Margaret River is known for gourmet cuisine, craft breweries, and premium wineries. Needless to say, food and alcohol can often come at a hefty price here. The market town thrives off year-round tourism, partly thanks to its picturesque beaches and world-renowned surf breaks. Margaret River is also popular for backpackers seeking to obtain their 88 regional days for their second-year visa. The 150+ wineries in the area provide grape picking from January – April and pruning from June – September. As such, there are ample opportunities to tick off the required regional days. With all these tourists and backpackers, where does everybody go on a Friday afternoon?
Margaret River Drinking Options
If you have a designated driver you could always cruise along Caves Road and stop at the abundance of breweries and cellar doors in the Margaret River region. As idealistic as this may be, not only would this burn a hole in your pocket extremely quickly, but your poor skipper would soon lose interest. This type of outing is definitely best enjoyed on one of the numerous organised tours run throughout the region.
Closer to home, the town’s watering holes are a varied bunch ranging from pubs to high-end bars. Sadly, the price range doesn’t tend to be as varied. We have found that a few drinks out can quickly break our budget. So if like us, you are backpacking through Australia, or perhaps you just like your hard-earned cash to go as far as possible, we have collated an easy guide to the best Happy Hour deals that Margaret River has to offer.
Those Who Just Missed The Boat
The Settlers Tavern
The most popular hideaway in Margaret River is by far The Settlers Tavern (or ‘The Tav’ to the locals). Situated in the middle of Main Street, this vibrant pub always has a busy outdoor area. Plus, it provides live music on most nights. It has a later Happy Hour time of 5.30pm – 6.30pm but the cheap drinks on offer aren’t well publicised.
Having been here for drinks on a few occasions and spoken with the bar staff, the deal seems to be $2 off the beer on tap, or $2 off the house wines. This makes the Happy Hour range around $11 – $13 a pint or $5 – $8 a glass of wine. Although this is fine with us, without knowing the offers due to a lack of assigned Happy Hour menu makes it tricky to know how much value we are getting for our Aussie dollar. Because of this, the beloved Tavern falls just outside our Top 3 Happy Hours in Margaret River. Despite this, it is worth noting that it is by far the best place to go to meet new people and watch sport.
Being a little away from the obvious hotspots on the high street, The River is an English-styled country pub that again has live music on offer. However, like their Happy Hour deals, this only happens on a Sunday (as far as we are aware)! Although the back garden provides an excellent place to see out the weekend, as we are only aware of their deals existing on Sundays it means that they too fall outside our Top Three.
That being said, Happy Hour seems to be all day on Sunday. However, the cheap Bloody Marys may have blurred our memories on this one! They usually change the offers each week, but a large board on the bar will identify exactly what drinks are on offer when you arrive. Whilst not an official winner, the extended Sunday Day Drinking Award is 100% presented to The River. Plus, you can also get tacos for $5 then too, and I’m sure no one will argue with that.
The Top Three in Margaret River
Number 3 – Morries
From 5pm – 6pm you can spend the evening at the hip Main Street restaurant, Morries. Don’t be put off by its intimidating exterior. Presenting a surprisingly urban black façade overhanging a lush outdoor seating area, this Happy Hour has a lot to offer at very reasonable prices.
A local pint of Eagle Bay Lager on offer at only $7.50. For the more hardcore drinkers, a stronger pint of Estelle Saison is available at the same price. Wine of the Day, red or white, is also a budget friendly $7.50. You can even penny pinch further and have a glass of sparkling for $5. This obviously went down a treat with Kez. Should you feel the need to be more adventurous, you can take up the offer of two cocktails for $30. Be aware however that it needs to be the same cocktail ordered at the same time. We love this option as it gives us the chance to mix up our standard cheap drinks order.
Once you have taken up the Happy Hour offer you can sit back and relax, either inside on one of the comfy chairs or in the restaurant area. We personally tend to opt to sit outside (if we time it right, as it can get really busy) and take advantage of the table service whilst people watching on the adjacent Bussell Highway. The outdoor area is warm and sheltered, with candles lit on each table. You basically have no excuse but to remain seated for at least the hour and take up the cheap drinks offers. Plus, you can also choose from a range of small plates at $10 within the hour, giving you even less excuses to leave.
Number 2 – Elkamo
Also from 5pm – 6pm is Elkamo, another establishment whose exterior gives off that minimal vibe. You get a distinctly nordic interior inside, complete with a cool dropped open fireplace and huge Main Street fronted windows.
A wide selection of tap beers are on offer for $8. A glass of local red or white wine is available for $7. However, the real offer here is that ALL cocktails are on offer at $15 each! And rest assured, there are some great varieties to choose from. Be it a seriously spicy Chilli Elk to a super addictive Gin Garden, Elkamo’s cocktail list caters for all. Be sure to drink up quick to get another round in!
Table service is in place, but should you feel the need to be closer to the action, bar stalls are situated away from the restaurant. The interior has minimal lighting from the dropped pendant fixtures, whilst a huge splash of colour can be seen from the wall leading to the front door. Just in case those one too many cocktails makes you forget the way out! And if that wasn’t enough, Elkamo also offers up some excellent tapas dishes at $12 each to make sure you line your stomach adequately.
Number 1 – Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
Another at 5pm – 6pm is our winner, Swings Taphouse. This is the bar and kitchen of the popular winery Swings & Roundabouts on Caves Road, providing an extensive range of beers and wines from the impressive looking bar – and not forgetting the best pizzas in the region!
The bar is dominated by large, stainless steel tap pumps on show. Happy Hour is not only for beers (priced at a mere $8 a pint) but also for the wines. These are priced at an even more reasonable cost of $5 a glass. Whilst the wines come straight from the vineyard 15 minutes away, the beers are more flexible. Swings is well known for supporting breweries in takeover events which constantly provides new ranges to sample.
The restaurant is up a small number of steps to the left, and the large bar area is snugly arranged fronting a large open fireplace. Barrels, crates, and pallets take shape to form the rest of the interior. The large windows and bi-folding doors allow for plenty of light to enter the rooms, creating a fresh but cosy atmosphere. If the impressive range of wines and beers on offer still doesn’t convince you of our Margaret River Happy Hour winner, perhaps the fact that you can order a beer AND pizza for only $25 will.
Thirsty For More?
If you do visit the Margaret River region you’ll definitely be eager to experience what else is out there. Whilst we hope this blog post has given you an insight on where to wine and dine at a reasonable price, there is an alternative which is FREE. Yes, genuinely free. Ahh, the word every backpacker lusts for.
We alluded earlier on that going to each winery would burn a hole in your pocket. Whilst this is true if you bought a bottle of wine at each stop, you can always sample wines for free at the cellar doors. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this. Some wineries don’t offer all their varieties out for free, as the yield is so low each year. Plus, some wineries charge you a small amount for their tastings.
For an extensive list of Margaret River wineries, please click here.
You may have assumed that going to a cellar door as a backpacker is perhaps not the most inviting of places. Perhaps you are worried about the inevitable pressure to purchase after tasting. Rest assured, not all wineries are like this! If you can gloss over the sales pitch and enjoy the wines on offer then it’s free alcohol. Which is totally worthwhile in our books. You might learn a thing or two as well. With 150+ wineries to drive to, you have no excuse not to be a wine connoisseur at the end of it all. Just make sure you take your designated driver for a well-earnt pint after, preferably between 5pm – 6pm!
Do you like to make the most of happy hour when you are travelling? What is your drink of choice? Let us know in the comments!
Cheers, all the best.
Sam and Kez x