Emotions and elation at inaugural Margi Gras

I have spent the better part of the summer working on a beautiful event called Margi Gras.

Emotions were high and the 700-strong crowd elated at Margaret River’s first Margi Gras proudly sponsored by The River Hotel.

Attendees witnessed the region’s first public same-sex wedding on February 10, 2018, when Rebecca Hannan married her long-term partner Sunny Michelle Hannan at the free event that came to fruition as a celebration of equality.

Margi Gras 2017

Margi Gras Sunny Michelle and Rebecca Hannan with Perth Drag Queens. Photo: Jennifer Eliot

The bridal party, along with Perth Drag Queens, arrived in style to the Margaret River Cultural Centre Lawns via a 12-car motorcade that included a 1939 Buick, a black 1950 Mark V Jaguar, a 1955 Mustang, a pink 1960 Thunderbird, a red 1966 Thunderbird convertible à la Thelma and Louise, a grey and white 1964 Chevrolet Belair and a red 1967 Buick Wildcat Sting.

The pair was married under the gazebo in front of the Augusta Margaret River Shire building that was styled with sashes of colour fabric and beautiful fresh flowers and foliage by Miriam Avery.

Photo: Jennifer Eliot

Margi Gras founder Rebecca Hannan said the day could not have been any better.

“The support shown by the community has been nothing short of overwhelming – there were 55 businesses that came on board and a dedicated committee who helped pull it all together,” the professional speaker, coach and trainer said.

“It really made me feel proud to be a member of this community and I’m honoured so many came out to celebrate equality and be a part of our wedding.

“I think Margi Gras has shown that Margaret River is a welcoming place for LGBTI holidays and a wonderful destination for same-sex weddings – I highly recommend it!” laughed Rebecca.

The crowd roared when Sunny thanked all those who voted ‘yes’ during speeches.

Perth Drag Queens entertained the crowds. Photo: Jennifer Eliot

Margi Gras’ MC Jordan Bruno who recently won Mr Gay Pride Australia said Margi Gras was a very special event.

“I love Western Australia and Margaret River and I’m really honoured and proud to be involved in Margi Gras, which sends are really strong message that everyone is entitled to be themselves,” said Jordan, an LGBTI activist and ambassador and a semi-finalist on MKR 2016.

“I feel like we’ve witnessed a little bit of history watching the region’s first same-sex wedding – the whole event had such an amazing vibe.”

Margi Gras 2018

Rebecca Hannan, Jordan Bruno, Sunny Michelle Hannan. Photo: Jennifer Eliot

People signed the dedicated Margi Gras Love and Messages wall, ate delicious food by Willow Grill, drank MargiGras-Rita cocktails and Queer Beer and enjoyed the entertainment by Perth Drag Queens, a surprise Elton John act, Bellyvision belly dancers and the Margaret River Big Band. Children’s entertainment included Kaptain Quirk as Bubble Man, unicorn rides and a giant bouncy castle. Ed Scissorhands added glitter to hair and faces to create a Margi Gras look.

The newly weds were given a cheerful send off with attendees eagerly forming a 100-metre long human archway.

Perth Drag Queens Creative Director Scarlet Adams said she immediately said yes when asked to be involved in Margi Gras.

“Margi Gras is such a fabulous event and the crowd at the After Party were one of the best we’ve performed in front of. We had a ball and can’t wait for next year already!”

Photo: Kelly Harwood Photography

The party continued until late at The River Hotel to a near-capacity crowd as the troupe of five from Perth Drag Queens had the place rocking and everyone dancing as they performed numbers that included ‘It’s raining men’ by Gerri Halliwell, ‘Stop’ by the Spice Girls, ‘Turn back time’ by Cher, ‘Get outta my way’ by Kylie Minogue and ‘It’s my party’ by Jessie J.

The River Hotel business partner Phil Thompson said that Margi Gras was a terrific addition to the region.

“The event was fantastic – we’re thrilled to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to future events,” Phil said.

