The WA Now and ThenTtravel Blog


The Magic of Margaret River

Sometimes I wonder how the weather seems to know when we are about to go away for a trip. It was up to its usual tricks again this time and after some hot weather, the day we were off to the south west, along came a nice big storm with a lot of rain and high winds.

We had already booked in at Olive Hill Farm so there was nothing for it but to head off and hope for the best.

Thankfully the rain slowly eased off and all we had to deal with was the high winds. The Coaster was a bit slower than usual as a result but we finally arrived at our destination.

As we had pre-booked, it was simply a matter of selecting an unoccupied campsite and settling in.

Olive Hill Farm is only about 10 minutes drive from Margaret River town and is located along Bramley River Road. The road is unsealed and a little corrugated but nothing to worry about.

During the time we were staying, the camping fees were $7.50 per person per night. If you want to use the dump point then that is an extra $5 per use and if you need drinking water, that is available for $1 per 25 litres.

This is a great idea as it makes essential facilities available but you only pay for them when you need them and the nightly fees are kept as low as possible.

The owners, Helen and Benji, have their own caravan and have done quite a bit of travelling themselves so they know what travellers need and what they are looking for.

The campsite is for self-contained vehicles which means bring your own toilet and don't drop any water on the campsite and that includes washing up and shower water.

Campsites are nice and level and are all spaced out in an olive grove. Although you can see other campers, there is none of the over-crowing that goes on in caravan parks where you are close enough to hear the neighbours break wind!

Mini skip bins are available for dumping rubbish, one for general waste and one for recycleable waste.

Helen and Benji are very friendly and helpful. They have owned the farm for 13 years and have done a great job developing the camping area.

There are some special events held each week and the first we got to go to was haggis tasting. That will probably give you some idea that Helen and Benji are not 100% locals and the sound of the bagpipes to announce the tasting was on, will solidify exactly where their origins are.

Although I have some Scottish ancestry, I have never tried haggis, so I gave it a go to see what it was all about. I had expected something rather weird but in the end, it wasn't anywhere near as scary as my imagination had made it. I can't say it is something I would go earnestly searching for but it was pleasant enough.

Along with the tasting there are products available from the farm that include a selection of meats and smoked cheese. We bought some beef sausages to eat during the trip. (They were very good!)


Olive Hill Farm Campsite
Olive Hill Farm Campsite


Next morning we took a walk down to the river along the Woodland Walk. This was very pleasant and the river would be a great spot for a dip on a hot summer's day. Then it was time to do a bit of exploring.


River picnic area
River at Olive Hill Farm


This trip was dual purpose, first to relax a bit but also to visit some places in the Margaret River area that we have never been to before.

Considering the number of times we have been down that way, one might think that we should have seen everything by now but in reality, there is just so much to see and do that there are still plenty of places for us to check out.

The first one we dropped in to was the Colonial Brewery that is only a few minutes up the road.

This turned out to be bad planning as we were still heading out to other attractions so we decided to leave tasting the beer until another visit.


Colonial Brewery
Colonial Brewery


The next place to check out was Millers Ice Cream Farm.

There were a lot of ice cream flavours to try out and in the end we got 4 different flavours; pina-colada, mascarpone, apple crumble and panna cotta.

It was nice smooth, creamy ice cream but we thought the flavours could have been a bit stronger. In any case it was ice cream and it is very hard not to be happy with a few scoops of ice cream to enjoy.

The price? Well it is Margaret River and you have to pay a premium there. The main problem is that businesses have to make most of their money in a 4 month period so in order to stay in business, many of them have to charge higher prices.

We more or less accept this as a fact of life now and if we really want something and we won't go broke buying it, then we just get it.


Millers ice cream
Millers ice cream


We had two weeks to explore the area so there was no need to rush around. We went to Gracetown for lunch and a nice cool breeze was blowing so we ended up staying the whole afternoon.


Lefthanders a little south of Gracetown.


