Known for its patchwork of verdant rolling hills, babbling brooks, fields of canola and country towns brimming with vibrant history, the Avon Valley region is located a comfortable hour’s drive east of the Perth CBD.
When it comes to natural attractions and rich culture, this secluded WA region has it covered. Its allure is synonymous with stories of the Ballardong Noongar people, and it’s characterised by days spent picnicking on the banks of the Avon River, hot air ballooning at sunrise, bushwalking and tinkering around craft shops and museums.
The Avon Valley was Western Australia’s first inland settlement and comprises of five towns by the names of Northam, Toodyay, York, Beverley and Goomalling. Each of which are only a 30-minute drive apart, perfect for a single-town day trip or multi-town road trip.
Here are some of the best things to do in the region:
Heyscape Cabin Stay
Tiny cabins have become a novelty accommodation option for holidaymakers eager to trade the crowds and bustling cities with an experience grounded in nature. With the fresh air by day and a sky full of stars by night, these miniature abodes provide an eco-friendly, minimal and convenient countryside stay. There are six cosy and secluded cabins set on the grounds of working farms across the Avon Valley, only short drive from Toodyay and nestled among sweeping valleys, hill sides and tree-dotted plains. For a quintessential country escape, decked out with everything needed for an off-grid, digital detox, book Heyscape here.
Wildflowers & Wongamine Reserve
If you’re a hiking enthusiast or nature lover, it’s worth visiting Wongamine Reserve for its collection of medium difficulty tracks across 330 hectares. Located 17 kilometres from the town of Toodyay, Salmon Gums are among the reserve’s varied vegetation, coupled with the Mottlecah which has the largest Eucalypt flower in the world and an array of orchid species. Keep an eye out for the vibrant yellow Acacia Acuminata, which is the most common wildflower in Toodyay and the unofficial emblem of the shire.
Wine Tasting at Coorinja Winery
Nestled in the undulating Toodyay hills and only five minutes from the town centre, Coorinja Winery is the perfect pitstop for a wine tasting. The winery is one of the state’s oldest with over 100 years of tradition and fifth generations winemakers. Coorinja specialises in fortified wines and have recently started producing small batch reds. The historic Ringa Bridge – which was built in 1888 to enable the development of agriculture – is also located on the property. It’s a gorgeous spot for a picnic, just a short walk from the winery.
Mystery Picnic – Amazing Co
If culinary experiences are your thing, check out Amazing Co’s Mystery Picnic offering for a self-guided foodie adventure. Based in nearby Chittering, it’s far from your traditional weekend escapade, but worth it for all the fun. You’ll use your smart phone to solve clues and riddles, which will guide you to local artisan producers, where you’ll collect all the ingredients for a delicious picnic that you’ll enjoy at a stunning location.
Beverley has an abundance of wide-open space with no light pollution for astrophotographers to get the perfect shot and for stargazers to enjoy diamond skies. Some of the best places to go include: Yenyening Lakes, Beverley Airfield and Avondale Farm.
Take to the skies with Beverley Soaring Society
The Beverley Soaring Society is WA’s largest gliding club, with a large fleet and a host of highly qualified volunteer gliders who are happy to take you up into the skies! If you’re keen to get into gliding yourself they also run classes out there – head to their website for more info.
Step back in time at the beautifully restored heritage-listed Slater Homestead, which was built in 1856 by George Slater, the first settler and farmer in Goomalling. The picturesque old stone and mud brick dwelling offer an “early world experience” with Devonshire tea and light lunch served in Mary’s tearooms.
Gabby Quoi Quoi Lookout and Oak Park
The Gabby Quoi Quoi Lookout is a great place to see the thousands of trees that have been planted by Gabby Quoi Quoi Catchment Group to help improve the environment, increase biodiversity and help farm profits through improved sustainability. From here it’s just a short trip to Oak Park Reserve, a significant habitat or native animals and illustrative of the area’s native flora and fauna.
