The Margaret River region is known for fine wine and dining, a great weekend spot for locals to escape the hustle and bustle of Perth - but it's also a destination in its own right, somewhere that people from all over Australia, and all over the world, put on their must-see list.
And if you love adventure, there are plenty of choice spots to check out when you're in this neck of the woods.
The quaint town of Margaret River is about three hours south of Perth, and it's an area known for its breathtaking natural beauty - a place where the visitors often outnumber the locals.
While Margey itself isn't on the beach, the water isn't far away - and in these parts there are literally hundreds of spots you can stop, park, and take in a glorious view of the Indian Ocean.
Margaret River to Three Bears Beach
Three Bears Beach is about 45km from Margaret River.
If you want to get up close to the ocean, there are astounding beach drives to surf spots, one of which is Three Bears Beach, between Dunsborough and Yallingup, which is about 45km from Margaret River.
You will need to search online for maps to get here, because there are no signposts pointing it out. Hey, it's understandable - sometimes you want to have the best-kept secrets left unknown by the masses.
Sometimes you want to have the best-kept secrets left unknown by the masses.
At first there's a climb away from Sugarloaf Road, with dense sandy sections and low hanging trees. As you make your way up the hill, the sand becomes more hard-packed, and rocky sections are noticeable under your tyres.
Be sure to take it slow - you shouldn't need to drop your tyre pressures for this climb, as the sand isn't enough to get you bogged if you're in a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle. I wouldn't suggest a two-wheel drive model, though.
Once you climb over the hill you will begin your descent over a craggy crawl, where you'll be greeted by a stunning vista of emerald waters meeting a rugged rocky coastline. The track continues to a clearing with a lookout point and some amenities, and that's how you'll know you've made it to Three Bears Beach.
The migratory whales make their way along the coast at the same time every year.
The viewing platform is terrific for seeing surfers catch waves on one of three point-breaks – baby bear for beginners, mama bear for amateurs and papa bear for seasoned wave riders – but perhaps more impressive than the humans on boards are the humpback whales, which between September and November, you'll see just a couple of hundred metres from shore. The migratory whales make their way along the coast at the same time every year, and if you have binoculars or a long camera lens, you'll be amazed just how active and curious they are.
You can either turn around and head back out the way you came in (apart from a slight divergence over rubber matting to ensure you can make it out as the trail back up is very steep) or you can keep driving along the coastline, and you'll eventually make it back out near Yallingup. Be sure to either use your car's built-in sat nav screen or a plug-in nav, or download the local maps onto your phone if you prefer to use it, because mobile phone reception can be patchy.
A visit to Cape Naturaliste lighthouse is well worth the drive.
There are stunning lookout spots nearby, and vantage points aplenty for wildlife - you can expect to spot dolphins, all kinds of native birds, kangaroos, wallabies and a European tourist or two. A visit to Cape Naturaliste lighthouse is well worth the drive, too.
Margaret River to Whicher Range
Whicher Range is about 20km south of Busselton.
If you prefer bushland to sand, you needn't travel far. There are native and plantation forests surrounding Margaret River, and if you're there at the right time of year you'll see some tremendous blooming wildflowers peppering the undergrowth.
Whicher Range, about 20km south of Busselton, is one such spot, and is renowned for its mountain-bike trails and walking tracks, with tall trees and easy-access gravel roads making this a great option if you prefer to get out on two wheels - or in a two-wheel drive.
You could drive in the forests for days on end and never retrace your tracks, such is the maze-like network of trails, tracks and off-road excursions. It won't just be native trees you'll spot here: kangaroos, emus, lizards and more are all visible, while there are farms surrounding the area with very healthy looking cattle all around.
You'll be able to spot kangaroos, emus, lizards and more.
If you're into bird-watching, a quick detour by way of the Fish Road Nature Reserve could be up your alley, and flower lovers will appreciate the beauty on offer here, too.
Millbrook State Forest, another heavily wooded area with lots of native plants and plenty of wildlife, is very close by.
Margaret River to Boranup
Head 20km south-west of Margs and you'll find Boranup.
The best of both worlds can be had if you head towards Boranup, only about 20km south-west of Margs.
There's no town here, so don't expect much in the way of facilities or coffee stops; we recommend a takeaway from Brew Shack in Margs - the staff there gave us the tip about this place.
There's a kink in the road with a valley filled with gumtrees.
If nature is your thing, then you simply won't believe the trees. There's a kink in the road (Caves Road) here, referred to by one local as "a nipple on the map", where the blacktop meets a valley with what appears to be millions of gumtrees, all straining to find their own spot of sunlight.
You can get out and walk these parts, and part of the Cape to Cape walk – a 135km trek from Cape Leeuwin, the southwestern-most point on the Aussie mainland, to Cape Naturaliste, at the northern end – passes through here. There are dozens of caves and sites of cultural significance if you feel the need to tick that box, too.
You can get out and walk Cape to Cape.
Four-wheel drivers will love the tracks here as they range from easily dealt-with gravel roads to steep, off-camber ascents and descents, which will test your vehicle's wheel articulation and your driving skills, depending on which track you choose.
That's an important point, in fact - you can easily find yourself heading down narrow paths with little space to turn around, so be sure you check out your map source to get an idea of where you want to head. Signage really isn't a strong point in WA.
The trail we chose (Hooley Road) took us due west, with some testing terrain along the way. The Navara we were in coped with it easily enough in four-wheel drive high-range and on highway terrain tyres, but we used all of its 226mm of ground clearance, and its 33.1 degree approach and 28.1 degree departure angles came in handy over rockier sections. If you're attempting this track in something a little less hardcore, such as a small all-wheel drive SUV, opt for the easier tracks, many of which run alongside the rougher stuff.
The track continued along the cliff, with vistas to private, unpopulated sandy beaches below.
A few hundred metres of descending lead us to an intersection - straight ahead was a dead end punctuated by a 10-metre cliff, while the track to the left continued along the cliff, with vistas to private, unpopulated sandy beaches below.
Further along there was a very rough track down to the beach, but we heeded a "If you drive down here, you'll be sorry!" warning sign put up by locals who no doubt had paid the price of being too ambitious.
While it would have been fantastic to do some extensive beach driving, we only managed about 20km of it near Mandurah during our short trip south of Perth. But if driving along a sandy stretch is your idea of fun, there are plenty of sections of beach here that allow four-wheel drive access. Remember to lower your tyre pressures before you start driving on sand – we dropped ours to 20 psi and had little trouble – and make sure you have a portable air compressor to inflate them at the end of your beach sojourn, too.
The Margaret River region is full with blooming wildflowers.
Want to experience nature for longer than just a day trip? Nearby you will find the Conto campgrounds, with six different sites to set-up camp and enjoy the serenity.
Check the information boards to find other campsites in the state and national parks around the region - many have toilets and cooking facilities, and most cost less than $10 per person per night.
Other accommodation choices abound in this area, with everything from powered sites at caravan parks to luxurious glamping spots. And if you take your relaxing seriously, there are stunning resorts in the area, too.
There are many accommodation choices in this area, including luxurious glamping spots.
The Margaret River region is a must-visit location if you want to see the best of the west. No matter what your taste - be it for adventure, or de-stressing - there's something here for pretty much everyone.
What's your favourite off-road destination in WA? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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