The Avon Valley is the perfect spot for your daytrip and #staycation needs.
Just over an hour east of Perth City, you'll find gorgeously green rolling hills, babbling brooks, and quaint country towns full of countryside charm & hospitality. Whether you're in the mood for pottering through craft shops and antique stores for that one-of-a-kind find, picnicking on the banks of the Avon River, strolling through streetscapes lined with heritage buildings, bushwalking through richly forested trails, or even soaring in the skies in a hot air balloon, there's something for everyone in the Avon Valley.
The largest town in the Avon Valley, Northam makes a great base for your explorations of the region. With over 185 heritage listed buildings, the town has the second-most heritage buildings in WA (after Fremantle), making for some seriously spectacular streetscapes (and Insta backdrops!). There's plenty of fascinating shops full of curios and knickknacks, too. Head to Bernard Park for a picnic on the banks of the Avon River and a walk on the pedestrian suspension bridge (the longest of its kind in Australia), as well as a visit to Bilya Koort Boodja (River, Heart, Land) Centre for Nyoongar Culture & Environmental Knowledge, where you'll learn all about Noongar traditions, customs and connection to this land.
A particularly spectacular way to see the Avon Valley is by hot-air balloon, the oldest and most intimate form of flight. You'll find two hot-air balloon tour operators departing from Northam: Liberty Balloon Flights and Windward Balloon Adventures, which offer tours ranging from 45-60 minutes long, ending with an ever-so-fancy champagne breakfast.
Public art lovers are in for a treat here too, as Northam is the starting point of FORM's PUBLIC Silo Trail, which is putting regional Western Australia up in lights, bringing world class murals to grain silos, transformer boxes and iconic infrastructure in unexpected towns right across the state. The trail begins in Northam before taking you 165km east into the Wheatbelt and south all the way to Albany. There's also the iconic Northam Flour Mill Mural, a stunning mural on the historic Northam Flour Mill designed and painted by Perth-based artists Amok Island, celebrating Northam's white swans and their home on the banks of the Avon River.
WA's first inland settlement, York is full of character, heritage, stunning natural beauty and enormous animal sculptures made of wheat straw (yes, you read that right!). The 1.5km Avon River Walk Trail meanders along the Avon River and features fantastic views towards Mount Bakewell, while the Grand Designs Walk looks at the pubs and parapets that makes York's main street so unique. Tour the undiscovered jewels of York's side streets on the Hidden Gems Walk, or follow the footsteps of York's convicts and those who lived here in the convict era on the Convicts and Crossings Walk.
York offers fine examples of colonial architecture and is renowned for the lovingly preserved buildings and sites providing charm and character to the town, such as the Town Hall (home to the tourist information centre), the York Residency Museum, Old Gaol & Courthouse and York Motor Museum. You'll find gorgeous wildflowers here in season, as well as birdlife complimenting the open gardens; there's also a wide range of experiences on offer including food and wine festivals, country racing, local produce and plenty of arts and crafts. And if you're here in the morning on the second Saturday of the month (except January), don't miss picking up some awesome handmade, homemade, recycled and reusable products at the Peace Park Charity Markets!
Art aficionados will love the Botanicalia Cafe & Gallery and the neighbouring Gallery 152 located in a beautifully restored heritage building, and featuring artists and makers from around Australia. It's the perfect spot to enjoy contemporary Australian art and pick up some gorgeous art gifts.
There's also the York Art Space & Glass Company, a quirky, fun and colourful space boasting the largest permanent display of fused glass art in Western Australia, with a special section devoted to recycling not just bottle glass but glass saved from buildings in York, turned into beautiful decorator items by resident Artist Janine Koefoed. You can also watch Janine paint with oils and watercolours, and you may even be lucky to see some jewellery or glass being made on your visit. There's a great collection of eclectic recycled garden critters, local photographic images of the stunning wildflowers by Bruce McGreggor, and a substantial display of hilarious outback works of art by Harry Barden.
