Bringing together some of the region's finest fare, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape presents a tantalising four-day festival of food, drink and merriment, all set in one of the most naturally beautiful areas imaginable. It's a packed program with over 100 boutique producers involved and highlights, including a star-studded chef's table, cooking masterclasses, coffee workshops and a buzzing village green featuring an array of local produce.
Margaret River is often seen as a wine region. While that's not wrong, seeing it as just a destination for vineyard-hopping would massively underplay the charms of this picturesque spot for a multi-faceted summer holiday. Few regions of Australia are as rich in natural beauty and densely populated with world-class dining options.
We've teamed up with Mazda3 to help you make the most of your trip to Gourmet Escape. Here are the best options for what to eat, what to do and where to stay during the feasting fest.
Elements Margaret River.
EAT AND DRINK
If you're looking to make the most of Gourmet Escape, be sure to plan ahead — you'll find there are more than just a few fringe events and degustations you'll want to find. This year's all-star program corrals top chefs like Andrew McConnell (Supernormal,Supernormal Canteen, Cumulus Inc.), David Thompson (Long Chim), Guillaume Brahimi (Bistro Guillaume), Clayton Wells (Automata) and Paul Carmichael (Momofuku Seiobo). There is also the option to simply kick back in idyllic surrounds and sip some local tipples.
Outside of the festival, Saturday mornings in Margaret River see the buzzing Margaret River Farmers' Market set up with dozens of stalls offering all kinds of local baked goods, fruits, vegetables, flowers, chocolates and wines. It's an ideal spot to stock up on supplies for a beach picnic, as is the gourmet deli located at Smiths Beach at Lamont's winery. This coastal favourite is also a great spot for a laidback brunch with an all-day menu split in two — offering brekkie eats like buttermilk pancakes and shakshuka or lunchtime bites like pork rillette and spaghettini with walnut sauce.
Margaret River Farmers' Market.
An iconic restaurant of the region, the acclaimed Cape Lodge's menu revolving around local produce attracts many to the area — everyone from Bill Clinton to Katy Perry has stopped off at this famed lakeside restaurant. On any given visit, you might find Western Australian options like marron from Donnybrook, mussels from Safety Bay or Exmouth prawns. And if you're after a more casual option, White Elephant Beach Café — who'll also be among the many local dining options in attendance at Gourmet Escape — is located ideally overlooking the boat ramp at Gnarabup beach and pumps out great coffee and classic all-day breakfast options like bircher muesli and smashed pumpkin on sourdough.
Peta Hopkins via Flickr.
Along with great eats, there's also plenty of entertainment on offer at Gourmet Escape. Matt Okine will do his food and comedy thing, DJ sets from the likes of Hugo Gruzman (Flight Facilities) and Triple J's Tom Tilley will be held throughout and locals San Cisco will headline the closing night party. So plan to have a boogie or two during your visit.
Spending some time in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is also an absolute must. Named as a world biodiversity hotspot by the World Wildlife Foundation, the region's unusual climate and soil profile means it's home to a dazzling variety of colourful wildflowers, many of which are rarely seen elsewhere. Look out for the likes of blue grass lilies, spider orchids and crimson one-sided bottle brush. The very keen hikers may want to tackle the famous Cape to Cape Track, a 135-kilometre walk which hugs the coastline. For everyone else, there are many options to drop in on the track for much shorter walks.
The area is also notable for its limestone cliff and crystal caves. You can enter a network of caves at CaveWorks, just south of Margaret River. A narrow staircase leads you down into the most spectacular of the underground hollows, the giant Lake Cave, which includes an ethereal sunken forest. A rare example of an 'actively dripping' cave, it's like something taken from the pages of a fairytale.
Further natural beauty is found in the region's string of stunning beaches, which include Hamelin's Bay, a photogenic stretch of white sand and blue-green water where stingrays weave their way through bathers. The popular Smiths Beach is another gorgeous part of the coastline, while Prevelly Beach, where Margaret River meets the ocean, is home to professional surfing events.
Riverglen Chalets offers a range of boutique accommodation options, with everything from studios to larger chalets for up to eight people. Best of all, it's set amongst seven acres of lush, green natural surrounds with a picturesque pond and towering gum trees. In a seemingly secluded location, the chalets are only a few minutes from town proper. Grab a breakfast hamper from the festival and head back to the chalets and start the day with an al fresco feast.
Old Dairy Cottage is a quirky, character-filled option, proudly wearing its heritage as a pioneering district farm, but also including all the modern amenities. The light, airy accommodation is designed to make the most of the summer sun. Hilltop Studios also splits the difference between pastoral living and pure luxury; their designed accommodation comes with an award-winning chef on site and views of rolling hills and rugged countryside from your bathtub.
For something entirely different, Conto offers a range of camping options alongside the winding coastline and peppermint woodland. Whether you're looking for a cheaper option or just like the idea of waking up to the sound of roaring waves, it's perfect a way to experience a truly spectacular part of the country.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2017 takes place in the Margaret River region from November 16 to 19.