The Margaret River Discovery Tour: the tour for people who don’t do tours
The Margaret River Region stretches 100kms from Augusta and Cape Leewin in the south, to Yallingup and Cape Naturaliste in the north. Sitting between these two capes is some of Australia’s most stunning coastline, majestic forests, fertile farmlands and acres of wine lands. Already well known for its fine wines and amazing surf, Margaret River is now becoming a foodie’s paradise with local producers growing everything from handmade chocolate, to artisan cheese, organic fruit and vegetables and grass-fed beef and pork.
Not having visited the region before and eager to discover some of its secrets, we commenced our five days in the region with a 'Margaret River Discovery Tour' run by The Margaret River Discovery Co. and expertly led by Sean Blocksidge.
Sean greets us at the Margaret River Visitor Centre. His passion for the region is contagious and as he takes us through how our day will unfold I feel my excitement building. One of the things that makes Sean’s tours so enjoyable is his affable nature and down to earth personality. He makes you feel like a friend and his tour is anything but formulaic. Word of mouth is one of the keys to the success of Margaret River Discovery Co. and anyone who knows Sean will tell you how fantastic his tours are.
Sean spent much of his 20s working in hotels and managing wineries. He has travelled extensively all over the world, and has some interesting stories of close encounters with snakes and bears. MRDCo came about after Sean decided he wanted to leave behind corporate life and share his passion for the great outdoors along with the secret locations and highlights of Margaret River that only the locals know about. He managed to navigate the GFC and through careful planning put together a range of tours that showcased both the natural beauty of the region and its world-class wineries.
Heading off for a short drive through the bush we came to a clearing where we got our first glimpse of the tranquil Margaret River that snakes its way through the region. Sunlight filtered through the trees overhead and a slight wind made ripples across the river. Sean prepared the three canoes and paired up our group of six, where we set off for a leisurely paddle down river for around half a kilometer. We looked for local bird life in the towering eucalypts and local freshwater mussels and marron nestled in the shallow banks. We even joined some local stand up paddle boarders getting their morning exercise. There was something truly special about being surrounded by such natural beauty and we all managed to get back to the bank without incident. The tranquility of canoeing lazily along the river is something I will remember for a long time to come.
Our pit stop before lunch was a nearby local waterfall with a significant Aboriginal history, where we sat enjoying the peaceful and spiritual surroundings as we tucked into some local honey on fresh bread.
Lunch was perhaps one of the highlights of the whole day, as Sean took us to one of the smaller wineries in the region, Fraser Gallop Estate. A little over 10 years old, this boutique winery is holding its own against the bigger known names like Cape Mentelle, Leewin Estate, Vasse Felix and Voyager Estate. With two passionate winemakers, Clive Otto (2005 Australian Winemaker of the Year) and his assistant Kate Morgan, along with careful management of the vineyard and a focus on producing fruit of the highest quality, this is certainly a winery to watch. Set on 165 acres with a major focus on cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay varietals, Fraser Gallop ensures the wine is of the highest quality through a combination of traditional techniques as well as harnessing the latest technologies available to winemakers. Fraser Gallop came to the attention of the International wine community in 2009, when their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon won the International Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Heading through the property past the rows of vines and looking out to the grand homestead we head round to the barrel room, where we are served a delicious lunch of local antipasto delights, freshly baked Yallingup sourdough and tasty salads. All washed down with some of the nicest wine I have found in Australia to date. Their Parterre Chardonnay is now one of my favourite wines and this year’s vintage of the Cabernet Sauvignon looks like it may very well repeat the success of the 2007 vintage.
Full of food and suitably tipsy we set off for our last stop on the tour, a 4WD bush bash across the Cape to the Wilyabrup Cliffs, followed by a short guided walk along part of the Cape to Cape Track. This walk comes with a word of warning that should we meet with any tiger snakes we should stand completely still and seek Sean’s assistance. Yeah right! I would run screaming in the opposite direction should I ever come across a tiger snake. Taking a deep breath we set off along the track taking care to avoid giant ants and tiger snakes, hearts pounding and overcome with wine induced giggles as we struggled to keep up with Sean (Australia’s answer to Bear Grylls.) Our bravery was rewarded with some of the most spectacular coastline and the tail end of pink and white wildflowers that carpet the top of the track. A few hairy photos later clinging to the cliffs and fighting the wind that had whipped up in intensity we headed back along the track bound for the car and Margaret River Town.
The trip back saw us all delve into quiet introspection as we took in memories of all that we had witnessed. Without a shadow of a doubt, this tour would have to be one of the must do’s in any itinerary to Margaret River.