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Margaret River

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 9 February 2009 | Views [2433]

I decided to rent a car and head south to Margaret River which is 3 hours south of Perth. I was excited since its a famous  wine region. But its also a very popular escape for the folks from Perth. I could not find any hotels on the internet down there, and everyone said that it was going to be totally packed, and I may not find a hotel room. I went anyway. On the drive down I stopped in the seaside town of Belmont for lunch (this was January 1st). Well it was a ghost town. No one was there. The shops were all closed. I finally found a Greek place and had a very small falafel for $6 (US). I didn't see any beach, and I couldn't figure out why I heard this was also a tourist spot. Hmm.

Another hour or so, I arrived at a tourist information center about 40 miles north of Margaret river. After about 1 hour of calling around they found me a motel for $80 (US) a night 25 miles south of Margaret River. Feeling relieved. it was time to hit some wineries before they closed. I visited Leeuwin and Cape Mentelle. Both were beautiful properties with great wine. Leeuwin (known for the best Chardonnay in Australia) had a huge place with a band shell, picnic grounds and a fancy restaurant. It was all very upscale, and yet the tastings were free (as they turned out to be everywhere in australia). The chardonnay's at Leeuwin were great (I actually liked there Prelude Chardonnay even better than their famous art series), but the wine overall at Cape Mentelle was even better (their reds were also very good).

Anyway, I will give an australian wine report in a separate posting...

Cape Mentelle was less than 10 miles from the coast, so I went to the coast, which was stunning white sand coral beaches. There were surfers and even a kite surfer. I hung out with some brasilians there for a while, then found another spot where the margaret river meets the indian ocean. Truly stunning. These were almost perfect beaches with one caveat, but its a big one. Ok, maybe not physically big but there were lots of them. The fly's were constantly attacking me, so I could not stay at the beach very long.

I got a nice dinner in Margaret river, checked into my hotel  (a little bit worse than motel 6 quality), and then went to the lighthouse at the southern tip of the cape (Cape Naturaliste?). Its here were the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, although how someone tells where one ocean ends and another one starts, I will never know. Anyway, I watched sunset from this spot which was kind of cool. Anyway, this area was a major improvement on Perth. And unlike Perth, it actually cools off at night....

The next day I visited 4 wineries and had lunch at Vasse Felix (nice spot but bad food, actually I did not like their wine either). I had first tried to eat lunch at Voyaguer Estate, but when I walked into their empty dining hall at noon, they told me that they were completely booked out. Hmm. In the mid afternoon, I found a lovely beach where I could snorkel right off the shore. 50 feet from shore I saw an eel and lots of fish and coral. How awesome is that for a snorkeling spot accessible from shore.

After 2 days in Margaret River, I drove inland to Pemberton, home to some very tall trees and 3 nationals parks. The Karri forests their were amazing! I got to do a waterfall hike, near a lake and in a beautiful forest filled with tall trees and birds and crickets singing. At another spot I climbed up the top of a massive Karri tree that had stairs built in a spiral around it (it is used as a fire watch station, they have a few of these. I went up the tallest of them the bicentennial  tree). from the top you can see down on the entire forest which was incredible.

I wanted to get even farther south, to the famous tree top walk between walpole and denmark on the south coast, but ran out of time. But the area was amazing- I need 3-4 days for this area and I only had 1.

On my way back up to Perth I stopped for the night back in Belmont. This time I found a fun seaside town, thats a lot like Ventura. And yes, I found a very nice beach a few blocks from where I had eaten a few days earlier. I walked around a bit, hung out at my motel and chatted with some locals and went to bed, since I had to catch a flight from Perth to Adelaide in the morning.

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