Located a mere half hour’s drive from Perth, the Swan Valley is a concentration of surprises, flavours and cultures, providing a welcome respite from hectic city life.
With so many potential adventures waiting for you to embark on, though, how do you decide where to go?
Wonder no more: Here are five different ways to experience the Valley, each one guaranteed to satisfy any traveller’s curiosity, palate and thirst for excitement.
For the wine connoisseur: the Fine Wine Trail
Mention “Swan Valley” to an Australian and wine will probably come up in the conversation at some point. The first vines were planted there in 1829, and the first commercial vintage was produced in 1834, making the Valley the oldest wine region in Western Australia.
If you’re looking to go but don’t know where to start, you’re in luck, as the new Fine Wine Trail has you covered. The Trail takes visitors to some of the best wineries in the Swan Valley — all of which have won trophies at the Singapore Airlines Swan Valley Wine Show.
The wineries on the trail range from historic estates like boutique winery Oakover Wines, one of the original properties established in the 1830s, to relative newcomers like Mandoon Estate, a winery, brewery, boutique hotel and more that opened its doors in 2014.
But you can rest assured that regardless of how many years of history they have behind them, each of their wines is of the utmost quality. The nutrient-rich alluvial soils of the Valley combine with the mild, Mediterranean-style climate to produce wines with rich, complex flavours.
Take your pick of the Valley’s three signature vines. Whether it’s the young, almost tropical freshness of Verdelho, the rich aromatic complexity of Shiraz, or the sheer versatility of Chenin Blanc, there’s bound to be something to satisfy even the most discerning of wine lovers.
For the beerhead: the Cider and Ale Trail
If you’re not into wine, and are more of the malty persuasion, you’re in luck: The Swan Valley is just as famed for its craft beers as it is for its wines. The wildly popular Cider and Ale Trail leads visitors on a leisurely circuit of nine of the Valley’s foremost beermakers.
Each of these microbreweries has a distinctive character all its own. Take for instance Elmar’s in the Valley, the largest glass microbrewery in the Southern Hemisphere. Its beer is brewed in strict adherence to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, which decrees that the only brewing ingredients should be barley, hops and water.
Meanwhile, new kids on the block Funk Cider started operations just three years ago, but have swiftly made a name for themselves. With a dedication to using local produce, Funk Cider takes pride in selling products that are free of preservatives and sulphites.
For the foodie: the Sweet Temptations and Fresh Seasonal Produce Trails
The cuisine in the Swan Valley is characterised by “seasonal eating”: consuming produce when it is in season, and thus at its most flavourful, abundant and least expensive. As such, foodies should be sure to time their arrival in the Valley with the foods that they are the keenest on harvesting.
There’s something in every season. Autumn marks the ripening of pumpkins, mangoes and pomegranates, while winter happens to be the best time to enjoy citrus fruits, ranging from kumquats and mandarins to oranges and lemons.
Spring is characterised by the arrival of purple and white asparagus, followed shortly by broad beans, peas, zucchini, beetroot and others. Plums, peaches and apricots also hang heavy from the trees, just waiting to be plucked, and the hives are full of fresh honey.
But summer is by far the best time to taste the Valley. A dizzying harvest of fruits awaits visitors: rockmelons, watermelons, tomatoes, corn, figs, and of course the legendary Swan Valley table grapes.
All these can be easily found at the various fruit stalls, farms and marketplaces on the Trail: whether you choose to swing by Sorgiovanni’s Produce, Edgecombe Brothers, Swan Settlers Market or any of the other 31 establishments the Trail features.
But those who prefer to indulge themselves immediately rather than fill their pantry or suitcase might be interested in the Sweet Temptations Trail instead. This Trail takes travellers on a tour of the finest confectioneries, cafés and apiaries in the Swan Valley — each of them using the Swan Valley’s signature produce.
French macarons, nougats, specialty honeys, gluten-free cakes and even pink moscato are just some of the many sweet treats that await you at the Maison Saint-Honoré and the Pinelli Estate Winery Restaurant, among other establishments. The best part? Quote “Sweet Temptations” at each of the stops on the Trail and you’ll get to enjoy some sweet promotional offers too.
