29 June, 2021 By: Tatum Stafford
If you need a break but are short on time, a holiday from Perth is closer than you think.
Luckily for city locals, a short drive in any direction from Perth can land you in some pretty incredible places.
Within a couple of hours, you can be in a historic town, discover an unspoiled fishing mecca, drive gate-to-gate between local farms or reconnect with nature on a series of hiking and mountain biking trails. The only difficulty is deciding which direction to head in first.
1. Bickley Valley
The rolling hills and sloping farmland of the Bickley Valley will make you feel like you’re in another part of the state without travelling too far. Home to boutique wineries, scenic bush trails, fruit orchards and plenty of cosy family-run restaurants, it’s the perfect escape for foodies and nature lovers alike.
For first-time visitors, the Bickley Valley Wine Trail is a good place to start. It traces the valley's cellar doors and winery restaurants, offering the chance to interact with winemakers along the way. Myattsfield, Plume Estate and Carldenn Homestead Wines are just some of the stop-offs.
Other must-sees in the valley include the 120-year-old, heritage-listed Perth Observatory, the Bickley Valley Asparagus Farm (prime picking season is from August to November), the nearby Lesmurdie Falls and a picturesque section of the Bibbulmun Track.
- Distance from Perth: 28km, a 35min drive.
- Accommodation options: Cottages, family-run B&Bs and retreats.
- Best time to visit: Autumn to view abundant fruit orchards or spring for native wildflowers.
2. Chittering Valley
Perched on the edge of the Wheatbelt, the Chittering Valley region is filled with hobby farms, fruit orchards, pretty picnic spots and a bakery with quite a reputation amongst local foodies. The region encompasses the towns of Bindoon, Muchea and the historic Wannamal, a now-empty town which today features a series of markers that indicate where local buildings once stood.
Start your visit with a freshly baked treat from the award-winning Bindoon Bakehaus. Almost all the bakery’s ingredients are sourced from surrounding growers and producers, so no matter which goodie you go for (donuts, pies and pastries are popular options) you’ll be supporting locals.
Hit the self-drive Chittering Farm Flavour Trail next; a 120km route that takes you past farm gates, olive farms and wineries throughout the valley. Sample fruit, honey, asparagus and cheeses at stop-offs including Green Valley Fruits, Oversby’s Citrus and Nesci Estate Wine Farm.
Close out the day with a stroll around Spoonbill Lake. Bring a picnic basket with you, as there are plenty of spots on the banks of the lake to roll out a rug and watch local wildlife pass by.
- Distance from Perth: 60km, a 45min drive.
- Accommodation options: Farm stays, cottages, guest houses and caravan parks.
- Best time to visit: Autumn, to make the mo0st of harvest season at local farms and orchards.
Located within the picturesque Avon Valley, there are plenty of activities and attractions in Northam to fill a weekend trip with.
If you’re feeling adventurous, book a ride in a hot air balloon to hover over the valley and the Avon River, which flows through the middle of the town. The town’s sole operator is Windward Balloon Adventures, who also offer a champagne breakfast once the balloon lands. As you’ll need to board the balloon in the early hours of the morning, it’s worth booking an overnight stay in town.
There are no hire facilities in town, so if you’re eager to paddle down the Avon River you’ll need to bring gear with you. The river’s famous winter rapids are best suited for experienced paddlers, so if you’re uncertain, stop in at the Visitor Centre for advice on launch areas that match your experience level.
Another vantage point of the river is from the Suspension Bridge, which is one of Australia’s longest pedestrian suspension bridges. It was constructed in 1975 with the ability to withstand strong winds, so it’s locally known as the ‘swinging bridge’.
- Distance from Perth: 95km, just under a 90min drive.
- Accommodation options: Motels, hotels, chalets and caravan parks.
- Best time to visit: April to November for idyllic conditions for hot air ballooning, or winter for white-water rafting down the Avon River.
Being the state’s oldest inland town, York has plenty of stories to tell and lots to see.
To get a sense of its rich history, take a walk around the town centre to see the York Town Hall and the York Courthouse Complex. The complex houses the old police station, cell block and courtroom, which you can tour for $10 admission. Stop in at Penny Farthing Sweets to pick up a few old-fashioned lollies and admire the ‘shoppe’s’ eclectic memorabilia.
Plan a pit stop at the award-winning York Motor Museum to view its extensive range of vintage racing bikes, classic cars and motorcycles. One of the museum’s most notable exhibits is the original ‘Never Never Tours’ Valiant ute that was used in the film Crocodile Dundee - it’s even signed by Paul Hogan himself.
In pleasant weather, the 7.5km-return hike up to the Mount Brown Lookout will provide uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside. Or, if you’d prefer an easier walk, complete the 1.5km Avon River Trail that weaves past the river and departs from the Swinging Bridge.
- Distance from Perth: 98km east, approx. a 90min drive.
- Accommodation options: Caravan parks, hotels, cottages and farm stays.
- Best time to visit: Mid-August to September for canola season, or September to November for wildflower season.
Some of WA’s most beautiful forest campgrounds are less than two hours’ drive away. Dwellingup, in particular, is a picturesque spot for canoeing, hiking, mountain biking and wildflower-spotting in springtime.
The Dwellingup Trails and Visitor Information Centre is a great first stop to get your bearings and create a shortlist of trails to complete during your trip. The King Jarrah Walk Trail is a popular option, taking you through lush forest and past the 300-year-old King Jarrah tree. Or, if you’re a keen mountain bike rider, the 8km Marrinup MTB Loop features hill climbs and an easier shortcut for kids or beginner riders.
