The Swan Valley is a half-hour road trip from Perth and is renowned as ‘wine country’. Home to more than 40 wineries, some of them third- and fourth-generation, the region also houses five breweries, two distilleries, countless purveyors of gourmet artisan goods, handcrafted wares, bustling markets and vibrant artists’ studios.
The region has experienced something of a renaissance in recent times. These days, the Swan Valley is a growing gourmet hub, featuring more than 50 restaurants and cafes that tempt the tastebuds, and local producers who craft everything from exquisite extra virgin olive oils, marinated olives and tapenades, to dried fruits, pickles and preserves, handmade chocolates, fudges, truffles, ice-cream, honey
Steeped in Indigenous and Mediterranean migration history, offset by a new wave of creative visionaries, the Swan Valley retains a rustic charm and abundance while blossoming into a gentrified region.
1. Take a flavoursome 25-stop ‘speed graze’ tour along the Swan Valley’s mouth-watering Food & Wine Trail.
2. Get up close and personal with Australia’s largest private collection of native animals, at Caversham Wildlife Park.
3. See a play at the Garrick Theatre. Built in 1853, it’s the longest-running amateur theatre in the state.
4. Challenge the champions with 18 holes of golf among the vines, watched intently by local kangaroos.
5. Get wet and wild at the Outback Splash activity park, home to the famous timber maze, and the brand new Hedge Maze.
6. Board a cruise in Perth and retrace Captain James Stirling’s epic 1827 journey along the Swan River to the Swan Valley.
7. History and motoring buffs will love the Revolutions Transport Heritage Museum, Motor Museum, and Tractor Museum at Whiteman Park.
8. Visit some of WA’s most historic cellar doors – Sandalford, Houghton
Wines, John Kosovich, Talijancich and Twin Hill Wines are just a few.
9. Step back in time on a Guildford Heritage Walk Trail from the visitor centre, past heritage buildings, historic hotels and antique stores.
10. Take a course to unleash your inner barista, winemaker, chocolate-and-liqueur connoisseur, or cheesemaker.
All this and more at scooptraveller.com.au/SwanValley
DID YOU KNOW
In 2014, the Swan Valley celebrated 180 years of winemaking. Its first commercial vintage was released in 1834 by Thomas Waters of Olive Farm, making it the oldest winemaking region in the state, and the second oldest in Australia, behind
the Hunter Valley.
1. Captain James Stirling was impressed when he first surveyed the Swan Valley in 1827, writing in this diary, “the richness of the soil, the bright foliage of the shrubs, the majesty of the surrounding trees, the abrupt and red colour banks of the river occasionally seen, and the view of the blue mountains, from which we were not far distant, made the scenery of this spot as beautiful as anything of the kind I have ever witnessed.”
2. The Swan Valley is deceptively compact, requiring an hour to circumnavigate. Most people take a day to meander the scenic 32km Swan Valley Food & Wine Trail, and its 150-plus attractions.
3. In 2014, the RSPCA named the Swan Valley the first Humane Food Region in Australia. The initiative is a regional commitment to healthier, high-quality, tastier food based on the ethical treatment and welfare of animals, and is supported by 30 local restaurants and cafes.
Treat yourself to an overnight stopover in the valley. Snuggle down in a chalet, with grapes growing outside your window, channel your inner opulence at a golf resort, get spoilt in a rustic bed and breakfast, or experience waking up with the animals on a real working farm.
- Ride on a vintage bus, train or tram, and splash at the mini-waterpark, at 4000ha Whiteman Park. The park offers picnic grounds, playgrounds, bushwalks, a craft village, dog park, Children’s Forest and more.
- Laser tag, supa golf, paintballing and adventure mini-golf, and teen sumo-suit wrestling can all be found within a short walk on West Swan Road.
- Fish in the river by Barkers Bridge in Guildford.
- Watching bees make honey at Windarra Honey, and see Phil the beekeeper collecting it from the hive.
- Enjoy furry encounters at the valley’s animal wildlife parks and cuddly animal farms.
- Play it by ear – most wineries and breweries have safe-play areas for kids, some even provide pizza-making activities.
DO AND SEE
The James Street strip in historic Guildford is a great spot to pick up some antique wares. Buried among the boutiques you’ll discover an endless range of quaint and quirky retro and vintage collectibles, from glassware, ceramics and textiles, to fashion, home decor and knick-knacks.
Explore Aboriginal Art
On West Swan Road you’ll find three fascinating galleries. At Djinda Kaal Aboriginal Art Gallery, artist Fiona Reidy shares how her ancestors, who were hunters and gatherers, lived off the land as nomadic people. The Yonga Boodjah Art Gallery offers the chance to meet an elder on a cultural tour. Observe the artist in residence, and create your own artwork to take home. Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery has bush-tucker tastings, interactive interpretive experiences, handcrafted gifts, and works of art by leading Indigenous artists.
Ogle Antonio Battistessa's Famous Iron Sculptures
Antonio Battistessa is known the world over as one of the great (and few remaining) metal forgers – and guess where his studio is? Don’t miss the chance to see imaginative masterpieces he’s created from iron, steel and copper, at Battistessa Studio in Herne Hill. Forging demonstrations are available for a fee.
Hit the trails
It’s tempting to frock up in your Sunday best on a Swan Valley outing, but don’t forget to throw your runners in the boot, because this region is the perfect place for a long hike or a gentle stroll. Power walk all that delicious nougat and chocolate off on the John George walk trail. It follows the Swan River upstream from Woodbridge as it meanders past flood plains, towering gum-trees and lush green pastures. Or head to the 5.5km Bells Rapids, where the Avon and Swan rivers meet in the valley’s northern reaches. You can experience stunning panoramas from the hilltops, not to mention a 25m cascading waterfall and beautiful swimming holes where you can take a refreshing dip along the way.
