PLACES TO GO
It’s only about a forty-minute drive from the Margaret River CBD to Augusta, which is on the tip of Cape Leeuwin. You can avoid the crowds and find a sheltered place for a swim or fish (there are also marron in the river, but you’ll need a licence). The Blackwood River is a great place to launch your boat and take the kids water-skiing and wake-boarding, or make a holiday out of it and hire a houseboat. Flinders Bay is the place for whale watching, and the rocks at the new harbour marina have created a mini shore break (great for beginner surfers, and bodyboarders). There’s still plenty to explore on land, with guided tours of the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse (Australia’s tallest) and Jewel Cave, which is 8km away from the main town. Stop by the bakery to satisfy your craving for baked goods – don’t miss the vanilla slice – or join the locals at one of the cafes (ask where to find the best sausage rolls in town). Augusta also has a scenic golf course and a tennis club, which welcome visitors. If you fancy a walk, Dovovan Street Reserve, on the edge of town is a beautiful place to see rare orchids.
Hamelin Bay is famous for its resident eagle rays that circle the ruins of Hamelin Bay Jetty and come right to the shoreline to be handfed. You can also snorkel with them in the bay – they are pretty comfortable around people so don’t be alarmed if they come up close! The accommodation around town is a mixed bag, with a caravan park on the beach and a few private chalets and cottages available for rent. The bay has several tiny islands within easy reach from the shore, great for snorkellers and divers. The best of the bombies is Mushroom Rock, 300m offshore, where there are lots of fish, including Port Jackson shark. To reach the rock you’ll need to swim across deep water, which can be a bit daunting for the faint-hearted. There’s also a boat ramp in the bay, or you can fish straight off the shore for species such as herring, salmon and bream.
Karridale is a tiny town, established as a timber mill in 1884, but there are families who have remained in town for generations (the roads are named after many of them). The top-notch soil has attracted olive growers – there are three olive farms in the area. Karridale also boasts award-winning beef studs and sheep farmers, and some of the state’s largest dairies. There are a few wineries located conveniently close together (you’ll find great platters and pies at one of the adjoining cafes ). In town there’s an old-fashioned general store, a Christmas store (great for the kids!), a jewellery store and a pub (the meal portions are huge).
The Boranup karri forest, south of Margaret River on the western side of Caves Road, is a maze of pale-barked regrowth trees standing over 60m tall. Boranup Drive is a gravel surface (fine for all vehicles) but the potholes and rocks can make for a bouncy ride some sections. There are plenty of good walking trails, with the some of the best being overgrown 4WD tracks that were originally cleared to allow tram access for log removal. The trails start from a clearing that was once a picnic area (there’s nothing left but a small open space now), which is at the intersection of a narrow 4WD track signposted Anchor Road. Lush green ferns cover the ground in parts and walkers can spot wildflowers like red coral vine and native wisteria. There’s also a great shaded campsite that’s 10 minutes from Hamelin Bay (see more in Camping, below). The Cape to Cape walk can be accessed from the campsites at Contos or Point Road and is a great way to experience the forest.
A well-kept secret, this island is covered in natural bush and wild orchids. Located at the junction of Blackwood River, Scott River and Hardy Inlet, the only way you can get to the island is by boat – either take the car ferry that services the island residents, or make your own arrangements.
The river is a secret getaway from summer beach crowds. If you have your own boat you can ski, wake-board, kayak and fish. Wildlife on the river includes giant sea eagles and kingfishers, and kayakers should note that the further up you go,
the fewer the powerboats. If you want to take a dip, the best spots are between Rosa Brook Road and Sues Bridge, and Chapman Pool. For some family bonding time, there are lovely picnic areas dotted all along the foreshore, some with new boardwalks and toilets.
THINGS TO DO
Feed the stingrays
Hamelin Bay’s most popular residents are the eagle rays, which are often waiting for a feed of fish scraps from the local fishermen. Just head down to the beach
in the morning or late in the afternoon, but if you’re not sure give the holiday park
a buzz on (08) 9758 5540. Plenty of visitors are happy to have a go at feeding the rays themselves – just grab a bag of whitebait from the general store.
This is the biggest showcave in WA, and what you’ll see in it is pretty incredible. There’s one of the longest stalactites you’ll ever see in a tourist cave, and kids will have fun trying to spot natural formations with names like the Organ Pipes, Friendly Ghost, Jedi and Jewellery Box. Tours run on the hour from 9.30am until the last tour at 3.30pm. There’s plenty of parking at the Jewel Cave Preservation Centre, which also sells food and drinks (the hot chocolate is great on cold, drizzly days).
