The Best Things To Do Around Northam
Words by Rebekah Barnett.
Just 90 minutes out of Perth, the Wheatbelt town of Northam sits right in the heart of the Avon Valley. Northam’s always been known for its lovely scenery – golden fields of canola and the Avon River – but recently it’s become a bit of a cultural hotspot too. Check out this list of the best things to do and see, and where to eat and drink around the place.
DO & SEE
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. The centre also offers a heap of workshops, from learning Nyoongar language to playing the didgeridoo, star gazing, t-shirt making and more. 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 W.A. 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. Northam is smack bang in the middle of Avon Valley, which 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. If you really want to get amongst it, the Northam Ballooning Championships kick off at the end August, get the lowdown HERE.
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.
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.
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.
EAT & DRINK
Yasou means ‘cheers to your health’ in Greek. The owner lived in Cyprus before settling in Northam and opening Cafe Yasou in 2004. This modern Greek-inspired cafe offers all the usual suspects (eggs benedict, porridge, big breakfast) alongside Greek sweets and a surprising number of gluten-free options including lupin and wattleseed hot cakes and house-made lupin loaf with avo. With friendly service, solid coffee, alternative lattes and milks, and cold-pressed juice, Cafe Yasou has all bases covered and is highly recommended. Just be warned, they close at midday Saturday and do not open Sunday at all.
Duke’s Inn is the quintessential country town tavern. A sunny beer garden, sport playing on a large screen, heaps of armchairs for kicking back in, and solid pub fare. At Duke’s Inn, size does matter. The meals are massive. If you’re in town on the first Friday of the month, you’re in luck – it’s karaoke night and there are prizes.
A literal red carpet welcomes punters at The Grand, a tavern at the far end of Northam’s main drag. With a roaring fire and comfy Chesterfields, the lounge is a great place to spend an evening playing board games (they have stacks of them). At the moment the food is bar menu only (think fried food, dips and bread), but the owners are on the hunt for a chef so that they can open up the dining room for proper sit down meals.
The Temperance Bar
Set within the beautifully restored heritage building that also houses the Farmers Home Hotel, The Temperance Bar nods to Northam’s history as a temperance town at the turn of the 20th Century. It’s ironic, then, that the drinks list is excellent and extensive, featuring almost entirely WA craft beer, wine and spirits. Cosy up in a dimly lit corner or nab one of the communal tables and if you’re feeling peckish, the small bar menu offers a tight edit of share plates.
Bakers Hill Pie Shop
Look, this one’s not in the centre of Northam but it’s iconic and it’s technically within the Shire of Northam, so it’s getting a mention. You want pies? 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, vegans and coeliacs had better BYO snacks – this stop off is not for you.
A visit to regional WA just doesn’t feel complete without stopping by an old school tearoom. Lucy’s Tearooms has classic country cafe vibes in spades – with some warm and friendly service to match (and a scone or two, of course).
Avon Spice is exactly the unpretentious charmer you hope to find on your travels. Sure, it’s a bit brightly lit – but once you’ve dived into their vibrant, tasty curries, we’re pretty sure you won’t mind. Plus, the owners are always at the ready with a smile and a chat.
Header image credit: Ric Jayno / Shutterstock