There are so many choices in Australia’s South West. I went to the Margaret River region twice, once on the trip mentioned and once before so there is some overlap, and some different stops. I’ve included them all here just to provide some information. Be sure to plan your trips so that you can get your supplies in the middle of the day as the stores and supermarkets close at four or five (or may not even be open on a Sunday). Also, there are lots of kangaroos so plan to stay off the roads when it is dark.
You can see where the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meet at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. This is a cool, historic lighthouse. I recommend going to the top for the views which is a tour! We saved some cash buying our lighthouse tour in a bundle with a cave tour.
The southwest has some famous limestone caves so we went to the biggest which was
Jewel Cave is one of three caves in the Margaret River Region that is open to the public. It is a fantastic tour and really cool to go through. You probably won’t get good pictures of the limestone formations (it is a cave), but it isn’t to be missed. Please note this tour may not be a good fit if you have difficulty moving up and down stairs.
A local advised we visit Hamelin Bay to look for stingrays. This is a sanctuary zone for wild stingrays who come right up to the shore and will swim with you. We could see them in the water as the waves crashed against the shore but none were in the shallow water when we visited. It is also a beautiful beach to take some pictures.
Halfway to Margaret River it was recommended we drive part of the Coastal Art Trail. The South West has a concentration of artist living there. We enjoyed part of the trail on our way southward exploring galleries filled with opportunities to purchase your one-of-a-kind souvenir. The types of art for sale we saw included sculptures, paintings, photography, handcrafted trinkets, and carvings.
I didn’t go wine tasting in Margaret River so I don’t have any advice about the local wineries. This is one of those towns where there are residents living at the hostel, our hostel was not quiet at night because the residents were loud in the common area. Furthermore, there is no advantage to staying in town as you can plan on things being closed after five or earlier (on Sunday).
At Serpentine National Park we stopped to have a swim at the falls. It’s a small watering hole and quite popular as it’s a little over an hour from Perth. I noted there were several interesting looking hikes here, but didn’t do any of them. There is also a well-equipped picnic area where you can grill. Important note: The park often can fill to capacity on summer weekends and public holidays. The website for the park advises you plan to arrive early (before 10 am) or you may be turned away.
The Busselton Jetty is a beautiful iconic jetty with a train if you want to pay to go on it. Otherwise I recommend stopping to enjoy the beautiful scenery, have an ice cream (shop located nearby) and testing your photography skills.
We did the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. I don’t recommend it because it’s expensive and the Ancient Empire boardwalk which runs along the forest floor where you can get up close and personal to the ‘giants’ is more impressive. I do recommend taking the time to go do the forest walk among the giants. There you can see massive trees at their base (and look up) and fallen over ‘Giants’.
We did Cheese and Chocolate tasting in Denmark. It’s about 40 minutes from Albany and we drove back to do it because everything was closed when we were driving to Albany. We stopped at the Denmark Chocolate Co. and Ducketts Mill Wines & Denmark Farmhouse Cheese. Most of us planned on buying cheese and cured meats so we packed crackers/biscuits, juice, and other items for a snack lunch which we enjoyed in William Bay National Park. There we went to the Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool, which I highly recommend.
1849 Backpackers is the hostel we stayed at in Albany and it is my favorite hostel in all of Australia. It is not a party hostel and they make you sign something explaining you understand you will not party there. If you’re wanting a party scene, stay elsewhere. There is so much character at this hostel, the halls are lined with flags, it’s quiet, good Wi-Fi, clean sheets, and some cool stray cats that have adopted the place (they stay outside but they will sit in your lap if you’re in the outside sitting area which is equipped with plugs so you can charge your devices).
About Albany: We didn’t have enough time in Albany. It was a beautiful little town with much more to see. It has a hippy artsy vibe, which made finding gluten-free pastries easy for those with dietary restrictions in our group. I can’t wait to visit again, and look forward to hearing about your favorite experiences in the region.