Let’s face it – there are worse places to spend a few days exploring than Margaret River. Situated three hours’ drive south of Perth, ‘Margs’ is about as pristine as wine regions get, defined by its stunningly rugged coastline, legendary surf breaks, untouched forests and world-class wines.
While a dip in the Indian Ocean might be off the cards during July, Margaret River is just as beautiful during winter as it is over the warmer months (a drop in temperature also gives you the perfect excuse to get stuck into the region’s incredible cabernet) and with Australia’s newest winter festival Cabin Fever on again this July, there’s no better reason to slap on the beanie and gloves and check out all the region has to offer.
The Margaret River wine region is spread out, so you’ll need wheels to get around. Driving yourself is recommended if you’re not planning to drink (or you’re lucky enough to have a designated driver), otherwise your best bet is to book a transport operator – check out margaretriver.com/tours/ for more.
Here are our top recommendations for Cabin Fever, as well as few of our fave winery picks for an unforgettable few days away.
If there’s a better way to kick off a long weekend than an equally long lunch, we’d like to hear it. Stop in at Margaret River’s founding winery Vasse Felix for a top-notch lunch focused on local, seasonal produce paired with amazing wines crafted by GT WINE’s 2012 Winemaker of the Year Virginia Willcock.
Head south to the township of Margaret River – if you’re after a taste of some of the region’s best boutique wines, check out Amato Vino at Margaret River Collaborative. Made by local legend Brad Wehr, the thought-provoking range of wines includes styles and varieties not often seen around these parts, like fiano, marsanne and a mouth-watering blend of cabernet and nebbiolo.
Jump in the car for a quick five-minute drive to Cape Mentelle for Cabin Fever’s Black Glass Tasting (19 and 26 July, 3-5pm, $120pp). Winemaker Ben Cane will lead you through a series of local and international wines, plus different vintages of the same wine, all served in black wine glasses to emphasise the focus on taste and smell.
You’ll need a proper breather after that olfactory workout so stop in for dinner at Margaret River’s shining culinary star, Miki's Open Kitchen. Chef Miki Nagai's small and intimate "city-style" restaurant serves as a contrast to the abundance of open space in Margaret River, offering up a unique izakaya-inspired menu focused completely on local ingredients. It's a pretty impressive experience but be sure to book in advance.
Breakfast with Indian Ocean views is never a bad start to the day so head to White Elephant Café in Gnarabup to fuel up for the day’s activities. Then it’s back to Miki’s Open Kitchen for Sensei Miki's Flavour Masterclass (27 July, 11:30am-1:30pm, $120pp) where you’ll learn about the art of Japanese cooking across a three-course lunch with matching sake.
If red wine is more your thing, check out Cabin Fever’s Margaret River Reds vs the World (20 July, 11:30am-2:30pm, $80pp) where renowned local chef Kate Lamont will serve up a dozen incredible local and international wines perfectly paired with four delicious plates of food.
Saturday afternoon is the perfect time to pay a visit to some of the region’s top cellar doors. Head south to Flowstone Wines where winemaker Stuart Pym crafts elegant sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon that are stylistically quite different to the Margaret River standard (tip: Flowstone’s Moon Milk red and white blends are worth a look!). Then it’s back north to some of the region’s icons: Xanadu, Pierro (make sure you also check out the L.A.S Vino range of wines) and pioneering winery Cullen, who specialise in biodynamic viticulture.
After an intense day of eating and drinking you’ll want to put your feet up, but before doing so be sure to check out one of Cabin Fever’s must-do events, Blazing Brews at the Beer Farm (27 July, 6-11pm, $15pp (food and drink not included)). There’ll be a huge bonfire, live music and plenty of great locally made beer and food to wrap up an epic Saturday.
While cabernet usually receives all the red wine attention, Margaret River is also renowned for its shiraz, which tends to be more aromatic and medium-bodied than the Barossa blockbusters we’re used to. Ransack the Cellar at Cape Grace (Saturday 20 and 27 July, 11am-12pm, $45pp) is a great way to have a look at the evolution of some of the region’s finest shiraz wines from the past 15 years.
With your palate primed, it’s time to hit up Howard Park Wines for some Fondue by the Fire (27 and 28 July, 12-4pm, free entry). Local cheesemakers Cambray Cheese will be offering up their mouthwatering farmhouse fromage with the stunning wines made by GT WINE’s 2018 Winemaker of the Year Janice McDonald.
Head back into the Margaret River township to check out the Settlers Tavern Carpark Collective (28 July, 11:00am-6pm, free entry). Serving as a kind of ‘closing ceremony’ for Cabin Fever, the Settlers Tavern car park will be transformed into a mini festival, with live music, food, beer and wine all served alongside open fire pits and plenty of dancing.
While Cabin Fever may be over for another year, there’s no reason for the trip to end – stop in to visit a few more of Margaret River’s top cellar doors on your way back north. The team at Evans & Tate focus on pristine yet great value expressions of the regional classics, while Deep Woods have made a name for themselves with their near-perfect cabernet sauvignon. Make sure you also pay a visit to Blind Corner where owners Ben and Naomi Gould pride themselves on biodynamic and organic wine production, with minimal additions – essentially the vinous equivalent of a health kick, just in time for the weekend to finish.