The Margaret River region is a 3 hour drive south of Perth though possibly a bit longer if you have to factor in stops for baby. Many Western Australians venture here for their holidays, especially during the summer months because it tends to be a tad cooler than up north.
It was easy to see why the region is so popular being full of family friendly beaches, waves to surf, limestone caves to explore and a fantastic gourmet scene to gorge on (think wine, cheese, ice cream and chocolate galore!). Whatsmore, this is all available in a relatively compact area; the drive from Busselton -in the north of the region – to Augusta – in the south- took us just over an hour. This meant we were able to fit in lots of activities, as we could plan any driving around babies naps and therefore avoid meltdowns.
There are many vineyard villas and beautiful chalets to stay in but we decided to camp; this seems to be a low cost and popular way to see Australia. However, whilst searching for a campsite we noted that quite a few places lack basic facilities i.e. there are no showers and drinking water is unavailable. I guess these sites are especially suited to fully equipped camper vans or hardcore campers. Dan would happily stay at these sites but I insist on having some comforts that make camping with a baby easier and enjoyable- namely having showers to wash off all the sand and suncream! We then stumbled across the website for Hamelin Bay Holiday Park; absolute beachfront with stingrays that frequented the shoreline. We were sold. As it was approaching Easter weekend, the site was quite busy but we were lucky enough to be allocated a good pitch.
Hamelin Bay Beach
The first day of our holiday was spent relaxing on the beach, snorkelling and interacting with the stingrays. It’s a stunning white sandy beach which stretches for miles yet only had a handful of people scattered along it -this seems to be true for many WA beaches.
With bub, we obviously have to tag-team so I went for the first dip in the turquoise waters. I tend to become a bit panicky when snorkelling alone and couldn’t bring myself to swim out too far – especially being aware of the ‘recent shark sighting’ sign at the top of the beach. The fact that fishermen were dumping dead fish bits into the sea in the hope of attracting the stingrays made me feel more uneasy! Dan was braver and ventured out further; he reported seeing an amazing array of fish. The sea was generally calm when we were there so we did take bub in for a dip.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
The next day we drove 20 minutes down the coast to visit the tallest lighthouse on Australian mainland. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stands at 39m and is the most southwesterley point in Australia. It is also where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.
Entry to the site was reasonably priced but children under 4 are not permitted in the lighthouse. We could have tag-teamed and ventured up the 186 steps but decided the views from down below were pretty good!
Instead, we opted for the self guided precinct audio tour, which was surprisingly interesting and informative. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to listen to all of it because Osh’s teeth got the better of him and he suddenly started howling in pain. We frantically rummaged through our bags to find calpol whilst poor bub repeatedly swiped at Sophie the giraffe in anger. We were acutely aware that we were ruining the tranquility of the place, as the wind carried his wails across the headland. After the calpol had worked its magic, we headed to the small yet pleasant cafe to chill out with an iced coffee.
Prevelly and Margaret River
The following day, we chose a random point on the map and set off to have breakfast. We ended up in Prevelly, which is located at the mouth of Margaret River. We had a delicious breakfast at the White Elephant Cafe whilst gazing across the Indian Ocean.
After, we wandered along the coastal walk, which turned out to be a longer than expected! We ended up at Surfer’s Point where we watched surfers take to the waves in preparation for the Margaret River Pro surfing competition. Bub was becoming results in his pram by this point so we found a playground and let him loose to crawl on the grass! I have to say that one of the best things I’ve noticed about WA is that you’re never far from a fun, well maintained playground and clean public facilities.
The afternoon was spent wandering around Margaret River, which has a range of cafes, clothes and tourist shops. All 3 main supermarkets (Coles, IGA and Woolworths) are within close proximity and cater for all baby needs. We visited some of the food factories and sampled different nougat, cakes, chocolates, cheeses and yoghurts. I am quite the chocoholic and, before heading out to Australia, was concerned because people had told me the chocolate wasn’t that great. It seems they add something to it so it to preven it from melting. I actually dislike Cadbury’s out here -I bought a Twirl recently and wasn’t able to finish it because it was so disgusting! Luckily Tim Tams (like Penguin bars), Lindt and ice cream are very tasty. Add to that the chocolate from the Margaret River factory and life is good -thankfully they have a shop in Perth!
Prevelly and Augusta
We planned to rent a boat on our last day plans so we could go fishing on Blackwood River in Augusta. These plans were scuppered by the weather -it was quite cool and overcast. We therefore headed back to our favourite find, The White Elephant Cafe, for another delicious breakfast. It turned out to be sunnier in Prevelly and the water was so enticing that I took the chance to snorkel.
Dan was sensible and stayed dry because we were going to head back to Augusta to take a dip in the Southern Ocean; we want to swim in every ocean and only have the Arctic left to do -brrr! We ended up at Flinders Bay on the recommendation of the lady at the tourist information office -she said it was surrounded by rocks so there were no “bitey things”. This is also the place where people gather from June to August to spot migrating humpback and southern right whales, as they have a little rest and play before continuing north.
On the way back to camp we were extremely excited to spot a pod of pelicans on the river, which we enjoyed watching for a good half hour!
We stopped in Busselton to break up the journey home. We relaxed on the beach, built sandcastles with bub and took it in turns to go snorkelling – the main beach has a shark netted area for swimming.
We then headed to Busselton Jetty to visit the Underwater Observatory – booking in advance is advisable because it gets busy! Our tour began with an enjoyable train ride to the end of the wooden jetty, which stretches nearly 2km out to sea. It is worth noting that you are able to walk along the jetty for free but you cannot enter the Observatory without booking onto a tour.
Once we alighted we entered the Observatory where we descended 8m below the waters’ surface. At $32 a ticket, admission can seem rather steep but it is truly a unique experience. With 11 viewing windows spread out between 4 floors you can see an array of coral, sponges, fish and invertebrate. One of the best things about the Observatory is that, unlike an aquarium, you never know what is going to float on by! At the end of the tour we were given some time to wander around the different levels -bub was in awe and was happy to be left gazing into the vividly coloured underwater world.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable holiday and will, in fact, be returning this weekend to focus on the north of the region. Do you have any tips on places to visit in and around Yallingup?
Our favourite food stops
White Elephant Cafe, Prevelly – great coffees, smoothies and breakfasts. Very affordable. Amazing outlook over the ocean.
Blue Oceans Fish & Chips, Augusta – yummy fish and chips. Handy when you don’t fancy cooking anything from the rather expensive and ill equipped supermarket!
Augusta Bakery and Cafe, Augusta – great for fresh bread for breakfast, cakes and the best fish chowder I’ve had in a long time.
The Equinox, Busselton – popped in for a delicious lunch. Great food but on the pricey and dressy side (felt a bit out of place in our sandy beach clothes and thongs!)