the flies so bad, we only went up to the lighthouse and then raced back to the car. It was only 10am at this point and we did a small beach tour, first stopping at one of the rocky beaches of Bunker bay in Eagle Bay to enjoy the views and then moving on quickly to set up our beach tent on the sandy stretch of Bunker Bay. It’s a gorgeous beach and was busy by Australian standards for the first 100m. And then there was no one! As a bonus, there was a cute looking cafe right at the beach called Bunkers Beach Cafe. I’d try it out next time, but we had reservations already to get to.

Bunker Bay beauty

With our bronze top up, we kicked off the Margaret River wine touring part of the day. Our first stop, a 45 minute drive from the hotel, was Voyager Estate for lunch. Voyager is a big name and is indeed very built up and polished, which isn’t typically the style we go for. But we wanted to show our guests a bit of everything, and genuinely like the wines at Voyager, so we decided to try the food as well. It started off amazingly with our entrees, but then the power suddenly went out and our meal came to a sudden end. We found out later that there was a power outage for several hours across Margaret River due to the bush fire. Voyager was kind enough not to charge us for what we had already consumed, which was delicious. We forged ahead with our tasting schedule, and drove immediately next door to Leeuwin Estate. Again, another institutional name from Margaret River with beautiful grounds, but I don’t enjoy the wine or food quite as much as I do at Voyager. Just past 4pm, we had to make a dash to Brown Hill winery. We were definitely saving the best for last. We were first introduced to Brown Hill by a driver we hired for a private touring trip in Margaret River months ago. We love it because it’s a no-nonsense place with the tasting happening in the same building where they bottle the wine. It’s family run, and very personable, with no rush to taste, no pressure to buy and no need to impress. The whites are good, especially for the price, but it’s the reds that we never leave without a case of. Our table favourite is the Ivanhoe, and for special occasions we open a Perseverance or Bill Bailey. The other things we love about Brown Hill are the cellar dogs (Rosie and Suzy), the resident peacock and their baker’s dozen - buy 12, go home with 13!

Peacock at Brown Hill Winery

As we hadn’t really had lunch, we were pretty starving, so after Brown Hill we went into the town of Margaret River with the intention of buying some cheese and crackers at The Larder and heading to Surfer’s Point for a sunset snack with bubbles. The power outage foiled our plan because The Larder fridges weren’t running and hence, they weren’t selling. The only food available was woodfired pizza at Goodfellas, which we decided to eat right there since we were so hungry! And instead of a sunset overlooking the Indian Ocean, we opted to impress our guests with a kangaroo experience! We drove up to the Margaret River Golf Club (on both occasions I’ve been, I get the impression that their members are some of the friendliest to be found at a golf club) and immediately heard the squeals of delight from the back seat. There were kangaroos everywhere! We went right out onto the course (not stepping on the green) and watched these very cool and foreign animals!

Kangaroos at Margaret River Golf Club

It was a packed day, but wasn’t over yet! Somehow when you’re drinking wine, there’s always room for more food! We booked a late dinner at Studio Bistro again and had another amazing meal before calling it a night.

Day 4 kicked off with a very early start. Sunday traffic home from Margaret River is typically slower and given that we had a 7 hour drive home (highways still closed) we wanted to get ahead of the rush. Our hotel unfortunately couldn’t accommodate our early departure with breakfast, but the Dunsborough bakery opens at 6am so we grabbed some toasties and coffee, some meat pies for Lyndon’s dinner later, and started the drive. It was all really smooth and we were home by 1pm, with one stop in the shire of Williams to fill up with gas and have a snack at the Plumtree & Ivy cafe. I would never recommend taking a 7 hour detour to stop at a cafe, but this one really brightened our trip. The scones were still warm from being baked that morning in house and as we left, the owner was pulling homemade sausage rolls out of the oven!

Why We Loved It

We always love getaways to Margaret River. This one we considered a splurge because we stayed at premium accommodation. Having world class food, wine and beaches at your fingertips the way you do in Margaret River keeps us coming back for more every time. My Mom always said that the best thing to have in life is options, and in Margaret River you have plenty!

Empire Retreat


Anyone who has been to Margaret River knows that there is a lot of driving involved, especially when you are doing the driving for your own wine tours. We had one designated driver, which gets pretty tiresome for one and is proper spoiling for the others. There is always the option to join a tour, but we prefer choosing our own route and timing. You can also hire a driver, but as that is very pricey ($95+ per hour) we wouldn’t do that every time. Our hotel was gorgeous, stylish, and boutique, all things that we love. We find it hard to justify the price that hotels charge in Australia though - from budget accommodation up to premium accommodation. We generally feel that the same standard of hotel costs less in Europe or North America. In addition, at Empire, things like no receptionist after 5pm, no food service other than breakfast and no pool made it difficult to pay the $800 per night for our double (suits 4 adults) room and the $450 per night for the single room without squirming. On this occasion the hotel couldn’t honour our bookings at their spa. It wasn’t their fault - the highway closure meant some of their staff couldn’t get to work, but it was still disappointing. One mistake that is easy to make is to try to fit too much into one day - for enjoyment, I would say 4-5 wine tastings in one day (including the one where you have lunch) is a good limit. Plus, Margaret River is so much more than wine and that is easy to forget when you’re a few glasses in! Take time to schedule in beaches, canoeing, hiking, caves, golfing…

Garden at Empire Retreat


Rate the overall trip — 9/10

Rate the activity on your trip — 9/10

Rate the ease of logistics — 7.5/10

Luxury factor — 8/10

About The Traveller



I’m from
the Canadian Rockies

My favourite trip as of late
Beach, culture and food in Sri Lanka

I often travel…
For work, and then extend my trip to explore

I would class myself as
an experienced traveller

I regularly go on the following types of trips
Culture, sporty, beach, gourmet, relax

Continent I know the best

First Last Name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

I’m from Perth, Western Australia

My favourite trip as of late is New Zealand, solo travel in lots of nature for a soul-refresher.

My travelling style is to Book the first night, then wing it from there!

It’s a dealbreaker when I’m stuck around large groups of package tourists.

Continent I know best is Asia.

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