Western Australia’s Avon Valley is an historic rural area of rolling hills and deep valleys forged by the meandering Avon River. A weekend in this region is well worth the short drive from Perth. The three main towns in the Avon Valley: Northam (1833), York (1831) and Toodyay (1836) have a historical feel to them with many old buildings still standing.
Friday: Drive up Great Eastern Highway to Northam, just under 100 km from Perth. To fully experience the truly historic nature of this region, stay at the brand new but essentially old Farmer’s Home Hotel. It hasn’t been called this for many a year. It has been transformed from the infamous Shamrock Hotel back to some of its former historical glory, but with all the modern extras.
Head to the Temperance Bar for a glass of wine or cocktail and some Tapas. The architecture, history and décor will keep you interested.
Saturday: For the adventurous, book an early morning hot air balloon experience to drift over the Avon Valley’s landscape. Then have a sumptuous breakfast at the River’s Edge café. The murals on the Northam grain silos just out of town depict this hot air balloon culture. At Northam the river is quite wide with a pedestrian bridge to take you to the other side.
The Bilya Koort Boodja Centre for Nyoongar Culture and Environmental Knowledge is a great experience on the banks of the Avon, giving knowledge of the local Nyoongar people.
Time to get in the car and visit nearby Toodyay, 25 km away. The drive in the Avon Valley is always interesting because of the rolling hills, old farm buildings and majestic trees. The Northam Toodyay road follows the Avon River. Toodyay or Newcastle as it was then called is the youngest of the three towns but still very historic in Western Australian terms. Toodyay is known as bushranger country because of Moondyne Joe being imprisoned and escaping in 1867 from Newcastle Gaol.
There are lots of walks to do in Toodyay, both historical such as the Toodyay Living History series and nature based such as the Bilya walk track
There are cafes and pubs in Toodyay if you want stay in town for food or check out the Toodyay Food and Picnic Drive Trail. The Toodyay pubs are classic country pubs. In my youth there was the top, middle and bottom pub. It seems the smaller population can’t support that many pubs these days. On weekends, Toodyay has in influx of bikers (not bikies) groups going on bike runs.
If you drive back to Northam via Clackline and Spencers Brook, you will come across the classic Spencers Brook Tavern. It seems to be in the middle of nowhere but a good place for pub food.
Sunday: Take the day driving back to Perth to go via York, 36 km south. One interesting spot is the Tipperary Church which was converted to a B&B and later a residence.
York itself is a small town with a main street of historic buildings. Pubs, cafes and museums: the most surprising being the York Motor Museum, created in 1979 by Peter Briggs and now owned by a local not for profit organisation. This is for the true motoring enthusiast because of its unique collection of noteworthy motor vehicles.
For an overall view of the Avon vista take a drive or walk! up Mount Brown, just five minutes out of town.