Margaret River: 277km (173 miles) S of Perth
For most Australians, the name "Margaret River" is synonymous with great wine. This is an area where every prospect pleases; no wonder U.S.-based Wine Market Report gave it the award for "Wine Tourism Region of the World" in 2006. It's only 3 1/2 hours' drive from Perth.
Forty years ago, this was a simple countryside of dairy farms and forest, with some great surfing spots. A survey found that the climate was remarkably similar to that of Bordeaux, and the first vineyards were planted. The area now has about 100 wineries and, while producing only 1% of Australia's output, they turn out around 15% of the country's "premium" wines. There's a growing selection of quality lodges and B&Bs, galleries, gourmet food outlets, and superb restaurants. Many craftspeople have set up here, together with producers of venison, cheese, chocolate, and olive oil. Statuesque forests, including tall but graceful karri trees (the world's third-tallest plant species), create beautiful dappled drives; the west coast has curving sandy beaches, spectacular surf breaks, and precipitous headlands; the northern coast has wonderfully peaceful beaches. There's a honeycomb of spectacular limestone caves; whales pass by June through December; wildflowers line the roads August through October; and wild birds and kangaroos are everywhere.
If you like hiking, there are plenty of trails, from an hour's stroll along the Dunsborough beaches to a 6-day Cape-to-Cape trek along the western shore.