On my last day in the Margaret River region I headed toward Cape Naturaliste, to the lighthouse set at the far northern tip of the peninsula. In late afternoon I watched surfers ride waves in the reddish glow of sunset when I suddenly spotted something out to sea. It was a pair of humpback whales close to shore rounding the cape on their annual migration south to Antarctica. Had I a glass of wine in my hand, it would have been a perfect and fitting close to a trip through a wine region that offers absolutely everything.
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Bottled Joy Down Under
Getting there: Quantas, Air New Zealand, American and United offer nonstop service from LAX to Sydney, Australia, with connecting flights to Perth on Qantas or Ansett. Round-trip fares start at $1,470. It's a 14 1/2-hour flight to Sydney; another 4 3/4-hour flight to Perth. From Perth it's a 180-mile drive to Margaret River country. Hertz, telephone (800) 654-3131, and Avis, (800) 879-2847, rent mid-size cars for about $290 to $300 a week, with insurance, taxes and unlimited mileage.
Wineries: Amberley Estate, Thornton Road, Yallingup, tel. 011-61-8-9755-2288. Brookland Valley Vineyard and Flutes Cafe, Caves Road, Willyabrup, tel. 011-61-8-9755-6250; open Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Cape Mentelle Winery, Wallcliffe Road, Margaret River, tel. 011-61-8-9757-3266; open daily 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Leeuwin Estate Winery & Restaurant, Stevens Road, Margaret River, tel. 011-61-8-9757-6253; open daily 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.'; restaurant serves lunch daily, dinner Saturday. Margaret River Regional Wine Center, 9 Bussel Highway, Cowaramup; open Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; will ship wines internationally.
Where to stay: Basildene Manor, Wallcliffe Road, Margaret River, tel. 011-61-8-9757-3140; room rates about $90 for double, including breakfast. Newton House, Bussel Highway, Vasse, tel. 011-61-8-9755-4485; about $70, including breakfast.
For more information: Call Australia's Aussie Helpline, tel. (805) 775-2000, fax (805) 775-4448, Internet http://www.australia.com.; Margaret River Tourist Bureau, tel. 011-61-8-9757-2911.