Wine touring has traditionally been for adults only, but that may be changing.
Western Australia is at the forefront of a small but growing trend to turn wine touring into a travel activity the whole family can enjoy. Though international travelers aren’t allowed to enter Australia right now, the distribution of effective Covid-19 vaccines may change that in 2021. In the meantime, Australian families can enjoy one of country’s most up-and-coming wine regions all to themselves.
Whether it’s the proximity to the beach or casual Aussie vibe, the wineries of Margaret River don’t just allow children, they encourage them to come with playgrounds and food made specifically for preschool palates.
In 2019, Swings & Roundabouts went through a major renovation that included installing a new playground made out of old wine barrels.
“We are laid back, approachable and very family-friendly,” said the winery’s sales manager Amanda Keady. “We welcome people straight off the beach with wet hair and sand on their toes!”
Keady said dogs are also welcome at the winery’s restaurant and “cellar door” — a term commonly used in Australia to describe an area where wine is served.
Swings & Roundabouts’s wine barrel playground.
Kelly Harwood Photography
Leeuwin Estate, one of the more well-known wineries in the area, has a restaurant, tasting room and art gallery with works by Australian artists that also appear on its “Art Series” wine labels. Even with this level of sophistication, the estate welcomes kids to play on its rolling lawns.
Owned by a young family, Windows Estate boasts a large grassy area visible from the tasting bench that is just right for children to play a round of cricket. The estate also has toys, coloring supplies, a giant chessboard and other games.
“Everyone’s favorites are our two Scottish Highland cows who, along with our sheep, roam in the adjoining paddock,” said the winery’s owner Joanne Davies.
A Highland cow at Windows Estate winery.
Courtesy of Windows Estate
For nibbles, the winery sells cheese platters and other picnic staples to take away or enjoy on the grounds.
Established in 1985, Rivendell has a playground, extensive gardens and accommodations, ranging from modern villas to historical houses, that allow travelers to stay on the estate. The owners, Darryn and Silje Gruenthal, live on the grounds with their two kids.
Breweries with wide-open spaces
Wineries aren’t the only places to spend a lazy afternoon with the kids. The growing brewery scene in Margaret River is even more casual than the wineries, and just as kid-friendly.
Owned by three local families with young children, Margaret River Brewhouse was designed to be a venue that the whole family can enjoy. It has a playground and weekly coloring competition where kids can win a free meal.
Travelers can embark on tours of Margaret River’s breweries to sample beer served on easy-to-carry “paddles.”
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As the name implies, Cheeky Monkey was built for fun. Its large grounds, playground and award-winning restaurant have been family favorites in the region since 2012.
Eagle Bay Brewing Co. provides a beautiful scenic view to kick back with a cold craft brew, while keeping an eye on the kids as they frolic in the sandpit.
Margaret River is also home to regional purveyors that sell everything from cheese and olives to dark chocolate.
Originally a dairy farming region, Margaret River has several well-known cheese producers.
In addition to vineyards, Margaret River has olive groves, berry farms and chocolate factories, and almost all provide tastings and picnic portions for takeaway.
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The cheesemaker at Yallingup Cheese Company, Alana Langworthy, is a young mother who is passionate about producing small-batch goat and cow milk cheeses. She runs cheesemaking classes for adults and a class for children during school holidays. The tasting room overlooks a beautiful lake, where guests can picnic with a cheeseboard and a bottle of local wine.
Olio Bello sells award-winning organic olive oil. The company has six luxury safari-style bungalows nestled around a lake for an Australian glamping experience. Stay the night and catch glimpses of kangaroos and birdlife amongst the property’s 8,000 olive trees. Test out the hammocks, visit the farm’s sheep, play bocce and other lawn games and dine on homemade cakes and pasta at the company’s café.
A cheeseboard from Yallingup Cheese Company
Courtesy of Yallingup Cheese Company.
Since 1986, The Berry Farm has delighted locals and visitors with homemade jams, preserves, sauces and syrups. An on-site restaurant, the Cottage Café, serves seasonal food and baked goods.
Even more than the food, the farm’s stunning location, tucked into the forest off the main road, is a space for families to relax and enjoy an afternoon. The farm built a children’s playground in 2008, added an adventure playground in 2016, and constructed a toddlers’ area at the café entrance in 2019.
Kangaroos grazing in vineyards in Margaret River, Western Australia.
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While the kids play, adults can take a break from wine tasting and try the farm’s cider with a locally-sourced lunch. There is even a gluten-free kids lunch basket.
Chocolate is typically an easy sell with kids. Gabriel Chocolate is generous with samples and has a café that sells hot chocolate, chocolate chunk cookies, gelato and coffee.
Other things to do
Learn to surf at Margaret River Surf School. With some of Australia’s best surf located on the Western Australia coast, instructors can teach beginners or act as guides for those with experience.
The entrance to Vasse Felix, Margaret River’s oldest winery, shows the relative youthfulness of the region, even among Australian wine regions.
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Try hiking part of the 140-kilometer (87-mile) four-day Cape to Cape Track with views of the Antarctic Ocean and bushlands. Some of the paths are paved, making it accessible to prams and bicycles.
Jesters Flat is a working equestrian farm and vineyard where travelers can sign up for horseback riding lessons. There’s a “bushride” that takes beginning riders, aged six and older, through the Rosa Brook Bushlands. More confident riders can choose a sunset trail ride or country lane tour.
A tough year for tourism
Devastating fires followed by the Covid-19 pandemic severely harmed Western Australia’s tourism industry in 2020.
After closing its borders to other Australian states in April, the state is slowly opening to outsiders.
This week, Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan announced that residents of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia’s two most populous states, can enter without quarantining starting Dec. 8.