Updated: Jul 9, 2018
Downunder. Far and away. 20 years ago since my mum first visited Australia, 15 since she was last in W.A.. My dad, brother and sister had never visited until December '16, so for me to have been twice at the age of 19 month, is pretty 'bonza' if I may use an aussie term...!
We spent our Christmas holidays in Margaret River and loved it so much, that my mum and dad immediately booked a trip back there the following year. This, of course, makes me the expert on where to play, eat and drink in this area. So take a seat, relax and get ready for Chris's extensive guide to Margaret River!
Don't you just love this picture? The sunset in Yallingup, with the chicken kebab truck feeding the cars. It was that sunset and a lot of other great attractions that made us come back here and rent at house with my grandmother only one year later...
But first, here's a little teaser of some of the things you will hear about in my story - and then, we'll start the journey in Perth.
On our first trip to W.A. in Dec. 2016, we didn't make it to Perth. Well, we did in the sense that we arrived there from Singapore, but we stayed in an airport apartment and drove straight south the next day, with the intention of doing a walkabout (yay mate) before our flight on our return. But, we never made it, so this time, we were going central Perth and were aiming high!
So. My mum LOVES Como. She's done her yoga at their Singapore studio for years and have always dreamed of staying in one of their hotels. However, unlike many of the Como hotels, The Treasury in Perth is not a retreat, but a city hotel, located in the old post office and connected to its surrounding buildings.
We got there late, so only had the evening and morning there - a shame if you want to enjoy the full scope of what's to offer. Because Como The Treasury is not just a luxury hotel, but practically a little village. A range of restaurants, a courtyard with a florist and boutique shops and...the pool...
Yes. We had this pool to ourselves (might have been because we were 3 loud kids?), and so high up, that it overlooked the Perth rooftops as well as the cathedral.
...Not just any cathedral on the morning we were there, I might add! The first female Arch bishop in the Anglican Communion was appointed, that very Sunday morning, in this church, attracting fellow bishops from all over the world to witness the historic moment. It was fun to watch them all, but imagine wearing this outfit and sitting in that church for 8 hours!
We had a lovely morning in Perth after our amazing Como breakfast and swim. Strolled the streets and had a great lunch. But the night before was the best. My mum said we'd been 'upgraded' at the hotel and wauw, those rooms were something! But people were very smartly dressed at Como, and probably this hotel was not the most obvious choice for a family. But to experience it for one night, was good enough for my mum, and good enough for us ;-) Besides, they were so nice to us and had even got me a Scandinavian cot, which I thought was very thoughtful.
On our way to Margaret River on our first visit, we paid Penguin Island outside Rockingham a visit. An island that inhabits 1200 (very shy) wild penguins.
We travelled by boat from Rockingham and when you arrive to the island, it's time to go hunting for penguins. OR, you can just go in here and be sure to to see them.
Because, they are not easy to find. They hide from all the masses and you have to look under bushes or little corners, OR...under the steps. Sienna found this little one sitting there and when the rumour spread, it was probably the most instagram'med penguin that day!
Penguin Island is in a beautiful spot and the boatride is nice - just don't get too disappointed if the 1200 penguins have done a runner, when you get there!
As you drive down further towards Margaret River, you will also make your way past Bunbury and your chance to swim with dolphins!
If you saw the video above, you might have noticed that my mum, dad, Philip and Sienna were all dressed up in wetsuits, ready to enter the water with the dolphins. However, as it was the day after Christmas, people in Bunbury had the day off and were spending it sailing out of the port. The dolphins loved that - as they could follow the boat as it went in and out! However, this meant, that we could not join them (not allowed to swim at the harbour entry and exit points), but we could watch then very close. I had a nice nap in my pram in the rocking boat, so I wasn't that bothered - but I think the others would have liked to swim with them. It happens rarely, so a good tip, is to go when Bunbury isn't on holiday and distracting the dolphins :-)
We made it the 3 hour drive down south, and on our fist time in the Margaret River region, we stayed at Bunker Bay, very close to Cape Naturaliste.
Up at this point is a lighthouse, where you can choose to join a tour, or like us walk around the point If you here in October-November, you'll be lucky to see whales along this shore! Our walk was a little long for my brother and sister, but mostly because of the cattle flies that get to you at this time of year (December) - they like your eyes and nostrils, which is slightly annoying. We bought nets to wear over our heads, but decided that our trip the following year, would be in Februar.... when all the flies were gone!
We came back to the Cape on our second trip, no flies, and I was big enough to see it from above! If you're bigger than me and have quick feet - you can actually walk the coast all the way from the north to the south - my mum says she'd like to do that, when we're a bit bigger. We'll see about that...
On our first visit, we stayed at the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. We were late in in booking, so had one room for the five of us, but in a little house close to our friends, who were also there! We managed with the space, and had a great little kitchenette, where mum could wash all my bottles and store the babyfood in the fridge.
