Visiting the Cellar Doors in Margaret River

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2011

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Where I stayed
Margaret River Tourist Park
Lazy Dayz Caravan Park
Amblin Caravan Park
Around TU IT ECO Park
Valley of the Giants ECO Park
Big 4 Denmark Ocean Beach Holiday Park

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday 27th February 2011

After a cooked breakfast, we left Allan's for the second time and drove the 171km to the town of Busselton. Our route took us another way out of Perth and past more newly developed housing sites, Perth is certainly a growing city.  Busselton is famous for its 2 km long pier so we parked up as we arrived in town and went to have a look.  We found a carpark on the seafront that had a lovely little grass bank nearby, so decided to have some lunch first.  We got the blanket out and had a little picnic before walking down to the main parade.  The pier was very impressive but we choose not to do the long walk down it and just had a wander round the museum instead.

Distance                               171km 
Accommodation                  $28
Weather                                Ocean Breeze 34degrees

There are eleven campsites in Busselton but as always, we headed for the Big4 because we know what to expect.  However, I walked in and walked out again as they were charging over $40 for a site, so we drove on to the next campground.  This one only charged $28, admittedly, it was a little shabby but we were only staying for one night.  

Monday 28th February 2011

We got up at leisure, as our next destination Margaret River was only a short distance away.  We had planned to visit Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse on the way and take the coast route in.  We booked out the campsite and started on our journey, as we rounded the corner we spotted something we have been meaning to do for years but never had the opportunity... an outdoor Drive-in cinema.  We picked up a leaflet and carried on our way, planning to come back and watch a film before we left the area.

We stopped at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and took some photos, this is the first Lighthouse we have visited that have charged us an entry fee.  After walking round the base of the lighthouse and using their facilities...well Gary likes to get his money’s worth, continued on down picturesque little roads.  We are in wine country and Margret River is the wine capital of Western Australia, they have over a hundred and fifty wineries in this region, producing wines that are not only sold in Australia but internationally too.  The grapes do well here because the area has similar weather and conditions as Bordeaux in France.  

We have been planning to do an organised tour in Margaret River rather than visit the wineries by ourselves as both of us want to try the wines and neither of us wants to be the designated driver, so as soon as we reached town we parked up and went in search of the Information Centre.   There are a number of tour options here, starting with the real party bus that is just about getting drunk and playing load music, to the connoisseur’s choice with lots of spitting and dressing up.  We went for the middle of the road tour, Margaret River with Neil McLeod, for two reasons firstly we wanted a local man rather than a driver from a company and secondly he was the only one that visited an olive grove.  We booked on tomorrow’s full day tour and paid our $180 to the girl behind the counter at the information desk, we then went off to explore the town.

Distance                               95km
Accommodation                  $25.10
Weather                                Warm  31 degrees

Having dragged ourselves out the fudge factory, we found an excellent caravan park that was only $25 a night (inc. 10% member’s discount) which was fantastic value for money considering it had lovely clean facilities. We unpacked the van and prepared ourselves for our big tour the next day.

Tuesday 1st March 2011

We waited outside our campground at 9.30am for Neil McLeod to pick us up to start our day.  We have a lot to fit into one day, four wineries (up to 40 tastings), cheese factory, chocolate factory, olive grove, art studio, venison farm and lunch at the brewery.  He arrived on time and there was only one other couple on the full day tour with us.  It was going to be a great day but the first stop was a real bonus, Rigby Cartoons didn’t mean a lot to us but anyone ten years older will know who we are talking about.  Paul Rigby was famous for his cartoons in The Sun newspaper in the UK and The New York Daily News in the USA.  A local cartoonist, Rigby was invited to work in the UK by the newspaper king Rupert Murdock in the 70’s.  He was famous for hiding a little boy in all his cartoons, these were so popular that the Sun’s phone lines were jammed after he forgot to add the boy into one of the pictures on one occasion.  Local pubs would have sweepstakes were the landlord would cut the cartoon into tiny pieces and put them all in a dish if you picked the one that had the little boy in then you won the pot.  When Rupert Murdock started a newspaper in New York, he asked Paul Rigby to come with him, Paul said yes and there was an uproar in the UK, a partition was signed and sent to the Queen asking her to make him stay.  He retired to his home in Margaret River, 2003 and sadly dies in 2006, but not without setting up a small studio on his land and painting right up until his last days.

As we pulled into the Rigby Studio, one of his son’s greeted us and took us all round the studio, tell stories about his very talented Dad.  It was such an interesting tour and we wish we had longer to spend there, I think it was made extra special by the fact that a family member was present.

On to the first of our wineries, Leeuwin Estates, this is one of the larger wineries and has  won a few awards for their wines.  Our guide took us through the cellar door, which is the area you go to taste the wines, at Leeuwin Estates it is actually their main restaurant bar.  We tried at least ten different wines, red and white, as well as a sparkling wine – Australia cannot call their sparkling wine Champagne, because Champagne is a region.  On the way out of Leeuwin Estates the guide pointed out Dean Cox, the Aussie Rules Footballer who plays for the West Coast Eagles, he was here arranging his wedding reception.  This guy is huge, having had a few wines, I asked him for a photo, which he kindly allowed.  Gary stood two steps high than him on the stairs and still looked tiny next to him.

We visited another winery before picking up the half-day tour people and moving on to the brewery for lunch.  Lunch was delicious, breaded fish and chunky chips with salad and I had a glass of sparkling wine with it.  Gary did the beer tasting which cost him an extra $10 and then had a pint of his favourite one, which was included in the tour. Now we are full of lunch it is on to do another wine tasting.   This is a smaller winery that has its cellar door in a barn, still the wine was probably the nicest we have had so far today and all the staff were very helpful.  We bought a bottle of their delicious white port for evening tipples back in the van.  Next stop was a cheese factory for some more tasting and more spending, buying a triple cream brie and smoked cheese. We didn’t buy anything in the next factory but we did full our boots at the free counter.  The chocolate factory had three bowls full of chocolate buttons, milk, white and dark chocolate, and as long as you used the spoon to get them out you could have loads.....the spoon could have done with being bigger.  It was a warm day and piling chocolate into the palm of your hand is not a good idea, I did get myself in a mess.

Another winery, followed by the olive grove, the venison farm and then home, via surfers beach.  What a fantastic day, Neil our tour guide was full of local information and stories and made the trip very enjoyable.  I can’t believe how much wine we were given and it wasn’t just because we were on a tour, nearly all the wineries have open cellar doors and anyone can walk in and have free tasters. Back at the campsite, we were too full to eat dinner, so we set up the TV and settled down for the evening feeling a little tipsy.

Wednesday 2nd March 2011

There are more things to do in Margaret River other than drink free wine, for a start it has the tallest Lighthouse in Western Australia, it also has a number of caves that you can visit.  This was our plan for today, pick one cave to visit and check out the lighthouse. 

The roads in the area are narrow little country lanes, with magnificent trees lining them, when there aren’t trees there are acres of vineyards, olive groves or fields of cows.  We choose the Lake Cave because it looked the prettiest in the pictures.  We paid to go in and took the long walk down the wooden stairway to the bottom of the cliff edge.  Our guide met us at the bottom and walked us through the cave and down more dark stairs to the depth of the cave.  The Lake Cave, obviously has a lake in it, was as beautiful as the pictures showed.  The way they had fixed the lighting on some of the stalactites and stalagmites made it magical, I could have spent all day taking photos, but our hour was up.  Walking back up the wooden steps took a lot longer than coming down, and we guzzled lots of water when we got back to the van.

It cost us $5 each, to visit the lighthouse, I can’t believe WA charge to look at their lighthouse’s, this isn’t even a tour, that was $18.  Still I have a love of lighthouses and this one is on the point where we now say good-bye to the Indian Ocean and hello to the Southern Ocean.  Having walked round and taken lots of photos, we took the faster road home stopping to do some grocery shopping on the way. 

Thursday 3rd March 2011

We have booked in for one more night as we need a lazy day, and you don’t get much more lazier than this one.  We read books and played on the computer all day, only stopping to eat dinner before settling down to watch TV.  Sometimes we need days like these, we have a busy life style.

Friday 4th March 2011

It is the start of Labour Day long weekend and every campsite around is fully booked.  We are back in Busselton for one night so we can go to the Drive-in Cinema but that’s only if we can get on a campsite.  The first three we have tried are fully booked but this is Busselton and we have eight more to choose from.  Finally, Amblin Caravan Park had one space left for one night and after that, they are fully booked, as I said busy weekend.

Distance                               46km
Accommodation                  $32
Weather                                Clear  31 degrees

We pulled on to our site but didn’t unpack as we intended to go out again, we had some lunch and then drove into town and down along the seafront.  We had driven round Busselton already so we were just killing time really until tonight.  We got back to the campsite and chilled, cooked an early dinner and washed up.   As we drove to the Drive-In I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, so excited, I really hope they let campervans in, I was going to be devastated if they don’t. We were 20mins early and the second people in the queue.  When the gates opened at 7pm we drove though and paid our $15 pp, for that we get two films...good value hey!!  There was no problem with the size of the van, we just had to stay in the back three rows so we didn’t block anyone else’s view. People poured in after us and soon the place was buzzing.  We tuned our radio to the 95.4 and waited for the programme to start.  As it grew darker, the stars came out and the film started, the first one was Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black, wouldn’t have been my first choice of film but we were here for the experience not the quality of film.  However, it wasn’t too bad a film and after a short interval the second one started, Unstoppable with Denzel Washington.  It was seriously cool, sitting in the front of the van, with the stereo turned up full and no one to disturb our viewing, no one talking, munching crisps, kicking the back of the seat or answering their phone..... oh why can’t we have these at home it would make going to the pictures so much more enjoyable.  It was also great for parents too because they could take the kids, who would watch the first film and then fall sleep in the car for the second leaving their Mum and Dad to enjoy it in peace. My only distraction was the pitch black sky and the massive Australian stars twinkle around the huge cinema screen. 

