With a week of freedom before I’d be flying to Kununurra to start work in the Outback, my old roomie and travel bud Anna and I took off on a road trip around Southwest Australia. It didn’t take us long to realize, in the midst of the most glorious of days in Margaret River, that we were pretty much doing all of our favorite ‘C’ things. First of all, isn’t it just weird that so many of our favorite things happen to start with the letter C? And what’s more, what are the odds that they’d all be crammed into one day of awesome?
Kinda crazy, but we rolled with it. Here’s what our ‘C’-tastic day in Margaret River entailed:
Camping at Wharncliffe Mill
I’m pretty anti-research these days when it comes to trip planning, so most of our Southwest Australia road trip was carried out in a *see what we feel like* sort of manner. But, the ONE thing I looked into beforehand was whether there were any unique and/or eco conscious accommodations in Margaret River. It didn’t take long for me to stumble upon Wharncliffe Mill, a family run bush camp in the Margaret River forest. They’ve got all sorts of accommodation types on offer to suit all budgets, from cabins to dorms to campsites. We got hooked up with a safari tent, complete with beds, lamps, a table, cutlery, and plenty of room for hanging out. My bed even came with a heating pad under the sheets!
All that was just an added bonus to what really sold me on this place, though. First, it’s blessed with a fab location: smack in the middle of the forest, yet a mere 2km from the town center. You don’t even need a car to get there or around. And on the eco-friendly front, they generate their own power and harvest rain water on the old mill there. I always appreciate it when an establishment aims to educate its guests – the folks at Wharncliffe Mill do it subtly enough on their website, pamphlets, and signs placed around the property, encouraging guests to mind the environment and conserve whenever possible.
We seriously loved camping at Wharncliffe Mill and were super bummed to leave it after just a few days. I’d definitely allot a minimum of 5 days if you can swing it.
Cycling in Margaret River
Of top priority to us during our time in Margaret River: CYCLING. We’d been counting on riding some of the surrounding mountain bike trails, but once we found out a DIY cycling wine tour was totally feasible, that pretty much went out the window. We took the Rails to Trails towards town, which is a lovely wooded bike path that starts from the campground and passes through a forest of tall karri trees, and ended up indulging in coffee and chocolate tastings before we even hit the first vineyard. Adequately fueled with all sorts of energy, we cycled on to 3 wineries for some wine tastings. Part of our route overlapped the main streets, while others took us down empty dirt roads, but in all: it was a beautiful day for cycling, and it hardly mattered what the roads were like.
Coffee Tasting in Margaret River
We didn’t intend to make it to Yahava KoffeeWorks so early on in our bike ride, so I figured I’d caffeinate myself before we departed. Of course, within an hour of consuming 2 homemade cups of coffee we accidentally stumbled upon this place – and as a rule, I never say no to coffee, so we went in for a tasting. We were presented with a tasting menu containing three lists of coffees and were asked to pick one from each to try. Had my head not started spinning after the first tasting, I’d have drank more of the plunger pots prepared for us (it kills me to waste coffee!). If you go for a tasting here, make sure your caffeine levels are about 0 so you can fully take advantage of all the delicious coffee you’re offered!
I think my favorite part of visiting Yahava was watching the beans get roasted and then walking away with a bag of their Blackgold beans. That smell is SO GOOD I wish I had it bottled up as an air freshener.
Chocolate Tasting in Margaret River
Conveniently located right next to Yahava is Temper Temper, known to have THE BEST chocolate around Southwest Australia. We were thrilled to find generous samples laid out of some of their more popular chocolate bars. Anna and I may have gone HAM on the peanut butter and caramel milk chocolate bits. I don’t even know how I made it out of there without being tempted by the nutella and chocolate or the 85% Venezuelan dark chocolate bars. They probably would have had me with their sugar free mint chocolate bar had it not been overwhelmingly pricey.
Chardonnay in Margaret River
I was never a huge fan of Chardonnay before I came to Australia, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’d never tasted a proper oaked Chardonnay. Cheap bottles of Chardonnay are typically unoaked, and of course I always go for the cheaper wines because a). I’m frugal, and b). My taste in wine isn’t that refined (or so I convinced myself).
But then when I went wine tasting in Tasmania earlier this year, I learned to appreciate the beauty of a Chardonnay that’s aged in an oak barrel. During my first tasting in the Tamar Valley, I instantly noticed that it’s much creamier than a zesty unoaked Chard. Then, my senses registered the added vanilla and buttery flavors acquired from the oak. WHAT IS THIS GOODNESS?!, I exclaimed (if not to my road trip partner Teresa, then certainly in that big ol’ head of mine). From that point on, I’ve been mildly obsessed with Australian Chardonnay.
Margaret River in Southwestern Australia is known for its fabulous food and wine, so I was pretty confident I’d be reliving the borderline orgasmic oaked Chardonnay tasting experience in this region. Without fail, each vineyard we visited had both oaked and unoaked Chardonnays available for sampling. I had my routine down: I’d take one sip of the unoaked, just for comparison’s sake, and toss out the rest; then I’d devour the entire sample of oaked Chard til my eyes glazed over and contemplate dropping $50 on a bottle of the stuff.
We cycled to 3 different vineyards in Margaret River on this perfect day, and even though Anna and I looked like sweaty broke backpackers unlikely to spend a dime, we were always served with respect and friendliness. Would highly recommend the Chardonnay from all three:
We wrapped up our awesome C-day with a big campfire back at Wharncliffe Mill. The bushcamper in me tried to boil a pot of water on the fire, but Anna thought that was downright silly and showed me up by boiling her pot faster on the stove. Sure it was faster, but was it as exciting and satisfying? I think not!
I offered to do a mini-photoshoot of all the staff sitting around the campfire; after that, I had it to myself as I watched the stars in peaceful silence. It was the best way to end such a perfect day!