The hotel is not on the beach as such, but you only have to walk down a designated pathway and you arrive to this. 100% pure turquoise water and amazing sand for me to play in - although first time around I was mostly in my little beach tent, but the second time I was chilling with my bro on the towels.
Breakfast was included on the hotel, but we still sneaked off for breakfast at the neighbor's - Bunkers Beach House once in a while. We looooved the food and the atmosphere there, so much that we went back several times for our second visit + we had our New Years drinks there for 2016.
Having friends there was great. Philip has known Carla since his pre-school in Denmark and they happened to move to Singapore the same time as us. We had a few meals together, beached it, wined it, but also did our own thing - I think both Philip and Sienna + mum and dad really enjoyed that mix!
Here you can see the pathway + my mum's coffee on the 1st of January ;-)
Here I am watching Sienna and Philip mess about by the pool. Our first time in W.A. was odd. we arrived at 12 degrees celcius and left when it was 32! In only 10 days the temperature went up 20 degrees, which meant pool and beach time - but also flies-time!
I loved Bunker Bay beach, and if it's the first beach you see, you can't imagine it to get any better. But that's only because you don't know what this coastline has to offer...
My first time in Yallingup was in this sling, when mum, Sienna and I went to the beach to see Philip surf. We quickly realised, that not only does Yallingup have a beautiful beach, but it has so much to offer for kids.
This playground for example, Philip and Sienna spent hours on it the first time we were here and when we came back, I was on the swing non-stop.
And then, there was Shaana. My mum picked out this café very quickly at our first stop in Yallingup.
The food, the coffee, the surfer vibe and the colourful 2nd floor, that was converted into a yoga shala at our return in 2018.
So, as we loved the beach, the playground and Shaana so much, mum and decided, that for our return, we were going to stay just here. Yes, ok, our view is not only the sea, but also a parking lot, but we had Shaana in the same row of houses, we were 10 metres from the playground and 10 metres from the beach.
We had 3 rooms, one with 4 bunkbeds, 2 bathrooms, a big living space/open kitchen, a terrase with a garden and a balcony.
We could watch the sunset from our balcony, but we loved coming down to the grass area by the playground and the beach to hang out with others.
This is the view from here.
And this from our house. I think Philip was even tempted to drink wine, it was so cozy.
I wasn't just tempted, as you can see...
Surfing is great at Yallingup, there was even a competition while we there, but if you're a beginner, and waves are a lot bigger than here...
...you want to go to Smith's Beach next door. This is where Philip had lessons on our first time out here.
He loved it, and didn't know about any sharks, so also carefree. On our second trip, we'd been warned about shark attacks just prior, so Philip and dad were less keen :-/
Moving on to the next cove next to Smith's, you'll find Indijup Beach - a little gem we only heard about the day we were leaving on our second visit. You park, walk and climb through a range of rocks and then - there - is this amazing private beach and the water is like champagne.
Climbing it was fun for dad, Philip and Sienna too, but I was hot and tired, so didn't stay too long.
Click below, if you want to see our 3rd video with a mix from our trip.
Now, if you live in Singapore like us, sheep shearing is really exotic! At Yallingup Shearing Shed you see the sheep being sheared, watch them being run by the dogs and have a chance to feed them.
When a sheep looks as cute as this, it's a bit heartbreaking to see it all 'naked', but they must get really hot, so probably quite liberating too.'!
The shearers get the wool off in only one piece! - just look a the old ladies holding it!
The sheepdogs are amazing, they can move hundreds of sheep, just by barking and running after them, and one species only - the brown one below, can manage to walk on top of them too.
The best part for Sienna and Philip was milking the little sheep.
I think Sienna wanted to bring back one of the babies after that! See our videos if you want to see the shearing, the dogs and the feeding on film!
Country Life Farm
Country Life Farm had been recommended by us on our first visit, but we didn't make it then. However, on our second visit, we loved it so much, that we went twice!
See our video below and you will see why!
What is so great about Country Life Farm, is that it has a great mix of old school farm activities and modern playground - and best of all, it's for all ages, so even though I'm only 1 and Philip is 8, we had so much fun all of us!
I think you're starting to realise why we chose to live in Yallingup on our second visit? Sheap Shearing is there, Country Life Farm is there and also this - Yallingup Maze.
It's not easy, you have to get to 4 houses and find a secret door! A door so secret, that on our second visit, Philip had to give up on finding House no. 2 - they'd changed the maze! If you want to spice up the visit, you can pick up water guns on your way in and have a water-maze fight with your friends!
But Yallingup Maze has a lot more than that - it has a nature playground and on all the tables, little puzzle and games to play. I just liked counting - it seems super easy, that maths thing.
Simmo's ice creamery
The kids fun doesn't stop. And then add amazing homemade ice cream to that, and we were in heaven.
