Every day I wake up and count my blessings to be living in Australia’s south west.
Not only is there so much to see and do, it’s also a gorgeous part of the world where we have world class amenities, vineyards, forests and beaches. Yet the roads, venues and car parks are not yet overcrowded – we still have space to breathe.
Today I’d like to introduce you to my little corner of the world, and whisk you away on a weekend escape. I hope you’re inspired to visit some of the places mentioned here – the nice thing is that they are all fairly close together – and these 5 sensational places to visit in Margaret River pack a Great Itinerary!
Howard Park and Burch Family Wines
First up I’m taking you to Howard Park wine estate, near a town with a lovely name: Cowaramup – and yes, this country town really is full of cows both real ones and statues and all around you’ll find rolling scenery with wild flowers such as Spring watsonias below.
Howard Park is owned by Jeff and Amy Burch. It’s one of the oldest Western Australian wine producing estates and the largest family owned winery in WA.
From my journal:
“We walk from the clean cut lines and modern architecture of the cellar door into the huge warehouse which is essentially the engine room of the winery where row upon row of French Oak barrels containing wine are stacked. Here the soft, slightly sweet and musky smell of oaked wine pervades the air, while the chestnut coloured barrels are stained in places with marbled rosy threads where the wine has seeped through.”
“The cellar door itself is spacy and welcoming, with wood, concrete, stainless steel and curved edges on the bar counter giving it a very modern ambiance. Outside is a water feature viewed through floor to ceiling windows which also reflect the huge trees surrounding the winery. Very Feng Shui.”
“Later we are treated to an exclusive wine tasting at The Wine Chapel which is set overlooking the Leston vineyard with hills beyond. It’s enviably elegant, understated but reeking of ‘no expense spared’. Wine plebs that we are, we are guided through a lovely selection from the Howard Park range, and have a taste-plate to compliment the wines.”
Our wine tour was conducted by Cathy, who explained that Howard Park produce 3 different labels; Howard Park, Mad Fish and the French connection, Marchand and Burch.
Four sparkling wines are produced. We tasted the Jete 2009, a vintage which was awarded Top Sparkling wine in Western Australia.
This has just become my favourite sparkling wine ever!
“It’s a blend of Pinot and Chardonnay and is made in the ‘Methode Traditionelle’ which means that bottles are turned by hand during the fermenting process, as in the traditional French Champagne way. Jete is actually the name for a ballet leap. Interestingly, Jeff’s brother was a principal ballet dancer for 25 years and then worked at the winery for many years after that, so Jete was named in his honour,” Cathy told us.
Exclusive Wine and Tasting Tour at the Wine Chapel
You too could also venture behind the scenes on this exclusive tour and tasting, and discover the process from fruit to bottle as you’re guided around the winery then relax perhaps with a cheese platter (additional charges apply) or a chef-cooked lunch in the Wine Chapel.
Here you’ll taste premium wines and currently the cost for a 1.5 hour wine tour and tasting in the Chapel is $50, with a tasting plate costing extra. Booking is required.
Is it worth it? Yes. You’ll feel like Royalty. The hushed, discreet elegance of the leather filled lounge where you can feel multi-million dollar business deals might be conducted exudes an air of understated luxury. An antique wooden cabinet opens up to display a state of the art fridge and wine accoutrement storage space.
Lovely features, stunning views
The Wine Chapel tasting room has a wonderful view over the Willyabrup hills and has some lovely features such as the lights which have been created from the 38 year old vines of the prestigious Abercrombie vineyard. There are pictures on the walls of family members and people who have worked at the winery reminding you that despite the fact this is a high end tasting space, the whole thing is still very much a family affair.
Pack a Picnic
There’s no restaurant at Howard Park, although small cheese and pate tasting plates can be ordered. You’re welcome to take along your own picnic and buy a bottle of wine, then sit out at the picnic tables in the gorgeous grounds and enjoy your own fare.
The heart of it all
We loved the connection between all the different themes and stories behind the wines, and the fact that members of the family are involved bringing together their different passions and strengths. We also loved the fact that there is heart in the business; one of the wine makers sadly died at the age of 50 from ovarian cancer and as she had been the one to instigate production of the sparkling wine, she’s remembered now by a sparkling wine named after her.
That’s all heart and soul, I think.
