Western Australia’s Margaret River region is a place every lover of good wine, food and spectacular coastal views should have on their bucket list to visit. It’s one of the most picturesque wine regions you’ll stumble across, with rolling rows of vineyards combined with the mesmerising coastal, blue hues of the Indian Ocean – it’s like something from out a movie. But looks aside, Margaret River is also bursting at the seams with rich viticultural history and world class cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
One of these winemaking names that calls Margaret River home is Houghton Wines (houghton-wines.com.au) who are celebrating 185 years of winemaking in 2021. A visit to the Houghton Wines cellar door is a must-do on any trip to Margaret River, for a deep-dive into the rich, viticultural history of Western Australia. The cellar door is set in an idyllic location alongside Wilyabrup Brook and offers tasting experiences and wine flights that feature Houghton’s beloved icons wines and classic varieties that are synonymous with the region.
But like when visiting any part of Australian wine country, it's difficult to decide where to go and what to do when visiting – particularly so with Margaret River. Things like where to find the top fortified wines, the best spot for a locally-sourced picnic, and even where to grab a great coffee and bacon and egg roll – preferably following a morning swim.
With the help of Houghton Wines, we spoke with Margaret River locals Kate Lamont, celebrated chef and granddaughter of legendary Houghton winemaker Jack Mann, and Houghton’s viticulturist Steve Kirby to get their local insight into the best ways to spend your time in Margaret River (aka Margs).
What are SOME OF YOUR must-do experiences in Margaret River?
SK: Fish and chips made by the banks of the Blackwood River in the township of Augusta. It’s always a couple of degrees cooler in Augusta which is great on a hot summer day! Then also watch the surfers catch the last waves of the day while enjoying the sunset at Surfers Point in Margs.
KL: The beaches are truly beautiful, so a must-visit is Redgate Beach with its beautiful coastal dunes and ancient granite boulders. A walk around the rocks to the natural Injidup Spa is also a must. It’s a short drive north of Margaret River and is located on Injidup Beach. Waves crash over the rocks and form a waterfall and ‘spa’ to enjoy on warm summers day.
What are some of your favourite wineries to visit in the Margaret River?
SK: If you want to explore unique expressions that only regional West Australian wines can offer, a visit to our Houghton Cellar Door is a great place to start. From our reserve range to vintage wines - we use careful craftsmanship and learnings passed down over our long 185-year history. After an incredible vintage this year, if you want to try something truly special, our full-bodied wines such as the 2019 Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon and 2019 CW Ferguson Cabernet Malbec are all great examples of the outstanding potential of both the Margaret River and Frankland River area.
Marq Wines also makes some interesting wines out of the lesser-known, alternative varieties planted in Margaret River. If you want to try something out of the ordinary, the fiano, vermentino and gamay are just some of the different wines they offer.
KL: I love chardonnay, so I always find time to visit Cullen, Larry Cherubino and Cape Mentelle. Vasse Felix also do a fabulous chardonnay flight, so as you can tell it's a bit of chardonnay heaven down here!
What are some of Margaret River’s best-kept secrets?
SK: A beach trip to the secluded white sands of Foul Bay – a beautiful place with a terrible name! Have a picnic on the sheltered beach under the lighthouse or hit the waves for a spot of body boarding. Cape Mentelle's Outdoor Cinemas are always a hit on a summer night. But be sure to get there early to order a pizza and have a game of pétanque before the movie starts. There's also the loop walk on the Cape to Cape Walk followed by whale and dolphin spotting from the spectacular Wilyabrup Cliffs.
KL: A morning swim at The Aquarium and a stroll through the trees Boranup Forest at dusk is a great experience. There's also the Farmer's Market in town which is also a great snapshot of all that is good in Margs. Loads of organic, wonderful olives and, slightly out of context, but don't miss the super yummy dumplings from Má Là Dumplings.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT MARGARET RIVER, AND do you have ANY TIPS FOR VISITORS PLANNING A TRIP THERE?
SK: I love the combination of stunning natural landscapes, incredible biodiversity and world class food and wine in one location. Be sure to bring a thirst and an appetite as we have so many great wineries and restaurants to visit. Also bring a jumper as it can get cold once the sun goes down.
KL: Every season has its strength in Margaret River, and the proximity of ocean to vineyards gives you the best of everything all in one place. Just be sure to allow lots of time, you will always stay longer than you plan too, wherever you go in Margs.
If you’re unable to get to Margs yourself right now, join Houghton and GT WINE for an exclusive virtual Margaret River Cabernet Masterclass on 21 October. The night will feature a sneak peek into the newest Houghton releases, including the flagship 2019 Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon, set for release on 27 October. To book your spot, and see the line up of wines on offer for the night, see here.