Margaret River – holing up in Dunsborough

When I first came on this trip to Western Australia, I had plans to head up north to Shark Bay to see the dugongs and stromatolites, but I was told it was the wrong time of year (January) as the heat would be unbearable. It’s also a trip that would require several days and a lot of driving, so I decided to leave it for another time and head south to Margaret River instead.

The river has given its name to a town and surrounding tourism region that’s three hours’ drive from Perth. The area is famous for being one of Australia’s best wine regions. I spent a night in an AirBnb just outside the town of Margaret River (see later post) but first I spent seven nights in Dunsborough, a coastal town in the north east of the region. My map of the Margaret River region is here.

Dunsborough is nice enough but not particularly exciting, however it’s an excellent jump off point for visiting the peninsula that constitutes the northern part of the Margaret River region.

It does have its own beach which is nice enough…

…but not as nice as Meelup Beach on the edge of town. Video here.

The Meelup to Castle Rock walk starts near the beach.

It takes you through a pristine nature reserve with some scenic coastal views along the way. Video here.

My planned daily routine was to get up early and cycle to a new beach, and then visit a winery for a long lunch and a gentle cycle home later when it wasn’t so hot (see coming posts).

So my first stop was usually for an early breakfast here…

The Cure (Elementary B), 1/20 Faure Ln, Dunsborough WA 6281

This drive through café in a quirky building was a couple of streets away from my AirBnB. They have a small terrace outside so it’s a nice place to start the day.

They do good coffee and a great smoked salmon bagel (B+).

For a luxurious lunch the best place in town is…

Palmer’s Winery (Advanced A), 1271 Caves Rd,

I came here on a very hot day as it was close to Dunsborough beach. It was recommended by my AirBnB hosts but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was.

The Albany Rock Oysters were the best ones I had on the whole trip (A+), and I’d had oysters at least ten times in the five weeks I was in Oz.

Always up for the local specialities, I tried the Manjiup Marron (local freshwater crayfish) with Seared Asparagus, Potato & Green Onion Salad, Garlic Butter & Fried Capers. Butterflied for easy eating, it had plenty of meat to it but was slightly disappointing in terms of flavour (B).

However their in-house Semillon was the perfect match for the seafood (B+).

The service from my adorable waitress Julie was also the best I had during the whole trip, which is saying something given the high standards I generally encountered in and around Perth.

The Coconut Pannacotta with Mango, Strawberry & ‘Honeycomb’ was fantastic too (A). I want to have a go at making this.

I followed up with an Affogato. I was unsure what sweet wine to have with this so Julie gave me a taster of their Pedro Ximenez (B), an Andalucian favourite of mine, and a port-like wine also of their own making (B+). I went with the latter (B+).

After paying the bill and leaving a handsome tip for Julie (tipping is not required in Oz, unless they really deserve it, which is maybe why the service is generally so good), I followed her directions and stumbled through the rows of display vines to their cellar door…

…to try a few of their range of reds, courtesy (?) of the taciturn cellar guardian.

They also process the grapes of a nearby vineyard under the name of Purebred which impressed me too. I left with a bottle of 2014 Purebred Malbec (€39) and one of the Port from Palmer’s private collection (€25) that I’d had with the Affogato. Fortunately home was only a short cycle ride after this!

I liked Palmers wines so much that I came back a second time with Karen and went through the whites, finally purchasing a mixed box of six which sustained us for the following week. They were the 2016 Palmer SB, the 2014 Palmer Semillon, the 2015 Purebred Chardonnay MW, the 2015 Purebred Chardonnay B.D. and the only red; the 2014 Purebred Malbec MW again. Total cost A$157.

The old boy was a bit more friendly this time as I was a returnee. I learned from him that Palmers wines are not easily purchasable as there’s not much money in involving middle men, so you have to visit to get their good stuff. It’s a must in my book, do go. You can recognise the turn off for the cellar door by this old sports car parked on the grass verge by the main road.

There are a few other places in the centre of town that are okay for everyday eating and drinking.

The Dunsborough (Intermediate B), 536 Naturaliste Terrace,

The big local pub, popular with families. Big terrace outside.

Occy’s (Low Intermediate B), 12/34 Dunn Bay Road,

A very popular wine bar that sells food. I can recommend the fried squid (B+).

Oh Delhi (Low Intermediate B+), 9/34 Dunn Bay Road,

Good Indian food. I enjoyed the Lamb Chops, Tawa Veg Curry, Raita and Butter Naan (all B+).

Little Saigon (Low Intermediate C+), Shop Seven/34 Dunn Bay Road,

I had a great Beef Pho for lunch but I wasn’t impressed by the Fresh Rolls, Chicken Skewers and Barrimundi Fillet I had in the evening (all C).

So now I had a base camp, I could do a few day trips…

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