If you haven’t noticed… Australia is open for travel; big time! Everyone is getting out and about, and while international travel will at this stage be limited to New Zealand, now’s the perfect time to head out on a road trip and explore your own backyard.
In this post, I wanted to showcase with you one of my favourite destinations in Western Australia (and maybe even Australia?!) when it comes to a long weekend away enjoying a slower pace: Margaret River!
If you’re into wine, stunning scenery, a food scene to rival big cities, and those perfect roads through ancient forest, Margaret River and, in fact, the whole South West of WA is precisely what you’re looking for.
In this post:
- Getting There With Avis
- Where To Stay In Margaret River
- Best Hotels In Margaret River
- Where To Eat In Margaret River?
- Best Cafes In Margaret River
- Things To Do In Margaret River
- Time To Start Planning!
- Staying Local? A few more road trip ideas
Getting There With Avis
If you’re leaving from Perth, get yourself a rental for the weekend. Currently, you can get $50 back when you spend $270 or more with Avis if you’re an American Express Card Member and have enrolled your Card with the offer. A mid-size SUV will do the trick and keep you comfortable on the many unsealed roads down south.
I managed to get a brand new Mitsubishi Outlander for the weekend from Avis who offer an easy booking process (+ let you earn frequent flyer miles on bookings). Avis has a good selection of vehicles and my car still had that “new car smell” which also meant it was squeaky clean!
If “lockdowns” are a concern, not to worry! Avis has a flexible booking policy on all rentals which means you can cancel with zero fees and charges until 24h before your pickup time!
- Bonus tip: make sure you join Avis Preferred (it’s free), this way you just need to show your ID and off you go! No paperwork, no waiting around. Avis Preferred members also get free additional drivers and you can make use of Avis Rapid Return (which is exactly what it sounds like).
Margaret River is a comfortable 3+h drive depending on where you’re staying (more on that later) or much closer if you manage to get a direct flight from Melbourne to Busselton.
Where To Stay In Margaret River
The Margaret River hotel scene is minimal, and while we wait for the new Westin to open its doors in a few years, I do have a few favourite spots. While hotel choices are limited, there’s a huge selection of wineries and other local “retreats” scattered around the area. I would recommend staying outside of Margaret River’s township and don’t be scared by a few extra kilometres. The scenery and locations are well worth it!
Best Hotels In Margaret River
Pullman Bunker Bay
One of my favourites (yes, it’s getting a bit dated, but the location is perfect) is Pullman Bunker Bay. This Accor property is insanely popular, so book well in advance. If you’re an Amex Platinum cardholder, you will also have access to complimentary Accor Plus, which comes with a free night. Redeeming your night at Pullman Bunker Bay can be an excellent value play! On top of that, if it’s just 2 of you, Accor Plus gives you 50% of dining at the resort.
Smiths Beach Resort
Further up the road in an equally stunning location is the Smiths Beach Resort. This property has a range of accommodation offers ranging from beach shacks to ultra-luxurious two-bedroom ocean view villas.
Smiths Beach Resort is part of Small Luxury Hotels Of The World which participates in the World Hyatt program, which means you can earn Hyatt points and get extra benefits when you book via Hyatt.
Airbnb reigns supreme in the South West; here’s where you go to find all the boutique retreats and unique stays around the region. It’s also perfect if you want to get a whole house for a group of friends.
Where To Eat In Margaret River?
Food and wine go hand in hand, so you will find most larger (and some more boutique) wine houses will have their own restaurant. Some come with well-known star chefs; others have the up-and-coming culinary masters running their kitchen. It’s all about the tasting menu, and everyone is out to impress you with their fine dining creations paired with the local wines (hint: get a driver to chauffeur you. Or if you’re up for it, the local helicopter pilot will literally drop you off at the winery of your choice).
Tip: it’s all about the long lunch in Margaret River. If you want to dine at the many winery restaurants, plan on booking in for a long lunch and head into town for a more casual dinner.
