To the land of Oz we go
November 22, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Going to Perth/surrounding areas, advice needed.

I'll be going for a one-week road trip to Perth, Margaret River, Albany and Fremantle next week. Some advice is needed...

1) We're thinking of renting a car from Bayswater. Is there anything that we should be looking out for? (e.g. hidden charges, cheaper/better agencies etc) If it matters, all three drivers recently turned 21 years' old.

2) In Margaret River, we intend to go for winery tours. Do we have to book in advance, or can we just drop by? How much would we have to pay?

3) Are there any specific wineries that are a must-go or a must-avoid? We only have 1-1.5 days to spend in Margaret River, so understandably we'd like to make the best use of our time.

4) How realistic are the drive times on Google Maps? For example, Perth City to Margaret River is about 4h. Does that sound right?

5) General advice?

Sorry there are so many questions, and thanks in advance!
posted by titantoppler to Travel & Transportation around Australia (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perth local here.

1) I typically use Budget for car hire and have had no issues with them regarding hidden costs, but of course you need to check your contract carefully. You should be fine with any of the major car hire companies (Bayswater, Europcar, Avis, Thrifty, Hertz, etc). Try checking out this search engine for the lowest prices. I think most companies have a check box for you to indicate that the driver(s) are over 25 years of age, so there may be a surcharge if you're only 21.

2) I've visited Margaret River wineries on several occasions, but I've never been on a tour, so I can't help you there, unfortunately. A quick Google reveals several websites dedicated to Margaret River winery tours, so you may wish to check them out in advance. It looks like most of them require bookings.

3) I have no 'must-avoid' wineries. Last time I was down there, I really enjoyed the Little River.

4) The trip should take less than four hours from Perth CBD. With the new(ish) freeway extension, I'd say 3-3.5 hours.

5) No general advice beyond drive carefully on country roads and have fun! It's 2:40am here, so I may think of a more helpful (and comprehensive) answer to this after sleep!
posted by Defying Gravity at 10:41 AM on November 22, 2011

And I just realised that I recommended you a Swan Valley (and not Margaret River) winery. Apologies (like I sad, it's late)! I doubt you'll have time, but the Swan Valley is a part of Perth which houses a number of wineries and is definitely worth checking out if you're into wine.
posted by Defying Gravity at 10:52 AM on November 22, 2011

*said (Arg! Off to bed now!)
posted by Defying Gravity at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2011

I did this with my sister over a week this time last year. We got some cheap hire car deal and purchased domestic travel insurance for about $70 through our health insurance company which meant we didn't need to sign up for the "extra" car insurance that added about $25/day to the bill. It also meant if something happened (kangaroo on road, flying rocks etc) that we didn't have to fork out for a massive repair bill. Something to consider.

We went on a tour with this great guy via Margaret River Discovery Co. and it was fantastic. It ended up being the two of us plus the guide on the day and we had a wonderful time. It's not the type of tour where you visit all the wineries and end the day with a massive hangover though. If that's what your after then there are heaps of other options.

We also took the long, very fun drive to Treetops - it wasn't the most amazing thing ever but very interesting and we liked the drive and the scenery. We stopped at Pemberton on the side of a mountain and got what seemed like the worlds largest lamington to share over a thermos of tea. Delish.

I found the WA tourism website a great tool to help plan and work out we decided was important for us to spend time doing.

Once we headed back into Perth we spent some time in Kings Park and took a trip out to Rottnest Island - we did not manage to see even one stinky little Quokka. Bastards.

Overall it was a fun trip and if you like beaches - you will be very pleased. Lots of options to watch the sunset over with a bottle of wine and some delicious cheese. Enjoy.
posted by latch24 at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2011

We've regularly had guests who use Bayswater with no dramas and good weekly rates. I'm from the Margaret River region and live in Perth. It's very hot here right now, so bring your bathers! You've chosen a beautiful part of the world - the SW of WA was in Lonely Planet's 'Top Ten Places in the World' last year, so I'm not just being partial... :)

At this time of year you can see lots of whales as they migrate south for summer. We had guests last week who took a local whale tour [you could do this down south] and saw tens of them, some frolicking close to the boat. They said it was the best thing they saw in Australia and their photographs were amazing. Albany would probably also be a good place to see whales.

Regarding wineries, I've never taken a tour. If I'm in the mood I drive down Caves Road and take a wander into any that take my fancy. I think you need to go to Leeuwin Estate. It's got lovely grounds and they've had Sting, Shirley Bassey, Elton John etc come and play at their annual outdoor concerts over the years. You don't have to book, just turn up. They do a lovely tasting service and their Art Series is delicious. Wise is also lovely, and their lunches are great. Voyager and Vasse Felix [has art gallery] are also nice. I like Fermoy Estate in Wilyabrup, but mainly because I love their wines. I think you can book proper tours in the Margaret River Tourist Bureau.

Google maps is being cautious with the drive times but once you get to Busselton [about 2 n a bit hours from Perth] you'll want to take things slower. I recommend you drive down Caves Road anyway, instead of the highway between Busselton and Margaret River. If you drive beyond Busselton towards Yallingup Beach, you'll probably see dolphins hanging out with the surfers. Yallingup is a fantastic beach for waves if you're into boogie-boarding or surfing, or even body-surfing. From Yallingup you can take Caves Road down past many wineries in Marybrook and Wilyabrup. It's a nice drive, slows you down and shows you the real landscape of the area. [If you are staying in Margaret River township, there are signs to show you where to turn off from Caves Road back to the highway.]

