If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a good glass of wine or two. Sampling a few wineries in the Margaret River region of Western Australia was definitely high on my list of priorities for the area. Understandably, I wasn’t keen on sacrificing my wine drinking time just to be able to drive myself around (talk about no fun, right?), so I looked into the option of a Margaret River wine tour.
Before you wrinkle up your nose and wonder whether I’ve lost all sense of solo adventure, I do feel that there are occasions where you truly benefit from joining a locally run tour. Not only will my transport be there for me once I’ve quaffed my way through the range of divine wine on offer, but I can learn more about the history and anecdotal evidence of the area through the knowledge of a local guide.
A wine-wine – excuse me, win-win – situation and one that I feel suits solo travellers perfectly.
Margaret River Region, Western Australia
To kick thing off, if you need any more reasons to visit Western Australia, how about the knowledge that WA is home to an internationally famous wine region called Margaret River with a staggering 215 wine producers.
That’s right, I said 215.
Margaret River, three hours south of Perth, is actually a small town home to a multitude of craft breweries, cafes, producers of incredible local food, and of course, those 215 vineyards.
If your mouth isn’t watering at the prospect of all that deliciousness, then stop reading now and go and drink a glass of water or something.
With a Mediterranean climate, the region is internationally recognised as a premium producer of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The first winery was established in 1967 by a cardiologist called Dr. Tom Cullity, who planted the first commercial vineyard called Vasse Felix.
With the plethora of wine tasting day trips now on offer it may feel too difficult to make a choice. Luckily for me, I really enjoyed the tour that I picked (and that wasn’t just the wine talking), so here is a roundup of what you can expect from your Margaret River wine tour.
Choosing a Margaret River Day Trip
I settled on McLeod Tours, a family run business that has operated in Margaret River since 2005. The McLeod’s offer half day and full day tours of Margaret River, sunset kangaroo safaris, 2-day and 3-day tour packages, private wine and scenic tours. Family run by Neil, Coralie, Lincoln and Jon, they stood out to me as friendly and knowledgeable locals with a passion for wine. This was surely going to be the perfect combination for an enjoyable day.
Most importantly for me, they offered to pick me up from my accommodation, which meant I didn’t have to worry about driving the car into the centre of Margaret River. Definitely a concern of mine if I was going to be imbibing.
They also cheerfully answered the phone after hours as I booked rather last minute. My travel plans are usually on the haphazard side but Coralie assured me that it was no problem to come along.
Getting A Caffeine Fix
To kick the morning off, Neil took my group to the Yahava Coffee roastery. Here we were greeted by an enthusiastic (read: on his eighth coffee of the morning) member of staff who took us through a guided tasting. I tried three different types of coffee. Each one had to be sampled black first to appreciate the nuanced differences between the blends of the beans, then we could add milk to taste. I am not the most regular coffee drinker and have very limited knowledge on the subject. However, I am impressed to say that I could taste the differences between the types of coffee when they were presented in their natural form and not modified by milk or sugar.
If you’re not keen on coffee, Yahava is still an enjoyable place to visit as they sell a whole range of teas, hot chocolates and all kinds of fun gifts and home wares. The building also features a coffee drive-through, which was something I had never seen before. Apparently the Australians require great coffee so instantly that they are not even prepared to get out of their car for it. But although that comes across as a little scathing, I was actually really intrigued by this and thought it was a brilliant concept.
Wine Tasting in Margaret River
Most wine tours will take you to around four wineries over the course of the day. Depending on the group size, Neil organises a selection of wineries that offer cellar doors that perfectly highlight some of the regions wines. We called in to four different cellar doors that highlighted a wide variety of what is on offer in the region.
The engaging sommelier at Redgate took us through a range of stunning wines in a beautiful cellar door setting. One of the oldest wineries in the area, they have received multiple awards for several of their products.
Watershed is likely to be a winery that you’ve heard of as they’re a big producer in the area. Their Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is a favourite for me and it was a pleasure to sample others in their range in the light and airy tasting room.
Brookwood Estate is a family run winery established in 1996 where their head winemaker is Bronnley Cahill, the daughter of the original founders.