Howard Park Wines, Miamup Road, Cowaramup, Wa 6285. Tel: (08) 9756 5200 Web: Howard Park
Bettaney’s Wines and Nougat
Not far from Howard Park, in fact just down the road, you’ll find Bettaney’s. This is another family affair but it’s a winery with a difference.
For a start they produce a label of wine called “Lost the Plot” one of which is made with a strong overtone of chilli. Now that’s not so usual in classic wine country. Nor is the fact that they also hand produce nougat – 28 different varieties to be exact. And two Nougaretto liqueurs made from almost liquid nougat and alcohol, which are quite simply to die for.
Move over Baileys, I say!
A wine harvested at night
Vivacious Nicola led us through our wine tasting and told us that the one I enjoyed the most, a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is harvested at night in order to produce it’s crisp lightness.
“It’s harvested by floodlights by a small team of people and due to the nighttime harvesting it’s quite short on the palate,” she said.
Mmmm, I loved it. Great with fish I’d imagine.
We also enjoyed the Reserve Chardonnay 2009 which is more of a New Zealand style wine.
“It’s watered throughout the summer which brings down the concentration of the grape and then spends 10 months in oak,” Greg told us.
To me it had a very slightly oaked flavor with burnt toasted sugar and crème brulee overtones. So that’s probably why I thought it was so Yum!
A little bit of fun
Two other favourites were from the wonderfully named “Lost the Plot” range. Sweet Dreams red wine was an easy, sweeter red, a summer wine – which I thought would be a great wine for Sangria – and then a “Lost the Plot” Hot Flush Rose with more than a hint of chilli.
It would be a fun party piece – and what a wonderful blind tasting it would make at a dinner party 🙂 lol! It would also be great with cheese and biscuits at the end of a meal.
Bring on the nougat
There are many more red and white wines to try at Bettenay’s but I was hanging out for the Nougat, 28 varieties of which are made by Bryce, Greg and Terri Bettenay’s son.
One look at a big pot of goodness that he was mixing up had me hooked, and I was behind the scenes into the production process like a flash.
We learnt all about the history of nougat and how it’s made, watching Bryce go through the stages. That day he was making ginger and almond nougat, but you might like traditional combinations such as Cranberry & Pistachio or Wildberry and Macadamia for instance.
After watching the production process where Bryce mixed, whizzed, added flavours and poured, I was invited to try the hot, gooey nougat before it was prepared to set.
Ohhmargawd! It was so delicious.
Move over Baileys – you have competition!
Finally we tasted the unique nougat liqueur, Nougaretto in both Honey Almond and Coffee Almond Flavours.
Liquid heaven! Yes of course we had to buy some to take home 😉
These cream liqueurs are essentially nougat with alcohol, similar to a Mead, and although we quite happily tasted them neat, they would be lovely over ice cream or summer strawberries or poured over ice on a hot day.
“We try to support local nut and fruit growers and the nougat is all hand crafted sourcing the finest ingredients. Each bar is hand cut and individually wrapped. One and a half tons of honey are used a year,” Bryce told us.
Wow! Can you believe that!
400 bars are made a day. There are currently 28 flavours. Some to tempt you: Limoncello Crème, Mango & Macadamia, Double Chocolate Mint, Rum and Raisin and more!
Nougat is essentially made from egg white, glucose, a little sugar (not as much as in commercial varieties), white chocolate for colour, and 100% gluten free rice flour.
Bettaney’s is a small winery producing around 15,00 – 20,000 bottles a year. All of which are made on the property.
Greg is the main winemaker, Bryce makes wine and nougat, Terri among many other things is in charge of the cottages.
Bettaney’s have 2 cottages for holidaymakers to rent, situated behind the olive grove, and a spa apartment with views of the lake.
Open 7 days: 10am – 5pm
Cnr Tom Cullity Drv and Miamup Rd, Cowaramup, WA 6284. Ph: (08) 97 555 539. Web: Bettaney’s Wine and Nougat
Here is a small winery with a lovely restaurant and a stunning view across a lake, fields and forest. The winding driveway leads slightly up an incline and the restaurant has a relaxed indoor/outdoor atmosphere.
We enjoyed an interesting wine tasting session of both white and red wines, led through by the knowledgeable Craig, followed by a delicious lunch.
Wine tasting notes
NV Bubbles is a sparkling wine made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chenin. We tried this first up and it was light and fruity, fresh and fizzy with a delightful citrus zing.
