South West Family Getaway

Jessica Gethin, Perth Symphony Orchestra conductor and music director provides her insider tips on how to best enjoy a family-friendly getaway in the Margaret River Region.

Jessica Gethin Family
Jessica Gethan & family.

There’s nothing quite like escaping. Loading up the Kluger high with our two ginger poppets, scooters, sandpit toys and a pretty decent selection of wine, we drove three hours south from our home in Perth to the gorgeous red earth that is our south west.

After a hectic year of travel, concerts and study, we were after a well-overdue break; one that came laptop and work stress-free, simply time to recharge and reconnect with each other.

We made our home in one of the two bedroom beachfront apartments at Abbey Beach Resort, the kids quickly settling into their rooms while we put our feet up on the balcony, opened a Leeuwin Estate Art Series and, well, just sat. Bliss!

For some reason, the two-year-old didn’t get the memo about sleeping in on holidays so our mornings started early and loud.

Bouncing with enthusiasm, we decided to get out and about to the beach, exploring the breathtaking coastline, walking on the sand, building sandcastles and snacking on second (sometimes third!) breakfasts.

Eager to burn off some more energy, we went on a mission to find a new playground. A big thumbs up then to the brilliant nature playground in Yallingup, a wonderful layout made from wood, pipes, rock climbing and ropes. You can even ‘surf’ in the sand, which Mr Six thought was just fabulous.

We spent the afternoon walking the Busselton Jetty, which is well developed with picnic areas, shaded playground and, of course, the historic jetty which for a small fee you can journey the 1.7km length of the famous jetty train and even visit the underwater observatory.

Busselton Jetty
The Busselton Jetty is great for families. Photo credit Scott Slawinski.

Then it was home for the kids to have a swim while we popped on some John Butler accompanied by a rosé, before thinking about the only thing we allow ourselves to plan on holiday . . . what to eat next.

In terms of food and wine in the Margaret River Region, options are plentiful, however some are definitely more suited for families. With lots of breweries and wineries to choose from, Cheeky Monkey is a family favourite, boasting a great selection of food and bev (pulled pork burger and mushroom pizza hit the spot!) well laid out with an enclosed playground for the kids to run off some energy.

At the bar they even sell Kids Australian activity packs for $2 filled with stickers, pencils and colouring sheets which let my husband and I sneak in an extra pale ale without any trouble.

Bootleg Brewery is also pretty popular for families with kids, with a playground and plenty of space for the kids to run. For those camping or in cabin accommodation a good casual meal option is to drop into Spinnakers, which is part of the Bayview Geographe Resort on Bussell Highway.

They have a bouncy castle set up close enough for you to have a pre-dinner drink on the café deck and themed nights where the parents can eat while the kids watch movies and participate in supervised arts and crafts sessions.

Both the kids adore animals so we chose to spend the next morning at the Wonky Windmill Farm and Eco Park. They got to bottle feed lambs, handle guinea pigs and rabbits and hand feed ponies and goats with a paper bag received as part of your entry fee.

The farm is fairly well laid out and not huge, so ideal for little kids. They also offer tours of the orchard throughout the day. They have a small lunch menu, complete with locally-made pickle and relish, and scones with jam made on location eaten on the cosy deck. It felt like having lunch at your favourite aunt’s place.

Family-Fun Busselton Foreshore
Family-fun in Busselton.

We planned our car trips around little stops, counting the many colourful street cows in Cowaramup, allowing Dad to sneak an amazing curry pie from Cowaramup Bakery, and taste-testing the sample chocolate buds at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory which coincided nicely with Mum’s much-needed coffee time. So much to do that is so simple yet fun for the kids.

A few times we set out to the beach at Dunsborough, armed with scooters and snacks. It’s a great stretch of coastline, the kids especially loved walking out to the sandbar, they felt like they were standing in the middle of the ocean!

The week coming to a fast close, we were pretty chuffed to discover a little hideaway that we had driven past many times before over the years. As we drove into the Margaret River town centre, we stopped briefly at the tourist stop where ‘Kate the train’ lives.

Behind this lies a playground, café and bridge which leads over the river to an old historical mill and school classroom that have been maintained for tourists and schools to visit.

The kids peered through the windows and ran around the old rusted machinery. I’ve driven past this for many years and often jogged along that exact strip when preparing as conductor for the Leeuwin Concerts, yet never knew what lay beyond the road.

While you are there, one of my very favourite places to recharge is just down the road – the delightful Margaret River Bakery. An arty, unique, eclectic spot of heaven tucked off the main road, with an antique collection of tea cups to rival the Queen’s, mixed with the most amazing looking bites to eat and comfy couches on the deck make this the perfect spot for a bit of ‘me’ time, if you can get it – check out their Facebook page pics of food. Total drool material.

Wonky Windmill Farm
Kids will love petting the animals at Wonky Windmills Farm.

Of course it wouldn’t be a family trip down south without a compulsory stop at Simmo’s in Dunsborough for an ice cream, and visit with their resident Edward Emu. It’s a great place to kick a footy around and even play a round of mini golf, although watch out for Edward, he’s famous for his ice cream disappearing trick – I wonder if he’s a Dad, they seem to do that too.

One of our last stops is in Quindalup, halfway between Busselton and Dunsborough on Caves Rd. We love to pop in to see to the fabulous Norma at her Saturday morning cake market for a homemade sausage roll (seriously the best in the west) and takeaway cakes at the stunning heritage property Hardwood’s Cottage. Nothing beats a quiet car thanks to Norma’s cooking.

It truly is such an amazing part of our state, and even though we have stayed and explored it as adults we really enjoyed seeing things through the kids’ eyes. Rather than battle with flights, airport waits, currency exchanges, travel and passports we explored and enjoyed our home state. Beautiful beaches, pearly shells to collect, scrumptious produce and some of the best wine in Australia paired with plenty of kids’ activities, bush walks, local history, impeccable weather and incredible rich scenery to breathe in.

Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.