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Guide to the Perth Hills

Guide to the Perth Hills

Darlington Estate.

PLACES TO GO

Armadale

Nestled in Perth’s south-eastern suburbs and flanked by the Darling Scarp, the Armadale region is steeped in history, encompassing Kelmscott, one of WA’s oldest towns. Stop in at the Armadale visitor centre on Jull Street for a wealth of information, including the story behind Kitty’s Gorge Walk Trail – it includes a lost cow. The heritage-listed Old Jarrah Tree, near Armadale Shopping City, is also worth a look, at more than 500 years old. Similarly, Armadale’s Olde Narrogin Inn holds one of the oldest liquor licences in the state. For fans of the olden days, every Tuesday between 10am and 1pm, you can send a telegraph message at the replica Post Office inside the Bert Tyler Vintage Machinery Museum, as part of weekly Morse code demonstrations at the visitor centre. The Minnawarra Historic Precinct is another great source of historically significant displays and collections, encompassing the History House Museum, Minnawarra Chapel and Old Armadale School Building (built in 1900 and transported to the Minnawarra Precinct in 1987, it was the first brick building in the southern hemisphere to be moved intact). Alternatively, visit the Schoenstatt Shrine (meaning ‘beautiful place’), a replica of the German pilgrimage site, and see if you can spot kangaroos at dusk. If history isn’t your thing, Armadale offers flora and fauna hotspots including nearby Araluen Botanic Park. The Armadale region is also home to the striking red-tailed black cockatoo, sometimes spotted on the many walking trails available in the area. Also nearby are Serpentine, Kalamunda and Midgegooroo national parks, ideal for a picnic.

Kalamunda

Although it’s no more than a half-hour drive from the city centre, Kalamunda seems a world away from the suburban sprawl on the coastal plain. It’s on the eastern fringe of the metropolitan area; in fact, more than 70 per cent of the shire is made up of state forest, national parks, green open spaces and water catchment areas. Houses, hobby farms, vineyards and orchards are scattered throughout the foothills, which rise to meet the Darling Scarp. Winter is a lovely time to visit because the creeks are flowing with water, as is spring when the wildflowers are in full bloom. Foodies are drawn to the region every Sunday morning when the award-winning Farmers Market is held at the Central Mall. Hikers come to this historic town because it is the starting point for almost 1000km of Bibbulmun Track, which winds its way down from the hills through the southwest coast to Albany. There are also plenty of tracks for mountain-biking and cycling enthusiasts. Others drop by just to breathe in the fresh air and take in the picturesque scenery. The aptly named Zig Zag Scenic Drive, based on a now defunct railway line that transported timber from the mills to Midland, offers drivers some spectacular viewing points. The steep 3km descent has many switchbacks, with sweeping vistas over the plains across to the city. For those who want to stay a while longer, there are plenty of accommodation options in Kalamunda, ranging from caravan and camping sites, motels and lodges to cosy B&Bs and luxurious spa boltholes.

Armadale (photography Yvonne Bradfield, Armadale visitor centre).

 

Mundaring

Mundaring, like Kalamunda, offers a broad range of hikes and cycle paths through diverse terrain – it’s the starting point for the Munda Biddi Trail. The hills aren’t all about fitness, though... the town has been producing wine since the 1880s so you’ll be sure to find a good bottle at one of the many wineries. Great Eastern Highway and Mundaring shopping precincts are where you’ll find a collection of cafes and stores within a 1km radius, plus there’s the Mundaring Markets on the second Sunday of every month. The budding arts scene consists of numerous galleries not far off the main road. Visit the Mundaring Arts Centre or the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre to see local handiwork from past and present. For a fun (and low cost) family outing, pack a rug and basket and head to the hills for a picnic beside the weir or beside the waters of Lake Leschenaultia (entry is free). Thanks to the Mundaring Weir Interpretation Precinct, there are great new facilities around the area to enjoy, including sculptures, children’s play areas and picnic spots with shelters and barbecues. For those looking for an extended stay there’s a range of B&Bs, motels, chalets and retreats.

Bickley & Carmel Valley

Five kilometres past Kalamunda lies what is often described as ‘a slice of Italy’. The valleys are home to a cider house and wineries that produce some heavy-hitting reds and great chardonnays. Cellar doors are open on weekends, but during the week are by appointment only. Other attractions include the roadside stalls selling fresh fruit and veg straight from the farm. You’ll also find artist studios, restaurants and the popular Perth Observatory here, not to mention B&Bs and spa retreats for indulgent weekend getaways. 

