Sunday, May 5, 2024

Your Down South Winter Bucket List

Crackling wood fires, hearty comfort food and plenty of beer, spirits and wine – winter down south is truly a feast for the mind, body and eyes. Planning a trip “douth”? From the Margaret River Region to the Great Southern, we’ve got your Winter Down South bucket list sorted with these top things to do this winter.

Feast on food that’ll warm your heart and soul

Cosy winter dining

How do you plan your winter holiday itinerary? If you’re anything like us, you start by organising your day around lunch or dinner. A couple of prerequisites are required when we pick a winter dining venue: A lip-smacking menu, a unique setting and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Lucky for us, we’ve found just that at the likes of  Barnyard 1978, Glenarty Road, Pepper & Salt, Liberte and Market Eating House.

Glenarty Road. Image: Russell Ord courtesy of

Glenarty Road. Image: Russell Ord courtesy of

Local produce finds

One of our favourite weekend pastimes involves a trip to our local farmers’ market. It’s here we find the freshest of locally grown produce and yummy foodie finds. We recommend packing a basket or esky, heading to the Margaret River Farmers’ Market or the Albany Farmers Market early, and spending the morning filling up on tasty brekkie eats and your weekly supply of fruit, veg, cheese and meat.

Alternatively, why not take a day to explore the many providores located across both the Margaret River and Great Southern Regions? For the best coffee beans, hit up Commonage Coffee or Margaret River Roasting Company; and for a wide selection of beautiful teas, Seven Seas Teas. Sweet teeth certainly won’t be bitter either, thanks to a number of specialist shops that produce and sell everything from chocolate and toffee, to honey and ice cream. Head to the Margaret River Bakery or Claudio’s Bakehouse for the best pastries, Bartholomews Meadery for all things honey, Bettenays for nougat and nougat liqueur, and Simmo’s Ice Creamery for a scoop of Pecan Crunch ice cream.

Food-filled tours

Prefer a guided tour? Meander down windy country roads and discover local farms and small producers while picking your own produce, feasting on gourmet picnic lunches and tasting bespoke wine with Forage Safaris, or experience the beating heart of Margaret River’s township on an exclusive four-hour Brunch to Lunch walking tour with Walk Talk Taste Margaret River.

 Forage Safaris

Forage Safaris

Drink and be merry

Between the vines

One of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world, the Margaret River Wine Region boasts fertile soils and ideal grape-growing terroir. The result – more than one hundred wineries and cellar doors ranging from iconic, founding wine estates like Cape Mentelle, Cullen Wines, Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix; through to boutique, small-scale operations like Cape Grace and Brown Hill Estate. The best way to experience these vine-clad institutions is by joining a guided wine tour or experience, or going your own pace with a self-drive journey. If you’re opting for the latter, make sure you’ve picked a designated driver or, if you’re the adventurous type, why not ride between the vines instead?

Brown Hill Estate. Image: Russell Ord courtesy of

Brown Hill Estate. Image: Russell Ord courtesy of

With a unique cool climate and striking mountain, forest and ocean backdrops, the Great Southern Wine Region is another grape destination that’s on the top of our must-visit list. Western Australia’s largest wine-producing region, which encompasses Mount Barker, Porongurup, Frankland River, Albany and Denmark (where we encourage you to start your cool climate wine adventure), is renowned for producing clean and crisp wine varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay. Recommendations for top drops? Visit Forest Hill Vineyard, Rockcliffe Wines, Singlefile Wines and The Lake House Denmark.

Cheers to beers

Whether you’re a beer lover or not, you’d be hopping mad not to swing by a brewery when you’re down south this winter. Combining locally brewed bevvies with hearty pub-style food, live music and family-friendly settings (check out these breweries with playgrounds for the kids), most of the breweries in the Margaret River Region and Australia’s South West are perfectly designed to satisfy everyone from Dad to Grand Aunt Gene. You’ll find the Private Properties’ team enjoying a wood-fired lunch and deep fried pickles by the fire at Wild Hop Brewing Company, the incredible view at Eagle Bay Brewing, burgers and a pint at Rocky Ridge Brewing, the pale ale at the Beerfarm, the playground and driving range at CBCo Brewing and a hearty dinner at Boston Brewing’s Denmark Brewpub.

