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A Few Days in Margaret River

Getting to see more of Australia than its most famous icons and the east-coast beaches is not always easy. But if you have the time, there are many wonderful places to discover off the beaten track, which will give another dimension to your image and memories of Down Under. Here, we suggest a few days in the Margaret River region, just a few hours' drive south of the Western Australia capital, Perth. You can add it on to the end of a week or so in the east, or change it with the latter part of the 1- or 2-week itineraries earlier.

Note that each year, from August to mid-November, the southern half of Western Australia is blessed with an amazing range of white, yellow, mauve, pink, red, and blue wildflowers. The Margaret River region has its displays, especially among the forests and coastal heath land, with September and October the peak months.

Starting from the pleasant, sunny city of Perth, you can tailor your trek to take in some great beaches and surfing, winery tours, excellent food and wine, and the chance to see kangaroos, whales, and dolphins.

Fly to Perth from any of the other destinations above.

Day 1: Welcome to Perth

The capital of Western Australia, Perth, has a superb climate, a great setting on the Swan River, a fabulous outdoor life of biking and beaches, excellent restaurants, and a beautiful historic port, Fremantle. If you'd like to spend a day or so recovering from jet lag as well as getting to know the city, you can overnight here before taking off on your exploration of the southwest. A relaxing way to spend the day is at the port of Fremantle, at the mouth of the Swan River.

"Freo" is a bustling district of 150 National Trust buildings, alfresco cafes, museums (including the wonderful Maritime Museum), galleries, pubs, weekend markets, and shops in a masterfully preserved historical atmosphere. It's still a working port, so you will see container ships and fishing boats unloading, the occasional U.S. Navy fleet on R&R, and yachts gliding in and out of the harbors. It's a favorite destination every weekend, resulting in an exciting hubbub of shoppers, merchants, cappuccino drinkers, and tourists. You can enjoy the passing parade as you knock back a beer on the veranda of a gorgeous old pub.

Day 2: Perth to Margaret River

A leisurely 4-hour drive southwest from Perth will put you among the vineyards of Margaret River, one of Australia's finest and most scenic wine regions. En route, stop off at Rockingham or Bunbury, where you may be lucky enough to see wild dolphins, which regularly come in to "play" with visitors. The Margaret River area is really compact, so you can make your base at any one of the numerous boutique lodges or B&Bs. You can then readily visit any of around 100 wineries, as well as numerous art and craft galleries and the many gourmet produce outlets. Eat out at one of the excellent local restaurants, with a bottle of Margaret River wine.

Day 3: South to Cape Leeuwin

Spend the day traveling the winding country roads of the southern part of the region. Prevelly, west of Margaret River, has some of Australia's best surfing. Follow Caves Road south from here to Augusta and the historic lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. Augusta is one of the top spots to see migrating whales in season with both humpback and southern right whales cruising offshore June through August. Your trip will take you through stands of massive karri and jarrah trees. Don't miss Boranup Drive, a scenic detour that cuts through a magnificent karri forest, and nearby Boranup Gallery for superb furniture. For the adventurous, there is a maze of caves, some of which are open to the public. Have lunch at one of the winery restaurants or picnic in their lovely gardens. Wind your way back to your accommodation, with some newly favorite wines to drink or take home, but remember to designate a driver before setting out; Australia's "drink-driving" laws are strictly enforced and carry heavy penalties.

Day 4: North to Cape Naturaliste & Dunsborough

The area north of Margaret River town has the biggest concentration of wineries including some of Australia's big names. Make time also to visit some of the gourmet outlets for chocolate, olive oil, cheese, ice cream, or venison. Don't hurry along the winding tree-lined roads; and take time to explore the local galleries for pottery, jewelry, woodwork, and artworks, and enjoy the scenery. Cliffs and exquisite bays alternate along the coast, while Cape Naturaliste has several walking trails, including the start of the Cape-to-Cape Walk. Dunsborough offers more whale-watching between September and November.

Day 5: Dunsborough to Perth

You have time to visit another gallery or stroll the Dunsborough beaches before heading off. Make a stop on the way at the seaside town of Busselton, where a visit to the underwater observatory at the end of the longest timber jetty in the Southern Hemisphere is well worthwhile.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.