THINGS TO DO

Camping

Camping at Lake Leschenaultia, with its sandy beaches, shaded lawns, barbecues and shelters, playground and cycle paths, is especially popular with families. The campsite is open every day of the year. This campground is often filled well in advance, so bookings are recommended: they can be made by calling the Mundaring Visitor Centre on (08) 9295 0202. A non-refundable $20 fee is required at the time of booking, and the cost of $8.50 per person per night is payable on arrival. The camp facilities are excellent and include 22 powered sites suitable for tents and/or camper trailers, with ablution area, laundry and camp kitchen. Each site has a fire pit for those chilly winter nights (seasonal fire restrictions apply). Canoes are available for hire between 10am and 3pm on the weekends, public holidays and school holidays. There is also a kiosk offering light meals and refreshments. Novice campers are well catered for at the Perth Hills Discovery Centre. The educational facilities are spread among wooden cottages arranged around landscaped gardens. The campground is located next door and has 12 (unpowered) sites, with flushing toilets, hot-water showers, and an undercover kitchen with gas barbecues, a fridge and kettle, and sinks with hot and cold water. The Bibbulmun Track and the Munda Biddi Trail both pass very close by, and an outdoor cinema is held in the vicinity during the summer months. The campground can be hired on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and every day during the school holidays. Camping fees are $10 per person per night.

Hiking

The Bibbulmun Track starts in the Shire of Kalamunda, and carries down the coast for almost 1000km to Albany. It’s suitable for walkers of all fitness levels and there are numerous access points (the northern terminus is on the north-east side of the roundabout at Mead Street, Railway Road and Mundaring Weir Road). The track’s entire length takes six to eight weeks to complete, and the most challenging terrain can be found early on in the Perth Hills. The Eagle View Walk is a very popular 15km-loop around John Forrest National Park, offering spectacular views across the plain to the city skyline and ocean in the distance. The walk, which is of moderate difficulty, takes five to six hours to complete. Hovea Falls is a lovely spot to enjoy a picnic when the creeks are full of water. The Lesmurdie Falls Bush Walk is also of moderate difficulty, but is much shorter at just 2km, and hikers are also rewarded with stunning water views. The two-hour walk is located in the Lesmurdie Falls National Park; it follows Lesmurdie Brook to a bridge at the top of the falls, where a lookout provides a wonderful vista over the waterway and to the city on clear days. Panoramic views can be enjoyed along the Mount Dale Walk in Helena National Park. The 2.5km loop, of moderate difficulty, follows the contours of Mount Dale until it reaches its peak where walkers can rest their weary feet and take in the view across the Darling Ranges. The walk also has a wildlife-viewing hide and picnic area at its base. For a walk that is a little shorter and less demanding, try the 1.2km Aboriginal Heritage Trail in Walyunga National Park,
a popular area for whitewater rafting.

The Railway Reserves Heritage Track.

 

Wildflowers

The best roadside displays are found along Mundaring Weir Road close to Kalamunda and Coulston Road in Darlington. If you’re happy to go searching on foot, grab a map from the Armadale visitor centre, which also conducts spring family bushwalks each weekend during September and October. For the best view of kangaroo paws, park at the corner of Gooseberry Hill and Watsonia roads, and head along Watsonia. You can leave your car in Kalamunda and walk down Mundaring Weir Road, then take a stroll along the Heritage Trail for more varieties of blooms. You’ll need a car to travel to Darlington, but once there again leave it behind and explore wildflower hotspots such as the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail from Owen Road. The best part of this section of trail is that you can stop off at the cafes at each end. For an organised tour of Jarrahdale’s unique wildflowers and forest orchids, check with the local visitor centre for details on the walks led by guides from the Jarrahdale Heritage Society. Lesmurdie Falls and Jorgensen Park also have great display of wildflowers. Although they aren’t wildflowers as such, the tulips and exotic flowers at Araluen Botanic Park are a sight to behold in spring (the barbecues and facilities make it great for a picnic).

Cycling

If you’re after a bit of a challenge, try some of the routes through the beautiful Perth Hills (though the steep ascents might cause you to focus more on your burning legs than the scenery!). You can join the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail at a few different points through the Perth Hills (walkers and horseriders can also enjoy it). An old railway track, it loops through Greenmount, Darlington, and up to Mundaring. The ride is a great one to do with families – riding through the pitch darkness in the old railway tunnel is good fun (and a bit scary!). The Kep Track isn’t just for cyclists – you can ride a horse along it, too. Built mainly on rail reserve, the trail has a low gradient and compacted gravel surface. You can’t go past the Munda Biddi if you don’t mind the distance (1000km). The world-class track runs from Mundaring to Albany, is easily accessible by car, and there are campsites on the route. The trail features vast areas of unspoiled bushland – keep your eyes peeled for rarely sighted, native wildlife.

