Margaret River Then and Now:
We have made two trips to the wine country in Margaret River. The first was 14 years ago when we went by ourselves, traveling from Perth southward, making stops along the way. This is when we were living in Singapore. And then in December of 2019 we returned again, this time with Tracy's sister Laura and her husband Ward. On this trip we overnighted in Perth and then went directly to Margaret River. Two different trips, two different itineraries, but one common goal--to seek out good wine and new dining experiences. Writing this in 2020, we have tried to reconstruct from memory and and photos that first 2006 trip, while, fortunately, the trip from last December is relatively fresh in our minds. So, here are the Margaret River tours--then and now!

Our First Trip to Margaret River (2006):
In March of 2006, a bit worn down by the daily pace of teaching at the Singapore American School, we sought out two known elements of wellness. No, not yoga and meditation (you really don't know us, do you?), but WINE AND TRAVEL. We landed in Perth, and drove immediately to Busselton, where we overnighted before pushing on to Margaret River. Most of our time in Margaret River was devoted to the prime directive--find wine--but we did also make a side trip to the forest of Pemberton where unfortunately we did not see a single kangaroo. That would have to wait until the next trip.

First Stop: Busselton:
Busselton is about a two and a half hour drive from Perth, and is a seaside town. The photo to the left shows the downtown area, which we passed through upon arriving. The photo to the right shows the proximity of the town to the ocean. An interesting technology fact about these photos--they were shot using a high-resolution camera circa 2006. In contrast the photos in the 2019 tour were shot on an "old" iPhone 6s Plus, and the resolution was four times greater. Say what you will about the downsides of technology (and there are many) you can't complain when technology gets both cheaper and more sophisticated!

Our lodging for the night was in a cottage at the Prospect Villa which you can see, by the photo to the left, advertises itself as a "bed and breakfast"--it is right there on the fence. Imagine our surprise when we found out that there is no breakfast--it is like booking at an AirBnB and there is no air? Seriously, it was a bit of surprise. I guess they do things differently in the land of OZ.  The cottage itself (shown in the photo to the right) was airy and well appointed--other than the absence of the forementioned "breakfast."

After breakfast (last time we mention it, we promise) we set out to see some of the sights, passing by a tennis club on our way to the nearby beach. Once there we encountered Busselton's claim to fame, the longest timber-piled jetty (pier) in the southern hemisphere at 1,841 metres (6,040 ft) long. That's right, over a mile long for those of you still clinging to the imperial system of measurement. Stealing from Wikipedia here:
"The jetty features a rail line along its length, a relic of the railway line into Busselton from Bunbury. The line now carries tourists along the jetty to an underwater observatory, one of only six natural aquariums in the world, which opened to the public in 2003. A waterslide was built around a lighthouse structure next to the landward end of the jetty in 1981; it remained operating until 2011." It was certainly something to behold, and worth a side trip to see. On the left is a view of the jetty from the beach, while the photo of Tracy on the right gives some indication of the length. Below left is the train that runs the length of the jetty. Below right is an aerial view of the jetty. Belo this description is a short aerial video from YouTube which really demonstrates the length of the jetty.

Aerial View of the Busselton Jetty by vigor3d

Our Stay in Margaret River:
We stayed at two venues when in Margaret River. The first was at Prideau's where we had a serviced apartment. It was close to the downtown area and a convenient base from which to explore the town. It is shown in the photo to the left. Our last two days were spent at the Holiday Suites in Margaret River (photo to the left). Nice enough accomodations but, unfortunately, it did not have air conditioning and we were there during a heat wave in Western Australia. We fared far, far, better when it came to dining, and Margaret River has no shortage of options. A favorite was Prideau's Cafe (photo middle left). Our memory is unclear as to whether this was connected to the
place where we stayed. It seems to no longer be open. It had a homey atmosphere and a wonderful locally-based menu.  It will forever be enshrined in Dale's memory, for it was here he first tasted that Australian favorite, sticky date pudding. As Humphrey Bogart  said to Claude Rains in the last line in Casablanca, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Indeed over the years we have enjoyed this dessert again and again, usually at Buko Nero, our favorite Italian restaurant in Singapore. However, many of our dining experiences were centered around the wineries that we visited. Among the most memorable were a lobster and steak blowout at the beautiful Flutes restaurant on the grounds of the Brookland Valley winery (our "splurge" of the trip), as well as a an excellent meal at Vasse Felix. Shown at the bottom left is a beautiful cod dish Tracy had at Xanadu. Also worthy of a mention is the cafe at Woody Nook winery.  But enough about food--onto the wines!

