Thursday, 6 December 2012

6-11 December 2012 - Margaret River Wine Region WA

Well, what can I say about Margaret River, apart from it’s my type of place!  Full of wineries, breweries, provedores (that’s a fancy word for food shop!), chocolate making factories and a range of art studios, all surrounded by beautiful old growth Karri forests and not far from fabulous surfing beaches.

It's difficult to describe how beautiful these old
growth forests are.

Our first port of call was the Duckstein Brewery; it has a fabulous glass building on a man-made lake and is known for its German food as well as its beer.  As we got a taste for German fare while in the Barossa Valley at Easter, we thought we’d head here for lunch.  The building itself was magnificent, all glass, lakes and statues and even though it was 8 December the fireplace was going.  Unfortunately, the main meals were around the $35 mark, which I didn’t think were too bad (clearly I have become desensitised to WA restaurant prices) but Larry thought they were outrageous for a 'fancy sausage and some pickled cabbage', not to mention the fact that we were seriously under dressed (T-shirts, hoodies, thongs!) for this type of venue.  I’ve included the link to the brewery just so you can see pictures of the building itself.
So we moved on to a winery called Swings and Roundabouts which was more our style, casual and laid back with wood fired pizzas for lunch along with some unpretentious wine tasting.
Next was Margaret River Chocolates, a huge warehouse filled to the brim with chocolate, nougat and other lolly type products.  It was filled with Christmas gifts; there were literally small mountains of product.  It also had three massive bowls of milk, white and dark chocolate which you could help yourself (using a spoon). 
Kate, prior to consuming way too many samples!
It had a coffee shop attached so Larry and the girls tried the hot chocolates which consisted of hot milk with a small container full of chocolate buds which you add to the milk and stir yourself.  Between the hot chocolates and the unlimited samples, both girls declared themselves to be ill!  
Next door was the Margaret River Provedore, full of oils, olives, jams, chutneys and other exotic goodies.  My sister and her husband would have loved it and so would we if we only knew what to do with half of the food items!! While Larry and I were browsing in the Provedore (love that word!), the girls were slumped in the backseat recovering from their chocolate overdose. 
On the way home we called into Cowarumup, nicknamed ‘cow town’ and we soon discovered why.  There are fibreglass cows everywhere, all decorated differently and many with reindeer ears and other Christmas decorations.  Of course, we saw plenty of the same fibreglass cows at one of the cheese factories in Tasmania, but the cows in Cowarumup seemed to suit the individual businesses they were attached to.  It was very quaint.

Margaret River town itself was not very atmospheric, it was just a very busy town constructed on either side of a very busy main street.  It recently won Australia’s best small town (Gourmet Traveller magazine) but I suspect this was more a reflection on the whole area rather than just the one township.  All in all, there was lots of see and do and deserved a lot more time than we had.  It would be a great place to live as it would take years to see and sample every vineyard, brewery and foodie venue.

While in the area we also did a day trip to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin lighthouse located on the most southern westerly point of Australia.  This is the first point of Australia that Matthews Flinders surveyed in 1801 and also the last point in Australia that soldiers going to war in WWI and WWII saw from their ships.   However lighthouse fatigue has also set in and when I discovered it would cost $37 to climb the lighthouse, we all decided we would be just as happy wandering around its base and taking in the views. 

Constructed in 1895

These may be the last lighthouse photos to appear in
this blog, as we are all 'lighthoused out'!

A calcified water wheel used for providing water to the lighthouse.
It was exciting however to stand at the point where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet and to consider that the next stop south is Antarctica!

Where two oceans meet.
The girls were desperate to put up the Christmas tree, a small 18inch affair which was buried under our bed.  Kate then made a number of green and red paper chains to hang in the van, so it is looking very festive.  They also decorated the bumper bar of the Cruiser with tinsel and added a small Santa and reindeer. 

Taken before Santa and the Reindeer were added to the bull bar,
which I thought might last a few days but actually lasted throughout
the Christmas period and about 1000km.
Feeding sheep at our campground - as you do!
Travellers Tips:  The Visitors Information Centre will make recommendations of ‘family friendly’ vineyards and other activities.  Many have large grassed areas, with toys, badminton nets etc. We stayed at Big Valley Campground ($36 per night for 4). The kids can feed the sheep each afternoon and, depending on the time of your visit, there may be sheep shearing happening. There is a large Coles and new Woolies opening soon.  Farmers market is held each Saturday morning. If you are looking for second hand books, toys or clothes, you can’t go past the Lions monthly market.

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