The night ended with local Mick Marlin from Cape Thunderbirds dressed as Dame Edna Everage being crowned the Queen of Margi Gras, winning the competition.

Visit www.margigras.com.au for more information.

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Best winery lunches in Margaret River

As they say, where’s there’s good wine, there is good food, and Margaret River being a premium winery region is a point fact.  Spend time in Margaret River in Western Australia’s south west and you’ll too soon discover that you’re spoilt for choice of great places to eat.

Did you know that Margaret River produces just three per cent of wine in Australia but 25 per cent of Australia’s premium export wine? In short it means the wine here is really good.

With any trip to Margaret River, be sure to pick up the latest map of the region found at various tourist attractions and of course the Margaret River Visitors Centre. It’s essential as there’s plenty of mobile blackspots ‘down south’ so Google maps can’t always be relied upon.

Here’s a list of my favourite winery lunches in Margaret River. Enjoy!

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Vasse Felix winery has a fantastic restaurant that shouldn’t be missed

Winery restaurants for lunch

In alphabetical order:

Amelia Park

From the outside, the separate Cellar Door and Restaurant buildings are fairly non-descript, but that soon changes as soon as the ‘Get Smart’ sliding doors open up to reveal a dimly lit barrel room and that unmistakable heady aroma of oak, then another set of heavy sliding doors open to reveal the tasting area, flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows and commanding views of undulating hills covered in vines. Wow. It’s worth a stop at Amelia Park for the architecture alone. After a wine tasting – their Chardonnay was my pick – venture to the next building, to the restaurant for lunch run by husband and wife team Blair and Renee Allen. They make everything from scratch and use local produce including that from their kitchen garden. It’s fantastic and worthy of a visit.

Amelia Park Restaurant, 3857 Caves Road, Wilyabrup WA 6280. 08 9755 6747

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Arimia Estate

Tucked away down a dirt road, Arimia Estate’s cellar door is beautiful and it has a lovely outdoor area, space for kids to run around, really good wine and pretty good food.  The shady outdoor area sees people sitting under trees on rugs, whiling away the afternoon. Arimia Estate is underrated in my book – it flies under the radar, perhaps because it’s not so obvious and not on a main road? Definitely go for a wine tasting.

Arimia Estate, 242 Quininup Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6280. 08 9755 2528

Arimia lunch

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Aravina Estate

It’s been a couple of years since I last ate at Aravina, but I keep hearing good things about it – lots of compliments for head chef Ben Day, who worked under esteemed chef Aaron Carr at Vasse Felix for three years. Families love it and not just for the fantastic playground for kids, but for the beautiful cellar door and Hamptons-style homeware shop, and a very cool if somewhat out of place car museum with Ferraris and muscle cars (my favourite, the Torana SLR 5000 – brings back so many high school memories). It also has a kitchen garden with its bounty often featuring on the menu. A favourite for weddings which is easy to understand given the opulent fit out of the function room, pretty garden and immaculately manicured lawn.

Aravina Estate, 61 Thornton Rd, Yallingup WA 6282. (08) 9750 1111

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Cullen Winery

Biodynamic and organic principals guide not only the wine making but the kitchen too. A rustic cellar door leads through to the restaurant with a deck overlooking the vines. The food is delicious, simple, mostly organic and sourced from the kitchen garden on site. Highly regarded prized wines and good service make any lunch at Cullen a fab experience. A wander through the spiral kitchen garden is a must.

Cullen Wines, 4323 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6280. 08 9755 5277

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Fishbone Wines

Fishbone Wines specialises in sushi and Japanese food. The seafood, all sourced from 34 Degrees Blue, is designed to be light, fresh, and complement their wines. The modern cellar door and indoor seating area includes a huge fish tank. Outside on the terrace, there are views of green pastures. Located conveniently opposite the Margaret River Chocolate Factory – pop across the road for sweet treats and ice cream after.

