The South West of Western Australia is increasingly fertile ground for beer lovers. With so many breweries and good beer venues to explore, we set off for a weekend break down the coast to put together an extended Crafty Crawl featuring the best the region has to offer.
We first ran a guide to all things crafty in the region back in 2017, so it's safe to say plenty has since changed in this beer-soaked wine region. So here's part one – or should that be day one? – of our two-part Crafty Crawl.
Time your visit to one of the most famed and spectacular parts of Australia and this trip could take in internationally renowned surf, truffle festivals or whale migration as you sample beer from the 20-plus breweries between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin in one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet. What's more, we've heard there's also a few wineries if you’re into that sort of thing *removes tongue from cheek*.
The South West region's natural beauty and relaxed lifestyle translate to a passionate local focus in every venue. Such is the area's appeal that bookings are highly recommended at venues that will take them during peak seasons and public holidays.
With so much choice and a few country miles between venues, we've written this guide with a weekend getaway in mind – and with the driver in mind as well as the passengers. But a week’s holiday might be more suited to cover everything featured in the two-part series comfortably.
For those who don’t want to drive, operators like Margaret River Brewery Tours and BushTucker Tour can take the decision-making out of a day sampling beer in the South West too.
The easy two-and-a-half-hour drive south from Perth is enough time to let the cares of the world fade away without becoming boring. For most West Australians, it’s a familiar drive – one that makes a weekend getaway achievable – and, for tourists, the lack of congestion on the dual carriageway, outside long weekends, will be a welcome surprise.
Before you even arrive in the South West, there's a few breweries worth a visit along the way. Our South West Corridor Crawl highlights these so, with some prior planning and a bit of extra time, you could make a few stops on your journey down and maybe on your way back up too.
Once in the South West, however, our first suggested stop is the popular seaside town of Busselton.
Stop One: Rocky Ridge
Much of Rocky Ridge’s brewing takes place at their Jindong brewery.
"Where the f**ck is Jindong?" you may well ask. And you wouldn't be alone.
Thankfully, you don’t need to worry as the Rocky Ridge team has set up a taphouse a little closer to the centre of town. Located within a refurbished house, once home to brewery founder Hamish Coates and family, the 24 taps are front and centre, pouring a selection of core and limited beers. Nothing is off limits here, with the brewery's more out there, hyper-limited offerings available, in limited volumes, of course.
There’s plenty of space at the hundred-seater venue but weekends and holidays can see the redbrick, naturally lit courtyards fill quickly.
Tasting trays are the go for a first-time caller; there's the option of three or six tasters, arguably the best option considering the vast amount of beers they knock out. A word of warning, keep an eye on the ABVs as they tend to creep upwards.
Bicycle parking may be the smartest option here, along with a hearty meal, which you can procure through the Margaret River Burger Co setup out the back, whose chicken wings, burgers and nachos will likely hit the spot.
Start your journey by heading to 10 Marine Terrace, Busselton.
Stop Two: Shelter
One of the South West’s newer breweries at the time of writing, Shelter opened at the end of 2020 and hit the ground running with their expansive foreshore offering. The grand, shed-like structure that houses the brewery and restaurant fills with thirsty travellers and local punters just about all the time. With foreshore views, natural light and a relaxed service style, it isn’t hard to see why.
Shelter's beers are for the people: typically approachable takes on familiar styles, with a couple of interesting seasonals thrown in for good measure. The towering fermenters are on full display behind the bar and perching just about anywhere within the venue with a beer of choice will yield pleasant views.
Visiting for lunch or dinner is a good shout, with a menu that reaches across the globe and includes comforting classics like fish and chips and burgers, or more seasonal dishes that offer intrigue. The quick and friendly service will have you fed and watered with ease, before you head off to your next stop.
Take Shelter at 11 Foreshore Parade, Busselton WA.
Stop Three: Eagle Bay
When the d’Espeissis family arrived on a dirt track in the late, post-war 1940s Eagle Bay, they would have been hard-pressed to imagine the modernist pavilion that now crests their third-generation farm. It's there that the siblings, Nick, Astrid and Adrian, run the brewery responsible for a solid core range of beer that’s supported by on point seasonal releases, a growing number of single batch beers and annual barrel-aged collaborations.
Long lunches spent watching the afternoon sun arc over the farm and nearby Meelup National Park and Geographe Bay is indisputably one of the best beer views in Australia* (and you sure swing by its surrounding beaches too). If in doubt, check their social media accounts to check out some of the most alluring photos of the South West you're likely to see.