Then we tasted the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. I love Sauvignon Blanc and this delivered as promised a crisp, light, dry white with gooseberry and white peach overtones.
Next up was the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (Reserve).
“You’ll find this has flavours of peach, gooseberry, and lime with subtle creamy oak notes as well as a little vanilla coming through,” explained Craig at the cellar door. “It would also go well with cheese, seafood and poultry.”
This was a really nice lunchtime wine, so we ordered a glass each to have with our food. We decided to share and ordered the special of snapper, and some selected Tapas. Everything was cooked to perfection.
How did it all begin?
Brookwood Estate was born after a discussion over a winery lunch in the winter of 1995. Six months after considering a sea change to Margaret River Trevor and Lyn Mann relocated to the famous wine region in pursuit of an adventure into Viticulture. The only experience they had in the field of winemaking and viticulture was sampling plenty of the product.
But they had a vision and now nurture 6 hectares of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes respecting the environment and adopting biologically balanced viticulture.
“Brookwood Estate is home to a unique range of wines, a selection of gourmet food products, and a relaxed winery café. We invite you to come and sit back on the verandah, relax, take in the sweeping vineyard views, breathe in the open spaces and slow down the pace of life.”
100% family owned and operated.
Single vineyard planted in 1996.
Want a bottle of wine from the cellar door to have with lunch in the café? Too easy and there’s no mark up.
The Mellow Rouge 2014 is the estate’s best selling wine, very easy drinking.
The 2014 Chenin Blanc is reportedly one of the best Chenin Blancs in this area due to the terroir. It’s fruity, with some pineapple, lychee and red apple coming through.
Brookwood produce 11 different wines, from 5 different grape varieties.
430 Treeton Rd, Treeton WA 6284. Winery café open 11am to 3pm, cellar door open 11am to 5pm. Stay: One cottage sleeping four – $250 to $270 per night for the cottage including 1 continental breakfast. Phone:(08) 9755 5604 Web: Brookwood Estate
Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
Saturday night and it’s buzzing at Swings Taphouse & Kitchen. After a day of reasonably muted wineries Swings in Margaret River was a wake-up call. A nice one … as we had become a little sleepy after a busy day of wine tasting 😉 Lol!
Hip and Happening
There was music and a busy restaurant, as well as adventure sports being shown on a big screen in the bar. Was that a Margaret River wave we wondered as a huge wall of water poured over the screen with a tiny surfer shooting into its barrel.
“Hi Jo, nice to meet you,” said Annie, “Just give me a moment and I’ll pop over for a chat,” with which Annie was engulfed in a crowd at the bar. A few minutes later she was back with a smile on her face to introduce our lovely waiter for the night, Leo (pictured above).
The restaurant is what I like to imagine as New York Warehouse style. It’s funky and happening. There’s a huge rotary washing line feature complete with pegs in the centre of the restaurant and industrial size shelving along one wall.
Tasty Tapas choices to share
The menu was delightful and so was the food. You can expect a menu designed for sharing, simple and rustic; A selection of Tapas created as share plates with excellent pizzas cooked in a wood fire oven, as well as a small selection of main plates including Beef short rib, skordalia, smoked paprika and cumin oil or 12 hour lamb shoulder, celeriac, pickled lemon, shaved fennel.
What was really lovely was the service. Leo and Annie were great and despite the busy restaurant they offered a service which was both fast and friendly.
All in all the atmosphere was fun, buzzy and full of fun.
Delectable eats and treats
To eat we shared Tapas to start with: Freo sardines, grilled sourdough, crushed tomatoes, jalapenos. Wood roasted baby vege, hummus, dukkah, lemon. Prawns & chorizo braised in cider, crème fraiche.
To follow we shared a Boscaiola pizza which had a tomato base with mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, spicy salami, garlic & basil.
Wine and Beer on Tap
The Swings and Roundabouts cellar door is at the northern end of the Margaret River region, and at Swings Taphouse in Margs there are as the name suggests wines on tap showcasing the Estate’s wines. You can buy award winning Swings and Roundabouts wines on tap, delivered by ‘sight glass fonts’ served in the glass, half carafe or carafe. You can also buy cider and beer on tap as well.