If you’re visiting Flinders Bay during June, July and August there’s a good chance you’ll see humpback and southern right whales – it’s one of the best whale-watching locations in the southwest. Make sure you bring binoculars, or if you want to get even closer to the whales there are many charter companies that run tours throughout the season.
The south of Margaret River offers fantastic sheltered fishing spots. Westbay Retreat Caravan site offers boat ramp access to the Blackwood River, where you can snag some marron (so long as you’ve snagged a licence first), black bream and big yellowfin whiting. Hardy Inlet is also ideal, as is the offshore reef system at Flinders Bay, which attracts attracts tailor, dhufish, snapper and smaller common species. You can also jump in a 4WD and head to Boranup Beach, which is a great spot for kids as well. There’s skippy and whiting, but for a shot at the salmon, the best time to cast a line is between March and May during the annual run. The beach is incredibly long and flanked by the forest so there’s still plenty to do for those who aren’t fishing.
In Augusta, shore dive from the rock hop at Groper Bay where a rocky reef with
a thick coverage of kelp will provide you with a delightful variance of sea life including sea stars, scorpion fish, rock lobsters and globefish. Further out, there is spectacular diving off St Alouarn and Flinders Island when conditions allow; there are brilliant sponge gardens, an abundance of big fish such as blue gropers, jewfish, samsonfish, kingfish and the occasional sea lion. Bronze whalers and great white sharks have also been reported (to a lesser degree). In Hamelin Bay, are several shipwrecks perfect for a morning or afternoon of diving (or snorkelling).
Kite- and windsurfing
Augusta and its surrounds are great for wind- and kitesurfing, with most beaches and waterways easily reached with a load of gear. Experienced surfers can head to Deepdene Beach for a punch and powerful swell, but there’s also Foul Bay (Chookies) that is usually pretty secluded. Flinders Bay (Stormies) is another spot for the pros, and it’s not far from caravan parks. If you’re a beginner, the Augusta river mouth is your best bet for some safe water play. Head across the cut in the estuary (swim or deep-water walk) and go about a kilometre east. This spot is popular for practising jumps, and you can rig on the corner of the grassed area at Colour Patch car park or on the small beach (if the tide permits).
CAPE LEEWIN LIGHTHOUSE
If you’re in the region, it’s well worth your time to visit the lighthouse, ten minutes from Augusta.It’s the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland, located where the Indian and Southern oceans meet, and thanks to its legendary status there are multiple daily tours that include climbing the 39m lighthouse tower. Even the visitors who normally loathe guides and commentary are always pleasantly surprised. The minimum age is to climb the tower is four but there are 186 steps, so if you’ve got tired youngsters the self-guided tour of the grounds might be more up your alley. There’s also a museum and gift shop, and you can grab a bite to eat from the cafe – the toasties are particularly good! The best time to visit is in the morning (before the wind picks up). TIP Purchase The Ultimate Pass (Adult, $70; Child, $30; Family $170), which includes admission to the Lighthouse, Jewel, Lake and Mammoth Caves.
This campground on the Blackwood River is ideal if being completely self- sufficient isn’t up your alley – there are cold showers, water taps, and a boat ramp, and firewood is often in supply (BYO just in case). There are plenty of fish to be caught in the river, but waterskiing is also a popular activity. The ski zone is about 12km downstream from the bridge. Due to its large size the campground can get a bit rowdy on weekends and public holidays, so if you’re coming with a young family it’s best to avoid it on busy weekends. Pets are okay as long as they are on a lead.
‘Scenic and private’ is the best way to sum up this campground. There are just seven sites nestled in the thick of the forest and they can be reached with a small vehicle, making the area all the more secluded. The best seasons to visit here are autumn, spring and summer, because it can get very wet in winter. It’s conveniently close to the caves, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Hamelin Bay. There are fire rings, toilets and picnic tables but you’ll need to bring your own water, and dogs aren’t permitted.
Climb the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Feed the string rays at Hamelin Bay
Try the wineries around Karridale
Have a picnic in the Boranup Forest
Hit the Blackwood River for some water sports
Spot the wild orchids on Molloy Island
Fish for snapper at Flinders Bay
Take your binoculars to a look to spot whales (June-August)
All these events and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo