This week’s Ask a Local takes us down under to Australia.
Rachael Morland moved to Australia with her family when she was only four years old. Her family started holidaying in the Margaret River Region soon after moving and in 2014 she ran out of excuses as to why she shouldn’t live in that amazing part of the world so she moved out of the city and down to Dunsborough in the Margaret River region.
Today she takes on Ask a Local to tell of her favourites and tips for a part of Australia she loves so much and thinks everyone should visit.
Describe your city in your own words.
In the south-west of Western Australia, situated approximately a three and a half hour drive south from the capital city of Perth, is an area known as The Margaret River Region. Encompassing a number of different towns, each with their own personality, the area attracts 500,000 tourists, backpackers and holidaymakers every year. I am lucky enough to currently be living in Dunsborough (Dunsy as it’s more locally known) which is a coastal town located at the north end of the region in Geographe Bay. With its prominent surf and skate culture, boutique fashion and eco-conscious attitude, it really can offer something for everyone.
What’s the best thing about living there?
Australia is known for having a relaxed way of life anyway but it becomes more evident when you leave the cities and venture in to areas like the Margaret River region. I travel up to the city regularly to see family but every time I return home I can feel the tension in my shoulders dissipate as the roads become wider, the traffic more scarce and the wildlife more abundant. Something about the area demands that you leave all your worries behind and just enjoy everything that it has to offer. The fact that I’ve been holidaying here since I was a child and living here for over twelve months and I still haven’t experienced all of its amazing attractions highlights just how much there is to see and do. It’s hard to get bored in a place like the Margaret River Region!
What is your favourite time of year in your hometown for you? Why?
Any time is a great time! You think I’m kidding, right? That maybe I’m a little biased? Ok, maybe I am. But there are a number of reasons why I chose to live here and this is one of them. In the cooler months you can enjoy hiking with tracks such as the Cape to Cape which runs the length of the region from Cape Naturaliste at Bunker Bay all the way down to Cape Leeuwin in Augusta. There are also mountain bike trails which are always better enjoyed when it’s not 40°C. And something magical happens when you take a walk through the Boranup Karri Forest after a shower or two of rain. It becomes mystical and enchanting, even a little mysterious; a place that just begs to be explored. In the summer months, for which I suppose Australia is better known, there are endless amounts of activities. I suppose the most popular are any involving water to try and beat the heat so take a trip down to any one of our first-class beaches and soak up the sun whilst learning to surf, stand-up paddle board or kayak (I tried SUP for the first time in Dunsborough Bay this summer and it was so much fun). Take a canoe or join a tour up the Margaret River or for the more adventurous try abseiling or rock-climbing at the Wilyabrup Cliffs. A lot of the locals lead an outdoor lifestyle so take part in many of these activities themselves. Surfing is just a part of their culture practiced alongside activities such as Yoga and Pilates. Or if you’re like myself and love photography, you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of beauty that there is to capture at any time of the year. And let’s be honest shall we, any time is a good time to enjoy a crisp, cold beer or a chilled glass of vino. Visit any of the 200+ wineries or seven craft breweries and enjoy being either rugged up by an open fire escaping the winter chill or out on the deck soaking up the summer sunshine whilst drinking one of our world-renowned drops. For this local? Every time is my favourite time of year in the Margaret River region!
Is there one place visitors shouldn’t miss seeing?
ALL OF IT! Ha ha. Try and fit as much as you can in to the time that you’re staying. A typical itinerary for me when playing tour guide to friends and family for the day is to include the following; Three or four different wineries or breweries for wine or beer tasting with an extra one thrown in where you would stay to enjoy lunch. Aravina Estate is probably one of my favourites for this with tables on the balcony overlooking their manicured lawns and gardens. They also have a little extra out the back with a car showroom that includes Ferraris, Lamborghinis and restored muscle cars – Great if there’s a car enthusiast in tow! I’ll also include one of the chocolate factories to pick up some treats for dessert. The Margaret River Chocolate Company is probably the most popular and has the benefit of having its sister company Providore only a few hundred meters away of which specialises in yummy produce such as dessert sauces, chutneys, olive oils etc. They offer tastings for almost everything they sell so it becomes an experience all on its own. The Candy Cow in Cowaramup (Cow Town as the locals call it) is also a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. I’d try to include something that showcases our beautiful coastline as well, somewhere like Canal Rocks or Injidup Spa. Contos is also popular and is within a five minute drive from Lake Cave. I try to do at least one cave with every visitor – There’s plenty of them to choose from! The drive down through Boranup Forest is too beautiful not to share as well and just happens to be on the way to Hamelin Bay which is popular because of the wild stingrays and manta rays that wander in close to shore. They appear throughout the day but you’re probably guaranteed a sighting at approximately 4-5pm when the local fisherman start bringing in their catch for the day. If you ask them nicely, they may give you the off-cuts from filleting their fish by the old jetty so that you can hand feed the rays.
What’s your favourite local dish?
Australia doesn’t really have its own cuisine yet however we do seem to love our meat pies so you can’t go passed one of our bakeries without giving one a go. Dunsborough has the Old Dunsborough Bakery (who do an amazing potato pie) and also Taz’s but you can’t beat the character found in The Margaret River Bakery. Sitting at the bottom of the high street and extremely popular, you’re lucky if you’re able to grab a seat during peak periods so try and get in there early. Otherwise our good ol’ Vegemite always leaves a great impression!
Do you have a favourite local place to eat/drink you would share with visitors?
Personally, I love Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Dunsborough. I’ve taken all of my visitors there and it’s a great place to kick-start a night out. It’s dimly lit but colourful with your typical Mexican menu. There is no shortage of alcoholic beverages with a number of cocktails, shots and more to be enjoyed. If you’re feeling festive, borrow a sombrero to wear whilst enjoying your meal or take one home for $7.00AUD. The staff are always friendly and are willing to join in the fun and shenanigans as long as you don’t get too out of control. Sometimes I need reminding that it’s a family restaurant!
How about a favourite local coffee/tea shop?
Most mornings that I’m home I walk down to Wild &Woods Café in the centre of Dunsborough. Not only do they have the best coffee in town, using the beans from local company Yahava, but they also have the largest selection of tea leaves that I’ve ever seen in my life. They usually have a “Tea of the Day Tasting” at the front of the café near the coffee machine so make sure you try whichever one is there when you stop by. I also love going there because they make the most amazing Lemon and Raspberry friands. It’s as if a crepe suzette met a raspberry muffin and they made sweet little friand babies together. They have a number of other baked treats and some healthy home-made lunch options as well. It helps that the staff are always friendly and greet you with a smile when you walk in.
What three local words every visitor should know?
- Sandgroper – What you call someone from Western Australia
- Bogan – Someone who takes little pride in their appearance and is usually found slacking off with a beer in hand (majority of Australians. Lol).
- “How’s it going?” – Not always a question, just a “Hello”. We’re not being rude when we don’t stick around to hear your answer!
Why should someone visit your city?
After everything you’ve just read, do you really need another reason? Just come. Now. Right now.
What advice would you give someone visiting your city?
Stay for at least a week to get the most out of your trip. Holidaymakers from Perth have the luxury of visiting a couple of times a year so can get away with only weekend trips. If you’re travelling from further away, make it worth your while. Keeping in mind that it is a popular tourist destination, make sure that you make bookings for things such as accommodation, lunch or dinner (especially if you’re in a large group) and for some activities as well (like exploring the caves) if you’re visiting during peak periods like Easter and Christmas holidays. As with most places you visit it can be as cheap or as expensive an experience as you want to make it. There’s plenty to see and do for all budgets so just make sure that you do your research.
Rachael now had me wanting to book a ticket to Australia. The Margaret River region is one I regret not visiting when I lived in Australia…guess I just need to go back soon! How about you?
And as much as Rachel loves her home, she’s setting off on a new adventure soon. She’ll be spending a month in Hawaii before heading to Canada on a two-year working holiday visa. I’m so proud of her for taking such a bold step to follow her travelling dreams. Follow her crazy adventures at www.travellingastraye.com