Lancaster Wines, Swan Valley, Perth region, Western Australia
Head out of Perth to find an adorable quokka, or to sip an ale that’s spent time quietly ageing beneath a monastery.
By Katrina Lobley
Perth is surrounded by compelling destinations that make great day trips. Whether it's tasting your way through Western Australia's oldest wine growing region, seeing the ancient desert sculptures of the Pinnacles, or kicking back on idyllic Rottnest Island, the only hard decision is where to go first.
RAISE A GLASS IN THE SWAN VALLEY
The Swan Valley, a 25 minute drive north-east from the centre of Perth, is Western Australia's oldest winemaking region. Explore the valley's wineries, renowned for world-class chenin blanc, verdelho, shiraz and petit verdot varieties that grow in a reliably warm and dry climate. The valley is also home to microbreweries that produce beer, cider and ginger beer, and distilleries bottling everything from rum to pavlova-flavoured vodka.
HEAD SKY-HIGH OR SIP A HOLY ALE IN THE AVON VALLEY
The vast Avon Valley, a one to two hour drive from Perth, covers seven localities, from Beverley in the south to New Norcia in the north. Potter around quaint townships such as York, roam around in spring to see pretty wildflowers, delve into pioneer history and drive among rolling hills. To see the picturesque valley from above – perhaps sharing air space with a wedge-tailed eagle – take a ride with Windward Balloon Adventures, based in Northam. Arrive hungry in the monastic town of New Norcia and sample artisan treats such as nut cake and breads baked in the monastery's century-old wood-fired oven. Quench your thirst with Abbey Ale, aged in the cellars beneath the monastery.
LOOK FOR QUOKKAS ON ROTTNEST ISLAND
Rottnest Island, a 90 minute ferry ride from Perth, is famous for tiny wallabies known as quokkas. Head over on a day trip and cycle around the island, or spend the night there for the best chance of seeing the cute nocturnal marsupials that emerge mid to late afternoon to forage (there are free daily quokka guided walks). Rottnest offers a range of accommodation. A great choice is the Hotel Rottnest, a historic hotel where the Governor of Western Australia used to lodge over summer.
STROLL DOWN A HISTORIC JETTY AT BUSSELTON
You don't have to look hard to find the focal point at Busselton, 222 kilometres (138 miles) south of Perth. Everything here revolves around the 1.8 kilometre (1.1 mile) long jetty. It's the world's longest wooden pier. Stroll along the jetty or take the cute, red, 50-seat train to the end, where there's an underwater observatory, accessed via a spiral stairway. As you wander along the jetty, keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking in Geographe Bay. From September to early December migrating whales also use the bay to rest and nurse their young.
SEE EERIE DESERT SCULPTURES AT THE PINNACLES
The stunning limestone formations known as the Pinnacles are near Cervantes on the Turquoise Coast, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Perth. A crayfishing town, Cervantes is the gateway to Nambung National Park, which contains the Pinnacles Loop – a four kilometre (2.5 mile) road that can be driven or walked in about an hour. The Pinnacles Desert contains thousands of striking limestone pillars set against shifting golden sands. Visit at dawn or dusk to see the shadows cast by the unusual formations. You might also see wild emus stalking among the spires. The park, with its otherworldly landscape, can be visited all year round, but there's a bonus in spring, when the wildflowers and wattles are in bloom.
ENJOY A FUN DAY IN 'FREO'
Fremantle (known to locals as Freo), on Perth’s southern fringes, is a vibrant waterfront city with great beers, alfresco food and intriguing history. Try the craft brews on tap at the landmark heritage pub-brewery, The Sail & Anchor, located along a section of South Terrace known as the Cappuccino Strip. This area is also home to the Fremantle Markets, open Friday to Sunday. At Fremantle Prison YHA, bunk down for the night in a former prison cell or in one of the Victorian-style guards cottages.
SAMPLE WORLD-CLASS WINES AT MARGARET RIVER
Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth, is a relatively young wine region, with vines first planted in 1967. But its wines are world-class, with cabernet and chardonnay considered regional strengths. Stand-out wineries include Vasse Felix, Howard Park and Leeuwin Estate. Margaret River also attracts serious surfers. If you need tips, head to Margaret River Surf School.
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