Another event at the campsite was on the next morning with yummy pikelets and jam being served by the white tent. It is a great idea to have these gatherings as it encourages the guests to get together and have a chat.

The flies around Margaret River had been a bit too numerous and friendly so it was time to head into town to pick up something to discourage their unwanted attentions.

Before we hit the shops we stopped off at Rotary Park (on the north side of town) and had a look around. Believe it or not we have never been there before despite driving by countless times.

It was a great little park with good picnic and BBQ facilities and located right beside the picturesque river.


The river next to the park
The river next to Rotary Park


Across a foot bridge was the old settlement with some historic buildings and memorabilia. There is also a place where you can hire a bike to explore some of the local trails.

The old settlement shows some of the style of buildings that were used in the days of Group settlement.

Buildings include a school, house and a blacksmiths. There is also an old pottery workshop that has now been converted into a cafe.

It is free to walk around but there is a small charge to enter the buildings when they are open. Check out the Settlement Website for more information.


Old Settlement
Old Settlement


When we went shopping it was inevitable that something else would find its way in to the shopping trolley and we had chocolate eclairs for morning tea.

Lunch on this occasion was spent down near the mouth of the Margaret River and again, it turned into an afternoon of relaxing and watching the ocean waves breaking on the beach.

Blue sky, cooling sea breeze and just sitting watching the surf roll in, can life get any better than that?


Margaret River mouth
Margaret River mouth


The plan was to visit the Colonial Brewery on the way back to camp but then we realised that they had discounted tasting later next week (tuesdays) so we put that off for a few days.

The original intention was to move around to a few different campsites but we were enjoying Olive Hill Farm so much that we decided to use it as a base for the whole trip.

It is so central to the area and we really couldn't think of anything better so we booked for another 7 nights.

The longest day of the trip so far started off next day with a drive north to Dunsborough. This is an attractive beachside town that we have often skipped in the past.

It has always seemed too far off our course or was just somewhere on the way to somewhere else.

This time we actually stopped and had a rather brief look around.




After taking some footage and some pics we continued to Cape Naturaliste Lighgthouse.

If you don't want a guided tour of the lighthouse then entry to the grounds is just $8 or $5 conscession. It was worth going in and having a look around.

The area around the keeper's cottages has been significantly updated with boardwalks and a children's playground now available.

The old lighthouse keeper's quarters are now an entry station, a proposed museum and a café with some rooms dedicated to displaying items from bygone eras.


Cape Naturaliste Cafe
Cape Naturaliste Cafe


After checking this area out we took the road heading back toward Dunsborough and spotted a turn off to Sugarloaf Rock. I assume that the rock is so named as it bears a resemblance the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

More pics and footage and it was off to explore the coast from Eagle Bay to Meelup which is very scenic indeed.


Sugarloaf Rock
Sugarloaf Rock


We have travelled this route before and on one occasion we stopped (on a 40C day) to have a swim at Eagle Bay. The beach there has to be one of the best in the area and the water is a perfect shade of blue.

Meelup is a stunning drive even though it is quite short.

Once back on the main road we headed for Yallingup as that was the final destination for the day.


Eagle Bay
Eagle Bay


Yallingup is a rather small town mostly dedicated to holidaying and surfing.

Even though the surf was completely blown out, there was a strong wind and the kite surfers were making the most of the conditions.




The day had pretty much got away from us by this stage and there was just time for a brief stop at the old Yallingup Hall before we made our way back to camp.

Not long after we got back there was a bit of a communal gathering and a game of right, left, centre, keep. It is a dice game and was a great way to break the ice with other campers.

Helen and Benji even brought their own caravan to the campsite for the night so it was an interesting end to a rather tiring day.


Playing Left Right Centre Keep.
Playing Left Right Centre Keep.


After all the driving the day before we decided to have a rest day in camp.

