Western Australia Perth, Margaret River & Fremantle
The best way to prepare for a holiday in Western Australia is to go on serious diet upfront. Think about the time you need to digest a pure wine & steak diet for a couple of weeks. Despite this little downturn, I strongly recommend to give Western Australia a dedicated timeslot in your travel calendar. Come back to Australia and explore the Wild West.
We arrived completely relaxed from Singapore after a 4-hour trip and took a taxi into town (around 40-50 AUD) to check in to Alex Hotel, located in the Central Business District of Perth. Alex Hotel is about a year old and is truly one of the hipper places we have been to. We quite liked the concept with an Honor Bar (Self-Service drinks), a nice Rooftop to hang out and stylish rooms. Breakfast is included.
As we were already a bit late in the day we decided to follow the recommendation of our receptionist to have dinner at the enclosed Shadow Wine Bar with a similar stylish concept as the hotel.
We came into a casual chat with the waitress (Penny) who was extremely friendly and gave us many more recommendations for our ongoing journey to Margaret River as she comes from there. Wow! How nice is that. We couldn’t complain about the food & wine either and had a delicious Wagyu Sirloin to celebrate the start of our little journey.
On both our trips to WA we stayed in Alex Hotel and had dinner at Shadow Wine Bar. We truly liked the both concepts and I can recommend it to anyone travelling to Perth.
The remaining part of our journey we dedicated to do two of our most favorite hobbies: Food & Wine.
Margaret River Region has become one of the most well known destinations for food and wine lovers and so it was out of question that we spend some days there.
Returning to Perth, we checked ourselves a nice car and went down the 3-3,5 hours drive to make the winelovers heart start beating a bit faster.
We checked into on the most beautiful hotels we have been in a long time – Empire Spa Retreat up between Dunborough and Yallingup. (In general I recommend finding a hotel close to these towns).
Empire Spa Retreat has been decorated and furnished with so much attention to detail – it makes you go in and buy everything you see.
Fortunately, the owners run also some furniture stores where you can actually buy all of those cute things (e.g. Dunsborough or Fremantle)
I decided to invest the money into wine instead – better it is.
Knowing that Wine Tours can be a bit touristy and superficial we decided still to spend one day with Top Drop Wine Tours. Their 85 AUD/PAX Last Minute offer paid off. We visited some great wineries we most likely wouldn’t think of. Group was small and quite young, tour guide very knowledgeable about Wine & the Region and the Lunch very good (Clairendon/Streicker Winery).
A Perfect start to explore the Region and to get an overview about what is going on.
As we have visited a total of around 15 wineries on our stay – it is kind a hard to say which is the best. Nevertheless you will be able to visit around 5 wineries per day – assuming you have your alcohol intake under control.
The first thing you should do is getting a map with all wineries on and identifying the ones you want to visit e.g. my recommendations. Start with the one that is farthest away from your hotel.
Check out my overview on the Wineries
Top 5 Wineries in terms of setting:
♥ Stormflower Vineyard: Beautiful setting with a small charming cellar door overseeing their Vineyard. Sympathetic and friendly lady to do the sampling and even meeting the owner of the Vineyard. Our last Vineyard we visited became our most favorite one.
♥ Cape Grace Wines: Owned by a passionate couple all of their Wines are manually processed. Get into a casual chat with the Owners right in their cellar door that seems to be in the middle of a remote forest.
♥ Voyager Wines: One of the big founding wineries of Margaret River this winery is huge. Due to its popularity also quite popular with many visitors (seemingly all from China). The tasting room is one of the most elegant and luxurious I have ever seen and located in a wonderful South Africa/Dutch inspired building. Worth a Visit.
♥ Xanadu Wines: The tasting room was run by our Tour Guide from the previous day so we spent a long time there and got a very in-depth look into the wines and what the winery is all about. A very modern and sleek setting.
♥Knee Deep Wines: Wow what a beautiful location with a restaurant in the middle of the vineyard. Absolutely amazing.
More Wineries worth Visiting
♥ Leeuwin Estate: Also here one of the founding members of the Region the Art Series Cab Sav is to die for. Be aware of the many Asian visitors giving this winery a visit. We had a fantastic Cheese Platter & the Sampling Platter for Lunch. The Winery is famous for their wine flight lunch. Truly enjoyed it.
♥ Cullen Wines: Top Range Wines and most likely one of the most famous wines & wineries in the Region. Bought a nice bottle of their flagship Diana Madelin Cab Sav. Looking forward to drink it at home.
