2020 has been the weirdest year for travel, yet quite possibly the best for sustainable travel. While international travel is basically non-existent right now, many of us in Western Australia are lucky to be able to still wander out yonder. Travelling locally is so much better for our bank accounts and for our individual travel impact!
As soon as the Perth border restrictions lifted, I hurried to make plans to support the sustainable tourism businesses in the South West region of WA. I took a whole week off my work (absolutely unheard of) to really soak up the Margaret River region and enjoy every drop of this adventure.
What follows is a review of the sustainable accommodation I was lucky to be welcomed into, as well as a few tips for what to see and do in the Margaret River region, keeping environmental and social impact in mind.
Eco Stay No. 1
The Margaret River Retreat Grounds
This Sustainable Tourism accredited stay is situated on possibly one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever stayed on, about 15 minutes south of Margaret River. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Margaret River Retreat and would highly recommend it for glamping or their studio rooms, despite a few administrative hiccups!
1. My stay at Margaret River Retreat felt a tiny bit disorganised. I had booked a stay in ‘The Blacksmith’s Studio’ and when I arrived, I was given directions to ‘The Shed Studio’. After a bit of confusion, I was told that they had changed my room because The Blacksmith’s Studio was under construction. No problem there – the price was the same and both studios had the same amenities – but a little more transparency or communication prior to my stay would have saved the confusion.
2. I had booked my room under the ‘book 3 nights, get a 4th night free’ offer at the time, which I confirmed when booking the stay. It seems that something got lost in translation during the booking process and the retreat thought I was only staying for 3 nights. Luckily, they had the Stable Studio available on my 4th night, so I just had to quickly pack up the car in the morning and return to my new room that same evening. It was nice to experience a different room, though!
Some favourite parts worth noting:
1. The studios were divine to stay in – it was lovely waking up to the view of the paddock each morning and moseying my way to the kitchenette to brew a cup of tea. Although it would be lovely to have a proper stove and dishwasher in each kitchen, I really enjoyed the minimalism of the studios, with the simple luxuries like the deep bathtub and cosy décor.
2. Perhaps my favourite part of the studio rooms were the fire pits. I was lucky enough to have clear skies every night of my winter stay, so it was a lot of fun to light the fire pit and have a chat around the fire each night – it’s the small moments.
3. I really enjoyed the time spent exploring the surrounding bushland of the property. Be mindful – there are lots of kangaroos! I spent a full morning exploring the trails, forest bathing, and identifying as many plants as I could in the area.
4. On my third day at Margaret River Retreat, I was invited to explore the permaculture garden on the property. The garden was a quick walk through the paddock and was quite impressive! Even better, I was allowed to harvest some coriander to go with my dinner.
5. I love that this stay has so many sustainable practices in place. I saw in their welcome book that they are working towards becoming completely zero-waste. This is reflected in the facilities in the studio, which includes a compost bin for scraps, a bucket for recycling, and words of encouragement to try and minimise all other waste.
6. I thought it was really cool that the retreat has a yoga studio, an eco-store, and a café on-site! I didn’t get to do yoga or visit the café this time but I did have a sneaky peek through the store, where I bought my Merry People gumboots. I noticed that they also stocked Will & Bear, as well as the Ryan and Co candles that are in the studio rooms, and Earth Greetings cards.
While it wasn’t the most seamless of stays in my experience, the property and amenities made up for it.
I’d highly recommend Margaret River Retreat’s Studios, especially for a winter holiday. Their glamping tents look like a lot of fun, too, but I’d personally leave those for summer!
The Shed Studio
The Stable Studio
Eco Stay No. 2
It was a genuine pleasure to stay with Fran and Andrew at Tree Chalets, situated on their rose gum plantation south of Busselton. I stayed in their Rose Gum Chalet, which was nothing short of luxury!
Aside from using the sun for power and rain for water, what really drew me to these chalets was the outdoor tub! It was heaven to have a soak while the sun was setting. Even better – I was provided with a complimentary breakfast, had the pleasure of snuggling up near the potbelly wood fire at night, and had the best sleep ever (possibly).
I loved watching the kangaroos in the plantation at sunset and their kitchenette was seriously decked-out (great for travellers who like sourcing local produce and cooking it at their accommodation, like me!). All the small, conscious decisions they’ve made in the chalets didn’t go unnoticed. They provide a compost bin, use refillable soap and shampoo dispensers, and offer a wall of books for travellers to borrow (genius idea!), amongst many other things.
Andrew and Fran have really thought about every possible luxurious detail in their Tree Chalets and I don’t have a single complaint. Aside from maybe that I do love the Boranup Forest more than the environment surrounding Busselton and wish the Tree Chalets were a little further towards Margaret River… but that’s my personal holiday preference!
Either way, my stay at Tree Chalets felt like a personal paradise. I hope to be back one day in the future when I have enough time to explore the 70 acres of bushland on their property (maybe in summer so I can enjoy a good veggie BBQ on the outdoor deck).
Thanks for the incredible stay, Tree Chalets – 10/10.
Vegan-friendly Food in the Margaret River Region
First things first, there’s no shortage of vegan food in the South West for my fellow plant-based friends – you just have to know where to look. While I mostly bought my own food with me and cooked at my accommodation, here are a few of the cafès and restaurants I visited during my trip:
- Sidekick Café, Margaret River
- Burger Baby, Margaret River
- Margaret River Distilling Company
- Goanna Gallery & Bush Café, Quindalup
- The Goose Beach Bar & Kitchen, Busselton (great Dahl)
- Miami Bakehouse on the way back home for a vegan pastie
Eco-friendly Activities in the Margaret River Region
Sustainable accommodation and conscious food choices are only part of the picture when it comes to more responsible travel – what you do and where you go on a day-to-day basis can make a huge impact. Here are some of the more earth-friendly activities I’d recommend to do in and around Margaret River, while still aiming to maintain a positive social and cultural impact:
1. Opt outside (explore nature)
Hiking trails are abundant in the South West region – pick a morning or a whole day and get out there! If you’re not so much of a forest-dweller, you won’t be short of beaches to visit either. During my stay, I did a big hike around Forest Grove and also managed to squeeze in a rainy visit to Hamelin Bay.
2. Tour the caves
If you’re into learning a bit about rock formations or just want to do some fun exploring, there are a handful of caves worth visiting down in Margaret River. I really wanted to support some tourism operators on my trip, so I gave Mammoth Cave a visit. It didn’t disappoint. Exploring the cave was a thoroughly educational experience and a great way to hide away from the rain.
3. Visit some conscious stores
If you love a bit of sustainable shopping, Margaret River has some hidden gems! A few of my favourites are not only all the second-hand stores (The Flying Wardrobe in Witchcliffe is a goodie), but also Margaret River Hemp Co, Margaret River Artisan Store, the eco-store at Margaret River Retreat (be sure to check that it’s open first), Moon Haven in Cowaramup, Tinderbox in Balingup, and Reborn Code in Cowaramup.
4. Go on an organic wine tour
While I didn’t get a chance to try some of the organic goodness that the South West has to offer this time around, there is an exceptional organic and biodynamic wine discovery trail in Margaret River! Although, if I had to pick just one vineyard to visit, I would recommend Cullen Wines.
Above all, my main excuse for visiting the Margaret River region is to chill out. Enjoy the scenery. Make the most of your accommodation. Live slowly, explore consciously, and support the businesses that are doing great things for our planet.
What’s first on your sustainable South West bucket list?