Explore Bilya Koort Boodja
The Bilya Koort Boodja Centre was built in consultation and partnership with members of the Nyoongar community to celebrate and share Nyoongar culture and environmental knowledge. Blending audio visual storytelling, artefacts, dreamtime stories and information on the six indigenous seasons, the exhibit is a rich resource for adults and kids (and kids at heart). Allow at least an hour to make the most of your visit. If you are planning your visit to Northam in advance, jump on Instagram for info on upcoming events.
Visit the Public Silo Arts Trail
The Public Silo Trail is an artistic collaboration between Form WA and internationally-recognised artists that sees huge murals fronting grain silos and other industrial infrastructure throughout the wheatbelt and as far south as Albany. Drive a few minutes just out of Northam towards Toodyay and you’ll easily spot 10 silos 38m high, four of which feature London artist Phlegm’s trademark whimsical characters, and four at the other end featuring a riot of brightly coloured shapes and patterns by Atlanta artist HENSE. Pull over and get a quick snap for the ‘gram, but don’t approach the silos as it’s still an operative worksite and access is restricted.
Take a hot air balloon ride
Take your getaway to new heights with a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Being in the middle of the Avon Valley makes for beautiful views as you drift above while the sun comes up. The morning concludes with brekky at the Rivers Edge Cafe back in town, which overlooks the Avon River at the starting point of the Avon Descent.
Hit the thrift stores
$20 in your pocket goes a long way at Good Sammy’s on the main street. As is often the case in country towns, there’s gold for cheap if you can be bothered sifting through. Northam Secondhand is priced for tourists (i.e.: not cheap) but is more curated, with a great selection of furniture, records and decor mainly from mid-century onwards.
Pub lunch at The Rec Hotel or drinks at The Temperance
The quintessential country tavern with a sunny beer garden, sport playing on a large screen, heaps of armchairs for kicking back in, and solid pub fare with massive serving sizes! Later in the day pop into the Temperance Bar, which tips its cap to Northam’s history as a temperance town by serving up some excellent wines, craft beer and spirits.
Check out Iwan Iwanoff buildings
Architecture buffs will want to check out the Northam Library and adjacent Department of Sport and Recreation, both designed by famed brutalist architect Iwan Iwanoff in the 1970s. These buildings feature Iwanoff’s signature brickwork and are completely striking in the context of this otherwise typical country town setting. It’s worth taking a walk past at night as well. The installation of coloured lights makes the buildings look like some kind of brickwork disco jungle.
Brunch at Bakers Hill or Lucy’s Tea Rooms
Bakers Hill Pie Shop has got pies – Steak, steak and pepper, steak and mushroom, steak and kidney, steak and curry, steak and onion… you get the gist. There’s a decent selection of vegetarian options as well. Alternatively pop into Lucy’s Tea Rooms for a slice of the classic country town life.
Explore the Kep Track
Starting from the centre of town, the Kep Track extends all the way between Northam and Mundaring – a full 75km for those committed to a few days of hiking. If that’s a bit much, you can also explore the sections closes to Northam, with it being a favourite for cyclists. Following the historic Goldfields Water Supply Scheme pipeline, the track includes the old Clackline Refractory (about four hours hike from Northam) and some classic Wheatbelt scenery. Check our detailed guide here.
Known and adored for its rich culture, vibrant historical tapestry, natural beauty and the plethora of festivals and events on offer, York is one of Western Australia’s premium holiday destinations. Located 98km from the Perth CBD, the small town nestled on the Avon River is populated with just over 3,5000 people, and is WA’s oldest inland European settlement.
It’s a 90-minute road trip from the sparkling city lights, near enough to go for a day, but charming enough to stay. As the story goes, the fertility of the land led to the town’s original establishment in 1829. From then, it became a place to grow cereal crops for the Swan River Settlement. These days, history lives within the walls of the significant sum of historic buildings that line the streets – which are also responsible for its Heritage Precinct listing.
We had to give York it’s own full article – check out all the best things to do in York HERE.
Header Image Credit: Shutterstock / Sahil Malhotra