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Most people associate the Margaret River region with wine, food, sun and surf and, to a large degree, they are right. It certainly can be a huge amount of fun, depending on your indulgence and willpower.
What many people don't realise, however, is that there is far more to the region than its geographical distance of approximately 100 kms, if you travel in a straight line from Busselton to Augusta.
In fact, the area encapsulates a patchwork of small towns and attractions, many of which are nestled between the two major arteries of Caves Road and Bussell Highway. Unfortunately, signage is at a minimum so, following the map supplied by the Margaret River Visitor Centres in Dunsborough, Busselton and Margaret River, is the best way to ensure you find the hidden gems.
If you've had enough 'tasting' and long to see some old growth forest, taking Caves Road out of the Margaret River township, is the best way to the peaceful surrounds of Boranup Forest's tall karri trees, a gallery of fine woodcraft and a small café renowned for its scones and chai latte.
At this point, you are approximately halfway between Margaret River and Augusta, with the Karridale Tavern and local store on the Bussell Highway and Hamelin Bay, a continuation of Caves Road before it turns towards Augusta.
This region could well surpass Margaret River one day as it supplies the kind of holiday families used to have before over-development took over.
Here, the Blackwood River takes the place of the Margaret River and provides more reasonably priced accommodation in the form of excellent caravan, cabin and camping resorts. One of the most popular is Hamelin Bay Holiday Park, beside beautiful Hamelin Bay, world famous for its friendly stingrays which will gather around your feet as you paddle.
From there, it's a five-minute drive to the Margaret River Sculpture Park in Grosse Road, along the Caves Road Tourist Route to Jewel Cave and Augusta. It's best to keep the speed at a minimum as you leave the Hamelin Bay turnoff, so you don't miss the sign on the right.
The Sculpture Park covers approximately 10 acres, which brings something completely different and unique to this area of Margaret River. You may wander through at your leisure, following paths to view 30 giant wood sculptures, all hand-carved by Brendan Booth, a master craftsman. Children are catered for with ten 'clues' to help them find and recognise the subjects. A 'sword' is given to them to fight any pirates or dragons they might meet on the way to see the giant Silverback Gorilla, Bugs Bunny and other sculptures hidden in the trees. There are seats to take time to have a picnic and dogs on a leash are okay.
Renowned for his sculptures which originated at Wood Be Good Woodcraft Gallery in Yallingup some 20 years ago, Booth now incorporates that work in a small gallery at the entrance to the Park.
If you prefer to buy lunch, there are three small, boutique wineries in the area that provide food for families at a reasonable price. At one, in Glenarty Road, you will also find a huge corkscrew, to celebrate their Kerfuffle wine.
Sunset at Hamelin Bay is a vision that will stay with you forever. Keep going, watching out for those small signs and you will find the less publicised attractions that make this area unique.