In good spirits

Lovers of whiskey, spirits and liqueurs won’t be disappointed with the South West’s growing collection of distilleries. If you’re travelling through the Margaret River Region, do stop by the Grove Distillery, where you can taste your way through your choice of liqueurs (our pick: the butterscotch liqueur) and spirits before ending your experience with a seasonal cocktail; West Winds Distillery for a wide range of spirits; and Dune Distilling (located alongside Black Brewing Co), where you can master the art of cocktail making followed by a delicious lake-view lunch.

Great Southern Distilling Co., Albany

Great Southern Distilling Co., Albany

Heading to the Great Southern? Head to Great Southern Distilling Co – the home of award-winning Australian whisky Limeburners – for a sneak peek into the distillery’s whisky-making process; and learn about The Dam’s hemp-distilled drinks at the venue’s onsite Botanical Distillery, just outside of Denmark.

Embrace the wet, wild and woolly on an outdoor winter adventure

Surf and sea

It might be wet, it might get a bit wild, but it’s all part of the adventure when you surf down south in winter. Some of our favourite breaks for beginners can be found at Yallingup Beach, Huzzawouie (Huzzas) in Gracetown and Ocean Beach in Denmark. For the more experienced of seadogs, try Main Break in Margaret River or South Point and Lefthanders at Gracetown.

Yallingup Mainbreak. Image: Ryan Murphy

Yallingup Mainbreak. Image: Ryan Murphy courtesy of

Above and below ground

If staying warm and dry is more your thing, then don’t fret. There are heaps of things to see and do above and below the soil. Venture to either end of the Margaret River Region’s Capes – Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin – where you’ll also find two lighthouses that you can scale. The reward: magnificent ocean and coastal views. If you’re after a true bird’s eye view of the region, jump on board one of Scenic Helicopters’ flights and fly over some of the region’s most picturesque sights.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Image: Tim Campbell courtesy of

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Image: Tim Campbell courtesy of

For an underground experience you can’t pass on a visit to one of the Margaret River Region’s caves. The Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge has more than 150 caves but only some are open to the public. Travel along Caves Road and you’ll find these underground worlds, filled with stalactites, stalagmites and ancient fossils. Our favourite caves in the region, and ones we think you should visit, are Jewel, Lake, Mammoth, and Ngilgi Cave – all of which you can explore on a tour.

Nature walks and scenic drives

Fancy stretching the legs? Explore parts of the world-renowned Cape to Cape Track and be rewarded with some of the most spectacular coastal scenery you ever did see. Venturing to Albany? Spend a day or a few discovering the Stirling Range National Park, home to one of the state’s tallest peaks – Bluff Knoll – or make your way to Torndirrup National Park where you can find Albany’s Wind Farm, Australia’s best beach and natural rock formations like The Gap and Natural Bridge.

Prefer to drive? If you love forests, roll through the serene (and magical) Boranup Forest. For dramatic coastal rock viewing, swing past Sugarloaf Rock, Castle Rock, Canal Rocks and Wyadup Rocks and watch the wild winter waves wrap themselves around each landmark’s craggy granite formations. In Denmark, head down Mount Shadforth Tourist Drive for beautiful vistas of tree-lined, grassy green valleys, towering karri forest and vine-clad vineyards.

Sugarloaf Rock. Image: Russell Ord courtesy of

Sugarloaf Rock. Image: Russell Ord courtesy of

Meet all sorts of creatures, big and small

Whale watching

Western Australia has one of the biggest humpback whale populations in the world, and winter just so happens to be one of the most idea times to see them. Spot these majestic animals between Augusta and Albany from June to August, and southern right whales from August through to October. In Busselton and Dunsborough, humpback and southern right whale spotting is best from September. Join an organised charter such as Naturaliste Charters or All Sea Charters for a chance to get up close and personal with these giant mammals.

Whale watching. Image: Tim Campbell courtesy of

Whale watching. Image: Tim Campbell courtesy of

On the farm

Cute and cuddly, fierce and spiky. Meet and feed the farm animals at Sunflowers Animal Farm near Busselton, and the Old Marron Farm in Albany, learn all about snakes, turtles and amphibians at Discover Deadly, and go horse riding with Jesters Flat.

