Swan River Seaplanes helps bring the Margaret River region a bit closer

The views are unrivalled aboard the Cessna.
The views are unrivalled aboard the Cessna.

THE scenic Margaret River region is practically a weekend getaway for me these days.

I go often enough, likely more often than most Perthies, with the three-and-a-bit-hour drive seemingly getting shorter each time.

My best mate, Jackie, and her husband – who moved there just over a year ago – are the main reason I visit, with the restaurants, wine and local produce second only to them.

Often we have joked about flying into the region for the weekend, just as we had seen the chefs helicopter in during the Margaret River Gourmet Escape.

So when the opportunity presented itself, I wasn’t about to deny myself the chance for a same-day visit usually reserved for those with much deeper pockets than my own.

Swan River Seaplanes specialises in tours on their – you guessed it – seaplanes, this time a Cessna 208 Caravan Amphibian, which takes off from the South Perth foreshore.

I am on the Margaret River Day Tour, but there is a three to four-day retreat option, as well as shorter jaunts to The Pinnacles and Rottnest Island available.

We meet at the jetty on the corner of Queen Street and South Perth Esplanade – it’s called Fishing Jetty on Google Maps – and after a quick safety briefing from pilot Tonia Matthis, we board the 12-seater plane.

I’m joined by tourists from Queensland, Singapore and Canada with one unified purpose; to get a taster of what the Margaret River region has to offer and (hopefully) return with more than just tales of our little escapade.

And so we set off. The seaplane bumbles along the river, showcasing Elizabeth Quay and the city skyline beyond it to our left.

Then suddenly the engines kick in, turning the Swan’s brackish waters into our own personal runway.

The plane lifts beyond the grasp of the river without that all-too-familiar feeling in my gut; how refreshing. We bank towards the city and the WACA and veer off to take the literal scenic route past the new Perth Stadium, Crown Perth and down our glorious coast toward Fremantle.

It is picture-perfect every step of the way as the pilots keep us informed of what we’re seeing while also keeping their eyes peeled for frolicking whales in the deep blue.

Rottnest Island, Rockingham Beach, the Mandurah Canals and Busselton Jetty later, we take in the best view of Cape Naturaliste few have had the pleasure of seeing first-hand. I am mesmerised.

But before I can snap out of my stupour, we are whizzing past the lush, dark greenery of the South-West and coming to a flawless landing in Margaret River Airport just under an hour since take-off.

There, we are picked up by Chris O’Hare from Top Drop Tours, who is to give us a tasty teaser of the region’s best bits.

As we board the minivan, we pay just enough attention to hear Tonia inform us we have enough weight allowance to take home 100kg of wine.

Our first stop is a hidden clearing on the banks of the Margaret River, where Chris regales us with colourful accounts of the region’s history and a selection of locally made chocolates and honeycomb.

Next is Cape Naturaliste, which we saw from up above only moments earlier and where we get to enjoy our first drop of the day, a refreshing glass of Howard Park Jete Brut Blanc.

Chris chatted about all things grapes, produce and the surf; we hear about how Cowaramup is the “spiritual heartland” of the local wine; how before the vineyards took root, the region was dominated by the beef industry; and heard the story of Diane Laurence’s controversial “Chick on a Stick”.

Before we know it, we’re at lunch, which is where I finally get a fleeting catch-up with Jackie over some top wines and a faultless spread at Clairault Streicker Estate.

Generous platters of fresh baked bread in Jersey Farm olive oil and sea salt, Australian occy with beetroot and roasted pepper salsa, mushroom risotto with charred leek and cambray manchego, and Spanish-style spatchcock ensure our stomachs are well-lined for the beautiful wines. The 2014 Streicker Ironstone Chardonnay was my pick and it went down a treat.

After a leisurely hour and with a bottle of the Ironstone chardonnay cradled in my arm, I say my goodbyes to Jackie as our group gathers for the final stop of the tour to Juniper Estate.

Juniper is home to the Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show Nadalie Australia Trophy winner for best oaked white other than chardonnay, the 2016 Juniper Estate Aquitaine Blanc.

I won’t bore you with the details, but a lot of wine was had and purchased. Unfortunately, we never made that 100kg limit.

Back to the Margaret River airstrip and it was time to return to Perth.

The scenery was equally captivating on the way home, peppered with more whales, Carnac Island, Cockburn Sound and a so-close-we-could-touch-it flypast of our city’s skyscrapers. And with that, just over seven hours from when we first boarded the Cessna, we were splashing down on the Swan past kayakers, jet skiers, and a few bewildered onlookers of the feathered variety.

Now to win Lotto so I can do this every weekend.

Arylene Westlake-Jennings was a guest of Swan River Seaplanes. For more, visit swanriverseaplanes.com.au or call 9417 8005.

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