Fishbone Wines, 422 Harmans Mill Rd, Wilyabrup WA. 08 9755 6726

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Knee Deep

For a more formal lunch – we’re talking crisp table linen, smartly dressed wait staff, and cutlery choices to send ‘Pretty Woman’ into a spin, this place is where local chefs go to eat on a special occasion. The food is sensational.  Try the 3-course ‘trust the chef’ menu. Great wines too and almost impossible to leave without a purchase.

Knee Deep, 160 Johnson Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6280. 08 9755 6776

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MargaretRiver_vines2

Leeuwin Estate

One of the best regarded wineries not only in Margaret River, but in Australia with a reputation that reaches far beyond our shores. The drive into Leeuwin Estate is as impressive as their award-winning wines, a meandering road flanked by tall timber Eucalypts with glimpses of vines in between. The restaurant’s bi-fold doors seamlessly carry the outside in as does the glass-covered roof added during the restaurant’s recent refurbishment. Step out onto the sweeping veranda with its impressive views over the manicured gardens, expansive lawn and the permanent stage that hosts some of the region’s most prestigious events. The setting, service, amazing wines, and fabulous food are a reason why so many love Leeuwin Estate. There is an impressive art gallery downstairs and owner Dennis Horgan has an order of Australia for his services to tourism in Western Australia. Definitely worth a visit, and once you’re settled on the upper deck, you may never want to leave.

Leeuwin Estate, Stevens Rd, Margaret River WA 6285. 08 9759 0000

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Olio Bello

Ok, technically an olive grove not a winery but worthy of a mention because it’s a great place for lunch. At Olio Bello, they make fantastic fresh pasta, as good as I’ve had anywhere and I love the country style alfresco setting. The wine list is sensible with some cracking wines is reasonable prices. If available when you visit, have a piece of the lemon olive oil cake – it is divine – and don’t leave without some of Australia’s finest olive oils that are made with quality in mind, not quantity.

Olio Bello, Armstrong Road, Cowaramup WA 6284. 08 9755 9771

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Rustico at Hayshed Hill

If you like tapas, then you’ll love Rustico. If you love great food, then you’ll love Rustico. If you love a casual but cool vibe, then you’ll love Rustico. I can’t really fault this place. The food, the service, the menu choice and the wine are all on point. It’s a pretty setting too. Be sure to book, it’s a popular place and for good reason. And do yourself a favour and try the K&B Riesling in the cellar door – one of my favs.

Rustico at Hayshed Hill, 511 Harmans Mill Rd, Wilyabrup WA 6280. 08 9755 6046

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Swings in Roundabouts

Awesome authentic, wood-fired crisp Italian pizza is as good as it gets at Swings in Roundabouts. I can never go past the margarita, it’s pizza perfection.  The baked camembert is rich and gooey and worth every calorie. A casual winery lunch at its best. Grab a picnic table or a provided rug and stretch out on the lawn. Family and dog friendly too.

Swings in Roundabouts, 2807 Caves Road, Yallingup, WA. 08 9756 6640

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Vasse Felix

The oldest winery in Margaret River, Vasse Felix’s restaurant is gorgeous and the food exceptional. The restaurant places great importance on sourcing the best local produce. Everything is made from scratch, including kangaroo pastrami. The Australian food critic John Lethlean wrote that Vasse Felix ‘set the benchmark for winery restaurants’ in his stellar review. Beautiful wines too with the Heytsbury and Tom Cullity recently rated 98 and 97 points by James Halliday, so don’t skip a tasting at the cellar door. Downstairs you’ll find an art gallery and cellar room. The view of the stunning grounds from the upstairs restaurant make this a lunch you won’t forget.

Vasse Felix, Caves Rd & Tom Cullity Dr, Margaret River WA 6284. 08 9756 5000

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Voyager

This year saw a new head chef at Voyager, Santiago (Santi) Fernandez who has continued with Voyager’s signature seven-course Discovery Menu with each course inspired by one of their wines. The setting reminds me of a French luxury Chateau with the rich drapes, chesterfield sofas, and ornate light fittings – sitting inside you could forget you were at a winery. It’s would be awesome in winter. It does have the prettiest rose garden in the region and the biggest Australian flag in the country, after the one at Parliament House in Canberra. The white stucco Dutch inspired building stands proud in the beautifully manicured garden. Their wines are sublime and the restaurant service absolutely first class. A good choice for a fine dining experience or if out to impress.