And of course, it's called Caves Road because there are some lovely caves all along that stretch of coast. Mammoth Cave, Lake Cave and Jewel Cave are all gorgeous. I like Lake Cave but in all of them you can see the extraordinary root systems of the huge Karri and Jarrah trees, trees native to this region. There are tours and these caves are really worth seeing. If you like timber, check out the Boranup Gallery for the furniture and more. If that kind of thing grabs you, I also recommend walking into the Margaret River catholic church - just about everything in it is made by local artisans and materials, including the thick rammed earth walls.

I grew up on a farm near Molloy Island, near Augusta, so this is going to sound very partial: I suggest you drive down to Augusta, 30 minutes south of MR. The town of Margaret River is nothing special, but the coastline and township of Augusta are dramatic and lovely. Two oceans meet a river - best seen whilst having a coldie at the Augusta Hotel which has beautiful views. Or you can enjoy the view from the Augusta Catholic church [same designer as MR one] which was the first building in Australia to use white limestone in a rammed earth process. The 'stations of the cross' are beautiful etchings into metal, mounted on Karri timber rings. You don't have to be religious to enjoy, and tourists are welcomed. Lots of our airbnb guests rave about climbing the Leeuwin lighthouse - the tours are interesting and I bet there'd be whales galore heading down the coast that you'd be able to see from the top. The wildness of the coast and its long history before British colonisation [the French and Dutch hung out in this part of the world a hundred or more years previously] is really something. There's a great road out to the Augusta Gold Course that tourists never use, but the views and the bush up there are spectacular.

If you drive down Caves Road from Margaret River to Augusta you'll pass through Boranup forest and those magnificent Karri trees will make you park the car and want to walk amongst them. I used to ride my horses through there and never stop loving the feeling of that forest, no matter how many times I return.

In Perth, Kings Park is the largest inner city botanical garden in the world. It contains seeds of every known plant found in Australia. And the views are stunning. I like going there at night and sitting on the lawn overlooking the city or lying on my back looking up at the glorious gum trees. There are Aboriginal tour guides giving a free tour at 2 every day.

Fremantle is a charming town, especially after you've seen the city of Perth and its propensity to knock every lovely old building down and put up glass n steel in its place. Fremantle is a good destination for lunch before or after a bit of time at Cottesloe Beach. I like breakfasts at the Naked Fig in Swanbourne [the name signifies its location at the beginning of the nudist beach, so yeah, if you like nudist beaches, that's where one is] or the John Street Cafe. Best thing is fish n chips on the lawn at Cottesloe at sunset.

And if you are in Perth and want to be shown some cute bars or have a mini-meetup with any of us here at this very remote outpost of the MeFi empire, get in touch.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:41 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh no - THIS huge bushfire might be a factor in the coming days.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:13 AM on November 23, 2011

1) I don't have any experience with car rental, but have not heard anything bad about Bayswater, they are one of the bigger and well known car rental places in Perth, and so I would be pretty confident in using them. Looking at the Instant quote on their website, there are surcharges for your age and being overseas drivers. Also, it is extra to go further than 100km from Perth and then further surcharges for further than 500km, ie Albany or Augusta.

2) If by winery tours you mean visiting wineries yourself, shouldn't need to book and all of them will be open over the summer months, these are nearly always free, if not a moderate tasting fee may apply (don’t quote me on this fee, I don’t know exactly if this has started in our South-West). If you mean winery tours as in getting driven around on a bus, you will need to book before, but I would say doing it when you are down there should be fine. I would recommend both if you have time.

3) I'm not much of an expert on wine, but I don't think there are any worth avoiding. There are also some small breweries that are definitely worth checking out. Also the other two standard South-West things to do are the Margaret River Dairy Company and Simmo's Icecream.

4) Those drive times seem entirely reasonable, unless you are driving down on a Friday afternoon or coming back on a Sunday (or long weekend Monday) where the traffic could add maybe 30 minutes. I would agree with honey-barbara to go via Caves Road, they are beautiful roads to drive on. I would add it might be nice to stop in at Dunsborough (and buy a pie at the legendary Dunsborough bakery, or breakfast/lunch at the Food Farmacy). If you have even more time for your drive, I can't recommend the beaches at Eagle Bay enough, they are stunningly beautiful, and if you are down in a quiet period, you can have 2km of beach to yourself. I can also recommend an emu pie, because really, when are you going to have the chance again.

5) Perth - The city itself is pretty quiet after 6pm on weeknights, If you are looking for some nightlife/dinner/coffee, Northbridge, Leederville or Mt Lawley are your closest options. Northbridge is walking distance and Leederville/Mt Lawley are a 5 minute drive. Let me know if you want specific recommendations for these areas.

Kings Park is still wonderful after 30 years of visiting it.

The Perth Zoo in South Perth is pretty good fun and you can catch the ferry across the Swan to get there.

Perth has a kick-ass live music scene, PM the week before you are here if you are interested and I will give you the hot tips on what is going on.

If you are interested in bacon and eggs, West End Deli is my local café and I love it more than a man should love a café. It’s a little pricey and you are going to need an hour and half for breakfast or lunch, but it will be well worth it.

Beaches – please go to the beach, Perth has some of the best beaches in the world, pretty much anywhere between Fremantle and Two Rocks (60 km North) is good.

Fremantle – Go to Little Creatures Brewery. Sitting in their alfresco area, looking over the ocean, drinking beer made on the premises and some kalamiri, not much better in the world.

Albany - I hate to be negative and I haven't been there in 20 years (so grain of salt necessary), but Albany is not much of a tourist town. Unless you have reasons for going there, I would spend an extra day in Margaret River or honey-barbara's suggestion of Augusta.

And if you are in Perth and want to be shown some cute bars or have a mini-meetup with any of us here at this very remote outpost of the MeFi empire, get in touch.

Totally this.
posted by lrobertjones at 5:26 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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