Food and Drink in Busselton
You'll find plenty of lunch spots around town: along the beach foreshore, in nearby Dunsborough and at the cellar doors of Margaret River wineries. It's a matter of choosing from fish and chips on the beach, a quick share-plate of local delicacies in town or a long degustation lunch in wine country.
The Goose Beach Bar & Kitchen: "Goose" is the nickname of Rhys Passmore, a third-generation Busselton resident, trained chef and owner of The Goose Beach Bar & Kitchen, perched right on the waterfront near the Busselton Jetty. An eclectic range of seating options caters to every mood from cosy indoor sofas to casual outdoor settings. Enjoy a cocktail, cold beer or award-winning wine while overlooking the bay as you choose from an extensive menu of fresh produce that ranges from shared plates to overnight-roasted scotch fillet. (Geographe Bay Road; +61 8 9754 7700; open 7 a.m. till late)
Vasse Felix Restaurant: The oldest wine estate in Margaret River, founded in 1967, Vasse Felix Restaurant is run by executive chef and avid surfer Aaron Carr, declared 2015 Chef of the Year by The West Australian Good Food Guide. His focus is on fresh, local, seasonal produce prepared in a modern Australian style. Patrons are invited to a wine tasting at the cellar door prior to lunch. The adjacent art gallery presents a seasonal program of exhibitions from the Holmes a Court collection. (Caves Road, Margaret River; +61 8 9756 5050; open noon to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, closed Good Friday, 9 December, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.)
Squidlips: If you are heading to Dunsborough, enjoy gourmet fish and chips at Squidlips, rated among the best fish-and-chip shops in WA by The West Australian. Think marinated prawn and scallop skewers, homemade Thai fish cakes, tempura prawns and chilli squid. Fish comes seasoned and grilled or in Squidlips' famous beer batter, which is fried in healthier rice bran oil. (Dunsborough Centrepoint Shopping Centre, Shop 27A, 55 Dunn Bay Road; +61 8 9759 1799; open noon to 2.30 p.m. for lunch)
Beaches in Busselton
Best for Families: Busselton Foreshore, where cruise passengers alight, is a gorgeous white-sand beach, and with a shallow, gently sloping sea floor, is perfect for safe swimming. A U-shaped jetty forms a swimming enclosure, giving the feel of an ocean pool and is ideal for small children. Towering Norfolk pines offer shade over grassy picnic areas. The location also features a couple of cafes, an ice cream shop, toilets and showers.
Best for Nature-Lovers: As one of only a few beaches that face northeast in the area, Meelup Beach (about a 35-minute drive) is sheltered from the prevailing southwesterly winds, so vegetation, including tall trees, grows right down to the beach. With gentle, rolling waves, it is a popular swimming and snorkelling beach. Take a walk in the surrounding bush of Meelup Regional Park to see a variety of vegetation, including wildflowers.
Best for Surfers: Home of the Yallingup Malibu Classic (YalMal) surf competition since 1984, Yallingup Beach (about a 40-minute drive) is home to the Indian Ocean Longboard Club, but the break is "shared harmoniously by longboarders, shortboarders and all manner of craft," according to the club. Have a lesson or just hire a board and a guide to accompany you. There is small lagoon there, too, sheltered from the pounding waves, which is perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Don't Miss in Busselton
Margaret River Wine Region: While growing only 3 percent of Australia's grapes, the world-renowned Margaret River wine region produces more than 20 percent of the country's premium wines, which is quite an achievement given the first grapes were planted in the area in 1967. The region produces excellent cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and semillon sauvignon blanc blends, but it also is known for wonderful shiraz and a range of innovative, unconventional varietals. Of the 150 or so wineries, most are small, niche operators and include preservative-free, organic and biodynamic producers. Many cellar doors feature contemporary architecture, fine restaurants, excellent galleries and great gift shops. There is a wide range of gourmet produce there, too, along with boutique beers.
Busselton Jetty: The jetty juts into Geographe Bay, but the heritage-listed timber-piled structure, the longest in the southern hemisphere, deserves more than a few cursory photographs. The picturesque boatshed-style buildings house an Interpretive Centre and Cultural Heritage Museum, offering insight into the jetty's history as well as a selection of gifts and souvenirs. The Underwater Observatory at the end of the jetty descends 26 feet (8 metres) via spiral stairs to the seafloor. Eleven windows at various levels offer views of more than 300 species of corals, sponges, fish and invertebrates. It takes about 20 minutes to walk (or take the Jetty Train) the length of the jetty, where you can stop to chat with fishermen.
Natural Landscapes: The dramatic natural landscape to the northwest of Busselton includes the coastal headland of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, home to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, Australia's last manned lighthouse, which offers panoramic views of the park and the Indian Ocean. To the southwest is Ngilgi Cave (pronounced Neelgee), named after an Aboriginal spirit who overcame an evil spirit in the cave. Stalactites, stalagmites, helictites and shawl formations glisten under theatrical lighting, and you have an opportunity to handle crystals on the touch table. Follow the easy boardwalk or take a more adventurous tour deeper underground. A little farther down the coast is Canal Rocks, a granite outcrop that has eroded to form a small series of canals. A boardwalk spans one of the canals where, depending on the weather, waves surge underneath.
Views From Above: Take to the skies above Geographe Bay for an aerial perspective of the coastal scenery. Zoom over the jetty and your cruise ship before flying low along the beach in the open cockpit of a Tiger Moth biplane with Tiger Moth Adventure Flights (+61 0488 574 544) or experience more than a minute of freefall -- plenty of time to take in the aerial view -- during a tandem skydive before landing on the beach with Southern Skydivers (+61 8 1300 449 669). Alternatively, take a helicopter flight over the coast and Margaret River wine region with Wild Blue Helicopters (+61 8 1300 735 563).
Snorkeling or Scuba Diving: The clarity of the water in Geographe Bay makes for fabulous underwater photography during a dive or snorkel outing. The jetty pylons attract soft corals, nudibranchs and schooling fish, and a dive wreck, the purposely sunk decommissioned naval destroyer HMAS Swan, is one of the largest accessible dive wrecks in the southern hemisphere.
Food and Wine Tours: With more than 150 wineries in Margaret River, it's unlikely you've visited them all, so design your own bespoke wine, food and art tour, taking in lesser-known vineyards, or organic and biodynamic wineries, art galleries, potters, wood turners, soap-makers, chocolatiers, breweries and a distillery. Hire a car and drive yourself or book a private tour.