Whether you’re a WA local or just popping out west for a visit, it would be remiss to not prioritise a weekend trip to Swan Valley. Situated at the upper reaches of the Swan River, the region is home to over 40 wineries – the first was established in 1829 – as well as great food, art and scenery spots. Here are our tips for getting the most out of a weekend there.
Willing Coffee Guildford should be the first stop on your journey. The baristas use their own house blend of beans and, conveniently, the cafe is situated about halfway between Perth and the Swan Valley – an ideal destination to make a rest stop and kickstart the weekend. There’s a considered range of counter goods to go with your coffee and the cafe’s vintage Italian stylings set the scene for relaxation.
Once fuelled up on coffee and breakfast, jump in the car and head out to Ellenbrook Arts. The spacious, naturally lit gallery is a non-profit run by the Ellenbrook Cultural Foundation. On your visit, you’ll explore Single Channel, an exhibition that brings together almost two decades of moving image artwork by some of Australia’s most nationally and internationally significant artists. The National Gallery touring exhibition is on display from November 17 to December 16.
While visiting Ellenbrook, don’t skip a visit to Caversham Wildlife Park, home to over 200 native Australian animals in a natural flora-rich setting. The park is a 12-minute drive from Ellenbrook Arts, so there’s really no excuse to not spend a bit of time patting wallabies and wombats, or perhaps even a reptile.
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Stopping for lunch at Riverbank Estate is a good opportunity to sit back and relax. While the stunning surroundings will be what initially captures your attention, the menu emphasising sustainably caught Western Australian seafood and in-house dry-aged steak will have you planning your next visit before you’ve finished lunch. It's worth taking some time to explore the wines in an informative tasting, before settling into a meal paired with estate drops.
After a relaxing lunch, make a stop at Battistessa Studio in Herne Hill. Here, Antonio Battistessa is a blacksmith who works with metal, iron, steel and copper to create rare pieces that are both functional and beautiful. His works can be found around the world, but a visit to his studio means seeing his art created right at the source.
Mandoon Estate’s Maya Maya will be your final destination, as day one in the Swan Valley draws to a close. It’s an ideal spot to rest your head and regroup ahead of the next day. At Mandoon Estate, you’ll continue to indulge with an onsite cellar door, Homestead Brewery and Wild Swan restaurant. Your stay at Maya Maya will take place in a luxurious, stylish setting overlooking the estate's historic verdelho vines and the banks of the Swan River.
After what will no doubt be a relaxing evening of unwinding and shut-eye at Maya Maya, day two starts with a trip to the Margaret River Chocolate Company, just five minutes away. Here, you’ll indulge in chocolate tastings while watching the chocolatiers work their magic in the factory, before having coffee and breakfast on the venue’s sundeck, overlooking stunning gardens and vines.
After this sweet stop, your next destination will continue the indulgent theme. Old Young’s Kitchen and Distillery, headed up by local chef Rohan Park, offers up a hyper-local, native-infused menu. Think emu pastrami with wattleseed, bush tomato, macadamia and salted plum, and generous servings of charred cauliflower with fennel, chickpea and native lemongrass. Old Young’s distillations feature heavily across the drinks list and pair perfectly with Rohan’s creative dishes.
After lunch, you’re just a 10-minute drive from the picturesque Whiteman Park, brimming with stunning wildflowers and lively bushwalking trails. Take your time to absorb the lush surroundings of the conservation reserve. The park features a motor and tractor museum, plus tram rides and tours.
Next up, pay a visit to Gomboc Gallery Sculpture Park. It’s one of the oldest, privately owned galleries in WA, spread over 4.5 gorgeous hectares. Owned and operated by Ron Gomboc and life partner Terrie, the sculpture park is constantly changing as pieces are bought and sold, including Ron’s own works. Couple that with browsing the five galleries on-site, and you’re sure to fall in love with at least a few of the pieces on display.
Before you make your return to Perth, stop in at Sandalford Wines for dinner. The property and winery are steeped in history, dating back to the 1800s. Today, the restaurant and bar lean modern, where quality local produce is celebrated across a contemporary menu. Woodfired lobster, Abrolhos Island scallops and beef short rib are just a few dishes you can expect, alongside tastings of Sandalford wines. Don’t forget to grab a bottle or two to bring home with you.
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