Saturday 5th March 2011

As everywhere is fully booked in Busselton, we are going to just drive towards Denmark (no not the one in Europe) and see what campgrounds we come across along the way.  The first town we drove though is Nannup and they are having a big festival on, so definitely no camping available here.  We did however park up and have a walk round, as there was a market on and a number of street performers.  Now you have to Google 'Australia Has Talent’ runner up The BadPiper and see if you can find him on You Tube, this guy was performing in the streets of Nannup and comparing at their big event that night and he is fantastic.  We stood for ages watching and listening to him, I have never seen anyone play the bagpipes like fact I didn’t think bagpipes could actually make sounds like that....very cool!

We had a walk down to the river’s edge and then back to the van to carry on for a bit longer.  The road we are on is very quiet and the drive is really pretty, up and down valleys and twisting and turning through country lanes, Gary avoided hitting a Roo that came bounding out the woods in front of us and had to slow down as there were five emus at the side of the road.

Distance                               170km
Accommodation                  $28  
Weather                                Ocean Breeze 34degrees

We have now pulled into a town called Northcliffe, which has one campground.  We drove down a long lane for 2km before coming to the Eco Campsite.  I asked at reception for a site and he looked at me like I was an alien, he then smiled and said he could squeeze us on.  As he followed me out to the campground he asked if we were taking part in the big bike race that was happening tomorrow, I laughed and told him we weren’t.  This did however explain why they were so busy, it seems every little village is doing something for labour day weekend...we were lucky again to get on a site.

Sunday 6th March 2011

There was a buzz of excitement in the air as all the riders got ready for the big, cross-country bike race, we snuggle down further under our doona and waited for them all to go.  I felt sorry for them as the rain came down in a horrible drizzle, nice to know England isn’t the only country to get rubbish weather on bank holiday weekends.

We left the campsite and faithfully followed the satnav on to our next destination, it wasn’t until she tried to take us down an unmade road that we realised she was a little lost.  We pulled over to the side over the road and got the trusty maps out to try to work out where she had gone wrong.  Back on track we pulled on the South Western Highway, I say highway it still looked like a county lane and we were still avoiding Kangaroo’s as we drove down it.  We stopped for lunch at a lookout a before deciding to stop at the next town that had a campsite.

Distance                               100km
Accommodation                  $35
Weather Raining 24degrees

When people talk about saving the planet and living on the land they use the word ECO, when you talk about ECO campsites you mean expensive and basic.  The Valley of the Giants ECO Park is a field with a tatty little toilet block with showers that look like they came out a prison film but they had the nerve to charge $35 a site with the promise we might see quakkas (small marsupials that look like a cross between a rat and a kangaroo).  We unpacked the van and went for a walk down one of the country lanes nearby to stretch our legs.  After dinner, we walked round the campsite, hoping to see our first sighting of a quakka, but no such luck. 

Monday 7th March 2011

We were in no rush getting up, as we didn’t have a long journey today.  We are on the outskirts of Denmark but first we want to visit the Valley of the Giants tree top walk, which is just 6km from the campsite.  Not really interest in doing another tree top walk we did want to have a look at these amazing Tingle trees only found in this area of Australia.  They can reach a height of up to 75metres and 20 metres wide, and the oldest three there dates back over 400 years but the Tingle trees can trace their heritage back to the Ice Age.  They have a shallow root system that spreads, as they get older it gives them stability, while natural fires blaze through the lower part of the trees hollowing them out.  We could walk through or stand in a few of these trees and in an old black and white picture it showed a van parked in the hollow of the tree, the base was so big.  We tagged on to a free tour and found the whole walk interesting as the guide gave back ground information on the trees and the early settlers to the area.

Back on the road we spot a sign for an Olives and Wine tasting, we did a sharp left and drove for 1.5km down a dirt track almost turning back when we struggled to get up a hill.  We drove over to the Cellar door and parked up, luckily for us there was already another couple having a tasting.  We had only gone for the olives but didn’t take too much persuading to try a some of their wine.  They say with wine you like what you like, whether it be a cheap bottle of plonk from Tesco’s or a 50 bottle from the finest winery, having tried all those wines last week none of them blew us away, but the 2010 sauvignon blanc from the Valley of the Giant Vineyard was to die for....we bought two bottles.   The very pleasant Swiss owner pointed us in the direction of a Cheese factory, which was a bit of a detour but worth it when we got there.  More tasting and more cheese purchased a delicious triple cream Camembert. 

Distance                               54km
Accommodation                  $29.70 
Weather                               Cloudy 25degrees

The campsite we have booked on to is a Big 4, oh how we have missed the luxury of nice clean, smart amenity blocks and lovely well kept can keep your ECO nonsense.

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