WITH its plethora of wineries, gourmet food scene, pristine beaches and spectacular scenery, Western Australia’s Margaret River region makes for one idyllic holiday destination.
Now global travel authority Lonely Planet has officially named the famed wine region and Southern Western Australia, including as far south as Albany and across to Cape Arid National Park, as the number one destination to visit in the next 12 months in their Best in Asia Pacific 2019 list.
The annual list, which expanded to include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, ranked Japan's Shikoku as second and New Zealand's Bay of Islands and Northland as third best Asian-Pacific destination to visit in the year ahead.
While Margaret River town is a major drawcard for foodies and wine lovers, lesser-known southern beachside enclaves like Dunsborough – home of the stunning Meelup Beach - also provides the ultimate beach break.
Surrounded by the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, the small laidback surf town Yallingup – three hours south of Perth - offers world-class surfing, snorkelling and hiking trails.
“Take one look at Meelup Beach and you’ll wonder where it's been all your life,” the travel bible said. “The Western Australian bush parts to reveal ocean the hue of a Bombay Sapphire bottle, which is typical of the coastline stretching from Margaret River to the state’s south.
"Beyond the sand, some of the country’s slickest wineries, breweries and restaurants lie between tracts of tall-tree forest and kangaroo-dotted farmland.”
With 17-hour direct flights from London to Perth and foodie festivals such as Margaret River Gourmet Escape and the famed Truffle Kerfuffle in Manjimup, Western Australia is now more accessible and appealing to discerning travellers than ever before.
"Locals have long felt their turf rivals the east coast travel trail," said Lonely Planet. "Adding to the argument are coveted food and culture-amped festivals, amazing surf, whales aplenty and DIY coastal hikes with paved sections, improving accessibility for all."
The somewhat under-the-radar haven of Shikoku should also be on travellers' radars this year, according to the fourth annual list.
"[Shikoku] is finally being discovered by non-Japanese visitors, with an increasing number of international flights winging into the main cities of Takamatsu and Matsuyama," the guide said.
Lonely Planet's Best in Asia Pacific 2019:
1. Margaret River & Southern WA, Australia
2. Shikoku, Japan
3. Bay of Islands & Northland, New Zealand
5. The Cook Islands
6. Central Vietnam
8. Palawan, Philippines
9. Beijing, China