There’s no doubt that for those of us who grew up in Perth, the South West is a memorable holiday destination and one we’ve all visited countless times. There is something about the region and the towns it encompasses that carries a unique sense of nostalgia and freedom — a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the simplicity of life. As the nights get longer and we find ourselves surrounded by winter, the air fills with the scent of woodfire smoke and crushed eucalyptus leaves. The bush turns verdant green, contrasting against the dark tar of the winding country roads, and we lie in bed at night drifting off to the sound of rain meeting the roof above us. This is winter in the South West corner of Australia, and if it feels like anything, it’s the wrap of a loved one’s warm arms around your body.
Step into this industrial, mid-century-style haven located only 300 meters from the heart of Dunsborough and 50 meters from the calm waters of Dunsborough Beach. Djurapin, meaning ‘Happy’ in Nyoongar, is ideal for groups and families and the perfect place to base yourself for a South West winter getaway. Spend rainy days exploring the wineries of the Margaret River Region, afternoons warming up in the deluxe hot tub and nights entertaining with loved ones from the open-plan living areas.
Sirens Song For 2, Gnarabup
On the outer edge of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, you’ll find a stay which is both inviting and endearing. Sirens Song For 2, located in the coastal town of Gnarabup is an idyllic combination of minimalism, bohemianism, and Hamptons style. This snug, light-filled home has a fireplace, a garden room with two baths, and a very delightful herb garden where you can pick an array of fresh herbs as you please. If you’re after a wholesome break during the stormy months with a special someone, this sweet stay is the place.
Margaret River Holiday Cottages, Margaret River
Resting on the outskirts of the Margaret River township, you’ll find a farm stay made for winter days. Margaret River Holiday Cottages is home to nine family-friendly cottages and many loving farm animals. In the early evenings, the public firepit provides cosy relief from the nippy chill of the Margaret River air. An extra enticing aspect of this accommodation, especially in the cooler months, is its heated indoor pool, providing warmth and relaxation, it’s ideal when the brisk outdoors gets a little too much.
Sit curled up on the couch, gazing out of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, at Breaksea to the big blue ocean, as humpback whales migrate through the bay. Positioned high above Frenchmans Bay, a 20-minute drive from Albany’s town centre, you’ll find this home with some of the most mesmerising views of the Indian Ocean in the South West. Do winter by the coast right and watch as grey clouds form and storms roll in across the horizon while reading to the backdrop of rain droplets gently sliding down the windowpane.
Stillwood Retreat, Denmark
Located in Denmark, the quiet town where the forest meets the sea, you’ll find the ever-so-peaceful Stillwood Retreat, a place where you can truly escape from it all. Nestled amongst the treetops of the Karri forest on five acres of untouched land, Stillwood is a fusion of modern and rural architecture, that blends the outdoors with the indoors. Featuring a Dam with your own private jetty, a fireplace, indoor and outdoor bathtubs, and linen textiles throughout, Stillwood is an intimate winter retreat you’ve been dreaming of.
Curl up in front of the crackling floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace with a book in one hand and a glass of locally produced wine in the other at Solstice, the place made for falling into the peaceful joys of winter in the South West. Located on the very sought-after Yallingup Hill with panoramic views of the horizon, this rustic coastal design home provides endless tranquillity both on the inside and outside.
The Dam, Denmark
The Dam, Denmark’s newest venue, is situated on Raintree, an 880-acre family-operated farm and sustainability-focused initiative. Centred around carbon-conscious farming and farm-to-table produce, at The Dam, you can indulge knowing you’re getting a combination of the highest quality ingredients.
Eagle Bay Brewing Co, Naturaliste
Located on a 70-year-old family farm in Cape Naturaliste, Eagle Bay Brewing Co is a family owned and run microbrewery, winery, and restaurant. With sweeping views over lush farmland and the Indian Ocean, it’s the perfect place to sit in the warmth of its fireplace. Take in the pristine environment around you while enjoying handcrafted beers, wines, and fresh modern Australian dishes.
Gralyn Estate, Wilyabrup
Since 1975, Gralyn Estate has been crafting premium wine in their family vineyard. With 200 hectares of pasture and forest and four hectares under vine, Gralyn Estate is known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Located on Caves Road in Wilyabrup, this awarding-winning cellar door is for all the wine lovers out there.
In the historic London Hotel in Albany, you will find Liberté, a Parisian-inspired bar with both a food and drink menu that is a piquant fusion of French-Vietnamese cuisine. The cultural influence on the menu can also be felt in the interior design of the restaurant, as the moodiness of French and Vietnamese old-school elegance entangles one another, finding maximalism on the way.
Colonial Brewing Co, Bramley
There’s no doubt you’ve seen Colonial Brewing Co beverages on the shelf at your local bottle shop, so it makes sense to stop into this brewery that’s well known for all the right reasons. If the winter sun is out and shining when you visit CBCo you’ll want to pick a spot at one of its outdoor tables. In terms of cloudy day dishes, we highly recommend the crispy and fresh Parma pizza, as well as the juicy chorizo and smooth artichoke dip.
La Scarpetta Trattoria, Margaret River
Europe’s old-world charm meets the South West at La Scarpetta Trattoria. This whimsical restaurant is located on the main street of Margret River town and serves up a traditional Italian dining experience. The interior is a combination of exposed brick, warm woods, sea blue tones, and leafy greens, with stained glass window skylights, a sanctuary to eat, drink, and retreat from the rain outside.
