PLACES TO GO
Established in 1831, York is WA’s first inland settlement. This festival town with a population of over 3000 has loads of character and plenty of activities to enjoy. An easy one-hour drive from Perth, York has accommodation to suit the single traveller on a budget, couples looking for a romantic escape, and families seeking
a country experience. Modern motel units, heritage pubs, B&Bs, luxury boutique accommodation, self-catering cottages and farm stays can all be found within the town or just on the outskirts. Dining options include modern Australian, a la carte, fish and chips along the Avon River, bistro food in a heritage pub, or relaxed cafes along the main street. There are interesting shops and museums to explore, riverside parkland in which to entertain the kids, and festivals and events aplenty. If you start at the York visitor centre on the corner of Avon Terrace and Joaquina Street, and stroll towards the centre of town, you’ll come across cafes, heritage pubs, a sweet shop, gift and antique shops, and two museums. You can park along Avon Terrace or on one of the side roads. You’ll find people enjoying coffee alfresco along the terrace, and the famous York Motor Museum. The Suspension Bridge along Pool Street is a great place for views along the river, while the park has shady trees, toilet facilities and a children’s playground.
Taken from the Aboriginal word ‘duidgee’, meaning ‘place of plenty’, this historic
town has so much to offer! Established in 1860, Toodyay has a population of approximately 5000 and is located 85km northeast of Perth. Many buildings, including Connor’s Mill and Newcastle Gaol, reflect times of the convict era. The main street offers a range of cafes, heritage pubs and gift and antique shops. Don’t miss out on a visit to the new speciality shops in the heart of town. Accommodation options include quality B&Bs, historic homesteads, hotels and chalets. Catch a ride on the miniature railway and don’t forget the numerous attractions just out of town.
Established in 1833, the historic town of Northam is the gateway to the Wheatbelt and is only 42km from York along Spencers Brook-York Road. With a population of over 6000, it is the commercial centre for the area’s farming industry, offering galleries, supermarkets and various accommodation options including quality B&Bs in historic homesteads, hotels, caravan parks and cottages. The Town Hall, Shamrock Hotel, Old Post Office and St John’s Anglican Church are all Heritage listed. The racing season (May to December) is a great time for a visit, with the big races in September and October providing a good chance to frock up. There is a number of eateries serving different cuisines, and with several hotels, pub food is popular. A walk along the Avon River foreshore takes in many places of historical significance and is a great way to explore the area.
Just 150km to the northwest of York lies this monastic town, established in 1846. Today there are still Benedictine monks in residence, with more than 40 lay people living in the town. This number is made up almost exclusively of employees and their families. Take one of the guided tours to go behind the scenes of this incredible monastic town, built in the Spanish tradition: the township has 69 buildings, 27 of which are listed by the National Trust. Bring comfortable shoes because most of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. Meals can be taken at the local roadhouse or New Norcia Hotel, and for overnight stays there is the quaint Monastery Guesthouse where you can join in with the monks for prayer, or stay at the hotel. TIP Buy a loaf of famous New Norcia bread or a bottle of Abbey Wine while you’re visiting – you can also join in with the monks during their daily prayers.
Northam suspension bridge.
THINGS TO DO
Immerse yourself in the historic charm and natural wonders of the region: the various visitor centres within the Avon Valley have brochures available to guide you in the right direction. Following the Avon River through York is a great way for families with young children to view waterbirds, and wildflowers in spring. The Avon Park in Lowe Street is a great starting point, with its picturesque picnic spots, playground for the kids, free gas barbecues and toilet facilities (take care around the river). The swinging bridge crossing the river is a popular spot. Other walks around York include the Golf Links Reserve Walk. There are plenty of heritage walks and trails available for history buffs: stroll through the main streets of the townships to learn the history of the area, where most of the buildings have been faithfully restored. The Oak Park Reserve in Goomalling has a natural and cultural heritage 3km walking trail. During wildflower season you will be able to view the unique blood red spider orchid. For more extreme trails, there are the Kep Track and Dorntj Koorliny trail for walking, cycling and hiking enthusiasts through Northam.
