The ecstasy: the addictive Margaret River Nougat Company’s sea salted caramel nougat. The agony: ants in my pants, literally! I’ll get to that later.
On our recent trip to the Margaret River region, Jac and I were hosted for two nights in the spa apartment at Bettenay’s, probably better known as the Margaret River Nougat Company. The Bettenay family make nougat and produce wine and liqueur from their own grapes. The spa apartment is upstairs above the tasting room which is open to the public 7 days a week.
Access to the apartment is via a rocky set of steps followed by a staircase, so if you have bad knees or any kind of mobility issues it may not be suitable for you. We had no problem lugging our baggage up the stairs ourselves. It’s pretty dark out here at night, especially when you come back after dinner – we left the stair lights on whenever we went out in the evening. We always travel with a torch, which came in very handy here.
The apartment sleeps two people in a king bed, perfect for a romantic getaway. It has reverse-cycle air conditioning – the heater worked extremely well, keeping us warm and cosy during our stay. The kitchen is fully equipped with fridge, coffee machine and tea-making facilities, microwave, hotplates, dishwasher, cutlery and crockery. Linen is provided and there’s a washing machine. There are even bathrobes to slip into for that luxury escape feeling. Internet access is not part of the deal, but I had no problems getting signal on my phone and iPad (I’m with Telstra 3G).
At the tasting room downstairs, we sampled nougat, wine and liqueur, and watched nougat being made in the temperature-controlled kitchen though the viewing window. The wines are produced under two labels, Bettenay’s and Lost the Plot, which includes a Chilli Rosé made by Bryce Bettenay, joining his dad Greg in wine-making. The first grapes were planted on the property in 1989 and after 18 years of producing premium wines, the Bettenays began the nougat side of the business.
I had a chat with Bryce as he made a batch of cranberry and pistachio nougat, one of their most popular flavours. Six batches of nougat (50 bars per batch) are made daily here. Everything including packaging is done by hand, apart from the machine cutting of the bars.
The secret recipe used by the Bettenays is French-inspired and produces creamy, satisfyingly chewy nougat. As a member of Team Chewy (as opposed to Team Crunchy – which team are you on?), I was a fan after my first bite. We bought several bars of nougat to take home – cranberry and pistachio, cherry and coconut and my favourite, sea salted caramel.
In addition to the spa apartment, there are two chalets (2-bedroom and 3-bedroom) for holiday rental. We had a sneak peek in the unoccupied 2-bedroom chalet, which sleeps two couples (one queen bed, one double bed) and two singles (bunk beds). It’s got a kitchen and fridge, reverse-cycle air-conditioning, TV and DVD player, wood fire, BBQ and laundry facilities. Like the spa apartment, linen is supplied for the chalets.
After packing our bags on Saturday morning, we took a final stroll around the lake and grounds. We found the beehives but kept a safe distance away. The lake was like a mirror, occasionally rippling with the movement of water birds paddling or coming in for a landing.
After two days of magnificent Margaret River food and wine, we were more than happy to go for a walk in these peaceful, beautiful surroundings – before our next meal. I had a great time taking photos all around the property.
As we walked by the vineyard I had a brainwave and asked Jac if she’d use my second camera to take some photos of me. I don’t have many photos of myself as I’m always the one behind the camera. She agreed, and I quickly explained how to use the controls.
So here we were merrily taking shots of me by the vines, a gorgeous backdrop of green and gold. Keep in mind this is a 134 acre-property. And somehow I managed to find the ant hill. And unknowingly stand on it.
As I posed, trying to look natural while Jac snapped away, “OUCH!” Something bit me on the back of my right thigh, under my jeans. And a few seconds later, it bit me again. I looked down and saw to my horror, several bull ants crawling crookedly up my jeans and more ants tangled up in my shoelaces. I pulled up my jeans and saw even more ants crawling on my socks and on my bare legs. And I was still getting bitten under my jeans.
“ANTS! ANTS!” I shrieked, desperately kicking off my shoes and frantically pulling my socks off. I ran barefoot back up the stairs and let myself back into the spa apartment, dumping my camera next to the door as I wriggled out of my jeans with speed I never dreamed I was capable of. I began to pluck the writhing, still biting ants off my bare legs, and from the outside and inside of my jeans. Thankfully, the ants that had bitten me under my jeans hadn’t managed to reach my undies. I discovered that ants have an amazing ability to cling to clothes no matter how vigorously you shake them. Jac was downstairs, de-anting my shoes (discovering that you can’t shake ants off shoes either). She retrieved my spare pair of ant-free sneakers from the car.
Thankfully, I was able to remove all the ants from my jeans and my legs. I had only just (nervously) got back into my jeans and was putting on the spare sneakers when Greg and Terri Bettenay (Bryce’s parents) turned up to say hi/bye before we checked out. I must’ve looked disheveled and odd, scratching my legs while putting my shoes on, standing in the car park, but after I told them about my recent ordeal, we all had a laugh about my little adventure. Bull ants are a part of nature, of course – and like a lot of creatures in the wild, usually easy to avoid. Apparently, unless you’re me!
In all the drama, I had lost my camera lens caps. Luckily, I noticed they were missing before we drove off and Jac found them in the bathroom upstairs. Between dealing with my ant-infested shoes and rescuing my lens caps, Jac had quite the heroic morning.
We found Bettenay’s well positioned as a base for driving into Margaret River town, wineries, restaurants and other attractions. At Bettenay’s itself, there’s the tasting room, a private grass tennis court, mountain bikes, trout fishing and bushwalking. Apart from the tasting room and bushwalking, our days were too action-packed to make full use of the other facilities during our short stay. The spa apartment is an adults-only retreat, but kids are welcome in the chalets.
Bettenay’s is in Cowaramup (Cow-wah-rah-mup), around 10 minutes drive from the town shops. Locals know it fondly as Cowtown. When driving from Perth, you’ll pass through Cowaramup on your way to Margaret River town.
Bettenay’s – Margaret River Nougat Company
Corner of Tom Cullity Drive and Miamup Road
Cowaramup WA 6284
Tasting room (wine, liqueur, nougat) is open 7 days 10am to 5pm
Telephone: (08) 9755 5539
Free parking on-site
There are 3 accommodation options available at Bettenay’s:
- Lakeside spa apartment
- 2-bedroom self-contained private chalet
- 3-bedroom self-contained private chalet
Find out more about the accommodation, including prices.
We stayed in the spa apartment with compliments of Bettenay’s.
About this trip and this series – Margaret River 2014
We visited the Margaret River region in the south west of Western Australia for four days in May as guests of the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and were hosted by restaurants and businesses in the region.
We drove to the region and used a Margaret River Region Map to guide us to the stops on our itinerary.
The full list of blog posts from this trip is below, in reading order:
- Discovery Menu, Voyager Estate, Margaret River
- Bettenay’s – Margaret River Nougat Company – this post
- Dining in Margaret River town
- Lake Cave, Margaret River
- Brookwood Estate
- Margaret River Chocolate Company and Providore
- Margaret River Farmers Market
- The Berry Farm, Rosa Glen
- Two days in Yallingup, Part 1
- Goanna Gallery Cafe, Dunsborough
- Two days in Yallingup, Part 2 – Aravina Estate
For more information about visiting the Margaret River region including how to get there, visit margaretriver.com