Swings is on the main street of Margaret River, at 85 Bussell Hwy. It’s open for brunch, lunch and dinner. Tel: (08) 9758 7155 Web: Swings and Roundabouts
St Allard Eco Resort
After a wonderful day it was time to head back to the St Allard Eco Resort, where we’d booked in earlier. Leaving Margaret River northbound on the Bussell Highway we turned off onto a gravel road called Tanah Marah, driving through a forest of Karri, Marri and Jarah.
As the sun was sinking in the sky the gravel road glowed a russet red and the forest wrapped itself around us as if we were Hanzel and Gretel. It was a very special entrance.
From my journal
“At the end of the forested road, like a present, is a clearing and here we found St Allard Eco Resort. We make our way towards a modern building housing the restaurant and reception. All around there are colourful shrubs and birdsong; Grevillea red as rubies, lilac Agapanthus, lemon trees laden with yellow fruit, and a flurry of New Holland honey eaters darting from bus to bush while above we are delighted by a sudden whoosh of black cockatoos
Our chalet is situated on the opposite side of a large lake appropriately called St Allard. We have sweeping views cross the fields and up into the forest. I’ve read that the resort consists of 575 acres consisting of forest, parkland type grounds and the lake.
It’s beautiful. A very peaceful spot. After making a cup of Lady Grey tea in the shared common room built between us and our neighbours, I return to our room to sit on the bed, look out across the view and daydream as the clouds turn pink on the hillside and the sun sets on what has been a wonderful day.”
The chalets are roomy and comfortable, well appointed with two king sized bedrooms with floor to ceiling windows separated by a communal living, dining area with fridge, and tea and coffee making facilities. Each pair of suites share a kitchen and lounge area which seemed a bit strange at first, but actually wasn’t a problem.
I had a nice chat with our neighbor who must have thought me a bit daft. First of all I was caught trying to get into their chalet (with the wrong key) as they drove up into their parking area, and later I was apologizing for looking into the (empty) freezer part of the fridge in the communal area saying; “I’m looking for the remote control to the TV”.
Ok there is a story to this. Having vehemently denied any knowledge of its whereabouts, and after having looked for it EVERYWHERE the remote was later found on my side of the bed under a pile of tourist brochures 😉
Our night was so peaceful. Apart from the stars in the sky there was no light pollution, and certainly no noise pollution save for the rustle of bunny rabbits scurrying across the grass in front of our chalet.
The next morning we were up early for breakfast and walked down to the light, bright restaurant overlooking the lake. Ducks were about their morning rituals. There were birds in abundance including; parrots, kookaburras and fairy wrens.
As we chomped on a very good breakfast I couldn’t help thinking how far I felt from the hustle and bustle of normal life and Margaret River, which although only about 5 minutes away could be a million light years away from this spot by a lake in the forest.
Things I really liked
You can hire bikes, there’s a 9 hole golf course and club hire, 7 different walks, garden chess and checker board, childrens play area, bird watching, walks, tennis court and Eco Tours.
Two umbrellas and LED torches are supplied in the room.
You could arrange to have gourmet bbq packs to cook and enjoy at leisure or if you give 24 hours notice you could organize for a Private chef to cook for you.
Extra long king size bed looking out over the lake.
Large double shower and double vanity
Compact Bluetooth stereo system with docking station and CD player
Fluffy white Bathrobes and luxurious bath sheets
Under verandah seating area with table and chairs and wonderful view.
Driver and taxi services can be arranged if you want to go into Margaret River.
What’s in the Shared Area between the bedrooms?
The shared area is reached via a door under the carport and also via a door on the verandah.
We loved the Lavazza capsule coffee machine.
There’s also a microwave, kettle and fridge along with complimentary tea, coffee and milk.
Spacious lounge area and a dining area.
The resort is around 5 minutes from Margaret River
6 rammed earth chalets are named after Australian wildlife; Possum, Quokka, Kangaroo, Wallaby, Bandicoot, Quenda.
Each chalet has 2 comfortable and well appointed king sized bedrooms with bathrooms and a desk area, separated by a shared living area.
St Allard’s Eco Resort, 255 Tanah Marah Road, Margaret River. Tel: (08) 9757 9007 Web: St Allards Resort
Disclaimer: My itinerary was prepared by Geographe Bay Tourism Association and Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and participating venues hosted me free of charge. However, opinions are my own.
You might also like: Top 10 Things to do around Margaret River and Cowaramup, and to work off the food and wine, 2 Easy Bike Trails in Margaret River
Which of the venues above do you think you would like to visit most and why? Or can you recommend another super venue in Margs?