Rest is a relative thing because it involved removing the rear trailer door and greasing the hinges, fixing a seal in one of the trailer hatches, securing the 12v power on top of the dashboard of the Coaster, installing the new TPMS systems on the Coaster and re-wiring the rear camera.

Then we started researching which places we want to visit and film in the coming week.

Even so, it was less tiring than the day before.

With the 'rest day' behind us it was time to get back to finding places to visit and film.

One that we must have driven past literally hundreds of times is the Shell Museum 3km north of Witchcliffe.

There is only one small brown sign that tells people where to find it so it is no wonder we haven't been there until we started looking for new places to visit.

Sadly filming and photography aren't allowed inside so all we got was a view of the front of the building and the car-park. (The picture here comes from Trip Advisor.)


Shell Museum north of Witchcliffe
Shell Museum north of Witchcliffe


The owners, Cath and Peter have been running the museum for about 40 years and Peter only gave up diving for shells when he was 72. Cath says it was the increasing sightings of great white sharks that finally got Peter out of deep water and back into the shallows.

While it is a bit sad that we can't bring you video of the shells, we highly recommend it as a place to see when you are in the Margaret River area.

It is the largest collection of its type in Australia and the largest private collection in the world.

Shells are the main feature of the museum but there are also fish, crabs and plenty of other related marine items to have a look through.

If you are planning to visit the museum it is a good idea to call ahead as Cath and Peter do sometimes take a couple of days off.

We drove south from the museum to Witchcliffe and then turned onto Redgate Road.

Our next destination was Boranup Gallery. Here you will find some stunning wood furniture, art work and sculptures. Even if you aren't looking to buy anything, it is really worth a visit to have a look around.

There is also a café where you can relax and have a cuppa before moving on.


Boranup Gallery
Boranup Gallery


We back-tracked to Redgate Road and headed west down to the beach. It is often very crowded in peak season and it can be all but impossible to find parking but before the rush it isn't nearly as busy.

That was our final destination for the day because we had already decided to have lunch and then relax and watch the ocean crash into the rocks that lie just off the coast here.

The occasional large thump meant that a larger than usual wave had smashed into one of the rocks and put on a display of flying white water.


Splash Rock at Redgate
Splash Rock at Redgate


I tried out the Travel Buddy again, this time with a rolled chicken roast. Veggies seem to take a lot longer so I cut them into smaller cubes in the hope that they would cook faster. It did work reasonably well.

The smell of the roast as we drove back to camp was VERY nice.

The next subject for exploration was booze. Obviously Margaret River is well known for the production of wine but the growth in other areas of alcohol manufacture in the past few years has been substantial.

Most places don't open until 10 or 11 am so the first destination was Barrett Street Weir.

This is located on the northern edge of town and is another easily accessible spot that we have never seen before.

As we were using WikiCamps we followed the directions to the end of Barrett Street only to find that there was no proper parking, just a turn-around. There was a track leading down to a dirt road and this led down towards the weir.

We back-tracked to Wilmott Rd. and followed it along to where the dirt track led to the river.

It was a great little spot and looked like it would be even better on a nice hot day as the water was clear and very inviting.

This trip has shown just how many good places there are around the Margaret River area that we have been completely unaware of for many years.

There is a walk trail leading from the weir back to Rotary Park and there is another trail leading out to 10 Mile Dam / Brook. The latter would probably be best done by bicycle though.


Barrett Street Weir
Barrett Street Weir


10am rolled around and we moved on to have a look at Margaret River Brewing. This is just north of Rotary Park so we parked the Coaster at the park and walked the short distance to the brewery.

We weren't sure if the parking at the brewery would be ok for the Coaster so that is why we stopped at the park.

A note about long vehicle parking.

One note about long vehicle parking needs to be made. Parking for big vehicles like motorhomes and caravans is usually not easy to find and can be very scarce.

If smaller vehicles take up parking that is clearly marked for buses and caravans, then it makes life a lot more difficult.