Takeaway beers, growlers and more are available from the onsite provedore and bookings are highly recommended if you're in the mood for a feed from their excellent kitchen. Kids are welcome, indeed encouraged, given there's a playground and cornhole on the lawns, where you might just find live music too. Idyllic.
Soak up the glory of the brewery and its surrounds by heading to 252 Eagle Bay Road, Eagle Bay.
*If you're still not sold, Eagle Bay is also the best brewery in the country according to Crafty writer Will Ziebell's dad – Editor
Stop Four: Southcamp
Freshly minted at the time of writing, Southcamp is a venue where the team had clearly done its homework when deciding what it was that Dunsborough needed from them. A huge beer garden is central to the minimalist, open-plan venue and the long bar fronting the shiny, ten-hectolitre brewery, from which staff pour beers fresh from the tank alongside local wines and cocktails.
Perfect for families and low-key gatherings, the casual setting is well-situated for a quick pint or for more leisurely occasions. A sandpit, lawned area and playground will keep the kids occupied, while the kitchen team pumps out food for all ages such as tacos, pizzas and grilled meats to name just a couple of options.
Southcamp isn’t a venue destined to push boundaries but, in a region rich with food and beverage offerings, reliability and accessibility goes a long way, and both are on offer here. Better yet, if you really want to get to set up camp, there are several cabins and apartments on site.
Set up camp at 61 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough.
Stop Five: Wild Hop
Just 15 minutes away, heading south and via a slight detour down Wildwood Road, you’ll find Wild Hop. Seasonal beers and polished pub food utilising homegrown and locally-sourced produce are at the core of this vast, family-friendly venue nestled among sprawling bushland.
Wild Hop’s beers should be high on your hit list, given they're not only well-crafted but pretty much exclusive to the venue, given they don’t package or distribute outside their Yallingup home.
The beer list here is big and bold: barrel-aged stouts and sours, IPAs of all kinds – some topping 10 percent ABV – and fruited sours will feature regularly and rarely miss the mark on quality. They're also likely to carry a name designed to give you a chuckle. More sessionable offerings, including their always-pouring Short Shorts Czech Pilsner, also dot the lineup.
Wild Hop got off to a flier after opening in early 2019 so be warned: peak periods can get busy – they regularly hit capacity during Saturday lunchtimes – so it's recommended to jump onto their website and book ahead to be certain of a spot.
Get Wild at 1301 Wildwood Road, Yallingup.
And There's More...
If you've got more time on your hands (or are making a return visit) here's a few more places to check out – with plenty from the region still to come when we head further south in part two:
- Cheeky Monkey HQ – 44 Commerce Road, Vasse: Cheeky Monkey set up their second venue where they produce their award-winning beers, which means they couldn’t be fresher. Takeaways, TVs for big games, pool and a few pizzas for the peckish round out the experience.
- The Goose Bar & Kitchen – 15 Foreshore Parade, Busselton: Sitting at the shore end of the longest wooden jetty in the world, The Goose boasts a loaded tap bank of local goodies, plus a few from further afield.
- The Fire Station – 68 Queen St, Busselton: The Firestation has been doing what it does for many a moon now: a reliable local hub for craft beer and casual eats.
- Clancy’s Fish Pub – 1710 Caves Road, Dunsborough: The team at Clancy’s have been slinging craft beer for 30 years, making them one of the state's true indie beer supporters. A spacious, family-friendly setting at their southwestern outpost creates the perfect environment for pints and pub grub.
- Pourhouse – 26 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough: Craft is king at this polished pub just away from the hustle and bustle of Dunsborough’s town centre. Expect beers from the South West and other WA beers pouring from the regularly-rotated taps.
- Dunsborough Cellars – 58 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough: The Dunsy Cellars team have taken their craft beer offering to another level following an expansion. There's more than eight fridges filled with local and Australian craft, plus a few international goodies and premium imports. There’s even a few wines worth a look!
- Banksia Tavern – 43 Prince Street, Busselton: A fresh addition to the Busso scene at the time of writing, the Banksia Tavern is big on local – including the beers. Polished dining and the sounds of vintage records floating from the speakers keep things fun, making it perfect for late evenings and romantic dinners.
- Amelia Park Lodge – 5850 Bussell Highway, Abbey: This expansive venue is designed for volume, and volume it does! It's worth a visit for a meal, with the kitchen pumping out solid fare alongside a range of local craft, often to big crowds on weekends. Consider booking if it's part of your itinerary.
- Cape Cellars – 170 Bussell Highway, West Busselton: When we ran the prior edition of this Crawl, Cape Cellars was the first entry. As we were preparing this 2023 update, new owners were settling in so we're waiting to see just where they land with their beer offering.