Other popular activities in and around the township include fishing or canoeing in the Murray River, stocking up on fresh fruit and veg at Vergone’s Fruit Stall, climbing aboard the Hotham Valley Tourist Railway or exploring the Forest Discovery Centre.
If you’re hoping to stay at a campground in the forest, book ahead at Lane Poole Reserve. There are more than 140 sites to choose from, including Baden Powell, Nanga Mill and Stringers.
- Distance from Perth: 108km south, approx. a 90min drive.
- Accommodation options: Forest campgrounds, forest cottages or a hotel in the town centre.
- Best time to visit: Winter for white-water rafting or canoeing, or spring for mountain biking and hiking amongst wildflowers.
Peel region road trip »
6. Guilderton (Moore River)
A popular spot for families, the shire of Guilderton (often known as Moore River) is surrounded by giant sand dunes, sheltered waters and a national park that bursts with wildflowers each October.
There are plenty of water activities to try on the river, including stand-up paddle boarding, swimming, fishing and canoeing. You can hire a paddleboat, kayak or canoe at the rivermouth, or if you’d prefer to explore the coast, there are great swimming and beach fishing spots nearby at Ledge Point and Lancelin.
Wildflower enthusiasts flock to the Moore River National Park and Nature Reserve in spring to spot everlastings, the rare rose fruited banksia and even WA’s own Christmas Tree (nuytsia floribunda). Other notable hotspots include the green kangaroo paws at Gingin Cemetery, and the canopy of red gums on Dewar Road.
- Distance from Perth: 118km, a 1hr 20 min drive.
- Accommodation options: Holiday park with chalets, caravan sites and campsites.
- Best time to visit: Summer to enjoy water activities on the river, or springtime to view native wildflowers.
It may be best known for its oranges, milk and beef, but Harvey also has some surprising gourmet food and wine experiences, along with its rolling farmlands and lush jarrah forests.
As one of the state’s most prolific farming towns, there are plenty of unique farm experiences on offer, most notably, the option to spend the night on a working farm. Take your pick between the Blue Hills Farmstay or the Harvey Hills Farmstay Chalets; both offer tractor rides, animal feeding sessions and picturesque farmland to stroll around. The Rowsa Park Farmstay, a 5min drive south of Harvey, has a cute Shetland pony and a few Dexter cows that are a hit with kids.
Visit the Harvey Dam for a spot of trout fishing (between September and May with a valid fishing license), climb 62 steps to the top of the Big Orange, take a stroll along the Harvey Heritage Trail and visit Stirling Cottage, home to May Gibbs, creator of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie book series during the 1880s. If visiting in summer, take a dip in or paddle on Lake Brockman.
- Distance from Perth: 139km, a 1hr 40 min drive.
- Accommodation options: Farm stays, homesteads, retreats, campsites and cottages.
- Best time to visit: Year-round, or June to October when the famous Harvey oranges are in-season.
8. Ferguson Valley
Boasting a backdrop of forests, farmlands and hills and valleys, the picturesque Ferguson Valley offers a getaway filled with hiking, farm-fresh produce and scenic forest drives. Stretching from Bunbury to Collie, it’s easy to tick the valley’s highlights off in a day.
Start in Collie, tracing the newly completed Collie Mural Trail down towards the Wellington National Park. Here you’ll find the 8000sqm Wellington Dam mega mural, the biggest dam mural in the world. There are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore within the park, but the Mt Lennard MTB network and the 12km Jabitj Trail (meaning ‘running water’ in Noongar language) are most popular amongst visitors.
Stop at the King Jarrah Tree and visit Gnomesville, a collection of more than 10,000 garden gnomes scattered in the forest, then dig into a late lunch at a local winery. Green Door Wines, Evedon Lakeside Restaurant and St Aidan’s Wines (famous for their Devonshire tea) are popular spots. Take a stroll through Dardanup, then catch a sunset in Bunbury at Koombana Bay, Hungry Hollow Beach or the base of the Bunbury Lighthouse.
- Distance from Perth: 173km south, a 1hr 50 min drive.
- Accommodation options: Farm stays, forest campgrounds, cottages, retreats and cabins.
- Best time to visit: Year-round, or between March and May to enjoy Donnybrook’s apple harvest season.
9. Jurien Bay
Known for its endless beaches, snorkel trails and friendly sea lions, Jurien Bay offers everything you could need in a beach getaway – plus a few experiences tailor-made to thrill seekers.
Jurien Bay is one of a handful of destinations near Perth where you can go skydiving. Skydive Jurien Bay operates tandem skydives from 14,000 feet, where you’ll have epic views of the coastline.
If you’re eager to hit the water, consider hopping on a tour to swim with the friendly local sea lions. There are hundreds of them living within the Jurien Bay Marine Park, and three local operators charter boats that allow you to snorkel and splash around with these playful creatures. If you’re visiting in winter, you may also have a chance to spot whales migrating across the ocean.
The Sandy Cape Recreation Park, a 20min drive north of Jurien, is another must-visit. As part of a marine sanctuary, it’s home to colourful reef, white sand beaches and some great pockets for fishing. There are also a handful of four-wheel drive tracks in the area, and you can drive onto the beach when the tides are right.
- Distance from Perth: 198km north, approx. 2hrs and 20min drive.
- Accommodation options: Hotels, chalets and caravan parks. RAC members save 20% on stays at the nearby RAC Cervantes Holiday Park.
- Best time to visit: Summer for water activities.
Ready to hit the road and visit one of these towns?
Don’t forget to fuel up first – RAC members save 4 cents per litre at participating Puma Energy and Better Choice service stations.
Image credit: Fleur Bainger