Photo by Frances Anrijich

7 Best Wine Travel Experiences of 2020

Margaret River,  Australia

Explore Wine and Surf Breaks in Margaret River, Australia

What do world-class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon have in common with legendary surf breaks? Margaret River. For devotees of both, this Western Australia wine region about three hours south of Perth offers welcoming wineries set amid beautiful beaches. Between surf schools, tasting tours and an annual professional surfing competition, Margaret River abounds with ways to wet your board and whet your palate.

If you love wine but are new to the art of balancing on a board, try attending a surf school. Several come recommended by winemakers who dig the sport. Popular suggestions include Margaret River Surf School, Josh Palmateer’s Surf Academy and Yallingup Surf School. Women can also join a ladies-only Surfari offered by Escape Safaris for Women.

Small helicopter flying above two people on a lawn in front of a winery
Flying Corkscrew/Photo by Tom Writer

After you tackle the waves, relax on a coastal stroll that skirts the sapphire-hued ocean. Sold as the Cape to Vine Tour by Vasse Felix winery, you’ll explore the flora of the protected sand dunes, then get a behind-the-scenes look in the wine cellar and taste alongside the winemaker.

On the other hand, if your soft-top skills are solid, rent a truck and board to go it alone. Josh Palmateer’s Surf Academy rents equipment, but the company also coordinates winery visits for surf clients through Wine For Dudes, which, contrary to the name, is open to all. Or, for an above-the-sea view, ask them to hook you up with the Flying Corkscrew for a helicopter wine tour that features three private tastings and a long lunch.

A cute dog on a kayak in a river
Surf N’ Dirt Adventure Tours/Photo by Tim Campbell

Injidup Beach and Cowaramup Bay are stunning spots for sunrise swells, as is Three Bears Track, though the latter requires four-wheel drive to reach the shore. You’ll probably also hear a lot about Margaret River Main Break at Surfers Point, which should only be attempted by serious pros.

During downtime, learn about the people, places and natural environment of Margs via the podcast series Wine Unearthed. Refuel over lunch at biodynamic producer Cullen Wines. With a glass of Chardonnay, enjoy a multicourse repast sourced from the organic garden.

Four glasses on white wine on a table
Wine Tasting/Photo courtesy of Vasse Felix

Of course, a local operator can handle all the logistics for a complete, carefree day. A typical small group itinerary run by Surf N’ Dirt Adventure Tours includes some off-roading, transport to a secluded surf spot and a forest picnic, followed by a tasting tour of wineries and other local gourmet producers in the afternoon. For private tours in a luxury sedan, ask Peter Norris at Go in Style Luxury Transport about his XJL Series Jaguar Sedan.

Most Margaret River wineries have tasting rooms, which makes it easy to sip without reservations. Bigger outfits include Leeuwin Estate and Voyager Estate, while smaller, biodynamic Blind Corner is also worth a visit. You’ll need to make an appointment to visit the smaller, natural-leaning Si Vintners or prominent regional pioneer Moss Wood.

For hardcore surf fans, make sure to plan your visit during the Margaret River Pro Tournament, a stop on the World Surfing League (WSL) tour. This year’s event will take place in April and May, which aligns with the end of harvest, a coincidence of timing many cellar rats lament. —Lauren Mowery

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