The best way to do Margaret River
WINE. Cheese. Chocolate. Beaches. What's not to love about Western Australia's Margaret River region?
About three hours' drive south of Perth, the region is best known for its wineries, with more than 5000ha under vine for about 215 grape growers and wine producers.
The region stretches from Busselton and Dunsborough in the north down to Augusta in the south, with the town of Margaret River in the middle.
With a vibe more like Byron Bay than the Hunter Valley or Barossa, the town and its nearby coastline are dotted with surfie and hippie types.
The weekend markets boast local fare and homegrown musical talent while the restaurants promote locally sourced products - from wine to bread and eggs.
The town has a laidback persona and the greeters at the wineries in the region bring that Aussie personality to table, or should that be bar? Meandering between cellar doors is delightful, not only for the country characters you meet along the way, but also for the spectacular farmland and forest vistas that offer a charming backdrop.
If you'd prefer to do it yourself, grab a map of the area's wineries and remember to swirl and spit - don't swig down every drop or you'll find yourself dealing with Mister Plod.
Given there are almost 100 cellar doors, though, selecting one of the numerous tour options is the safest way to find the boutique wine for you.
While there are the standard wine and beer options - there are also more specialty tours, from bushtucker - complete with crocodile and roo for lunch - to bubbles to 'wine for dudes'.
Though the wineries on each tour may differ - most will drop by Margaret River's cheese and chocolate spots. And hopefully The Grove distillery to sample some excellent spirts and liqueurs - watch out for crocs and drop bears, though.
If you're lucky you'll start the day with Dennis from Churchview, who'll teach you how to get the full experience of the wine - sight, smell and taste. But any greeter worth his salt will get you in on the swirling and sniffing techniques.
It's not just the wine that makes this area a gem - there's plenty of striking coastal spots on the way to and from Perth that'll make you think you're in paradise.
Like an artist has skilfully blended colours on a canvas, the water colour at Canal Rocks changes from deep blue to various shades of turquoise.
With the Indian Ocean crashing against the granite coastline for thousands of years, there is a now a stunning seascape to behold as the ocean rushes through the rocks.
Also picturesque is the Busselton Jetty that stretches almost 2km out to sea above similarly changing turquoise water. There's a little train that'll transport passengers out to the end, but it's a comfortable walk even in thongs.
There's fun trivia questions along the route to make the walk more interesting and then incredible life-size whale drawings at the pier's end.
Cool off on the way back with a jump into the refreshing ocean off one of the lower jetties, or use the protected swimming area back on the beach.
Then pull up a bit of grass to watch the sun set while munching on local fish and chips.