‘Down-South’ is traditionally a location for a summer getaway, leaving the wet winters to the locals, not realising what these summer-loving travellers are missing out on.
Instead of shying away and hiding in their houses, those that are in the region during winter have leant into the short days and long slow nights. They get their gumboots and raincoats out and dissolve into the stunning landscapes and fresh rich produce such as gourmet food and wine from the region.
The rain soaked eucalyptus leaves, green paddocks, flowing rivers, pumping surf, lit fireplaces and migrating whales are all a feature of this region in the colder months. Makuru, the fertile season, takes place in June and July and is one of the six Noongar seasons. With frequent storms and gales there is more incentive to stay inside, however there are always breaks in the weather and this is the time to get out and about. Below we dive into 10 things to do in Margaret River and the surrounding towns during winter. Consider this the winter escape you didn’t know you needed.
1. Cultural experiences
“When visiting, we ask that you walk softly, taking the time to listen and care for Boodja (country).” – Josh “Koomal” Whiteland, Wadandi Custodian.
The beginning of July marks NAIDOC week so the first on our winter itinerary is an acknowledgement to the country. By acknowledging the place we are visiting, we grow our respect for everything within it. We are learning from Traditional Owners and the methods of how to take care of land, for example the simple act of “treading softly”. Our busy lives tend to leave us rushing through experiences, seeking a quick meal or a fast fun adventure. By slowing down, noticing and understanding the process, our environment begins to reveal more to us. Such as learning about the food we eat, where it comes from and understanding the care that’s gone into creating this meal you are about to eat, I can guarantee you – it will taste even better.
For more information on acknowledging the place you are going to visit you can head to these websites. You can find events, experiences, and so much more:
2. Shopping at the Farmers Markets and Lions Markets
A way to dive right into the southwest lifestyle is to shop like a southwest local. Visiting the Farmers Market on the weekend in Margaret River will have you rubbing shoulders with old salty pro surfers, families who have sought a tree change, artists, and food lovers, all of whom make up the southwest community.
The Lions Markets are run by volunteers and is an excellent way to snag a bargain. You may even find the day’s activity, like a board game or a vintage badminton set!
3. Cave and lighthouse tours
When the rain is overhead we go underground. The southwest landscape is full of caves. Each cave has a unique feature meaning that no two are the same. There is Ngilgi Cave at the top of the region (Cape Naturaliste) and Jewelled Cave near the bottom (Cape Leeuwin). With Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave, Calgardup Cave plus more in between.
The Lighthouses on each cape are a fun escape from the outdoor elements too. Cape Naturaliste lighthouse peers into Geographe Bay and out to the west, while Cape Leeuwin lighthouse sits on a unique part of Australia. At the most south-western spot of the entire coast of Australia, this lighthouse marks the destination between two oceans, both the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
4. Whale watching
This time of year is the season of fertility, and this couldn’t come any truer for the migrating humpback whales. They make passage from Antarctica to Broome and back over winter. They will seek refuge in the calm bays and socialise, mate and give birth in the waters around the south west. A spectacle that you can see from the coastline but to get an up close experience it is best to head out onto the water with a local tour operator.
Naturaliste Charters are a family-owned and run, eco-certified company and are the pioneers of whale watching here in the southwest. They operate in Augusta, a stone’s throw from the Leeuwin Lighthouse. Their vessel, the Alison-Maree features two decks with heated indoors and both indoor and outdoor viewing areas. Flinders Bay is generally protected from the winterly weather and is known as the rainbow capital of the world! A perfect place to be during winter.
5. Discover more wildlife
The southwest is a biodiversity hotspot with many unusual critters scurrying, flying or jumping around! Step outside in the mornings and you will hear the magnificent bird life chirping and calling, warming up their voices for the day ahead.
Feeling a little daring? For an indoors experience that will leave you with goosebumps, is a trip to Discover Deadly. The Reptile Discovery Centre is the largest of its kind in the southwest and there is something for all ages. With over 40 species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and arachnids the guides will bust myths on our infamous wildlife!
6 . Scenic drive
From Peppermint trees to Eucalypts or even the tall Karri trees of the Boranup forest, there are plenty of spectacular parts on the scenic drive through this biodiversity hotspot, and a stop to any of the pristine beaches along Caves Road will also leave you speechless. Go at your own pace and make stops wherever your heart desires. The entire trip could be done in an hour and a half, however give yourself an entire day and you will find something pretty special.
7. Hike the beautiful nature reserves and national parks
Winter in the southwest features a couple of rainy days broken up by these pockets of sunshine. The warmth of the winter sun on your back is an incredible feeling. Take the opportunity to head outside and onto a walking trail. With the break in the weather the native birds come alive too. Wearing your gumboots, you can quietly explore tracks where your footprints may be the only ones of the day.
8. Fresh food
Now all of these activities are making us hungry! A culinary adventure awaits you in the southwest region. The choice of where to eat is not an easy one, with endless options from exquisite degustations to the best cinnamon scrolls you can find in W.A. at a local bakery (no secrets being divulged here, you need to try them all for yourself). Sustainable and fresh are the major focal points down here, so you know that no matter where you go, the food will taste incredible.
The Margaret River Chocolate Factory is an iconic part of the landscape here. The rich and velvety smooth textures of chocolate will keep you warm during even the coldest days. Indulge yourself and your loved ones with a stop here. The experience itself is worth the drive.
9. Local wine
The food in the southwest is exceptional, and the wine here is no different. No better way to enhance your food than with local wine straight from the vineyard. You will be posting bottle after bottle back home, while finding new favourites and flavours.
10. Winter events
The entire southwest has been busy creating a multitude of events for the adventurous visitor. The entire region features art showcases consistently throughout the year, just look online for more details and to find out where they are currently being held.
CinefestOZ comes to town late August. Coming in second to the Cannes Film Fest, in the overall magnitude of film events in Australia, CinefestOZ sparks imagination and challenges Australian film makers.
Cabin Fever Festival has quickly taken over the southwest region’s winter. The festival dominates the entire region of the winter months but is formally run from mid July. This year there are over 40 events, which include “indulgence, decadence, fiery feasts, wild music and more”. The festival organisers know their way to our hearts, through good food, good company and good music! They are even hosting DJ sets and drag queen shows. Last year saw an event take to the water with sunset, wine and whale watching in Geographe Bay!
So there are 10 things to do in Margaret River and the surrounding regions but as you have probably gathered, thousands more waiting for you to discover them!