Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Company

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.

DSCF2598The Bettenay tasting room, with spa apartment above. Entrance to the apartment via the stairs on the left. The Bettenays told us they have plans to renovate/improve the rocky steps

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.

DSCF2599The stairs to the spa apartment

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).

DSCF2595There is a TV at the end of the bed. Pull the curtain around the bed to keep the sunlight from waking you too early in the morning

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DSCF2590The day bed provides another spot to relax

DSCF2576The circular spa is large and deep

DSCF2570The bed was very comfortable

DSCF2602The view from the bed. There are two sets of glass doors which open onto the private balcony

DSCF2676The spa apartment has tranquil views of the lake and vines via a wide verandah. There’s trout in the lake, if you wish to go fishing

Dusk view from the balcony Dusk view from the balcony

In our room was a nougat sampler which we happily munched through during our stay. Left to right: ginger and almond, coffee and almond, lemoncello and creme, cranberry and pistachio, chocolate and hazelnut In our room was a nougat sampler which we happily munched through during our stay. Left to right: ginger and almond, coffee and almond, limoncello creme, cranberry and pistachio, chocolate and hazelnut. All delicious, but my top picks were the coffee and the limoncello

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.

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Bryce Bettenay Bryce Bettenay

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.

DSCF9339No licking of the spoon, but I thought about it the entire time

DSCF9349Smoothing down the nougat

DSCF9358Adding the rice paper layer

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Sea salted caramel nougat Sea salted caramel nougat, a honey and almond nougat bar topped with a layer of sea salted caramel

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DSCF2949We bought a bottle of the Nougaretto Coffee Almond Nougat Liqueur. If you like Baileys and other creamy alcoholic concoctions, this stuff is dangerously good. There is also a Honey Almond Nougat Liqueur

DSCF2955Chilli Rosé liqueur, steeped with birds eye chillies

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.

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DSCF3023My favourite part of the chalet was the verandah, which runs along three sides of the house

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DSCF3358Friday’s sunrise was too cloudy to be photogenic, but I took this shot at our balcony on Saturday morning

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.

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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.

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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.

Jac took this photo of me taking photos by the vines. I'm wearing a Scottevest QUEST vest, which I road-tested on this trip and will be reviewing on the blog soon. Jac took this photo of me taking photos by the vines just moments before I stood on the ant hill. I’m wearing a SCOTTEVEST Q.U.E.S.T. vest, which I road-tested on this trip and will be reviewing soon

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DSCF9398That’s the spa apartment balcony you can see upstairs

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.

It's easy to tell when you've entered Cowtown. It’s easy to tell when you’ve entered Cowtown. There are cow statues in the town centre and surrounding properties

There's even a Cowtown cow next to the Bettenay's car park There’s even a Cowtown cow at Bettenay’s, next to the car park

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:

For more information about visiting the Margaret River region including how to get there, visit margaretriver.com

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  • Dear TFP,

    The scenery with a reflection in the water is stunning. It’s always a challenge for me coz a slight tilt is always so obvious. Can you share your photography tips on that?

    Notwithstanding the brilliant photography, as always, you’re a nice and sweet person so it’s no wonder that ants would want to get into your pants.

    • Sorry about the delay in replying – I didn’t do anything special. As soon as I saw how reflective the water was, I wanted to capture some of the reflections of the trees and building in the water. It was just a matter of watching and waiting for the mirror effect (like the first image of this post) and the venetian blinds effect, when water birds stirred up the water with their paddling.