The Avon Valley, located under an hour’s drive from Perth, has stacks of things to do. Check out Beverley’s historic working farm, explore the aeronautical museum, or get a taste of the real thing with a birds-eye view from a glider. Eat and drink your way around Chittering while the kids run amok on the walking trails, and don’t forget the spectacular wildflower displays in Spring.
Highlight | Boshack Outback, a 350-acre working farm. Its Wild Eco Outback Adventure day tour includes boomerang throwing, feeding farm animals, bushtucker tastings, fishing for yabbies, and playing the didgeridoo.
0408 005 628, boshackoutback.com.
The Bickley Valley
It’s a short 45 minute drive from Perth to the pretty Bickley Valley, whose fruit orchards are in full bloom in Spring. Follow the picturesque Bickley Valley Wine Trail (with occasional stops for leg stretching and snacks), but note that most cellar doors and vineyard restaurants are only open Friday to Sunday. Be sure to stop by the properties selling fresh produce, or the quirky attractions such as the cyclist in the hay bale.
Highlight | Star Viewing Tours at Perth Observatory are great for children aged eight and older. Visit on a moonless night for the best view of the heavens. 337 Walnut Road, Bickley (08) 9293 8255, perthobservatory.wa.gov.au.
One hundred kilometres north of Perth is Gingin, a small town with a truckload of family things to do. Check out the wonders of space through a fully retractable roof at the Gingin Observatory, then head next door to the Gravity Discovery Centre for a solar-system walk. If the temperature’s rising, cool off at the aquatic centre, or follow the coastal road out to Moore River, a drawcard for Perth families. Hire a dinghy, jump on a horse for a trail ride, check out the spanking new farmyard zoo, or just stretch out on the sand for a bit of shut-eye – if the kids will let you.
Highlight | Caladenia Mini Golf Park is a local treasure, and one of the best we’ve seen. Eighteen holes in a lush setting, plus animal feeding and a restaurant with home-cooked meals to boot. Open Monday to Wednesday 9am-5pm, 108 Caladenia Road, Gingin West 0438 757 708, caladeniaminigolf.com.au.
The Ferguson Valley
Don’t let the two-hour drive scare you off – the Ferguson Valley, located east of Bunbury, is a great destination for families. Its endless green rolling hills are home to myriad art galleries, breweries, dairies, restaurants and wineries. Kids will love the 500-year-old King Jarrah tree that towers 36m over the forest floor in Wellington National Park. When they need a feed and a run-around, take them to the picnic-ready Honeymoon Pool and tell them to keep their eyes peeled for the wildflowers which bloom from November.
Highlight | Gnomesville, the forest home of over 3000 garden statues that have migrated there from all over the world. Entry is free. Located on the intersection of Ferguson Valley Road and Wellington Road, gnomesville.com.
Hillarys Boat Harbour
Hillarys Boat Harbour is a Mecca for families, with lots of entertainment for the kidlets and lots of eating out for the adults. Go for broke on the waterslides or 500 square foot rock-climbing wall at The Great Escape or, for some more relaxed action, try your hand at their mini golf, 6D cinema and trampolines. When tummies start to rumble, there’s heaps of kid-friendly dining options nearby.
Highlight | Let the kids get up close and personal with WA marine life at AQWA, Australia’s largest aquarium. The walk-through tunnel lets kids view the sharks, stingrays, turtles and fish that swim overhead. Open daily from 10am-5pm,
91 Southside Drive, Hillarys (08) 9447 7500, aqwa.com.au.
An hour’s drive due north of Perth, Lancelin boasts some of the best windsurfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming in WA. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions and dolphins – the area is renowned for them – or head over to Lancelin Island for birdwatching. For land lubbers, the enormous sand dunes will provide hours of thrill-seeking, with sandboarding, dune-buggy racing and 4WDing all on offer.
Highlight | Just 1km from the town centre, Lake Thetis is one of the only places in the world with living marine stromatolites, linked to the earliest life on earth. It’s best accessed in the drier months when the water level is low.
The Perth Hills
For a new experience without having to refuel, head to the Perth Hills. You can look at stunning wildflower displays at Railway Reserves Heritage Trail or by taking an organised tour from the Armadale Visitor Centre or Jarrahdale Heritage Society. For a relaxed and inexpensive day trip, pack a picnic and head to the hills besides Mundaring’s Lake Leschenaultia – entry is free. The Perth Hills markets are also worth a visit, selling the freshest food the hills have to offer.
Highlight | You haven’t truly seen the Hills until you’ve experienced them on foot. The Eagle View Walk is a popular 15km loop around John Forrest National Park, with spectacular views across the plain to the city skyline and ocean in the distance. If the kids aren’t up to a hike quite that long, the Lesmurdie Falls Bush Walk is a much more manageable 2km, with stunning water views, and the Aboriginal Heritage Trail, (a popular spot for whitewater rafting) is only 1.2km. But our favourite pick for the kids is the Mount Dale Walk in Mount Helena, which has a wildlife-viewing hide and a picnic area.
Seriously, what’s not to love about the Swan Valley? It’s near to Perth. It has an abundance of wine, chocolate and cheese. Oh, and there are stacks of things for the kids to do. Want to let off steam? Try Oasis Supa Golf, an eighteen-hole golf course with oversized clubs and balls for the little ones. Or perhaps The Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm, which includes bottle and bucket feeding, is more your speed. Kids peckish? Get yourself to Mondo Nougat, Oggies Ice-Cream Cafe, or one of the two chocolate companies in the area.
Highlight | The Great Valley Rally is a fun three-hour trail around the valley following cryptic clues. There are 10 checkpoints and a prize at the end – just make sure you’re back to the visitor centre by 4:30 to claim it before it shuts!
Close to Perth, Whiteman Park has around 4000 hectares loaded with things to do. Hand-feed the kangaroos, see Australia’s native animals and have a pic taken with a koala at Caversham Wildlife Park. Ride on a vintage bus, train or tram, get hands-on in the transport and tractor museums, or get wet at the water playground. Alternatively, take a night tour of Woodland Reserve and watch rare woylies feed.
Highlight | Explore the Children’s Forest, planted by kids. Discover giant marching ants, colourful birds and the Forest’s ‘guardians’, the Boy of the Bush and his sister, Fern.
This popular tourist destination has absolutely got it in spades. Close to Perth and only five minutes from the mainland? Tick. Gorgeous scenery? Tick. Cute little penguins? Tick. It’s also got dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, pelicans and around 50 species of sea bird, so it’s heaven for wildlife lovers. The kids will love penguin feeding time, held three times a day. Take a cruise of the wildlife sanctuary in a glass-bottom boat, and check out the nesting sea birds on Seal Island.
Highlight | If you’re thirsting for adventure, jump aboard the dolphin, penguin and sea lion cruise. Visit fossils in Aladdin’s Cave, watch ospreys nest, and listen to the clicks and whistles of dolphins, thanks to an underwater microphone. Open daily between September and June, 8.30am-4.30pm (08) 9591 1333, penguinisland.com.au.
Visit scoop.com.au for more ideas.