Voyager Estate, 41 Stevens Rd, Margaret River WA 6285. 08 9757 6354

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Wills Domain

Now get ready to have your foodie socks blown off. Will Domain has a friendly yet premium atmosphere which isn’t at all stuffy. You’d be forgiven for daydreaming while taking in the stunning scenery – views of rolling hills and straight vines lead to a Manor House perched atop a distant hill. But as soon as the food hits the table, daydreams stop and delicious reality kicks in. Sophisticated and beautifully presented dishes that have been perfectly executed dishes will wow you. Chef Seth James (ex Cutler & Co, Melbourne) uses native ingredients in his dishes that surprise and delight the taste buds. The price point is at the upper end of the spectrum but totally worth the indulgence. Don’t miss an experience eating at Wills Domain, this place would be in my top three.

Wills Domain, Cnr Abbey Farm Rd &, Brash Rd, Yallingup WA 6282. 08 9755 2327

Will Domain - 3

Gravlax trout, bread and butter pickles, buckwheat snacks at Wills Domain

New in 2018

Yarri – this is a new venture due to open at the end of January 2018 in Dunsborough by acclaimed chef Aaron Carr who has teamed up with Snake & Herring wines. According to the website, Yarri’s cuisine will honour nature, seasonality and the South-West – its people, produce and place. While not technically a winery, this restaurant is tipped to be the hottest place to eat at in 2018. If you get there, let me know what you think.

 

Other wineries with restaurants

These are wineries that I’ve not eaten at so can’t recommend. Let me know if you get to any of them and what you think.

  • 3 Oceans Wine Company
  • The Berry Farm
  • Brookland Valley Estate
  • Clairault Steicker Wines
  • Hamelin Bay Wines
  • Howling Wolves Wines
  • Laurance of Margaret River
  • Palmer Wines
  • Watershed Premium Wines
  • Woody Nook Wines
  • Xanadu Wines

 

What do you think?

What are your favourite wineries in Margaret River to eat? Is there anywhere you think I should try?

Best Breweries for lunch

Check out my post on the best breweries in Margaret River for lunch. Read it here

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Honest Bus driving good times in Margaret River

Good times guaranteed this summer at Black Brewing Co. and Little Brother with a new Honest Bus service that’ll hit Caves Road from Boxing Day, driving happy folk between Little Brother in Dunsborough and Black Brewing Co. in Wilyabrup. No one has to be the dedicated driver and everyone can focus on having a great time.

Black Brewing Co

Black Brewing Co. from the air. Photo: Instagram @blackbrewingco

There’ll be a bigger shaded area on the beer garden lawn, some great tunes thanks to a DJ line up, and drinks specials. The Honest Bus will collect people from outside Little Brother in Dunsborough at 1pm, bring them to Black Brewing, returning to Little Brother at 7pm – complete with DJs – to keep the party going! No bookings required and the service is free.

Black Brewing Co Honest Bus

Good times on the Honest Bus. Photo: Instagram @blackbrewingco

No lunch booking? No worries! Black Brewing Co. understands it’s not always possible to make a booking for lunch in the silly season so they’re changing up the tasting room to provide a bar menu, plus shade and dining on the tasting room lawn if the 400-seat restaurant and beer garden is full.

You’ll find a great new menu in the restaurant too. Designed for sharing, the menu features fresh flavours, the best local produce, and popular favourites by Executive Chef Hayden Vink. Share plates include cider braised pork belly and Snapper ceviche watermelon salad.