Fermoy Estate has a genuine claim to fame as its Cabernet Sauvignon was the only WA wine served at the official wedding reception of Danish Royal Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary in May 2004. We were allowed to head out the back of the cellar door and sample wine straight from the barrel, which was a huge highlight for me as it was not something I had ever done before.
Not All About The Wine
Don’t despair if wine is not really your thing. There is plenty of opportunity to sample a variety of Margaret River produce. We ate lunch in the Cowaramup Brewing Company where I tried a summer ale to accompany a steak sandwich. Cowawamup is a quirky little town down the road from Margaret River, locally renowned for its selection of model cows that are dotted throughout the streets.
Cowaramup is a fun place to revisit in your own time to look at these properly. I headed back the following day to wander around and try my best to capture a cow selfie or two.
In true, relaxed Aussie style, the most famous cow statue in Cowaramup is a golden one that perches on top of a tall post. The locals have nicknamed this one “rump on a stump”.
Best Of The Rest In Margaret River
There is a lot more on offer in the Margaret River region than purely booze. And if you are partial to the odd tipple then there are also plenty of edibles on offer to make sure your belly is as full as your glass.
Interspersed with the wineries, we had the opportunity to visit and sample tasty delights at the following spots:
Margaret River Cheese
The wine was soaked up by visits to the Margaret River Dairy Company where we sampled a ton of amazing cheese and yogurt. The Diary Company roots started in 1966 when a group of Italian cheese makers began selling their produce in Perth. Now based in Margaret River their cheeses often win national awards and I walked away happily with some of their cheddar to enjoy with my newly purchased wines.
Margaret River Olive Oil
Set amongst the sloping grapevines is the Vasse Virgin Soap Factory and originally known as the Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory. Not just offering soaps, lotions, scrubs and massage oils, Vasse Virgin also allows you to sample their range of scrumptious olive oils, dressings, dips, pesto and more.
Margaret River Chocolate
The Margaret River Chocolate Company is a must for most visitors to the area. Opened in 1999 it draws a huge crowd of eager chocolate lovers all keen to sample some of the wares on offer. As you munch on mouthfuls of chocolate, there is a window that allows you to view the products being made in the factory alongside the tasting room. The array of choice here was staggering and I defy you to leave empty handed.
The Benefits Of A Day Tour: Local Knowledge
At the end of the day Neil took our small group on a drive around the area to find some kangaroos in the shade. We then visited the mouth of the Margaret River where it meets the ocean at Prevelly. This is a popular spot for surfing and international surfing competitions are held here.
Neil’s local knowledge flowed throughout the day as he peppered the tour with little anecdotes from his own life growing up in the area. These personal touches allowed me to gain more of an insight of the area and its history, rounding off the day as more than simply a wine tour.
Hopefully by now I’ve inspired you to sip some Semillion Sauvignon Blanc in Margaret River. The town of Margaret River is only a three hour drive south of Perth in Western Australia if you choose to go there directly.
Hiring a car in Perth is easily done – I chose a company called Bayswater and they were exceptionally good value – and I would recommend making a short break of it. After all, who wants to rush an area such as this when there is so much more to see? Beautiful caves, forests and the coastline are all in the vicinity so my advice is to not hurry your visit.
Where To Stay
There are a lot of accommodation options available in Margaret River, from artsy B&Bs, hotels and campsites. I stayed at Wharncliffe Mill Eco Retreat, which offered low-budget dorm style accommodation that was perfect for me. There is a variety of accommodation here from chalets to powered and non-powered campsites. The setting is amidst the forest and it’s a good place for travellers with young families or backpackers like myself on a budget.
A full day wine tasting tour costs $115 per person and includes lunch and transport and all tastings. McLeod Tours can organise to pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation, which is incredibly helpful after a day on the vino.
Please note that I did not receive any discount or commission from McLeod Tours for producing this article, but am recommending the tour to you because I highly enjoyed the day.
Have you tried a wine tour in Margaret River before? What were your thoughts? Have you ever explored the vineyards elsewhere in the world? What is your recommendation. Let me know if you have any questions by diving into the comments below.
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