Finally, finally, finally I am getting around to posting about our time in Margaret River and Pemberton — hands-down the best part of our trip to western Australia.
Margaret River Valley
After our spectacularly fun day at Busselton Jetty, we piled back into our Holden wagon and headed 50km to the Margaret River Valley. Ahh, Margaret River . . . my favorite part of Western Australia (and I should know, it was my third time visiting)! From the wine, to the caving, canoeing, camping, abseiling, surfing, and much more, this place is most definitely off the hook. If you are an adventurous traveler who loves the outdoors, Margaret River is for you. If you are a wine aficionado who enjoys beautiful vineyard settings, Margaret River for you. If you are a beach bum who loves a great surf (as well as a Great White or two), Margaret River is for you. Honestly — this place has something for everyone. I would go back again, and again, and again. You get the point.
Our digs, Bussells Bushland Cottages, in Margaret River were perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. The cottages happened to be everything we were looking for – cozy, kid-friendly, and privately situated in the bush, yet still only a five minute drive to the township. Every morning and late afternoon we went on a bush walk around the property. Every time we went out, we encountered kangaroos in their natural habitat, as well as beautiful birds (there was a feeder in front of our cottage that the kids could fill with seed every day). Every evening, we built a fire and read our night time stories in the living room together.
And during the days? Wow. We did a lot. Here are some of the things we did — all of which we recommend:
1. Visited local wineries and breweries. Our favorite? Cheeky Monkey Brewery. They had a fantastic, shaded playground just adjacent to the brewery and indoor/outdoor restaurant. The kids played, ate, played again, and all the while we sampled the libations. This place is first class for families. If you stay at Bussells Cottages, by the way, they will give you a list of wineries and breweries in Margaret River upon check-in. The list denotes which wineries and breweries are kid-friendly. Super useful.
2. Went caving. So many GREAT caves in the area (Lake Cave, Jewel Cave, Ngilgi Cave, to name a few). When I traveled to the area years ago, I abseiled into caverns and crawled my way through some tight spaces. It was phenomenal. With young kids, that’s not doable. What is doable, however, is a visit to Caveworks, a visitors center that allows kids to learn about caves and try their skills at crawling through an artificial cave. Logan and Kate spent over an hour walking and crawling through the artificial cave and looking at the eye-catching photos of caves around the world. The visitors center is attached to a real cave (Mammouth Cave) and you can go out on the deck and take a look down into the cave, getting a sense for just how spectacular the caves really are. If your children are old enough (I’d say they’d need to be at least 5-6 years old), you can venture on down for a real caving experience.
3. Lunched at the beach (Yallingup Beach, to be exact). Stunning, to say the least.
4. More than satisfied our sweet tooth at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. I think the photos say enough.
5. Fed kangaroos, llamas, and more at Sunflowers Animal Farm. Do not miss this. This was a huge highlight for the kids. In fact, we went twice! Sunflowers also offers a farm stay.
6. Meandered into Margaret River Township for dinner and a trip to the local candy store.
7. Went on many bush walks in the area, spotted marron (crawfish), and played on local playgrounds.
Alas, we only had three wonderful, fun-filled days in the Margaret River valley. So much to do, but so little time! If we had been able to extend our time, we also would have visited the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta, ventured into the Yalingup Maze, the Yallingup Shearing Shed, and given the Wonky Windmill Farm and Eco Park a go.
With Margaret River (sadly) behind us, we headed to Pemberton — the last stop on our journey. Total distance is about 140 kms and takes about two hours.
Pemberton was the perfect final stop on our trip. It is slower and quieter than Margaret River, but the bush is perhaps even more spectacular. There area offers a multitude of bush walks of varying distances and difficulty. We did a 3km hike with Logan (three at the time) and Kate (18 months at the time). Logan managed the hike on his own, while Kate rode in the Deuter Kid Comfort II. The karri tree forests are really something special and shouldn’t be missed. Another classic activity in the area is taking a tram ride deep into the forest. Logan and Walter did this one afternoon and loved it.
We chose to do a farm stay in Pemberton at Pump Hill Farm Cottages. It was right up Logan’s alley — riding on a tractor-pulled hay wagon each morning to feed horses, cows, donkeys, chickens, ducks — what more could a little boy ask for? The playground at the farm stay was fantastic as well. Our cottage was located in front of the playground — so we grilled dinner while the kids played. It was a welcomed mix of entertainment for the kids and relaxation for the parents. If you make it to Pemberton and you are traveling with young kids who love animals, Pump Hill is the place.
After two nights in Pemberton, we headed back to Perth in one day (with a stop in Bunbury for lunch). The drive was fairly easy, but we were all fairly sad to be leaving our best vacation to date. Western Australia. What a magical place.