Western Australia is certainly up for the challenge of giving us a glorious weekend to the tune of $500.
This week's family has a weekend away with $500 to spend in the beautiful Margaret River area in the southwest of Western Australia.
A long-time favourite of Perth-siders, Margaret River is around 280km south, around three-and-a-half hours drive, which we estimate would cost around $70 in petrol. It has lots to offer Indian Ocean surfing, caves to explore, abundant nature, food, beer and wine to satisfy everyone and an excellent selection of accommodation.
Our family of four chose to stay at Losari Retreat. It isn't in the heart of town, but an eight-kilometre easy drive away. Losari has just two limestone chalets on 27ha bordering Bramley National Park, which has majestic forests and paths leading to and along the Margaret River. There are horses living there which are friendly to children, providing free entertainment.
The retreat combines country pleasures with cosmopolitan luxury. From its wonderful hilltop location it has terrific views of the spring-filled lake, red sunsets and surrounding countryside.
There is complete privacy. The chalets have oven, microwave, refrigerator, gourmet utensils, log fire, cappuccino machine, health-bath complete with candles and al fresco dining. The therapeutic jarrah beds have quality linen and doonas, soft towels and there's television, video and stereo. A gas barbecue with outdoor table and chairs can save some food money. Accommodation for two nights cost the family $258.
We allowed for one meal out and the family chose Saturday lunch at the Xanadu Winery. Children are well catered for, with a great playground to entertain them in between choosing from the special kids menu. We allowed $80 for lunch.
Saturday dinner was a small meal by the log fire. They picked up some bits and pieces in town and the parents enjoyed their complimentary bottle of wine with the meal. All up, $20.
The Sunflowers Animal Farm was a favourite with everyone. There are more than 150 friendly animals to pat, feed and cuddle and visitors can help out at meal times. Entry is $5 per person and feed $2 a bucket.
On the way home, everyone decided to sample Simmo's famous ice cream. There are 39 flavours to complicate decision making. Everything is made fresh each day on the premises. They also have a putt-putt golf course in a park environment, where there are deer, kangaroos, goats and ice-cream-eating emus, plus barbecue facilities under shady trees, so it's a place to linger.
Margaret River Chocolate Company is an absolute temptation. They offer tastings of chocolates, jams and preserves and a chance to see the process of hand-making chocolate. They have picnic facilities and serve coffee, tea and cakes.
The Boranup Maze is terrific fun as everyone becomes lost – temporarily. This runs on an honour system, so costs $5 for the family.
The Margaret River region is crammed with great walks. One of the best is the Cape to Cape Coastal Trail, along a broad peninsula projecting into the Indian Ocean. It runs north to south along its western edge between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin and is a windswept limestone ridge sitting on ancient granite rocks. The trail is 140km long maybe a bit much for a family weekend, but you don't have to do it all, of course.