Last but not least, those enormous wheat straw animals we talked about! The town is peppered with 30 examples of Wara Art, a Japanese form of art made by piecing patches of braided straw over a wooden frame to create magnificent structures. Find them all by following the Wara Art Trail.
The gorgeous getaway town of Toodyay is a firm favourite with city-dwelling families looking to get that countryside fix! Stroll around town enjoying the fantastic colonial architecture, and explore the magnificent nature reserves - which are particularly spectacular during wildflower season (late August to November) as they turn ablaze with colour. In town, you'll find boutique shops, cafes and pubs, the Avon River and Bilya Walk Track, regular annual events and Duidgee Park and Pelham Reserve.
Toodyay is also a great spot for public art spotting: check out the murals at Charcoal Lane behind IGA, including the bright birds mural, a joint venture between Toodyay Tidy Towns and the Shire of Toodyay following Toodyay's win at the 2015 National Tidy Towns awards. The Bushells sign dates back to the 1930s, and is situated behind the heritage listed Jager Store which has undergone a number of business changes since it was built in 1897. And pop into Uniquely Toodyay, a cooperative of local artists and producers located in the Old Post Office, where you can browse original artworks and creations and discover local produce and products. Toodyay is also home to a farmer’s market on the third Sunday of every month, with organic vegetables, eggs, chickens, plants and more, plus education, art, music and fun!
Lovers of a fine tipple are in for a treat in Toodyay as well, thanks to Coorinja Winery, one of the oldest wineries in the state (established in the 1870s, and passed down through five generations). You'll find exciting and complex reds resulting in flavour driven and palatable wines that you know will be enjoyable from the moment you open the bottle. Salut!
Toodyay is home to many heritage and nature walk trails including the Toodyay Living History Walk Trails, a series of four trails that will take you on a path of discovery of the town's rich history - you'll find more details here. There’s also the 20km Toodyay Pioneer Heritage Trail, spanning from the intersection of Toodyay Road & Morangup Road to Duidgee Park, and tracing the route of the first settlers in the area to what is now known as West Toodyay. At a leisurely pace the trail offers a pleasant two hour drive with opportunities for picnicking and bushwalking.
Nature lovers won't want to miss the Toodyay Reserve Trails, spanning the Dawn Atwell Nature Reserve, Rugged Hills Reserve, Majestic Heights Reserve, Panorama Reserve and Pelham Reserve, showcasing the spectacular flora and fauna of the region. In season, wildflower sightings include a variety of Orchids, Blue Lechenaultia, Fringed Lily, Cat's Paw, fields of everlastings and more! You can find more about these trails in our Toodyay Walking Trails. And last but not least, the Bilya (River) Walk Track follows the Avon River for 7.2km from Duigee Park to Nardie Cemetery in Toodyay, boasting a diverse range of habitats providing for an exquisite range of birdlife (and wildflowers, in season).
The heritage wheatbelt town of Beverley is quite a hidden gem! Start your adventure at the Beverley Visitor Centre, which stocks an array of Beverley momentos, gifts, fresh coffee beans and many locally made products as well as an aeronautical exhibit that contains a 1:5 scale replica of the Silver Centenary Plane that was built in Beverley in 1929.
Nature lovers will adore Yenyening Lakes, or take a hike up County Peak for panoramic views of the great region. Or if you want to take a step back in time, check out the Beverley Town Heritage Trail, which guides you on a tour of the heritage buildings in beautiful Beverley, with various architectural styles from Art Deco to Georgian to the newly built Cornerstone building, home of the visitor centre. The walk takes around one hour, starting at the Dead Finish Museum, where you can see what life was like for Beverley pioneers.
