PLACES TO GO
The gateway to the valley, this market town is beautifully preserved, with many fine colonial buildings. A visit provides a glimpse into early colonial settlement, with much of the original 19th century market-town plan remaining. Take a self-guided heritage walk; the main heritage precinct is along Meadow Street opposite Stirling Square, home to the Guildford Courthouse, Colonial Gaol, Taylor’s Cottage, Mechanics’ Institute, Guildford Post Office and the popular visitor centre. The Rose and Crown historic hotel is on the corner of Swan and Hugh streets, to the back of the precinct. The James Street antique strip has one of the largest ranges of secondhand wares outside Perth, plus quaint home decor outlets, specialty gift shops, coffee shops and cafes, restaurants, galleries and designer clothing stores. If you’re a bit peckish there’s the Terrace Road business precinct with plenty of restaurants and shops, while Kings Meadow Reserve and Fishmarket Reserve are the best spots for a picnic (both have playgrounds). Guildford is only a short drive from Perth (25 minutes) and is the perfect day trip, but you can also stay overnight in motel-style accommodation, B&Bs, or the historic hotel.
West Swan & Benara Roads
West Swan Road encompasses a mass of attractions. You’ll also find many of the valley’s exceptional wineries, restaurants and breweries, as well as casual cafes, an ice-creamery and chocolate factories. Keep your eyes peeled for roadside stalls selling fresh fruit, veg and local products. Active visitors will enjoy the paintballing and the cycle routes, while the area is also fun-central for kids. Within a 2km stretch you’ll find a reptile park, cuddly animal farm, paintball/laser centres, a supa-golf and putt-putt course, the ice-cream factory, fish and lily farm, and wineries with kids’ playgrounds and gardens. A little further south are the chocolate factories. Whiteman Park houses the Caversham Wildlife Park and the WA Birds of Prey Centre, and has train and tram rides, bouncy castles and a hands-on children’s forest planted and maintained by visiting youngsters. There are also a number of parks here if you’re planning a picnic – try Maali Park or Lilac Hill Park. Running off West Swan Road is Benara Road where there’s a great collection of wineries and a brewery, ideal if you aren’t keen for the hustle and bustle of the main roads. It’s 1.8km from West Swan Road to Lord Street along Benara Road – good for a long stroll or a short bike ride with youngsters in tow (there’s a footpath alongside the road).
At ten times the size of Perth’s Kings Park, Whiteman Park has a huge portion dedicated solely to recreation, with the remaining area a conservation reserve. There is always something to do or see, with permanent attractions including the Children’s Forest, transport heritage museums, and the water playground. Shady picnic areas with barbecues, and bushwalking and cycling trails can be found throughout the recreation zones of the park. The kids can explore the artwork and rehabilitated woods of the Children’s Forest, or marvel at the transformations in land transport during a free Keep On Running guided tour of the Revolutions Transport Museum. For those wanting to take it easy while exploring the park, there are now guided tours on Windrunners (personal transporters similar to Segways) that take in all the sights and sounds the park has to offer. Whiteman Park welcomes dogs, as long as they are kept on a lead. The reserve also has a 2.5 hectare dog park that’s completely fenced in so you can let them roam free. There’s even an obstacle course designed in colours that dogs can see!
The Swan Valley Visitor Centre in Guildford (photography Adrian Lambert).
THINGS TO DO
The Great Valley Rally and the Amazing Valley Chase are fun family trails to try during school holidays. Each takes roughly three hours: download the clue sheets or pick them up from the Swan Valley Visitor Centre and find the checkpoints along the driving route. There are prizes and certificates for the kids at the finish points. The area’s most popular trail is the Food and Wine Trail, a 32km scenic loop visiting over 100 wineries, breweries, cafes, shops and restaurants. Watch for the burgundy and olive signs along the route, or collect a map from the Swan Valley visitor centre. The heritage trails are some of the best in the state: the Guildford Heritage Walk Trails range from short walks to just over an hour long. Bushwalking trails are best tackled in the cooler months, from April. The Bells Rapids Walk Trail is an excellent but challenging circular trail from Bells Rapids across the escarpment. It is mostly unmarked and not recommended in the heat of summer. Whiteman’s Park has bush walks that are safer, and also best experienced in autumn or spring. The Goo Loorto Trail – marked by Red Poles – is a leisurely 3km return trip, starting at car park 16 in the Mussel Pool picnic area. The trail follows Bennett Brook and meanders under groves of flooded gums on the banks of the Brook.