As the winter rain falls down across the land, the waterways receive their long-awaited respite from the heat of the dry summer. To the surprise of many people, the South West has a handful or so of waterfalls to discover during the cooler months. In Wilyabrup you’ll find Quinninup Falls, a 10-metre waterfall with a scenic hike along the Cape to Cape track to get there. If you prefer wide waterfalls over high ones, you’ll want to check out Yalgardup Falls, just west of Margaret River town. For those who are a little more daring to embrace the chill, you’ll find a couple of hidden spots along the falls to swim. Further down in the South West, a 20-minute drive from Pemberton, cascading amongst the Karri trees is Beedelup Falls. Travel even further south to Waterfall Beach, Denmark. Here a small waterfall tumbles down the weathered rocks onto the beach below, when it’s in full flow, it creeps along the white sand toward the crystal blue water of William Bay National Park.
Western Australia, especially the South West, is one of the world’s whale-watching hotspots. As the whales begin their migration up the coast, Flinders Bay in Augusta is where they make their first stop. Here, you’ll have the rare opportunity to see Humpback and Southern Right Whales interacting, with the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse being a great viewing spot. Other hotspots in the South West to witness these majestic giants of the ocean include Busselton, Augusta, Albany and Dunsborough.
What better way to view Western Australia’s rugged, deep blue, winter seascapes and watch the dark clouds roll in, than from the top of a lighthouse. On the most Southern Westerly tip of Australia in Augusta, sits Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which also happens to be the tallest lighthouse on Australia’s mainland. An hour and a half drive north will take you to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse just inland of Bunker Bay. Both lighthouses are open daily and are a great opportunity to slip on your beanie and take in the vastness of the South West.
Galleries and Museums
When the wet weather becomes too much to bear, spend the day inside browsing through a range of galleries and museums in the South West. At Aravina Estate in Yallingup Siding, is the official Western Australian surfing museum, the WA Surf Gallery. This nostalgic gallery is filled with rare memorabilia and historical surf photographs, it’s sure to be a walk down memory lane for any surfing fanatics. In Albany, the Museum of the Great Southern gives an introduction to the history of the area and is an excellent activity for everybody. There’s also an extensive list of art galleries throughout the South West that are worth visiting, but we’ll let you decide which of these spark your interest.
The South West is ingrained with a surfing lifestyle and has been since surfers first started flocking to the Magret River region in search of big waves many decades ago. Between the months of May and August, the coast is pumping with swell for those of all levels. While the list of great surf spots in the South West is almost endless, here are some of the more notable ones.
Surfers Point, where the iconic Margaret River Pro is held, is both great for surfing and watching. Referred to as the birthplace of surfing in the South West, Yallingup Main Break is a sight and wave that truly never gets old. Cowarumup Bombora, or more simply Cow Bombie, is located two kilometres offshore of Gracetown. While it doesn’t always break, when the Southern Ocean brings the right swells this spot can produce waves in excess of 12 metres, making it at times a contender for Australia’s biggest wave.
Nothing says weekend mornings down south like a stroll through the Markets. The Margaret River Farmers Markets run every Saturday all year and have a selection of fresh local market produce and market vendors. If you’re a cheese lover (aren’t we all), then you’ll definitely want to make a stop past Jardin Estate and try its award-winning range of butter as well as the truffle cheese. Over in Busselton is Origin Markets, which are indoors making them very handy in the wintertime. Here you’ll find everything from local produce to pottery, artworks, jewellery, clothes, homewares, and more.
The South West is one of the best places to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and allow ourselves to fall into a much-needed state of rest and relaxation. Why not up the ante and add a little rejuvenation on top of that as well — I mean what better way to escape the wintry world outside than at a day spa? In Yallingup, you’ll find the luxuriously indulgent Injidup Retreat and Spa. With uninterrupted ocean views and a range of wellness options focused on nurturing the body, mind and soul, you’ll leave here feeling deeply nourished. Perth day spa franchise Bodhi can also be found in Yallingup by the tranquil waters of Lake Gunyulgup. Here you can undertake an array of holistic well-being treatments that will have you walking away feeling revitalised. Vie Spa at the Pullman Bunker Bay is another luxurious day spa with an extensive menu of massages, facials, and full-body treatments to help give you a glow in winter.
Caves have long been a popular tourist attraction in the South West, especially the Margaret River region in particular. While some caves close over the winter months, many remain open. Some people don’t know that most caves often have a constant temperature. This makes caving a great activity in the cooler months; not only is it an opportunity to hide from the rain, but chances are, it might even be a little warmer in the cave. The level of peacefulness that can be found in a cave is unmatched. Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave, and Ngilgi Cave are three to check out when down south, and they are open most hours of each day, every week and season.
Workshops and Classes
Throughout the many towns of the South West, you will find a selection of workshops and classes to suit every personality and specific interest. From cooking classes to spirit distilling, pottery and printmaking workshops, and art and photography classes, there really is no shortage. The good thing about these workshops and classes is that many of them run indoors making them an ideal rainy-day activity. When the weather isn’t saying beach day or vineyard tour, why not head indoors and learn a new skill, get creative, or bring something to life with your hands?
Looking to catch some snow this winter? Look no further.
Bluff Knoll, located in the Stirling Range National Park in the Great Southern, is the highest point in the South West and is one of the only places in Western Australia to see snow. While your chances of catching snowfall on Bluff Knoll might be slim, either way, you’ll experience some of the most picturesque 360-degree views from its summit which sits at 1098 meters above sea level. The trail up the mountain to the peak is a 6-kilometre return walk which is steep and challenging at certain points. Nonetheless, Bluff Knoll is one of the South West’s top winter attractions, and is definitely one to add to the bucket list for all the adventurers out there.
Featured image | Francis-Andrijich for @australias_southwest