Two lighthouses still operate (automatically) and are open to the public. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse (tel. 08/9755 3955; www.geographebay.com) is 13km (8 miles) outside Dunsborough set among wildflower-rich bushland, and surrounded by a variety of walk trails. It's a great spot for whale-watching in season. The entry fee, A$12.50 adults, A$6.50 children 5 to 16, and A$33 families of two adults and two kids, includes a guided tour. It's open 9am to 4:30pm (tours 9:30am-4pm), closed December 25. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (tel. 08/9758 1920), just south of Augusta, stands where two oceans meet. It's the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia. Guided tours run throughout the day, at A$15 adults, A$7 children 4 to 16, which includes precinct entry (otherwise A$5 adults and A$3 children). It's open daily, 8:45am to 5pm, except December 25.
Six of the Southwest's 100 or so limestone caves are open to the public. Some contain elaborate formations and have lighting, stairs, and boardwalks to help you along the way.
Stop at CaveWorks's eco-interpretive center, Lake Cave, Caves Road (tel. 08/9757 7411; www.margaretriver.com), before or after you visit Lake, Jewel, or Mammoth caves, open daily, except December 25, 9am to 5pm. Entry is free if you tour any of these caves; otherwise the cost is A$2 per person.
Lake Cave, is 300 steps down an ancient sinkhole, and contains a tranquil pool that reflects the exquisite formations. Four kilometers (2 1/2 miles) further north is Mammoth Cave, where you can see the fossilized jaw of an extinct giant wombat. Jewel Cave, 8km (5 miles) north of Augusta on Caves Road, is the prettiest. Tours of Lake and Jewel, and self-guided tours of Mammoth (using an MP3 system), each cost A$20 adults, A$10 children 4 to 16, A$50 for families of four. A Grand Tour Pass to all three costs A$48 adults, A$22 children 4 to 16, A$135 families, and is valid for 7 days. Mammoth is open 9am to 5pm (last tour at 4pm); tours of Lake and Jewel run hourly 9:30am to 3:30pm, daily except December 25. Booking is not required. An Ultimate Pass includes the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse for A$60 adults, A$27 children, and A$160 families.
Calgardup and Giants Caves, run by the Department of Environment and Conservation, are more challenging. Both are unlit and self-guided but have elevated boardwalks and marked paths. Visitors receive helmets, lamps, and information, and may spend as long as they like exploring (wear old clothes and sturdy footwear). Calgardup Cave on Caves Road, about 12 minutes' drive south of Margaret River, opens daily (except Dec 25 and 26) 9am to 4:15pm, and is suitable for all ages. Giants Cave, 20 minutes south of Margaret River on Caves Road, is one of the largest and deepest caves on the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, and provides a more adventurous experience. The infrastructure is minimal, and you clamber down 86m (282 ft.) utilizing ladders and tunnels. Entry times vary seasonally so check with National Park Information Centre (tel. 08/9757 7422), at Calgardup. Children 5 and under are not allowed in Giants Cave. Tickets are available at either cave for A$15 adults, A$8 children 6 to 15, and A$40 families, all including helmets and lamps. The center also has walking maps and information on camping sites and activities in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
Ngilgi Cave, Caves Road, Yallingup (tel. 08/9755 2152; www.geographebay.com), closer to Dunsborough, has beautiful translucent stalactite "shawls" in its main chamber. Semi-guided tours (guides are available to answer questions) run half-hourly 10am to 3:30pm for A$19.50 adults, A$10 children 5 to 15, or A$51 for families of four. Ngilgi offers excellent guided adventure tours, where you go "backstage," crawling and even sliding through the farther reaches of the cave, in protective clothing. Check the website for details. Book all tours at least 48 hours ahead. The cave is open every day except December 25. Food-based attractions are opening up in the area all the time. The Berry Farm, 43 Bessell Rd., outside Margaret River (tel. 08/9757 5054; www.berryfarm.com.au), has attractively packaged, fruit-based preserves, wines, jams, and vinegars. The Cottage Café opens daily 10am to 4pm, except December 24, 25, and 26, Good Friday, and Jan 1. At the Margaret River Chocolate Company, Harman's Mill Road (at Harman's Rd. S.), Metricup (tel. 08/9755 6555), you can participate in free tastings, relax at the cafe, and, of course, buy some mouth-watering chocolate. It's open daily 9am to 5pm, closed December 25. Olio Bello, 1 Armstrong Rd., off Cowaramup Bay Road, Cowaramup (tel. 1800/982 170 in Australia or 08/9755 9771; www.oliobello.com), was the 2006 Australian Olive Grower of the Year. You can buy a range of organic olive oils, soaps, and body creams, dips, and tapenades, and there's a cafe. It's open daily 10am to 4:30pm, closed Good Friday, December 25 and 26, and January 1.