Canoeing and kayaking
Middle Swan Reserve is one of the most popular riverside parks in the region, with
a launch spot to paddle your kayak or canoe on the Swan River. Equally gentle waters for canoeing can be found at peaceful Fishmarket Reserve, where there is a boat ramp suitable for launching small boats, canoes and kayaks. You can also do a wine cruise by canoe, with a trip that combines history, exercise, nature, food and wine. Kayaking is popular at Guildford, Bassendean and Bayswater, but you have to take your own kayak. The only jetties are at Sandalford and Watersedge, but private boating and swimming is not encouraged. Boat cruises are available from Perth. The rainfall will determine the river’s water level and the suitability of water craft – at its peak, whitewater rapids make an exciting spectacle of the Avon Descent in winter.
Between the cycle paths with the abundance of quiet back roads, you can get almost anywhere in the valley, without having to negotiate busy traffic. Cycle paths, lanes and routes along relatively level ground make it easy for the whole family, no matter your age or fitness level. Designated cycle paths, which are separate from the road, run from Guildford for most of the length of West Swan Road, (approx 12km) stopping at Swan Valley Oasis. West Swan Road is the ideal ride for inexperienced cyclists, young families and tourists, not only because you needn’t negotiate traffic but also because there is hardly a couple of hundred metres between the valley’s great attractions. The cycle path also runs along Reid Highway from West Swan Road until The Great Northern Highway. It then turns north and proceeds until the Herne Hill general store (about halfway up the valley). From there, people can either jump on the designated cycle lane and head up the highway, or head down any eastbound road to avoid the traffic. There are a number of recommended cycle routes, including some very scenic and peaceful back roads. Official routes include the 15km one-way Guildford to West Swan road ride; the circular 18km Maali Footbridge to Eastern Swan Valley, with various optional detours; the 8km return Maali Footbridge to West Swan Road for families; and for experienced cyclists, the 32km food and wine trail loop. For people who ride for exercise, there are any number of routes longer than the 32km of designated cycle paths, leading to places such as the famous Bells Rapids or even up to the lookout and onto a hilly loop with fantastic views of Perth. If you don’t bring your own, a limited number of bikes can be hired in the valley, including helmet, map, water, lock and a high-visibility vest, along with personalised directions to suit.
Enjoying the waterways (photography Adventure Out Australia).
WINES, BEERS AND MORE
At nearly 180 years old, the Swan Valley wine region is the oldest in Western Australia. The region has small boutique wineries as well as the internationally renowned producers, and there are plenty of events (most are in summer) that make the most of the top vineyards, often featuring live music. If you’re visiting in winter, some of the wineries have open log fires – perfect places to spend a cold day. Throughout the valley are more than 150 wineries, restaurants, cafes, boutique breweries, distilleries, gift shops and accommodation providers. The award-winning Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail is a 32km scenic loop, taking in over 100 destinations. The trail is well signposted, works in conjunction with the Swan Valley Guide and Maps (available from the Swan Valley visitor centre in Guildford), and is designed to help you plan your own unique food and wine experience. If you prefer beer to wine, the breweries in the Swan Valley serve a huge range of beers, from those brewed in-house to bottled varieties from all over the world. There are lagers, pilsners, ales and wheat beers following traditional techniques and using local produce. A trip to one of the two distilleries will provide visitors with a warm glow after tasting the award-winning rum, vodka infused with flavours such as chilli and green tea, and liqueurs and whisky. If you’re planning a day of sipping wine or beer, a tour is definitely recommended (it saves drawing straws to decide on the designated driver). The valley is famous for its creative, fun-filled tours, taking groups and solo travellers through the many taste sensations and scenic experiences on offer. There’s everything from coach tours and river cruises, to guided walks, and horse-drawn wagon rides. You can find packages tailored to wine making or beer brewing, which often give a behind-the-scenes tour but there are also tours for progressive lunches, adventure activities, art and wildlife experiences.
Top drops: Verdelho, chenin blanc, cabernet sauvignon and the big one in the valley – shiraz.
Photography Heather Zubek.
FOR THE FAMILY
Whiteman Park features (among other things) tennis, bike-riding, a trip on the trains or trams, and the mini-waterpark.