Visit the largest sculpture park in the southern hemisphere
The works of Ron Gomboc, owner of Gomboc Gallery Sculpture Park, have been commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei and fans all over the world.
A student of Guy Grey-Smith, Gomboc established the sculpture park in 1982 and it has become the largest in the southern hemisphere. Take the time to enjoy a stroll around the gorgeous grounds. Enter at St James Road.
DROP IN ON THE LOCALS
Scott Fleming, Swan Valley Visitor Centre manager
Come and see us first – no one knows the valley like we do. We can tailor-make your day, so you see all the great spots. Old fashioned, free fun for the whole family, the Great Valley Rally is a self-drive adventure around the Swan Valley. Half car rally, half treasure
hunt, it’s perfect for kids aged between five and 12, who’ll love exploring the attractions while solving cryptic clues with Stirling the Black Swan. The trail begins at the visitor centre and takes about three hours. Remember to bring your clue sheet back to us after your adventure… the kids will score a certificate and some loot if they solve Stirling’s riddle.
EAT AND DRINK
Foodies will love Perth’s Valley of Taste, with its picturesque fertile plains and Mediterranean climate bringing forth an abundance of epicurean delights.
Fancy a spot of fine dining at an award-winning restaurant? What about a light lunch with hand-crafted wines or ales? Or perhaps you’re looking for somewhere to entertain the kids while indulging in a late breakfast and a glass of Swan Valley sparkling wine? This region of Perth is also famous for its feel-good food and wine festivals, long-table lunches and year-round live entertainment.
Did someone say wine?
With its reliably warm and dry climate, the valley produces some of the country’s best, most consistent chenin blanc, verdelho, shiraz and petit verdot varieties, as well as liqueur verdelho and shiraz – both found locally. Among the big international players are many smaller, charming boutique wineries – places where the people who make the wine also greet and serve you at the cellar door. In recent years, an influx of young, innovative and sophisticated winemakers to Swan Valley wineries has brought a fresh new style and finesse to table wine. More than half of the varieties produced in the region are available for purchase only at the cellar door, so don’t miss out.
Meet the locals
Take the Swan Valley Wine Trail and encounter the warm, inviting spirit of local characters at cellar doors, lively breweries, cafes and distilleries, as well as art galleries and markets.
As well as grapes for wine making, the Swan Valley has produced 20 varieties of crisp and juicy table grapes, fresh and ripe for tasting over summer.
Midland Farmers Market
Browse stalls of fresh local produce while listening to live music, every Sunday behind the Town Hall Clock.
Cheese goes hand-in-hand with wine, so why not nibble on some award-winning varieties such as mozzarella, bocconcini, ricotta, fetta and crescenza? Cheesemaking workshops are also held throughout the year at the Cheese Barrel, where you can learn to make camembert, mascarpone, haloumi, and even labneh. Lessons conclude with a cheese platter and glass of wine.
Olives, pickle and preserves
Enjoy free tastings of extra virgin olive oils, marinated olives, tapenades, dried fruits, pickles and preserves made from local produce.
Traditional high tea
Loose-leaf teas, crustless sandwiches, scones and cream make for a timeless treat at a range of venues in the Swan Valley throughout the day.
A visit to the valley wouldn’t be complete without sampling the delectable local chocolate, fudge, handmade truffles, ice-cream and soft and crunchy nougat.
On a budget: Alfred's Kitchen
Open till late, seven nights a week, Alfred’s has been a local institution since 1946. Sitting by the railway, this little kitchen makes for a convenient pre or post-journey meal. Order chips and the signature pea and ham soup, plus a massive burger from the blackboard menu, and join the dozens of buzzing, friendly folk chowing down before the cosy wood fire. Mixing with the friendly crowd is all part of the fun.
Swan Valley produce is bursting with flavour, and it’s a bargain to boot.
En route to the valley, be sure to pack your own picnic hamper with fresh local produce from the many roadside stalls that line the streets from Guildford. Straight from the garden and direct from the grower, you can purchase figs, sweet melons, juicy strawberries, crisp asparagus and vine-ripened tomatoes, depending on the season.
ROCK OUT IN THE VINES
Summer concerts from beloved international artists under the stars at various wineries and resorts – what’s not to love? Various dates
Unique handmade gifts at Guildford Town Hall, on the third Sunday of every month. Ongoing.
THROWING OF THE GRAPES
This festival at Oakover Grounds offers live music, DJs and grape stomping and throwing. Mar.
VINTAGE WEEKEND IN THE SWAN VALLEY
The Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association hosts fine dining with matching wines, tastings and wine history. Mar.
PORK & CIDER FESTIVAL
On the Anzac Day long weekend, feast on chef-created pork eats
and ciders, plus live music, entertainers and buskers at Oakover Grounds. Apr.
WESTERN MUDD RUSH
This 9km obstacle course at the State Equestrian Centre Brigadoon involves ice, crawling, climbing and mud. Register early to ensure a place. Aug.
OKTOBERFEST AT ELMAR’S
Live music, pork shanks and bratwurst, stein-holding comps and tug-o-wars in the valley’s largest beer garden. Oct.
The Swan Valley is only 25 minutes from Perth, and the second- closest wine region to any capital city in the world. Public transport to the valley is limited, so self-drive is best. Take the Great Eastern Highway, 13km from Perth CBD, and turn left at the sign for Guildford. The next best alternative is the train: take the Midland Line from Perth Underground Station to either Guildford or East Guildford stations.