In this breathtakingly beautiful corner of the Margaret River Region, where the Blackwood River meets the sea, and Cape Leeuwin marks the furthest southwest tip of the Australian continent, it’s not rare to head to the beach and find you’re the only person walking on it.
While it’s undeniably peaceful, the area is fast becoming an adventure destination, too. Just off Cape Leeuwin, the Southern Ocean crashes into the Indian Ocean, which, thanks to its strong winds, draws hordes of adrenaline-fuelled kitesurfers and windsurfers. What’s more, each winter, the area is frequented by thousands of southern right and humpback whales, affording world-class whale-watching opportunities.
The town of Augusta is nestled between the mouth of the Blackwood River in the Hardy Inlet and Flinders Bay on the coast. Surrounded by spectacular ruggedness – a drawcard for adventure racing and hiking – the inlet offers shelter from the wind and spots for swimming or fishing.
On the coast north of Cape Leeuwin is the much-photographed Hamelin Bay, famed for its tranquil waters, long curved beach, historic timber jetty and friendly eagle rays. Inland, the majestic Boranup Forest is a must for scenic drives, picnics and walks, and the nearby townships of Karridale and Witchcliffe are full of historic charm and quirky shops.
The accommodation around town is varied, with a couple of caravan parks on the river and inlet, private chalets, luxurious modern apartment-style accommodation, motel rooms, rental cottages and even houseboats set on the Blackwood River.
EAT & DRINK
Augusta is a great place for dining in, with most accommodation offering kitchens and lovely views.
If you don’t feel like doing the cooking yourself, there are a few eating spots on Blackwood Avenue and Albany Terrace, from a well-regarded Chinese restaurant and a family-run cafe, to the renowned ‘last fish ’n’ chip shop before the Antarctic’.
Visiting the historic Augusta Hotel is a must. It boasts one of the best hotel views in WA, overlooking the Blackwood River and Hardy Inlet. The hotel is kid-friendly, with a bistro lounge and outdoor green for bocce or cricket. Alternatively, plenty of Margaret River’s world-renowned wineries and tourist attractions are close at hand.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT...
savouring a vanilla slice from the Augusta Bakery. The shop’s a tourist attraction in its own right, with traditional country offerings that have won it a legion of fans.
Grab a bag of whitebait from the general store and visit the stingrays that circle the ruins of Hamelin Bay Jetty, and come right to shore to be hand-fed. The best times are morning or late afternoon, when the rays wait for fish scraps from the local anglers.
Hamelin Bay (photography margaretriver.com).
DO AND SEE
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the fit and adventurous will love a visit to Moondyne Cave. After suiting up in overalls, gloves, hard hat and head torch, you’ll be ready for three hours of underground adventure, weaving between stalagmites and stalactites, and crawling through holes – led by a capable tour guide, of course.
BE DWARFED BY TREES
A leisurely 25-minute drive south of Margaret River along Caves Road will place you deep in the Boranup Forest, full of towering karri trees (the third-largest tree species in the world). Look up and you’ll be mesmerised as pale-barked regrowth trees reach for the sky, standing more than 60m tall.
Take in the view at the Karri Lookout on the eastern side of Caves Road, and be sure to take Boranup Drive through stunning forest and past picnic areas, walking trails and campsites. For some fun with the kids, pop into the nearby Boranup Maze.
The Blackwood River is an ideal getaway from the summer beach crowds, and home to wild dolphins, giant sea eagles, and kingfishers. With a boat, you can ski, wake-board, kayak, fish, or visit Molloy Island. The best spots for a dip are between Rosa Brook Road and Sues Bridge, and Chapman Pool. The further upriver you go, the fewer the powerboats.
Fantastic sheltered fishing spots abound. In the Blackwood River, you can catch black bream and big yellowfin whiting. Hardy Inlet is also ideal, and the offshore reef at Flinders Bay attracts attracts tailor, dhufish and snapper. For salmon, hit Boranup Beach (accessible by 4WD) between March and May. If heading out to sea, launch off Augusta Boat Harbour.
TIP You can buy any gear you need at the outdoor sports shops in town.
Bring your binoculars – Flinders Bay is the first port of call on the winter migration for 35,000 humpback, southern right, minke and rare blue whales. Southern right whales often calve in the shallows of the bay. Groups of humpback males court females through breaching, spy-hopping, lob-tailing and tail-slapping acrobatics. You might even see the southern right and humpback whales frolicking together – Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is a fabulous vantage point. See them up close on a whale-watching tour, departing the harbour throughout the season.
KITESURFING AND WINDSURFING
Augusta and its surrounds are great for windsurfing and kitesurfing, with most beaches and waterways easily reached with a load of gear. Pros head to Deepdene Beach or Flinders Bay (Stormies) for a powerful swell, or Foul Bay (Chookies) for more seclusion. If you’re a beginner, the mouth of the Augusta River is your best bet for some safe water play. From Colour Patch car park, head across the cut in the estuary (swim or deep-water walk) – a popular spot for practising jumps is about a kilometre east.
Sean Blocksidge, the Margaret River Discovery Co
Kayak across the Blackwood River to Molloy Island and discover the hidden inlets. A well-kept secret, this island is covered in natural bush and wild orchids. Be careful you don’t get caught in the afternoon wind!
Hike a section of the Cape-to-Cape Track, and reward yourself with takeaway Augusta fish ’n’ chips, and a cleansing swim at Cosy Corner Beach.
THE BLESSING OF THE FLEET
The six-month whale-watching season officially begins with
a Blessing of the Fleet Ceremony at the Augusta Boat Harbour. May.
Attracting hundreds of mountain bikers from around Australia and
abroad, the Cape-to-Cape MTB is the ultimate gruelling forest race.
The first leg is from Cape Leeuwin lighthouse to Hamelin Bay. Oct.
ACT BELONG COMMIT AUGUSTA ADVENTURE FEST
There are three races with four different off-road disciplines – ocean swimming, kayaking, trail running and mountain biking. Nov.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/MargaretRiver.
Act Belong Commit Augusta Adventure Fest.
DROP IN ON THE LOCALS
Trish MacShane, cave guide, MRBTA
I love to start my day off by going underground. Jewel Cave tells its incredible story through beautiful cave decorations and huge formations. You can’t help but lose yourself to the serenity.
A late afternoon fish along the banks of the mighty Blackwood sees me set with a bounty of whiting for dinner. Nothing beats a fish barbecue on the foreshore, watching the pelicans, to wrap up a very laidback day in Augusta.
World first: EcoAdventures Margaret River
EcoAdventures Margaret River is the world’s first guided electric quad bike tour. The family-friendly trail takes in the hidden wonders of the Boranup Forest and Hamelin Bay to learn about the region’s megafauna, whale migration and Aboriginal use of flowers and trees.