This morning there were two vehicles using the long vehicle parking area that should have been using the standard parking bays - which were plentiful.

We would ask people to please think about where you are parking and keep long vehicle parking free for those who really need it.

Back to the brewery.

It turned out that this was one of the attractions that opens at 11am so all we got to do was to take a few photos and a bit of footage.


Margaret River Brewhouse
Margaret River Brewhouse


Our next planned destination was, Margaret River Distilling Co., only just across the road and it opened at 10am so we went in to try some of the booze they make.

The prices were a bit of a shock to the system with the highest end single malt whisky coming in at over $700. That was a bit much for our wallets so we tasted the liqueurs and a gin (of which there are several). Tastings do cost here and start at $3 a go.

I went a bit crazy and bought a bottle of Oraiste Orange Liqueur which at $72 was not an item that would normally feature on my shopping list but this was a bit of a holiday as well as a filming trip and if you can't splurge a bit on holiday, when can you?

The young lass at the counter was very helpful and informative and gave a bit of a history of the company and the products they make. To be honest, it was her very friendly nature that encoraged me to buy something I might otherwise have shyed away from.


Margaret River Distilling Co.
Margaret River Distilling Co.


The day was warming up considerably so it was time to look for a spot to spend the afternoon that had a nice cooling breeze. That turned out to be back down near the mouth of the Margaret River and the wind was down just a bit from previous days which allowed me to get the drone out of mothballs.

On the way home we checked out Colonial Brewing as we were too early to start sampling the last time we dropped in.

On Tuesdays they have a $9 sampling paddle with 5 beers. I would like to say that it was fantastic but I make my own beer and my favourite commercial beer is Redback by Matilda Bay Brewing so in comparison, the beers at Colonial just didn't 'do it' for me. I have to say that the Sour South Western was certainly not mis-named though


Beer tasting paddle
Beer tasting paddle


Dinner was T-Bone on the Baby-Q , potato wedges and eggs, oh yum, that was really good!

Wednesday was a busy day as it turned out.

The first stop was at the Margaret River Nougat which is also Bettenay's Winery. We were mostly interested in trying the nougat which turned out to be very nice. It is the old French style of nougat and the one we really like.

There were three varieties to test but the whole range stretches to 35 varieties!

With 35 varieties, where could we start? Well it was just a case of picking those that sounded best and they had a buy 4 get 1 free offer so that was what we ended up doing.

Nougat, even the cheapest stuff from supermarkets, is never cheap so be prepared to pay around the $15 mark for 200g. We think it is worth it though because it isn't easy to find really good nougat these days.


Margaret River Nougat
Margaret River Nougat


It also turned out that there were some liqueurs on the counter to test and we couldn't resist. We aren't much interested in most ordinary wines but liqueurs, that is a different story.

Tasting here was free so we gave them all a try. There was a chilli rose that was different but not quite what we like, the chocolate port wasn't really all that chocolatey but we really liked the honey nougat liqueur and the nougat coffee liqueur.

We ended up buying some which we hadn't really intended to do but oh well..


Bettenay's Winery
Bettenay's liquours


With the wallet a bit lighter we made the short drive to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. This is one of the well known attractions around Margaret River but they give free samples of chocolate so how could we not include them here?

There is also a viewing window where you can watch the chocolates being made.

The chocolate always looks amazing and there is more chocolate in there than I have ever seen anywhere else but good chocolate isn't hard to come by at cheaper prices.

We have been there before but have rarely bought anything as we find the prices a bit steep for just chocolate. I needed some up to date footage so we dropped in, got what we needed and moved on.


Cholcolate Factory
Cholcolate Factory


We had heard of a new business nearby selling honey but when we tried to look it up we didn't find any info. The next destination plugged into the GPS on the phone was Vasse Virgin. They sell all sorts of products that have olive oil as an ingredient, everything from cosmetics to soap and to food products.

Google Maps decided to take us there via the 'scenic route' but it did get us there eventually.