Margaret River Venison, Caves Road, Margaret River, just south of Olio Bello (tel. 08/9755 5028; www.mrvenison.com), is a family-run enterprise, selling products derived from deer raised on the property. It's open daily 9am to 5pm, closed December 25. The Margaret River Dairy Company, Bussell Highway, Cowaramup, just north of the village (tel. 08/9755 7588; www.mrdc.com.au), uses local milk to make a range of award-winning cheeses and yogurts and is open 9:30am to 5pm; it's closed Good Friday, December 25 and 26, and January 1. Some of WA's finest ice cream is made at Simmo's Ice Creamery, southeast of town at 161 Commonage Rd., Dunsborough (tel. 08/9755 3745; www.simmos.com.au), which is open 10:30am to 5pm but closed December 25.
If you want to learn more about this region and see kangaroos in the wild, make time for an excellent value Margaret River tour with Neil McLeod (tel. 08/9757 2747; www.toursmargaretriver.com.au). Neil was raised in the area and now runs illuminating tours covering the karri forest, vineyards, and wildflowers; the region's early history; visits to Surfer's Point, Redgate Beach, and even his own bush property bounding with kangaroos. Tea and "mum's orange cake" are served on the Sunset Kangaroo Safari (A$45 adults and A$30 children 4-14). The full-day winery, gallery, and brewery tour costs A$95 adults and A$65 children, including lunch. Tours depart daily, from the Margaret River Visitor Centre, or from accommodations within 10km (6 1/4 miles) of the town center. Neil also offers a comprehensive 3-day "Escape Package" out of Perth, including 2 nights of bed and breakfast and three lunches, for A$750 per person; it leaves on Tuesdays with a two-passenger minimum.
Surfing lessons from four-time Western Australian professional surfing champion Josh Palmateer (tel. 08/9757 3850, or 0418/958 264 mobile; www.mrsurf.com.au) are a must! Two-hour lessons at Margaret River mouth (transfers from Margaret River town) cost A$130 for an individual lesson, and A$50 if you join a group (daily at 11am), including use of wet suits and boards, or you can have a private group. Lessons run November to July. He also offers surf-guiding tours if you want to try any of the legendary breaks along the coast. Canoes and kayaks are available for hire, for paddling up the river.
From June through December, whales play just offshore all along the coast. There is a whale lookout near the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse. Daily 3-hour whale-watching cruises with Naturaliste Charters (tel. 08/9725 8511; www.whales-australia.com) depart June to August from Augusta and cruise around Flinders Bay, where you'll usually see both humpback and southern right whales, often in large numbers, and dolphins. September to December, the cruise departures switch to Dunsborough, where the migrating humpbacks rest their calves in sheltered Geographe Bay. Cruises cost A$75 adults, A$45 students 13 to 17, A$35 children 4 to 12, and A$200 for families of four.
For an intelligent and comprehensive take on the local indigenous history and culture, visit the Wardan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, 55 Injidup Spring Rd., Yallingup (tel. 08/9756 6566; www.wardan.com.au).
Scenic Forest Drives -- Boranup Drive is a magical detour off Caves Road through towering karris. It leaves Caves Road 6km (3 3/4 miles) south of Mammoth Cave and meanders through the forest on gravel roads on a glorious 14km (8 3/4-mile) drive. Boranup Forest, despite its impressive height, is regrowth, the entire area having been logged in the early 20th century. Make sure to check that your hire car can be driven on gravel roads.
A Pretty Jetty
Busselton Jetty (tel. 08/9754 0900; www.busseltonjetty.com.au) is the longest timber pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, stretching 1,841m (over 1 mile) out into shallow Geographe Bay. An underwater observatory at the end allows visitors to go 8m (26 ft.) down and look out at the marine life that congregates around the massive 145-year-old timber supports. A major refurbishment has restored damaged supports and facilities, widened the jetty, and allowed the jetty train to operate once more. The observatory is open daily except December 25, weather permitting. Train and observatory tours operate on the hour 9am to 4pm October to April, and 10am to 3pm May to September. Jetty entry is A$2.50 adults over 14 years; the return train journey is A$10 adults and A$5 children 3 to 14; the train and observatory tour is A$28 adults, A$14 children, and A$75 families (two adults and two kids).
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.