Perth and Margaret River go together like peanut butter and jelly, salt and caramel or any other perfect food pairing. Only 3 hours apart, driving Perth to Margaret River is easy and well worth the time in my opinion. My husband and I had a music concert to attend in Perth, and wanted to visit family who lives in Margaret River. Here’s how our weekend with the two of us shaped up.
Day 1: Arrival into Perth
We picked up a rental car from Hertz at the airport terminal on arrival.
We had a very comfortable stay in Perth at Peppers Kings Square – right across the road from RAC Arena, our concert venue that night. Good bed, clean, with great food as well. The restaurant was full when we arrived, so we took room service. Valet parking included in our room rate took away the hassle of finding parking. We parked out front when we checked in and waited 5-10 minutes for the car when we checked out.
Day 2: South to Margaret River
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Based on the recommendation from Constance, we had breakfast at Holmes & Co which was tucked away in an old laneway around the corner from our hotel. It was well frequented by the locals which is always a good sign. We enjoyed our breakfast then checked out and started driving from Perth to Margaret River. The drive is about 3 hours on the main highway.
North of Mandurah we got off the main highway and took the Old Coast Road (Highway 1) for a bit. We stopped to stretch our legs at the Mandurah War Memorial park. This is one of the nicest ANZAC memorials I’ve seen.
The memorial is on the water’s edge and near a mini-golf course. If you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll see dolphins in close to the shore. There were a number of dolphin watching boats going past so I’m guessing the dolphins have a safe haven in and around Mandurah.
It was morning tea time so we stopped at Miami Bakehouse Falcon. Miami Bakehouse is a chain of bakeries and cafes in Western Australia. Their bakery in Falcon is the original. With all the awards it wins, we were expecting great things! Unfortunately, rather than being stunned by flavour, we were stunned at the prices. It was more expensive than other bakeries. But it had all the bakery classics from hot pies through to hedgehog slice and lamingtons. And it had tables outside where you can enjoy your treats. The raw raspberry chocolate slice that I bought was delicious, but we wouldn’t stop there again.
When driving Perth to Margaret River, take time to check out Busselton if you can. Rejoin the main highway, and stay on it till Busselton Jetty. There’s plenty of parking on the Busselton foreshore.
Find a place to park then, if you’re hungry, try the big burgers at Equinox. It’s right there, with stunning views. We got our burgers to takeaway and enjoyed them in the sunshine, on the steps by the beach.
Or, if you’re looking for a bakery fix, we were advised that Baked will keep the sweet tooths happy. We were too full to try, unfortunately.
The Busselton Jetty is an attraction in its own right. At 1.84 km long, it is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. To help with the upkeep, it costs AUD $4.00 to go on to the jetty if you want to walk. You can pay extra to catch the little train which will take you to the end and back. At the end is an underwater observatory showing the marine life around the jetty foundations.
And if you’d rather hang at the Busselton beach, we understand. The sand is white, the water is clear. Even in wintertime, the beach was busy and had a good vibe about it.
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Margaret River where we stayed with family. My cousin there is an exceptional cook so we enjoyed a home cooked meal with plenty of fresh vegetables from the region.
Day 3: Beaches and coastline of Margaret River
After breakfast we drove out to Gnarabup Beach. My cousin swims there every morning with other women – summer or winter.
Gnarabup beach is beautiful, and has a good cafe – the White Elephant – that opens at 7.30am every day. There are groups of locals who swim every morning at Gnarabup beach.
There is a boardwalk from Gnarabup beach to Surfer’s Point if you want to take in the coastline at a leisurely pace (about 15 mins walk).
Alternatively, you can drive to Surfer’s Point. The coastline around Margaret River is famous for its surf. There is also good fishing and diving spots. It can be a dangerous coastline though.
We took a drive to the coast around Boranup (take Conto Road, off Caves Road). There are lots of walking tracks and carparks leading to the rocky coastline with clear ocean water. There were life preservers reminding us that people have lost their lives off this coastline.
Caves, Cape Leeuwin and kangaroos
When driving Perth to Margaret River, you should take a drive along Caves Road. It is a gorgeous tourist drive. And there are lots of caves in the area to visit. In the past, we visited Jewel Cave (about 40 min drive from Margaret River) which I can recommend. It’s the largest of the caves in the area. There is an entrance fee to any and all of the caves.
And if you go that far south, you may as well continue to Augusta and to the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin.
Keep your eyes out for kangaroos as you travel. Especially at dawn or dusk. Kangaroos have no road sense and are a large unforgiving animal that can cause serious accidents. If you take a walk or drive around some of the roads around Margaret River – especially those with large grassy fields – chances are good you’ll see kangaroos.
Food, glorious food
After our coastal explorations, we headed all the way north again and drove 20 mins past the little township of Margaret River.
Go through the cute town of Cowaramup Highway, and turn left onto Harmans Mill Road for some gastronomic delights. We had lunch at Fishbone Restaurant. They are a boutique winery who do Japanese inspired meals very well. They have comfortable indoor and outdoor seating. Make a reservation to be sure you don’t miss out.
Save room for dessert though!
Right across the road from Fishbone is the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. This place is a Margaret River institution. Offering free chocolate and a huge selection of all things chocolate, plus ice cream, cakes and coffee, you can spend a while here.
Then, when you can’t eat any more sweet things, take your vehicle to Providore. It’s only 650m down the drive, behind the chocolate factory. Offering gourmet relishes, sauces, oils, spices, cake mixes, etc, this establishment is a gourmet delight. Sample before you buy. Or buy and enjoy a picnic on their grounds. Take a walk through their gardens.
Note: Instead of taking the B-roads the next day, these Harman Mills Road activities would be great to do on your way back to Perth on the regular route.
That night, after successful kangaroo spotting on the rural streets around Margaret River, we had dinner in Margaret River at Pizzica. This is a pizza restaurant where the pizzas, staff, and owners are all authentically Italian. The pizza restaurant is in the basement of a cute corner building. You’ll definitely need to make a reservation here. The food was amazing.
Day 4: Back to Perth on the B-roads
If you’re driving Perth to Margaret River, you’ll have to drive back again at some point. As mentioned before, this would be a good time to do the Harman Mills Road activities from the day before – it would be much more efficient, and use less fuel.
But because we had an evening flight (ie. plenty of time), and like to drive, we decided to take the B-roads back to Perth
After breakfast with our hosts, we strolled through Margaret River township first. We started at Jah Rocks Art Gallery, at the “bottom” of the town. Shops open at 9am. You’ll pass High Street stores, cafes, second-hand stores, hippy stores, the Brumby bakery, and a small fudge factory. There are lots of great places to browse.
Then it was time to drive! Our route on the B-roads took us through wineries, forests, and farmland. We passed the largest bauxite mine and saw it’s overland conveyors. And the drive took 5 hours instead of 3. Only consider this if you have plenty of time, and like to drive.
There is one place that deserves a mention. We stopped at the Lady Marmalade cafe in Kirup. It’s a tiny settlement in the country. Wow – this place really knows how to deliver good food. Their thickshakes and smoothies, brownies and melting moments are out of this world. It was by far the best food we’d had all trip, and seriously, that was saying something since the quality of food and produce in the Margaret River region has a solid reputation for very good reason.
Things we wished we had booked in advance and had time to try:
- Walk Talk Taste Margaret River – walking food tour
- Margaret River Discovery Tour – canoeing on the Margaret River
With stunning coastlines and surf for the adventurous, or wineries and cafes galore for the foodies, there is definitely something for everyone around Margaret River.
If you were driving Perth to Margaret River, and had a weekend to spare, what would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below!
Trip taken August 2019.