The smell of the oils and fragrances as you walk in to the building is incredible. If only they could bottle all those scents combined, they would make a fortune overnight.

There are lots of testers and samples of the food items to try and it is all free. We tried quite a few of the relishes, jams and dressings but settled on an amazing macadamia nut pesto.


Vasse Virgin
Vasse Virgin


Next was Cape Lavendar, which, as the name certainly suggests, sells products with a lavender base. We visited them many years ago when the business was located further south and I have to say that the former property was way better than the current one.

The products were still pretty much as we remembered and there is a café section where you can stop and enjoy a beverage but we were still on our way to other places so we bought some lavender oil and moved on again.


Cape Lavendar
Cape Lavendar


The next attraction was more natural and one of the many places we seem to have always missed on previous trips.

Smith's Beach turned out to be one of the best beaches in the area with a wide sandy beach and a sheltered bay. Well it was sheltered the day we visited anyway.

There is accommodation there in the form of some sort of resort, but not much else.

A walk trail leads around the coast to Canal Rocks and on the way there is a place called 'The Aquarium'.

We didn't have time to do the walk but apparently it is a natural pool area that is great for snorkelling due to the number of fish.


Smiths beach
Smiths beach


As the road to Smith's Beach comes off the road to Canal Rocks, we dropped in there as well just for a bit of a refresher.

I had hoped to fly the drone and get some pics from the air but the wind had been very strong the entire trip and I have only managed to fly a couple of times. Even those I managed to screw up as I am still learning the more high tech settings of this drone. Our old Pahntom 1 was much more simple but a lot less capable.

After getting the footage from the ground we moved on again.


Canal Rocks
Canal Rocks


The next stop was Indjup Beach. The beach is great but access isn't exactly easy so we got some pics from the lookout and then moved on the what they call the natural spa.

When it is working properly, waves come in over rocks and fill a small pool with bubbly water. The pool is a short walk over some pretty uneven and rocky ground but all we saw the day we checked it out was a bunch of expectant and slightly disappointed people standing knee deep in the pool with nothing but a flat sea to look out on.




Even though we were not in peak season, the car park was almost full so I can just imagine how crowded it gets when the main body of holiday makers turn up.

On the way back to camp we dropped in to Gabriel Chocolate. After looking at the big Chocolate Factory earlier in the day, this really wasn't very impressive. Perhaps we should have done it the other way around and we might have been a bit more impressed.

Again there is a café servings drinks, cakes and ice cream.


Gabrieal Chocolate
Gabrieal Chocolate


It was already getting a bit late in the afternoon so we dropped in to the lookout at Gracetown to have a short rest before heading back to Olive Hill. It had been a very full day indeed.

The plan was to start slowing down a bit and not do too much in the last few days.

The agenda was to visit Kevill Street Waterfall, The Melting Pot glass studio and then Ellensbrook Homestead.

Sounds pretty relaxed, just three places to visit and then the afternoon off relaxing by the sea. Well that was plant 'A'.

We picked the wrong spot for the waterfall as we stopped at the second car parking space (near a water tank) and followed a track to the river. There were some rocks but no waterfall so we returned to the Coaster and kept going.

The third car parking spot was what we had really should have picked and we finally found the waterfall.

The river was still flowing but not very much but it wasn't hard to imagine how spectacular the falls could be after good rains.

The rock bar isn't all that high but it is wide and we will try and get back to have a look sometime closer to the end of winter.


Kevill Street Waterfall
Kevill Street Waterfall


From there it was only a short drive to The Melting Pot. This is a glass studio where Gerry (the artist in residence and owner) makes one off pieces of glass art or sets of all sorts of glassware. Don't expect Kmart prices here, this is real art and each piece is unique.

Gerry was in the process of doing some commission work and we were treated to seeing a piece created from start to finish.

To watch a molten lump of glass become a thing of beauty and to see the skill with which Gerry worked the glass was a real privilege.