♥Windows Estate: According to our knowledge, their Chardonnay seems to be quite a runnerand therefore sold out. Had a very nice tasting and a casual chat with the guy working there. Beautiful setting along a lake with a cute Labrador making use of all the nice tourist giving him a cuddle. Bought a nice Bottle of their Cab Sav to remember.
♥ Swings & Roundabouts: This winery is worth a visit with very friendly staff working there and pouring in some of their fantastic Cab Savs. Bought a bottle of it.
OK, identified, this is only Red Wines we are drinking but honestly speaking – if you want to visit several wineries in a row you need to focus and can’t drink all offered wines they are having there. If you just want to have a good time – do 2 or 3 wineries and end up in one with a restaurant.
The region became famous with their Cabernets and Chardonnays. So those two varieties are most looked after. Every winery we visit also came around with their Sauvignon Blanc – Semillion Blends (SBS) which we really like but didn’t want to bring in our luggage.
We also visited some Wineries that have big names but that didn’t give us too much of a personal feeling or where the wine range didn’t suit our taste buds that well. The list is in no particular range
♥ Evans & Tate: Nice winery but wines didn’t suit our taste buds that day.
♥ Clairault / Streicker: had Lunch there during our Tour and staff was very nice. Nevertheless, wines are OK but didn’t blow us away.
♥ Howard Park / Mad Fish: Nice Tasting Room but also quite overrun. Wines didn’t blow us away and staff wasn’t giving us the personal touch and feel.
♥ Cape Mentell Wines: Very famous winery but somehow maybe not the best choice for our first tasting that day. Cant help it.
♥ Vasse Felix: Clearly disappointed by Vasse Felix. Mass tourism at its best.
So plan at least 2-3 days for Margaret River. You also want to make sure to taste yourself through their cheeses, chocolate and beers.
One the first night we had an awesome and very personal dinner in Dunborough at Piari & Co. A small restaurant venue that offers a nice range of Dinner Options. More the neighborhood touch & feel even though most of the guest seemed to be tourist. Very recommendable.
To get a night off from the whole wine drinking head to Sampson & Bowen – they offer a nice range of their own brewed beer and very casual style tapas dinners. A nice contrast to all the top-notch wineries and enclosed restaurants. Went there on Saturday night and had a nice meal with a nice pint of beer. Tasted awesome.
Last but not least, the last evening in Margaret River we went for a super casual dinner with not too much of a fancy glancy at La Casina close to Dunsborough. The usual Italian fare at an acceptable price – never can go wrong with this.
After so much wine drinking we needed to move our butt a little bit. For the last night & last day in Australia we moved back to Perth – to be exact: to Fremantle. We took a little bit of detour to see the sunset over the Indian Ocean around South Beach Road. Take some time and stop at on of the many beaches where dozens of Surfers are riding the Waves in the last remainders of the sunlight (and catch a glimpse of hot hunks getting out of the water. At the end we reach Fremantle, the ultra hip and bohemian town right at the Indian Ocean is a paradise for laid back Dining, Shopping and Living.
We checked our selves in the Hougeoumont Hotel right within the town center. I unfortunately booked the smallest room available (“Cabin”) which is still clean & neat but has the size of a ship cabin. Didn’t want to complain about my own mistake so just left it as it is. Bigger rooms are available just FYI. You can customize your Minibar and what you require e.g. pillow style before your arrival. I find a very nice and personal service. The hotel is one of the driving forces behind Fremantle becoming more and more popular and definitely already somewhat like an institution there. That’s at least my impression.
We finished up our last night in Western Australia with a very good Steak at Char Char Bull Restaurant down at Fremantle Harbor. Definitely a Tourist Fav we were one the few guests on a Monday evening. I was quite surprised about the number of seats each restaurant down there has to offer.
After a casual chat with the waitress (from Germany) she told us that heaps of people would be lining up to grab a seat with Harbor View.
We started our last day with an honest breakfast at one of the most trending cafes in Fremantle – Bread in Common. A beautiful restaurant with an own bakery and deli shop offers a vibrant style that brings together all groups of people – Surfer, Tatooed Hipsters, Backpackers, Mommys, Retires, Tourists… all of them right there in one spot.
Nothing in particular to do on our last day so we used the remaining hours of the day to stroll through Fremantle. It has many shops to explore and especially woman will find an abundance of shops to do serious fashion shopping. So take some hours to explore the different side streets and their little cafes. Head to the Fremantle Prison and check an important part of Australian History or have a look at the Maritime Museum if interested.
Last but not least, we visited Little Creatures Brewery (now worldwide known for their tasty beers) right down at the Harbor. We finished our Australian encounter with a fantastic pint of Pale Ale. We had that Australian Afternoon Sun bring that glow back to your faces. Life at its best!