Margaret River–Western Australia

Margaret River is a fantastical mix of rugged coastline, magical trees, winding roads, and gorgeous vineyards and breweries. In American terms, it is a heaping of Sonoma, a dash of Big Sur, a touch of Pacific Northwest, and a good measure of Vermont. I’m forever trying to compare places here to landscapes that I know and love; but really, Margaret River is simply its own unique place. Located just three hours south of Perth, this is a must visit if you are touring Australia. We spent three rainy days here and I could have stayed much longer! It’s no wonder that Lonely Planet named it as a Top 10 Destination in 2010.

We stayed in a rustic (read:chilly but cute) cabin at Bussell’s Bushland Cottages, located on a gorgeous road surrounded by open fields. At sunrise and sunset each day, we walked to the field behind our cabin to visit the resident kangaroos; occasionally, they’d even hop by our kitchen window or bounce past our rental car. During the day, we meandered on the open roads with little agenda other than choosing to head north or south.  My favorite drives were through the wondrous Karri forest, (standing on the side of these curving roads to capture the trees while keeping pouring rain off of my lens was memorable!) and along the Big Sur-esque coastline near Yallingup.  We also visited some fabulous vineyards and breweries that overlooked stunning vistas. From soaring glass contemporary designs to classic Cape Dutch styles, many of the buildings could be featured in Architectural Digest. I’d highly recommend lunch at Eagle Bay Brewing Company (get the burger with beetroot!), afternoon drinks at Cowaramup Brewing Company (fabulous vista and playground there for kiddos), and tastings at Voyager Estate and Flametree Wines. Thanks to all of the resident cows (there is even a town, Cowaramup, filled with life-sized porcelain cows) there are also many wonderful cheese and ice cream shops to sample.

Another must see is the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Situated at the most southwesterly tip of Australia, this rugged point feels a million miles away from it all. Margaret River is also known for its humpback whale watching, but we didn’t have much luck during our chilly four-hour boat trip  in famous Geographe Bay. We only spotted two whales (out of the reported 40,000), but I did capture one quick whale tail photo.

All in all, Margaret River is a fabulous and photographically inspiring place to visit. I’m still dreaming of the trees. And the coastline. And the cheese. And the wine.

Have you ever visited a new place that seemed to be a combination of other places that you know and love? Do share in the comments!