Little Brother bar is also changing things up with a new Tapas menu designed to match perfectly with its extensive drinks list. There’s daily happy hours, Tight Ass Tuesdays great value food and drink specials, and Friday night ‘Adults night’ with cool jazz and smooth tunes. Saturday nights are for the big kids with DJs til late, and on Sunday there’ll be acoustic sessions and laid-back beats. Keep an eye out on social media for ticketed events on Thursdays over summer.

Summer opening hours are:

  • Honest Bus – daily from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day and then every Saturday in January.
  • Black Brewing Co. – Daily 11am to 5pm, Lunch served from 11am to 4pm. On Saturdays the bar will stay open til 7pm.  Closed Christmas Day.
  • Little Brother – Mon to Fri 3pm to late, Sat and Sun midday to late. Closed Christmas Day.

Black Brewing Co. makes great beer, fun fresh food, and good times at its stunning HQ on Caves Road Wilyabrup, in the heart of Margaret River wine country.  Visitors can also enjoy gin distilled on site and great wine produced under the Vintner Black label. Weddings and private events are regularly hosted at Black Brewing Co., stylishly catering for up to 250 seated guests. Dunsborough’s new bar Little Brother is also part of the Black Brewing Co. family.

For more info visit www.blackbrewingco.com.au, find Black Brewing Co. on Facebook and Instagram and Little Brother on Facebook and Instagram.

Black Brewing Co waitress beer tray

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Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2014

After an epic time at last year’s Gourmet Escape in Margaret River, I didn’t think it could get any better, or any bigger.

I was wrong on both counts. The main event, the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate had over 140 exhibitors on both Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd November – chocolate, farm produce, olive oil, cheese, coffee roasters, cocktail specialists, kitchen gadgets, condiments, bakeries, patisseries, gelatarias, truffle products, brewers, wineries of course and more. For the uninitiated, the huge choice together with the buzzing activity, smells and sights could be a little overwhelming.

Bahen Chocolate - the unflavoured variety has just two ingredients, cacao and sugar

Bahen Chocolate – the unflavoured variety has just two ingredients, cacao and sugar

Besides wandering around sipping and nibbling tasty offerings, there were demonstrations and education sessions galore. The star line up of chefs included Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Bottura (Italian 3-Michelin-starred chef), Rick Stein, Sat Bains, as well as Australian chefs Peter Gilmore, Frank Camorra, George Calombaris, Poh Ling Yeow, Matt Stone, Aaron Carr and Tony Howell just to scratch the surface. They demonstrated their dishes on the main stage that was like a rock concert set for chefs, big screens and all.

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Margaret River Gourmet Escape main stage

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to chop through an onion like a chef – then the Chef’s Skillery was for you. For those who’ve just found their wine palate, expert sommeliers were teaching beginners the art of wine tasting at the Around the Barrel sessions. There were Farm to Table demonstrations, wine and food matching, table talks, seafood master classes, book signings and more.

The Brewhouse was a great new addition, showcasing local and boutique beers. I enjoyed the natural lager of Young Henrys and the clean taste of Colonial #1 Brew.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Canon Food Photography Classes were a new edition this year. For just $20, a small group of six were given the use of Canon 70D DSLR cameras and expert instruction for an hour on the art of lighting.

The team at Canon teaching us how to photograph food and lighting techniques

The team at Canon teaching us how to photograph food and lighting techniques

At the end of the class, we got to keep our 8GB SD card containing all the photos we’d taken. For foodies like myself, this was an awesome inclusion.

Canon Food Photography workshop, $20

Canon Food Photography workshop, $20

The VIP Area

On Sunday I had the pleasure of being invited into the Audi Platinum Lounge, inside the Leeuwin Estate restaurant. It was my kind of foodie heaven. An oyster shucker opening fresh Albany and South Australian oysters, a sashimi bar with king fish, encrusted salmon and chargrilled octopus, a charcuterie station that included duck liver parfait, prosciutto, chorizo, and terrine, a cheese buffet with gorgonzola and the biggest wheel of parmesan in the State, and more. I was polite and did not gobble everything up at once, which required a skill of restraint that is hard to exercise in such situations.

