The Avon Valley region is the perfect destination for a last minute break from the hustle and bustle of city life. A short drive inland offers a multitude of refreshing and intriguing things to do for all the family. From exploring country towns and pottering through local shops or museums, to picnicking on the banks of the Avon River, hot air ballooning at dawn or exploring the walking trails that meander the valley.
1. Wander a trail skirting the Avon River, and keep an eye out for water birds.
2. Lift off in a hot-air balloon as dawn breaks over the valley.
3. Pluck delicious fruit right off the tree or vine, in one of the region’s orchards.
4. Reminisce over the fine collection of vintage motor vehicles on display at the York Motor Museum.
5. Drive to Mt Brown Lookout and sense the spirits of star-crossed lovers from opposing tribes, tied to Mt Brown and Mt Blakewell.
6. Plunge down the rapids of the Avon River through the lushest parts of the valley.
7. Visit local galleries, or hunt down local antiques.
8. Join daily prayers at the monastic town of New Norcia.
9. Go on a heritage tour, and hear the stories behind century-old buildings.
10. Immerse yourself in the fields of wildflowers during spring.
- York was settled in 1831, making it Western Australia’s oldest inland town.
- There are 185 heritage-listed buildings in Northam.
- The Avon River is one of the only places in Australia where majestic white swans are able to breed and survive naturally in the wild.
Do and see sightseeing
Beyond the quaint heritage towns and surrounding farmland lies an unspoiled wilderness teeming with life. It is appreciated best in the cooler months, before summer brings the dry heat notorious to this inland region. The Avon Valley National Park is 4800ha of native bush, home to more than 80 species of birds. The Avon River cuts through the park, and if you follow the rushing water, you’ll stumble across Bald Hill, which provides views of the bushland below. Head east towards York and climb to the peak of Mt Brown, 964m above sea level, for a panoramic vantage point over the town and the Southern Flinders Ranges. To the south, beautiful Gwambygine Park has one of the few remaining permanent pools of the Avon River. Watch the trees for birds, and keep an eye out for long-necked turtles in the clear pools below.
One of the most popular treks in the area is the Golf Links Reserve Trail, a 4km track beginning at the York Golf Club and continuing through bushland, over ridges and past the 415m-tall Mt Bakewell. The Bilya Track, near Toodyay, follows the Avon River 5.6km north. The bird hide over Red Banks Pool is a highlight of this trail, offering the opportunity to see extensive wildlife. The famous 75km, multi-use Kep Track begins in Northam, following the old railway tracks through the Perth Hills to Mundaring. For a manageable hike, try the Blackboy Ridge Walk Trail in Chittering Valley. It’s a 1.5km meander through wildflower-strewn hillsides to a lookout with stunning views over the Brockman River below. Allow for a 45-minute return; there is also a picnic spot at the trailhead.
Slide into a canoe, kayak or raft and see the valley views as you’re propelled along the rushing, white waters of the Avon River. The highest graded, fastest fl owing rapids include Emu Falls and Super Chute. While these rapids promise the region’s most adventurous white-water experience, they are notoriously short and fast, and only available to those bringing their own equipment. For optimum time on the water, choose the section between Syds and Bells rapids, which cuts directly through the picturesque Walyunga National Park. From here, rafting companies offer equipment hire and short guided courses down the river.
Get in the clouds
Strap yourself into a paraglider or hanglider and soar over the hills, or hop into a light plane and hurtle across the wide-open skies. Still need more adrenalin? Take on the rush of skydiving. If plunging 14,000ft towards the earth isn’t what you’re after, hot-air ballooning offers a gentler way to rise above the clouds. Running between April and November, this is a major regional highlight from multiple lift-off points. Once the ascent begins, the pre-daybreak start will prove well worth it, as you drift over rolling hills and watch golden sunlight spread over the lush, green valley.
Art and literature
You could spend a week browsing the many exhibitions and galleries showcasing local and touring talent. The Avon Art Society boasts three galleries, while the Great Southern Gallery has a variety of art, from pottery to glassware in two York galleries. The New Norcia Museum & Art Gallery (formerly St Joseph’s Aboriginal Girls’ orphanage) exhibits its own history, along with the Gardner Botanical exhibition, and contemporary and European art. The community markets feature regional artisans, as do fairs running through the year. The region is also well known for literary festivals. TIP See if you can spot all 10 outdoor artworks that feature in the Bindoon Sculpture Trail. Some of the more well-known are El Toro (Chittering Road), The Birds (Chittering Valley Road), The Nest (Chittering Valley Road), and The Travelling Monk (corner Chittering and Julimar roads).
Top Heritage Spots
The Avon Valley is steeped in colonial history, captured in the heritage buildings still standing in the townships. York and Northam have the largest number and variety of heritage- listed buildings, hotels and churches. The Old York Hospital was built in 1890 and designed by George Temple-Poole, who also built the Courthouse Complex and the Old Post Office, used today for all kinds of events. The York Palace Hotel is still available for guests to overnight in the aptly named heritage rooms. Built in 1870, Connor’s Mill in Toodyay is three storeys high and houses original working machinery, which turns wheat into flour for visitors. The Old Northam Railway Station, built in 1900, is used today as a museum with more than 1200 historical items on display, and an authentic steam locomotive. The Residency Museum in York has a similarly large variety of display items, capturing the everyday lives of locals more than a hundred years ago. For the car enthusiast, the York Motor Museum has one of the most renowned collections of vintage cars in Australia, and features more than 150 pristinely maintained automobiles.
Chittering Wildflower Festival
Each spring the Chittering Valley comes alive with wildflowers. The town of Bindoon has its gardens out in colour and celebrates the season with its annual September festival.
The restored Bindoon Town Hall houses a massive showcase of flowers. The Bindoon Tale Trail is in bloom, for those wishing to take a stroll through the history of Chittering. As well as delicious food and market stalls as well as art and photography, activities like the Quilts in Spring, the Apron Revival, and Historic Vehicle Day will keep everyone entertained.
- Spend the day at Duidgee Park in Toodyay. Ride the miniature railway along the river, and take a spin in the skate park.
- Hoddywell Archery Park caters to shooters of all ages and levels.
- Visit WA’s last remaining sock factory and the old fashioned Lolly Shop, then dress up as a convict at York’s Residency Museum.