Like many school leavers, my friends and I headed to Dunsborough in WA’s South West to celebrate the end of our school days. Twenty (or so) years later, nine of us decided to recreate the good old days by spending a weekend in the beach side town. Our main agenda was to spend lots of time eating, drinking and chatting and we decided the most fun way to do that was to go on a tour of the Margaret River region’s famous wineries and breweries. Since no one volunteered to drive, we chartered a mini bus and away we went.
Here’s a rundown of the places we stopped to wet our whistles:
We decided to kick the day off at a boutique winery for two reasons; firstly because we liked the idea of trying something different and secondly because one of the girls has a daughter called Storm, so it seemed fitting.
I’d let the staff know ahead of time that we were coming, so they had the tasting table all ready to go when we got there. Stormflower’s first vintage was in 2009 and they’re making some good wines, which have won a fair few medals. They only make 11 or so, which means the tasting wasn’t too overwhelming.
Stormflower has a really homely feel, pretty much like you’re sitting in someone’s loungeroom, so it’s the perfect place to sit and drink and have a chat (which we spent a fair bit of time doing). It’s unpretentious, with a really friendly cellar door staff member who just let us chat throughout the wine tasting and go at our own pace (which was not very fast).
Swings and Roundabouts
By the time we moved on to this slightly bigger winery for our second tasting, the girls were starting to warm up. Swings and Roundabouts has a really nice feel to it, with exposed beams, tables made from oak barrels and a big stone fireplace.
Swings and Roundabouts has a pretty lengthy wine tasting menu, so I stuck to the bubbles and whites. The Sem Sav was really easy to drink, so we bought a bottle on the spot and then sat out the back to share a woodfired pizza while we drank it.
The winery is really family friendly and there’s heaps of space for the kids to run around, as well as inside games. There are also some very interesting sculptures residing on the lawn area.
Eagle Bay Brewing Co
I’d heard really good things about this place, and judging by how many people were there, so had everyone else. The restaurant at Eagle Bay is huge (and very loud) and it has an enormous outside area as well. There’s also plenty of grass and space outside for kids.
We did a wine tasting, but it was tucked away in the corner and to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the wines. Maybe I’ll go back again and try the beers and food instead (on a quieter day!)
One of the girls in the group got married at Wise, so it was kind of sentimental for us all to be back there again. We started with a wine tasting, ostensibly to work out what we wanted to order with lunch. There’s quite an extensive wine list, so it was a pretty tough choice, but we finally settled on the SSB. The cellar door staff were really fun and gave us information about the wines without overloading us (which by that stage in the day was much appreciated).
The outdoor decking where our table was set for lunch had beautiful views over the vineyards and bushland all the way to the glinting blue of Geographe Bay.
The menu was full of modern Australian dishes, with a big emphasis on local produce. We took our time and had a three course meal, and my gnocchi and steamed greens were both a success, as was the sticky date pudding. Wise also has some chalets on the property, which I would love to come back and stay in some time.
The Pour House
Last on our official itinerary was the Pour House, in Dunsborough town. It has a huge list of beers, which convinced a few of the girls to switch from drinking wine. The place has a pretty relaxed vibe and both a downstairs and upstairs bar. According to the staff, the Pour House has 12 rotating craft beers and over 100 bottles of beer from around the world, so the girls had a good selection to choose from! The Pour House also does food, but since we’d eaten so much at Wise winery, we couldn't fit anything in this time.
“The Tav” as it’s affectionately known, is pretty much where every night out in Dunsborough either ends or begins. And so it was for us. It’s had plenty of facelifts over the 20 years since we’ve been going there, but it still does the trick if you’re thirsty.
Money saving tip: There are heaps of great wine tour operators in the Margaret River area. However, since we had a large group and wanted to pick our own itinerary, we hired a driver from Dunsborough taxis, went to a few wineries, then got dropped at Wise winery for a few hours. Instead of us paying to have a driver waiting in the carpark, we just called the taxi company again when we were ready to be picked up.
Notes: Dunsborough is about a 3 hour drive south of Perth
The summer months between Dec-March are peak time, but it’s beautiful (and most green) in winter (June-August).