While I wish they still offered the tasting menu (currently 2 or 3 courses only), I do love the location and the expansive vineyard views you get here.
We enjoyed lunch here during our most recent trip (see pictures), the tasting menu was delicious, and the location isn’t too far from Bunker Bay and only a 10-minute drive from Smiths Beach Resort. Their focus is on sustainability so expect everything to be local.
As one of the oldest vineyards in Margaret River, the Vasse Felix restaurant is one of the more recognised dining destinations and wineries in the region. Go either a-la-carte or opt for the tasting menu paired with their wines while overlooking the vineyard from your vantage point.
One of the hottest destinations right now (I couldn’t get a booking!), the family-operated and owned restaurant is also a must-visit when you’re in the region. Just make sure you book in advance, so you’re not left disappointed. They do an a-la-carte menu and have countless awards behind their name.
Best Cafes In Margaret River
Personally, I’m a big fan of Sidekick Cafe in the Margaret River town. They do excellent coffee (and a killer cold brew) and offer a range of snacks if you want something small.
If you’re on your way to the beach, stop by Combi Coffee near Surfers Point, where the pop-up coffee van (VW Combi – hence the name) will make you an excellent flat white!
Things To Do In Margaret River
Margaret River is big on wines, but it’s not just about drinking the day away. This place has so much to offer, so here are a few of my favourites:
- Grab a coffee and drive down the winding roads to Hamlin Bay, where you will find schools of stingray coming right up to the beach. You’ll also find all the locals here trying to catch a fish or two.
- Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, as the tallest lighthouse in Australia the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is unique as it watches over not 1 but 2 different oceans! Best of all, for a small fee, you can climb to the top from where you can spot whales or enjoy views of the beautiful rugged landscape.
- Visit a cave or two: Margaret River is famous for its enormous limestone cave systems. A whole bunch have been made accessible for visitors and guided tours will take you down to explore. My favourite is Jewel Cave which is about 10 minutes drive from the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.
- Wine, wine and more wine! For this, I recommend hiring a private wine tour if you’re in a group or get a taxi to and from your locations. With so many wineries around, it’s hard to recommend them all. Ideally, you can combine your visit with a long degustation lunch but if you’re looking for a custom itinerary, ask your guide to put together a list of targets depending on what wine you like. My new favourite is “SI Vinters”, who specialises in natural, biodynamic wines + it’s an idyllic location and a great spot to polish off a bottle while chatting with the owner and winemaker about their craft.
Time To Start Planning!
The American Express Open for Travel campaign has a whole bunch of partners offering credits back for Card Members. You can check out all the current offers here or check your account for any saved offers you can redeem! Rental car demand is very high right now, so Avis’s $50 credit back deal is fantastic. Other favourites are Hilton, Marriott and Expedia, to name a few.
Staying Local? A few more road trip ideas
If you’re not coming to WA (hmm, why not?!), here are a few more road trip ideas to keep you busy this autumn:
Victoria: Great Ocean Road
Rent something fun and hit the Great Ocean Road, which is one of Australia’s most famous road trips. You can be guaranteed one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world dotted with shipwrecks, rainforest sandstone cliffs (eyes on the road!). The highlight, of course, is the 12 Apostles… well, it’s really only 8! This means you shouldn’t wait too long as erosion might mean we soon have only 7 Apostles left.
New South Wales: Blue Mountains & Beyond
Coastline, mountains and rainforest. The NSW Blue Mountains have it all; start in Sydney and make your way inland towards the Blue Mountains National Park for some epic scenery.
To learn more about all the American Express Open For Travel Offers available, visit this page.
Note: This offer is for eligible American Express Card Members only. You must be enrolled in the offer first and spend $270 or more directly with Avis to get the statement credit of $50. If you’re not an Amex Card Member yet, check out our best sign-up deals here.
Full disclosure: this content was produced in partnership with American Express