Rock Climbing

Mountain Quarry in Greenmount National Park is considered the best climbing spot near Perth, thanks to an effort to rebolt and clean up the routes. There are a number of classic ‘face’ climbs and hard-bolted sport routes. These climbs are for the more experienced but it’s fun to head out there and watch the experts. You’ll find the car park on the northern side of Coulston Road (the entrance is on the left-hand side if you’re heading east away from Perth). It’s about a five-minute walk from the car park to the quarry; don’t forget to bring all your valuables with you. The entry to the quarry is locked; you’ll need to call the District office on (08) 9290 6100 for the padlock combination, which is changed every few months. If it’s views you’re after, Darlington Boulders are a good choice. The granite boulders are located near the Darlington Estate Winery, 30km east of Perth in a side valley of the Helena River. The short and technical climbs provide great views of the valley. The boulders heat up during summer so it’s best to climb on the slabs in Upper Darlington in the morning and the boulders in the main area in the afternoon. Navigating your way to the boulders can be a bit difficult; you’ll find in-depth directions on the Climbers Association of WA (CAWA) forum. Churchman Brook is known as a great picnic spot, but it’s also well-liked by rock climbers. The cliff is located down a well-used dirt track off Soldiers Road, just before it heads downhill going east. The cliff is broken up into two parts, with a small beginners slope to the west and the main climbing area to the east. There are lots of loose pebbles at the top – bring a helmet to avoid a nasty knock to your noggin. The best time to climb at Churchman Brook is mid-afternoon onwards when the cliff is shaded – even in the very early morning the direct sunlight makes the cliff incredibly hot.

Walking in Lesmurdie National Park.

 

BEER AND WILDFLOWERS

Add a cheeky drink to your wildflower wanderings by visiting the pubs that you’ll pass on the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail. There’s the Mundaring Hotel, Sawyers Valley Tavern, INN Mahogany Creek, Parkerville Tavern, Chidlow Inn Tavern, John Forrest Tavern and the Mt Helena Tavern. If you start in the morning, many of the pubs serve a hearty Sunday breakfast, and if you’re concluding your walk in the arvo, there’s a chance that you’ll come across live music as well (weather permitting). For once, it won’t be hard to get the hubby onboard, and if you’ve got the kids, they’ll relish the chance for a break and a snack. It’s a 41km loop – the timing and maps can be found on the Railway Reserves website.

WINE ROUTES

Bickley Valley Wine Trail
Sample some of the region’s best pinots and cabernet sauvignons as you pace yourself from one winery to the next. Take a break between each one, and discover the beautiful forests, extraordinary wildflowers, and peaceful waterfalls and creeks along the way.

Heart of the Hills Wine Route
Moving higher up the hills, the vineyards through this area specialise in producing varieties such as methode champenoise, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Between these cellar doors there are art galleries, cafes and restaurants
with a range of accommodation options for a weekender. From a hostel to luxurious B&Bs, the choice is yours.

Serpentine Valley Wine Route
If you’re not interested in squeezing in as many wineries as possible, then this is the route for you. There are two vineyards along this trail, both of which offer lovely wines and spectacular scenery. Drop down a gear or two and take the time to sample the award-winning cheeses and probiotic yoghurt drinks while you’re in the area. There’s absolutely no rush in these parts!

Millbrook Winery.

 

MOUNTAIN-BIKING HOT SPOTS

Kalamunda Circuit Beelu National Park
Shake, Rattle n Roll Paulls Valley
Lake Leschenaultia Chidlow
Langford Park Jarrahdale
The Goat Farm Greenmount
Forsyth’s Mill Sawyers Valley

THE LIST

  • Take a bushwalk to see the wildflowers
  • Ride the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail
  • Enjoy an outdoor movie
  • Hire a canoe at Lake Leschenaultia
  • Tour the cellar doors
  • Conquer the hills section of the Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi Trail
  • Book a cosy weekend at a B&B
  • See the tulips at Araluen during spring
  • Go mountain-bike riding
  • Take a look at the local art galleries
  • Visit the Perth Hills markets

All these events and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo

EVENTS

Perth Hills Markets
Here’s where you’ll find the freshest food the hills have to offer but there’s plenty of more on display too. The Kalamunda Farmers Markets are open every Sunday, while the Mundaring Sunday Markets open second Sunday of every month. Meanwhile, the Kalamunda Markets are open on the first Saturday of every month.
Darlington Arts Festival
The Darlington Arts Festival is held annually every November and includes workshops, arts competitions, entertainment and art displays. Arts aside, there
are also local wares, a festival ball, and stalls.
Minnawarra Art Awards
The highlight of Armadale’s annual events and art calendar, the exhibition (held in May) attracts work from established and emerging artists.
Bickley Carmel Harvest Festival
Visitors can expect to sample all the delightful produce of the Bickley Valley,
including wines, cider, delicious food, arts and craft, fruits, flowers, entertainment
and more. May. 

Kalamunda Farmers Market (photography Jules Flower Farm).

 

Getting there

Car | If you are departing from the Perth CBD, take the Great Eastern Highway to Mundaring, and Roe Highway to Kalamunda and Bickley. The Southwest Highway route is best for Serpentine and Jarrahdale.
Public transport | The train lines from the Perth CBD run directly to Armadale. Visitors travelling from Perth can also catch the train to Midland then the bus to Mundaring, or the bus directly from Perth to Kalamunda.

 

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