There's also plenty of fun, quirky little shops in Beverley, and some gorgeous public art; take a stroll down the main street to shop up a storm, and admire the historic buildings and murals painted by James Giddy. You'll also find murals at the Station Gallery Gardens, IGA, The Art Garden and Red Vault. And don't miss the Beverley Station Arts and Platform Theatre, a multipurpose cultural precinct at the Victorian Tudor style Railway Station that houses the Shire of Beverley art collection.
If you're visiting Beverley with the kids, don't miss Moort Wabiny Park. Located along the main street there is something for the whole family! There is a nature play area with water play zone, tree top walk, balance and stepping logs, and a restored red Austin truck that the kids will love playing on. Bring your bike, scooter or skateboard, and challenge yourself on the pump track or ride the awesome concrete skate park that will set the scene for some epic moves. If you prefer to shoot some hoops there is even a basketball hoop and after all the fun and activity you can relax with a picnic at the shaded BBQ area.
Australia’s only monastic town, New Norcia is a true escape from the everyday, and a place of tranquility, spirituality and serenity that anyone can enjoy. You’ll find a 160-year old community of Benedictine monks moving quietly between historical buildings on their way to prayers seven times daily. Some of the things you can do in town include joining a town tour of the beautiful buildings, noshing on some locally-produced nutcake, joining the monks in their private chapel to pray, shopping for some must-have souvenirs in the gift shop, and even attending a weekend-long spiritual retreat in the monastic guesthouse.
And of course, you won’t want to miss the town's star attraction: the Museum and Art Gallery, which tells the story of the monks and lay people who have made a home in New Norcia since its foundation and containing artefacts that trace New Norcia's time as a Monastery, Aboriginal mission, farm and a place of education and culture.
Brookton & Goomalling
Founded in the 1830's by early settlers in search of good grazing lands, Brookton, 65km south of York, is rich in colonial history as amongst the first established in WA. The Police Station Museum and the Railway Station, which also houses a fine display of local crafts as well as the tourist information centre, are definitely worth a visit. Like the rest of the Avon Valley, Brookton and its surrounds are particularly beautiful during wildflower season..
46km north of Northam, Goomalling is a delightful rural settlement and amongst the first established in WA. Enveloped by seemingly endless open countryside, the town had its beginning in the 1890's, springing up from beside the train line which was used to ferry miners through to the goldrush towns further north. Giant wheat domes provide a striking landmark in Goomalling, while art and crafts, country markets and a colourful history add to the rural feel. A trip to the School House Museum, Heritage Town Walk, Old Railway Station and Slater Homestead will transport you back in time.
Places to Stay
There's so many gorgeous places to #staycation in the Avon Valley, from farmstays and B&Bs, caravan parks to cottages and more. Nestled alongside the Avon Valley National Park, the luxurious Moondyne Country Convention Centre is quite a hit for its extraordinarily peaceful and serene location. Just outside of Toodyay, you'll find Amber Spring Gardens, a rural retreat and farm stay set amongst 106 acres, with stunning views of valleys, undulating hills and gardens, or stay in the Pecan Hill B&B, a rural property surrounded by natural bushland overlooking the Avon Valley, with picturesque vineyards, pecan orchards and pristine farmland. Enjoy the clear skies of the Avon Valley from the purpose built stargazing platform, and wake up in the morning to a delicious continental or cooked breakfast.
There's an abundance of gorgeous places to stay in York, including the iconic and historical Settlers House in the heart of the town, and Hope Farm Guesthouse, a historic homestead built in 1880 with a mix of country charm and modern day luxury. Or check out the fabulously fancy Edwardian two storey country homestead of Laurelville where you'll feel like you're living out your dreams of being the star of a historical period drama and Lavendale Farmstay and Cottages, a true-blue Aussie farmstay where you can feed a plethora of cute animals, walk along the riverbank or fragrant sandalwood plantation, or just relax and enjoy countryside life at its finest.
There's nothing quite like a countryside adventure, and the Avon Valley has everything you're looking for - right in our backyard! So if you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and find your perfect "how’s the serenity" spot, look no further: this very special region is just the ticket.