Encrusted salmon sashimi at Leeuwen Esate

Encrusted salmon sashimi at Leeuwen Esate

Best of all, I was able to rub shoulders with the who’s who of the food and wine world and invited celebrities. I chatted to Kirk Pengilly from INXS – yes, INXS and again, extreme restraint was exercised and I did not ask for a selfie, as much as (really) I wanted to. Two glasses of Leeuwin Estate Art Series wine were included with the $220 entry ticket and I reckon it’s worth it – I could’ve eaten my ticket price in oysters (bit didn’t – see above).

Gorgonzola - heavenly creamy

Gorgonzola – heavenly creamy

Satellite Events

There were also over 20 satellite events that included the top tier $600 per head international cabernet tasting at Cape Mentelle, a long table lunch at Fraser Gallop, Gourmet Beach BBQs, a long table fiesta, Food for Thought panel sessions, Feast in the Forest, Foraging dinners, a trivia night, Sunset Beats and Bites and more. The tickets ranged in price, starting from $50 per person.

Food for Thought Session - Farm Graze Forage with AA Gill (MC), chefs  Jock Zonfrillo, Daniel Berlin & Matt Stone

Food for Thought Session – Hunter-Gatherers with AA Gill (MC), chefs Jock Zonfrillo, Daniel Berlin & Matt Stone

I attended the Hunter Gatherers Food for Thought session at Voyager Estate as a guest of the event. Hosted by the controversial AA Gill (food critic), chefs Jock Zonfrillo, Daniel Berlin & Matt Stone talked about eating native food, not wasting food, eating what’s in season, eating organic, and choosing food for nutrition value and taste, rather than what it looks like.

My new food hero is Matt Stone – he has a fantastic food philosophy of not wasting food and eating in season. He was the chef behind Perth’s Greenhouse which was built using 100% recycled material, and his restaurant in Melbourne, Brothl, uses scraps from Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant to make nutritious broths. There is no wastage of food or anything at Brothl.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape Event Tips

On Saturday, we enjoyed the Gourmet Village by deploying our event strategy:

  1. Arrive early
  2. Buy extra GEMs in the queue to enter (Gourmet Escape Money, 1 GEM = $7)
  3. Immediately find a shady spot to use as a base for the day
  4. Ensure you have a big enough posse to mind the base and take it in turns to explore the event

It worked well, as it had done in previous years. What I hadn’t done so well was study the program from cover to cover, something I would recommend the avid foodie do in order to decide which sessions to go to. With so much on offer, it was easy to get distracted chatting to a producer, watching one demonstration while missing a big name chef was on the main stage, or an interesting session at the Farm to Table or Table Talk elsewhere.

It’s been announced that the Margaret River Gourmet Escape will continue until 2017. Since it generates 33,000 room nights in the region, my number one tip is to book to go as soon as next year’s dates are announced.

The lovely Michelle and Sarah from Tourism WA enjoying the event

The lovely Michelle and Sarah from Tourism WA enjoying the event

Verdict

The crowds were up this year, or so it felt. It was busy in the Gourmet Village on both Saturday and Sunday. Queues for the 16 restaurants offering tasting dishes were long by mid-afternoon and one stallholder had sold out by 2.30pm with several others selling out before the end of the day, which seemed like bad planning on their part. Having said that, there was more space, more shade, a bigger event footprint, more chefs, more stalls, more interactive sessions, and new sessions as well as favourites repeated from the past two years. It was another stellar weekend in the stunning Margaret River region.

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Disclosure:

Dianne Bortoletto was invited as a guest of Escape Lounge into the Audi Platinum Lounge VIP area.  Travelletto was invited to the Food for Thought Session by the event.

A similar version of this article was first published on Escape Lounge, CheckIn.com.au’s inspiration travel page.

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Rottnest Island first, Margaret River third in Australia’s top destinations

Rottnest Island is number one and Margaret River has taken out the number three spot in Australia’s ‘Top 10 Destinations to Experience’ for 2014, in a poll by leading travel website Experience Oz.