The Wineries
Frankly, we do not recall much about the wineries here--this is not a result of too much imbibing, but rather the passage of 14 years. However, listed below are the wineries that we did visit in alcoholic (I mean alphabetic) order. Since we don't really remember much, we have included a link to the vineyard's home page, if you are interested. For those vineyards where we took a photo of the tasting room (or "cellar door" in Aussie speak), It may be accessed by clicking on the photos below.

Wineries on our 2016 Tour
(So Much Wine, So Little Time)
Abbey Vale Amberley Estate Ashbrook Estates
(Ashbrook Winery)
Brookland Valley Cape Mentelle
Cullen Wines Juniper Wines Lenton Brae Winery Madfish Wines Moss Brothers
(now Cumulus Wines)

Pierro Wines Vasse Felix Wines Willespie Wines Woody Nook

Outdoor Adventures: Glouster Park and Pemberton
While in Margaret river we did sample some of the outdoor activities for which the region is known. Dale led a student trip our third year in Singapore (link here) that focused extensively in outdoor activities, and we did not want to miss the chance to enjoy some of the outback's outdoor offerings. We drove about 100 kilometers or roughly 62 miles south of Margaret River to Pemberton, the site of the Kerri Forest. Our first stop was to the Gloucester Tree, an enormous tree with a ladder built into it, which offered scenic view for those wishing to challenge gravity. At the top was an observation tower that looked out over the forest canopy. For a virtual experience of the tree climb, please consult the video below. The Kerri Forest (photo to the left) itself was a heavily wooded area that one could drive through. We toured the route in hopes of seeing kangaroos, but were disappointed--that would have to wait for our next trip. Still it was a relaxing day and not an all together unwelcome respite from our daily excursions to the wineries.

Climbing the Gloucester Tree

Margaret River Redux (December 2019):
Seduced by the siren call of palatable wines (in short supply within our price range in Kuala Lumpur) we returned almost 14 years later to the Margaret River Area, driving down after an overnight in Perth at the Duxton (photo to the left.) We enjoyed a lovely dinner with our companions, Laura and Ward, and Tracy's favorite bridge partner, Karen. We dined at Gioia on the River. Karen, by the way, recently moved back to Australia, throwing Tracy's bridge game into complete disarray. In the morning we drove to Margaret River with our only stop being at the wonderful Bunbury Fresh Market for lunch (photo to the left).

It is safe to say that we were in for a bit of a shock upon our arrival to Margaret River. While the town remained much the same (sadly Prideau's was no more) there has been an explosion in the number of wineries since we last visited.  Rather than touring as many as possible as we did on our first visit, we sought out the advice of knowledeable Austrialian vinters at KL wine dinners and our good Melbourne friends Ken and Lyn Wheat, and put together a select list of wineries that seemed to pop up on most people's lists. Technology has also advanced considerably in the past fourteen years, and it has allowed us to put our visit into a 360-degree virtual tour. The tour takes you from Vineyard entrance to "cellar door," and again features links to the wineries. Please enjoy a virtual trip through some of the best vineyards in Margaret River.

A Virtual Tour of Margaret River Wineries
Ashbrook Estates VineyardsSnap Content

On the last day of our trip, Tracy's sister Laura rented a car so that we could drink and dine at Vasse Felix guilt-free. (photo to the left) After touring the winery and having a wonderful meal, our guide from A Touch of Glass took us on a little nature tour, which is apparently what some people do in Margaret River--don't they know there is wine there? We journeyed to the aptly named Smith's Bay and walked down the wooden boardwalk to the ocean. The view from the boardwalk is shown in the photo to the left. On the way back to Margaret River our driver and guide John Wallis took us to a residential area where we were able to see what eluded us on our first trip to Margaret River--Kangaroos. That moment is immortalized in the video below. It was the perfect ending to the day. I don't think we will wait another 14 years to return to Margaret River.

Margaret River Marsupials on the Move

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