60 flavours and a massive playground at Simmo's ice creamery - a place we also returned to on our second visit.
However, you only get to do below in peak season (December) - something Philip (and dad!) were pretty thrilled about.
I could have just spent all day here by the electronic cars and the carousel - that and ice cream... I could actually have spent my entire holiday here. Simmo's, do you do accommodation?
Another Yallingup treat, is one of the many caves in the area. We did the Ngili Caves on our first trip.
I was in mum's baby carrier, and as this was the first time in a cave for all three of us, Ngili was pretty impressive! It also had a little kids tunnel, but Sienna and I weren't doing that one!
On our second trip, we were down south at Lake Cave, and what's amazing about that, is that is has a lake inside it and this "suspended table" formation, which weighs many tonnes, but still hovers above the water!
We went there with our friends from our condo in Singapore, who happened to be in Margaret River the same time as us - and we all loved it!
A must when you go to Australia, is of course to see kangaroos. We'd seen a couple from a far or from the car, but we all really wanted to get closer to them. On our first visit, we were lucky to see two by the Petra Olive Estate , and without that in mind in particular (we just wanted to show my grandmother an olive farm), we returned to this place on our second visit.
BUT. We did not expect this sight. Hundreds of kangaroos were camping underneath the olive branches, and when slowly approaching, you'd get to see the infamous jumps. Just see how a mum and it's little Joey jumps away from us, in the video below:
Sting Rays & Hamelin Bay
Australia is a haven for getting close to animals, that we otherwise have to see in zoos or aquariums. So far we'd seen penguins, dolphins, kangaroos and emus - and now we were heading south to Hamelin Bay.
Not long ago, the news was that 150 whales arrived here, and most of them tragically died. Thankfully a different site met us, when we arrived - alive and kicking stingrays!
Look how close we were in his video:
Ok, so kids are spoilt for choice in terms of entertainment. But apparently, so are the adults.
Margaret River is all about the wineries as well. About 200 or so in the region, so chances are that you will find a good one + quite a few of them are fun for us too!
Rustico @Hayshed Hill
Rustico was a new restaurant at the Hay Shed Hill Winery when we came the first time. Our friends looove great food, and were also big fans of the Rustico tapas.
The grounds were nice and big for my brother and sister, and Carla and her brother to play at. I was mostly sleeping in a corner I think, when not eating at Stine's lap.
This was the first winery we went to on both our trips. Close to Bunker Bay, Wise Wine has the unusual advantage of sea view! Being full for the Christmas season in round one (remember to book vineries at busy holiday times), we managed to get a table in the courtyard - but still with a view!
This was the first time Philip, Sienna and I had seen grapes that were not from the fridge!
It was fun to play at their big garden and Philip said that the pasta was the best he'd had ever!
At our return, Wise didn't disappoint - and the Australian holiday was now over, we managed to get the best table in the house without reservation. Still great food and view, and this time we were also given crayons for entertainment.
Flutes @Brookland Valley Vinyard
Not all the wineries have restaurants like these, some you can just taste and buy your wine, but as we were traveling as a family, it made more sense to do the meals. We'd had Flutes recommended by our neighbors in Singapore, and again the view, now with a lake, was nice.
Few of the wineries have entertainment for kids as such, but we generally brought our own toys and often they'd have crayons to play with. I think Philip and Sienna were mostly happy if the grounds were big, and they could run around.
This was definitely the case with Lleuwin Estate. The grounds are so big, they hold concerts there! We were mostly drawing, playing with our friend Luca and eating chocolate cake! I was trying to make a lot of trouble so mum and dad had to run around.
It wasn't really the best place for trouble, it was great - but the more posh one's out of the one's we'd visited so far.
Aravina Estate was a bit of a coincidence, but for all a very positive one. Not only did we meet some other neighbours from Singapore, but they actually had a playground!
Also, the grounds and the restaurant itself was very beautiful + they had a Sports Car and Surfing Museum! I was definitely more interested in trying to get into those cool cars, but Sienna and Philip loved learning about the surfing champions of Western Australia.
Driving around and past the wineries can be amazing in itself - so my parents say. Rows and rows of grapes that all tastes so good and that can be ordered to delivery in bottles to our home in Singapore.
When going to Margaret River, a lot of tourists go on farms stays. We haven't tried that, but we love driving around the small businesses in the district. Some more aimed at tourists than others, but when living in Singapore, tasting cheese, ice cream, olives and bread straight from the source is such a treat.
Goanna Cafe was another coincidence, but one we had to come back to the second time as well. It's a gallery, a shop with eco products and a café, and the location is so lovely + they have a nature playground for big kids and small plastic one for toddlers.
I slept through both my visits, but mum and dad treated themselves to an amazing taste platte (veggie or none) the first time and great homemade cake and coffee the next.