Ningaloo Reef was the third Western Australian destination in the top ten, in ninth position.

Other famed Australian destinations in the top ten include Kangaroo Island, Barossa Valley, Uluru, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, and Gold Coast in Queensland, with the Whitsunday Islands taking second place.

Thousands of people participated in the poll, predominantly via social media, where they were asked to name what they considered to be Australia’s best destination based on a variety of criteria including ‘does it have unique geographical or architectural features’ and ‘if money was no object, would you want to visit there more than anywhere else in Australia?’.

Rottnest Island – no.1

I love Rottnest Island, and it certainly is unique and beautiful. It can also be expensive during peak periods. The beaches range from little secluded coves with lapping of the smallest waves, to renowned surf breaks and bays full of enviable boats. The white sand, azure Indian Ocean, and rocky outcrops set against a big clean Western Australian sky is a view to behold. It’s as beautiful as the beaches of Sardinia, yet just a 30 minute ferry ride away from Fremantle.

Geordie Bay at Rottnest Island

Geordie Bay at Rottnest Island

I really rate Rottnest Island for as a family holiday getaway – to read about one of my previous trips, click here. If your kids are of bike riding age, then it’ll be one of the best holidays you and your kids will have. With no cars permitted on the island (exception is service vehicles and local bus), kids can be free and ride in relative safety.  Add a cute little marsupial that you won’t find anywhere else, the Quokka, and Rottnest Island ticks the boxes for this competition.

There’s not much to do at ‘Rotto’ – after riding to some impressive historical sites, enjoying a pub lunch and sunset beers at the Rottnest Hotel, visiting the Settlement for the daily ice cream and supply pick up, activities are limited to swimming, snorkelling, sun bathing, riding, snoozing, or just relaxing. And that’s part of the Island’s appeal.

Margaret River – no.3

Margaret River is one of my favourite regions on the planet, so I’m not surprised by this outcome.  According to Experience Oz, Margaret River’s top three ranking can be attributed to its ‘sheer variety’ with ‘epic and beautiful coastline, array of wineries, quality whale watching, great surfing and spectacular cave networks’.

Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator Victoria Johnson said she was thrilled that Margaret River was in the top three, which was a dramatic progression from 10th spot in last year’s poll.

“We are genuinely privileged to be able to say that the diversity of experiences is unmatched by any other destination in Australia. Where else can you go for a walk and a swim at an uncrowded pristine beach in the morning, ride your mountain bike through towering karri forest, maybe explore an ancient limestone cave then head out to a winery or brewery for a relaxing afternoon of outstanding local produce, wine and craft beer? It’s a traveller’s dream come true!”  said Ms Johnson.

Me at Canal Rocks beach in the Margaret River region in winter

Me at Canal Rocks beach in the Margaret River region in winter

I’ve been writing a lot of posts lately on Margaret River – check them out:

…and there’s more to come.

Ningaloo Reef – no.9

If you haven’t added swimming with the whales sharks to your bucket list, do it now. It is one of the best natural experiences I have ever encountered. It’s up there with visiting the Galapagos Islands and learning to dive in the Great Barrier Reef, and far better than a trip to the Red Sea (where much of the colourful coral is now grey) the Amazon jungle (less mosquitos for starters!).

The sheer enormity of the whale sharks is something you have to really experience to believe – to read my post about swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, click here.  These serene creatures are colossal in size yet I felt no ounce of danger snorkelling beside one, the deep blue ocean underneath. Looking down, the ocean disappeared into darkness. Who knows how deep it is down there? That’s how plankton-eating whale sharks protect themselves. They have the ability to dive to great depths very quickly. So much so that we humans don’t actually know how deep they can dive, we’ve not been able to measure it due to the pressure of the ocean depths. Interesting, huh?

Swimming with whale sharks

Swimming with whale sharks

To view the full top 10 Destinations for 2014, visit the Experience Oz website.

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