Experience a country charm across the character townships of the vibrant Perth Hills.
• 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.
• In the Darling Range on the way to Armadale is a valley reminiscent of old England, with tudor-style architecture and a rich cultural history. Drive winding roads through deep valleys, past picturesque farms, bush reserves, cherry orchards and jarrah woodland to Araluen, one of WA’s top exotic botanic gardens. Its landscaped gardens situated in a unique north-south valley have a European microclimate where exotic species like tulips, camellias and lilacs thrive.
• Wungong National Park and Roley Pool Reserve offer swimming, wildflowers, picnicking and scenic walking tracks along the Canning River. Play 18 holes of championship golf, go for a bush walk and maybe see a quenda, brushtail possum or western grey kangaroo.
• 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 Kalamuna, ranging from caravan and camping sites, motels and lodges to cosy B&Bs and luxurious spa boltholes.
• 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 weird 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.