Throughout the Avon Valley there are many restored heritage buildings from the Victorian and Federation era. Tours are available from the visitor centres in each town, but a walk down the main streets will reveal the living history. You will need
a car if you intend to go museum hopping, and in order to see everything planning is the key. The larger museums are found in York, Beverley and New Norcia. Toodyay has Connor’s Mill and the Newcastle Gaol Museum, which are also worth a visit, and Goomalling has interesting homesteads and trails available to the public. With York being the first inland settlement in Western Australia, the small township is a popular destination for history buffs. The top historic sites when visiting York are the York Mill, Residency Museum, the Court House and the Motor Museum. The visitor centre has the York Heritage Trail booklet, containing four self-guided walks.
Get your pulse racing with a range of aerial pursuits in Western Australia’s premier recreational aviation playground. Get airborne with paragliding, ultralight flights, skydiving and hot-air ballooning. The best times for ballooning are in winter and spring, when the weather is optimum for gliding over farmland and rivers. The Avon Valley looks spectacular in winter when it is lush and green, and there can often be mist patches in some of the low-lying areas. Flying low over rivers and streams, you can catch a reflection of the colourful balloon shimmering on the water, or pick leaves from the tops of nearby trees! Flights from Northam start early in the morning (wear warm clothes with scarf and beanie). Glider ‘air experience flights’ of 30-minute duration are available most weekends from Beverley, and bookings are required. If the thought of actually flying makes you a little nervous, the Aeronautical Museum in Beverley would be just the thing instead.
The most popular national park is the Avon National Park, 80km northeast of Perth via Toodyay Road. The 4800ha park has granite outcrops and offers the best views of the Avon Valley, especially from Bald Hill. The best time to visit the park is during winter and spring when the Avon River turns into spectacular rapids and wildflowers, such as the blue leschenaultias and donkey orchids bloom. During the spring, rainbow bee-eaters and sacred kingfishers arrive to breed. Camping is allowed for a fee but during winter certain sites are closed. Check with the Department of Parks & Wildlife on (08) 9571 3066 for details.
Bald Hill Campground | Enjoy great views from this hilltop campground. With granite formations and wild bush surrounding you, this site is great for observing nature. Picnic tables and shelters are provided, as well as wood-fired barbecues. Be sure to bring your own wood because collection is prohibited.
Drummonds Hill Campground | Use this site as a base to explore all that the national park has to offer. The grounds have pit toilets and a water tank (boil water before drinking). There are grassy patches and shade provided from surrounding eucalypt trees that make roughing it a little more enjoyable.
Take a hot-air balloon over the valley
Visit the monks at New Norcia
Take in the sights on a heritage tour
Frock up for the races
Try your hand at archery
Watch the Avon Descent
Book a flight in a glider
All these and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo
The Avon Descent.
This gruelling two-day event is 124km long and sees competitors challenge the white water in a variety of powered and paddle-craft. Watch the race unfold and cheer on the participants from the banks or the many bridges around Toodyay. Aug.
XXXX Gold Northam Cup
Experience one of the Wheatbelt’s premier sporting events at Northam Race Club. Dress to impress for the Fashions on the Field competition – classy accessories and heels will stand you in good stead. Be sure to don an attention-grabbing fascinator to stand out amongst the competition. Oct.
The festival celebrates the life of Moondyne Joe, Western Australia’s legendary bushranger. Join in the fun as Moondyne Joe runs around Toodyay being
a general menace. There are also moustache and cleavage competitions, plus an 1860s regiment, wood chopping, blacksmith, wood turning, art exhibition, antique collectors’ fair, car club display, children’s activities, circus and town fair. May.
WA Tractor Pull
This family-friendly event is a favourite pastime at Beverley Racecourse, and draws quite a crowd! Watch as modified vehicles pull an ever-increasing load down a dirt track. The Sand Drags are a sight to be seen, albeit extremely dusty! May-Jun.
Avon Valley Gourmet Food & Wine Festival
The Avon Valley Gourmet Food & Wine Festival, held at Northam Recreation Centre over the June long weekend, will tempt the tastebuds with around 80 gourmet food and wine stalls from all over the region. Jun.
Car | Take Great Eastern Highway from Perth city and keep travelling until you reach Northam, or to head to York, turn off at the Great Southern Highway.
Train | The Prospector train joins Perth and Northam on the Kalgoorlie route, while the AvonLink and MerridenLink both run through the towns of Toodyay and Northam.