The Food-Obsessed Foursome

Commune with nature on a Margaret River Discovery Tour in Australia.Photo: Courtesy of Margaret River Discovery
Photo: Courtesy of the travelers

Michael Ventura, 32, CEO of a design firm, and Caroline Ventura, 31, jewelry designer, Alex Vallis, 29, editor, and Thomas Carter, 36, beverage director

Budget: Splurge

Duration: One Week

“We are all huge fans of food, so we tap into our collective resources to uncover everything from well-known restaurants to little holes-in-the-wall. We also love to hike in the woods, roll around in the ocean, and just enjoy the scenery of a new locale.”

Go here: Margaret River, Australia

Why now: About 50 years ago, winemakers planted grapes in Margaret River, a sunny, surf-pounded swath along Australia’s west coast. Today the place remains blessedly unpretentious, but even its far-out location—170 miles south of Perth—can’t keep it off the food map for long. Next month, a slew of Michelin-starred chefs (Chang, Blumenthal, Redzepi) will descend on the tiny town and surrounding vineyards, farms, and orchards for the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, a three-day gastronomic circus of classes, exhibitions, barbecues, and chef-hosted meals, all centered at Leeuwin Estate, one of Margaret River’s founding wineries.

What to do: Start with the Margaret River Discovery Tour (from $165;, which includes a coastal hike, a four-wheel drive to a historic Aboriginal site, an optional canoe trip, and lunch at a winery. For a more independent exploration, hiking trails abound and the Cape-to-Cape mountain bike race just blazed a new path through Margaret River’s forests, farms, and beaches. Alternately, the Moondyne Cave has been under restoration for a decade and relaunched public tours last month (from $124; 61-8-9757-7411). Small groups are fitted with hard hats, headlamps, and coveralls, then guided for three hours of subterranean exploration. The Indian Ocean is another playground altogether, as the area is known for its monster waves; the Margaret River Surf School will show you how it’s done (group lessons, $50; 61-8-9757-1111). When the sun goes down, see who’s playing the concert series at Leeuwin Estate (Stevens Rd.; 61-8-9430-4099); past performers include Ray Charles and Roxy Music.

Where to stay: The Cape Lodge (from $378;, a boutique hotel sits on a vineyard 20 minutes outside of town. The focus at the 40-acre estate is on local luxury—from the award-winning chef’s daily menu to the Vasse Virgin olive oil-based bath products, made just a few miles away. Llewellin’s guest house (from $176; channels the English charm of its owners, who host many couples traveling in tandem. They’ll even plan dinner menus in advance, so guests can pair wine from the vineyards, or pack picnic lunches upon special request.

What to eat: Margaret River’s wineries are also the town’s best food bets. Try the marron crayfish, paired with a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, at Vasse Felix (Caves Rd. and Tom Cullity Dr.; 61-8-9756-5000), or hit Hay Shed Hill (511 Harmans Mill Rd.; 61-8-9755-6046) for Cabernet and venison-chorizo pizza. Stop for an Aussie-style sausage roll at Margaret River Bakery (89 Bussell Hwy.; 61-8-9757-2755) and pick up picnic supplies at deli-café Blue Ginger (31 Station Rd.; 61-8-9758-7619).

Buy this: The town is famous for its Cabernet and Chardonnay. Try Fraser Gallop (547 Metricup Rd.; 61-8-9755-7553) for the former and Juniper Estate (98 Tom Cullity Dr.; 61-8-9755-9000) for the latter. At the Boranup Gallery (7981 Caves Rd.; 61-8-9757-7585,, buy a coffee table or pretty pepper grinder made from Jarrah, a native eucalyptus with a reddish hue.

Also consider: Checking into Paws Up (from $865;, a 37,000-acre luxury ranch in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley, where guests can ride horses with the wranglers and cast for their own trout—or just order it off the menu, along with some Napa Chardonnay.

The Food-Obsessed Foursome