Animal experiences

While the South West is renowned for its farming, it’s also a hotspot for native wildlife. Venture out after dark with South West Eco Discoveries and meet some of Western Australia’s cutest, rarest and critically endangered nocturnal animals including possums, bandicoots and woylies, interact with wild bottlenose dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Centre (if it’s wet, head inside the centre and explore its huge aquariums and interactive displays), or meet Skippy the kangaroo at Bunbury Wildlife Park.

Sunflower Animal Farm. Image: Elements Margaret River courtesy of

Sunflower Animal Farm. Image: Elements Margaret River courtesy of

Relax, unwind and enjoy some downtime  

Nourishing the mind, body and soul

In need of some serious mid-year R&R? Find it at the new BODHI Spa in Yallingup – a lakeside sanctuary featuring a luxurious spa menu, six treatments rooms, and infrared sauna, hydrotherapy baths and a waterfront yoga/meditation studio. Empire Spa’s bush-surrounded spa is equally tranquil, and offers soothing 2–3-hour packages that’ll leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. While you’re at it, nurture your mind and body with Devahiti Yoga, who can come and teach a yoga session at your winter home-away-from-home, and give breathwork or meditation a go at Sama Wellness Studio.

Forest bathing

Forest bathing is one of the easiest ways to relax and unwind this winter. Also known as shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is a fairly simple concept: spend time in and surrounded by nature, connect with the natural environment around you and reap the benefits. Start with a walk through the forest – we love meandering through the tingle trees at the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, and the old growth Tuart Forest near Busselton – and don’t forget to leave the tech at home.

Chill out at home

When was the last time you spent hours rugged up in front of the tele watching movies, sat by a toasty woodfire with a glass of wine and a trashy read, sunk into a bubbly bath or did, quite literally, nothing at all? Take this blog as sign and take some time to chill out at home (or in one of our perfectly primed, winter holiday homes). While you’re at it, why not get someone else to cook? Here’s our top pick of private chefs to see you through your winter sojourn.

Family time at Songbird, Yallingup

Family time at Songbird, Yallingup

Immerse yourself in art, culture and fun winter festivities

Art on the wall

The South West is home to a number of artists melting pots; communities of artists and creatives who produce some of the most unique and intriguing artworks in the state. See and buy pieces by local, national and international artists at art galleries and studios throughout the region, including Yungarra Gallery, Yallingup Galleries, Christian Fletcher Gallery, The Studio Gallery, the Butter Factory Studios and Vancouver Arts Centre, in Albany, and for bespoke artisan works, do pop into John Miller Design, Boranup Gallery and Happs Pottery.

History, heritage and culture

Home to the oldest living culture on earth, Western Australia is steeped in history, heritage and culture. You can find out more about the state’s past at museums like the National Anzac Centre, which takes visitors on an innovative, state-of-the-art experience through World War I; Albany’s Historic Whaling Station, the former home of Albany’s last whaling station; and Ellensbrook at Mokidup, a culturally important location to the Wadandi people and where Ellen and Alfred Bussell built their home. And, for a culturally immersive experience, a cave, food foraging or coastal walking tour with Koomal Dreaming’s Josh Whiteland is an absolute must.

Image: Russell Ord courtesy of Koomal Dreaming

Image: Russell Ord courtesy of Koomal Dreaming

Fire festivals

Winter in the South West is just as much about a jam-packed lineup of fiery festivals and events as it is cosying up and chilling at homebase. Our recommendations: Cabin Fever Festival will induce the only kind of fever you want in winter – a festive, food-fuelled toastiness that’ll leave you beaming from head to toe. For a top-notch gourmet experience featuring one of the world’s delicacies – the black Périgord truffle – head along to one of the events that are part of the Truffle Kerfuffle in Manjimup. Film fiends will love walking the red carpet with celebrities and film stars at CinefestOZ Film Festival, while the dairy cows among us will have a laugh at Deja Moo – a country fair with a cow onesie dress code.

Ready for a winter escape? Book a cosy holiday home stay at one of our Private Properties’ winter retreats today.

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