Wildlife encounters – choose from some of the best animal and wildlife parks and experiences on offer. Some offer accommodation, too.
West Swan Road has sporting activities such laser tag, supa-golf, paintballing and adventure mini-golf, all within a short walk of each other. For older teenagers, there is also sumo-suit wrestling.
The Great Valley Rally is a wonderful way to explore the valley with the kids by solving clues – and it’s free.
Walk and cycle along the many well-signposted shared-use paths – grab a brochure from any visitor centre.
Visit the many eateries – most offer free samples including chocolate, nougat and ice-cream.
Watch bees make honey... and then sample it.
Go fishing by Barkers Bridge in Guildford.
Various parks offer playgrounds and picnic spots. Most wineries and breweries have safe play areas for kids, some even provide pizzamaking activities.
Whiteman Park Dog Park (photography Whiteman Park).
TOP PICNIC SPOTS
Yagan Memorial Park
Located off West Swan Road near Great Northern Highway, this has beautiful views over the river and countryside and is the final memorial for the
great Nyoongar leader and warrior, Yagan. It is a great spot to stop, reflect and take in the surrounds.
Woodbridge Riverside Park
Slightly north-east of Guildford, and just outside the border of the Swan Valley is a delightful picnic spot situated on the riverbank, with a modern playground for the tykes. Beginning at the park, you’ll find the John George Walk Trail that meanders along the river, where you’ll spot native birds and flora. Walk the full 8km (return) with the kids to guarantee no complaints at bedtime.
Lilac Hill Park
The park is situated on the banks of the Swan River in Caversham, off West Swan Road. Along with grassy surrounds you’ll find a playground, gazebos, barbecues, public toilets and disabled access. Dogs are allowed here, too!
Middle Swan Reserve
On Middle Swan Road is one of the most popular parks on the river for
kayaking, barbecues and facilities. The wheelchair access and canoes for hire
make this spot great for all visitors.
Surrounded by the Swan Valley’s vineyards and positioned on the river’s edge, this park is a real jaw-dropper. Let your children explore to their hearts’ content on the modern play equipment, the central feature of this reserve.
Yagan memorial wall.
MIDLAND FARMERS MARKET
The Midland Farmers’ Market, every Sunday behind the Town Hall Clock, is a great spot for fresh-food shopping and a stroll through some stalls while listening to music.
Guildford Heritage Markets
Specialising in a variety of unique hand-made items, this boutique market is held on the third Sunday of every month at the Guildford Town Hall.
Western Mudd Rush
Prepare to get seriously filthy during this brutal challenge at the State Equestrian Centre in Brigadoon. The 9km obstacle course isn’t for the faint-hearted: the event includes ice, crawling, climbing and a lot of mud. Get your rego in early because it’s always a sell-out. Aug.
Melbourne Cup Lunches
For the race that stops a nation, make sure to check in with your favourite vineyards for their programs and hosted lunches. Nov.
A Vintage Weekend in the Swan Valley
This wine-filled weekend is hosted by the Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association. Several events take place at various wineries, offering meals paired with wines, wine tasting and a history of wine growing. Mar.
The Western Mudd Rush (photography Stewart Scott).
Drive the Swan Valley Wine Trail
Taste your way through cellar doors and breweries
Book a tour to see the attractions
Canoe down the Swan River
Visit Bells Rapids during winter
Go paintballing with friends
Take a heritage walk through Guildford
Bring a picnic to Whiteman Park
All these events and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo
There is a range of accommodation in the valley; choose from spa retreats to B&Bs. There are also a number of well-appointed caravan parks – a popular alternative when attending one of the many outdoor music events.
If you’re visiting outside the weekend, it’s best to plan your itinerary before you leave. Most businesses are open 9am to 4pm, however some are closed earlier in the week. There are only a handful of restaurants open for dinner midweek, so making enquiries beforehand is a must. Summer is big in the Swan Valley – the white varieties of the previous harvest are released in spring, and the region is bustling come summer. During the warmer months many of the breweries have great Sunday sessions with live music.
Car | Follow Great Eastern Highway 13km from the Perth CBD and turn left
at the sign for Guildford.
Train | The Midland Line from Perth Underground Station runs to the entry
of the Swan Valley. Get off at either Guildford or East Guildford Station.
Note | Public transport is limited, so it’s best to arrange your own transport.