If you would like to visit and see the workshop and buy some of Gerry's art, please give him a ring first as visits are by apointment only.


The Melting Pot
The Melting Pot


Filming and photographing the creation of this piece took some time and by the time we reached Ellensbrook, it was well after midday.

We continued to the beach car park beyond Ellensbrook and had lunch before walking down to check out the beach.

This was a pretty quiet area and the beach was nice but not the most spectacular in the area.


Beach near Ellensbrook
Beach near Ellensbrook


After lunch it was back to Ellensbrook Homestead and on what was my third visit, I finally got to see inside the buildings.

To think that this farm dates back to the earliest settlement in this area made me reflect on what life would have been like and how hard it must have been to carve an existence out of sometimes harsh and forbidding land.

The homestead is somewhat smaller than it once was as some rooms have been lost over time but the essence of the original building remains and if you take a picnic lunch, there are some lovely spots by the stream under some shady trees.

There is a fee to view the buildings but it all goes to help maintain the site so it is a few dollars well spent.

By the time we had finished filming and looking around the afternoon had slipped away and it was time to head back to Olive Hill.


Beach near Ellensbrook
Beach near Ellensbrook


We made a slight detour to Cowaramup on the way but what had been planned to be a semi-rest day had turned into a full day after all.

With only two full days left, we had a couple of places we wanted to visit, so we set off for The Berry Farm mid-morning.

The Berry Farm was one of the earliest attractions in Margaret River to start offering things other than wine. Of course they also do wine, ciders and liqueurs but there are jams, honeys, relishes and more.

They have one of the widest ranges of products to taste and it is still free tasting.

You are limited to 5 tastings of the alcohol per head but if you go as a couple then you can share a glass and taste 10 different alcoholic drinks.

We settled on a bottle of Quince Cider that was very unusual. Later, I wished I had bought more... The reuseable cap for the bottle was great, perhaps the Berry Farm should consider selling them separately as they are great for re-sealing an open bottle.

There is also a café at the Berry Farm where you can have light snacks or lunches but the prices are a bit on the high side for us.

$8.50 for 2 scones is just too far beyond our limit for such things and we had already bought the cider so we were happy enough with that.


The Berry Farm
The Berry Farm


From the Berry Farm we returned to Rosa Glen Road and turned south.

Eventually we got to Chapman Pool / Warner Glen which is both a day use area and a campsite by the Blackwood River.

We had decided to have a tree change today and relax in the forest instead of by the coast.


Chapman Pool
Chapman Pool


There was only one thing left that we wanted to do in the area and that was on Saturday so it seemed like a good time to just veg out and listen to bird sounds by the river.

We were up early on Saturday to head to the Farmer's Markets in Margaret River. The markets start around 8am and are mostly fruit and veggies with some other ready to eat food as well.

Prices are pretty reasonable for Margaret River and the fruit is all nice and fresh.

There are around 50 different stalls and the market is held on the education campus a little south of Walcliffe Road. Parking was ok when we went but I expect during peak season it won't be so easy.


Farmers Markets
Farmer's Markets


The markets were the last thing we had planned to visit while in the area so we headed down to the coast to spend the last day relaxing.

We ended up at Gas Bay again and were lucky enough to be there when a bit of surfable water was present. It wasn't great but it was better than it had been for the past 10 days and a few local surfers got out and made the best of it.

That allowed me to get a bit of surfing footage and some still shots which capped off the trip nicely.


Surfers at Gas Bay
Surfers at Gas Bay


The trip was a great success. Some interesting places we had never seen before, a whole lot of footage we will turn into video clips and some nice times just relaxing and enjoying the beauty of nature.

The Margaret River area truly is a place of magic.



Updated December 2019

Go to the last blog installment Go to the next blog installment



Places to see on this trip:

Margaret River


Cape Naturaliste



Canal Rocks



Chapman Pool / Warner Glen


Margaret River Nougat
Vasse Virgin
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse





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