We left Pemberton quite early as there were a lot of things we wanted to do and see on the way to Margaret River – more specifically some wine estates for me! We also expected the weather to not be great from the weather forecast so didn’t quite know how the day would pan out. We drove through some more forests interspersed with farmland and it was all nice and green and very pretty – though still quite same-ish!
All along the road we saw fields and fields of Arum lilies, like I’ve never seen before – absolutely masses of them. I wish we could have stopped to take proper pictures but it was never quite possible, and the ones I got don’t do the reality any justice.
As we approached Augusta the rain started in earnest and for a while it looked like our trip to Leeuwin Lighthouse might be compromised, but it soon cleared again. Augusta is a lovely town with very good views and quaint shops – we kept going to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse where we decided not to bother with paying the entrance fee as we’ve seen a few lighthouses in our time and couldn’t really see that this one would be much different – plus the wind was howling and we didn’t feel like being out it in!
We decided to rather head back to Augusta where it wasn’t quite so gusty and stopped for fish & chips at Blue Ocean Fish & Chips before popping into the local wine shop where I was shocked to see very good Bourbon (Gentleman Jack & Bulleit) pre-mixed with coke! The fish was good but the chips not so much – way too crunchy for chippy chips! Something else we’ve been seeing in the smaller towns is drive-in or drive-thru bottle stores which I find quite odd as they keep going on about trying to do something about alcohol abuse and issues with alcohol in the country on the news, yet you can get access to (very expensive) alcohol without even getting out of your car in most WA towns!
From Augusta we drove north and took the Caves Road, stopping quickly at Hamelin Bay, before going to Mammoth Cave. Mammoth Cave is another limestone cave like a few we’ve been to before and not all that exciting, except for the fact that we were there completely on our own and as the tour was unguided we could move at our own pace – which is generally quite quick! Afterwards I did ‘n walk through the forest where I spotted some local wild flower and heard some more birds I couldn’t quite spot!
Finally it was time for the highlight of the day when we made our first stop for a wine tasting at Leeuwin Estate. I tried some of their free wines, as well as their Premium Chardonnay (apparently the most collected Chardonnay in Oz) and Premium Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were very good, but I especially enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend – the first of many I tried over the next few days! Next we stopped at Voyager Estate which is quite different from Leeuwin and with a much more boutique feel. Leeuwin is one of the bigger and most famous estates and it shows in the care and presentation of their tasting experience. Not that Leeuwin was bad, but Voyager was very attentive and with much more personalised attention. Voyager is also very interesting from a South African perspective as the tasting centre is built in the Cape Dutch style that we are so very familiar with from our wine estates in the Winelands. Apparently the first wine grapes planted in Western Australia were imported from South Africa, which is why they decided to give their estate a Cape Dutch feel. They also have lovely gardens though it was too cold and windy to walk around it much – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
From Voyager it is a quick drive to Margaret River, which turned out to be a lot bigger and busier than I expected. We checked into the Margaret River Holiday Suites, which was by far the worst accommodation we’ve had so far, but still ok. We headed out early as there was no WiFi and did a quick walk around town before settling into the SettlersTavern for Happy Hour beer and wine. I ended up wanting to eat there, but true to form, and from what we’ve seen the couple of nights before, soon after six the place filled up with groups of people and couples, all wanting to eat at the same time and queuing up to place their food orders. The Tavern was a huge pub so we decided not to wait and I had something to eat round our hotel’s bar/bistro. I managed to try a few more local wines in the pub and I definitely know a lot more Margaret River wine brands than I used to!