For the family: the Kids in the Valley Trail
Just because the Swan Valley’s star attractions happen to be wines and craft beers, doesn’t mean that it’s not a place to bring the whole family.
“Your day, your way” is the motto of the Kids in the Valley Trail — and truer words were never spoken. Options on the Trail include letting kids get hands-on with wildlife at the Caversham Wildlife Park and The Cuddly Animal Farm, sampling artisanal chocolates at Whistler’s Chocolate Company, and even playing supa golf at Oasis Supa Golf.
Wondering how to squeeze the whole family into a car? Leave it behind and bring a bicycle instead, or rent one from one of the bicycle rental shops scattered around the area. Kilometres of bike paths make the Swan Valley extremely bike-friendly — so get out there and breathe in the fresh air. Plus, it’s a great way to work up an appetite before visiting one of the many establishments that cater specifically to children, like Oggies Ice Cream Cafe.
For those kids who really need that little extra bit of excitement, the Swan Valley Visitor Centre has two treasure hunt itineraries — the Great Valley Rally and Amazing Valley Chase — that are sure to get the blood pumping.
For the culture vulture: the Wine and Art: Off the Beaten Track and Bush Tucker and Beyond Trails
The Swan Valley isn’t just full of gorgeous sights and fine foods. It’s a region rich in culture and history too. Influences from the Noongar Aborigines of the Wadjuk tribe, colonial settlers and immigrants from Southern Europe make it a wonderful cultural melting pot.
Before European settlement, the alluvial soil lining the Swan River was covered in thin white yams called warrine, some remnants of which can still be found in Walyunga National Park.
In the hot season, bulrushes growing in the River's streams and tributaries were burnt to the waterline in preparation for the autumn harvest, when the fibrous root masses were gathered and made into carbohydrate-rich cakes.
The sandier soils also yielded milkmaids and bloodroot in autumn. Seeds from edible wattles were roasted and ground, with the resulting flour then mixed with water and baked in ashes. Berries grew in the foothills above Bells Rapids, and kangaroo, goanna, emu eggs, fish and waterfowl were in abundance.
Today, these great harvests are no longer there, but the Swan Valley continues to flourish with European viticulture and market gardens.
Thanks to Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery, offerings of bush tucker can still be found in the Swan Valley on the Bush Tucker and Beyond Trail. Work your way through the Valley and visit Taylor’s Art and Coffee House and Edgecombe Brothers to taste foods incorporating native wattle seed or lemon myrtle. Then head to Old Young’s for a taste of Six Seasons Gin, which incorporates six native botanicals for a delicious and unique flavour.
Many of the wineries in the Swan Valley are family-run, passing down their expertise and traditions through generations for decades. The Wine and Art: Off the Beaten Track trail takes explorers to several of these wineries, including Tyler’s Vineyard, Swan Valley Wines and Fig Tree Estate, to name but a few.
Attend a tasting or two at these Swan Valley institutions to know what true heritage tastes like — and who knows? You might pick up a few tricks of the trade while you’re at it.
Several modern artists have also made their mark in the Valley. Sculptor Antonio Battistessa’s name is whispered with reverence among art collectors the world over, having established himself as one of the premier blacksmiths and sculptors in the contemporary art scene. The Battistessa Studio is filled with his awe-inspiring work, crafted from forged iron, steel and copper.
Any art enthusiast worth his or her salt needs to visit Gomboc Gallery, the largest privately-owned art gallery in Western Australia. The Gallery grounds span 4.5 hectares, with its five galleries featuring both local and international artists, with artworks from Denmark, Japan, Korea, Dubai and more taking up residence in its halls.
For those who want to do everything: why not?
Unfortunately, all visitors to the Swan Valley have to face a hard truth: The Valley is a land of endless possibility, but the time you have there is finite. There’s always just another winery, just another craft brewery, or another art gallery to visit.
Or what if you want to play supa golf and sample the Valley’s best vintages, and can’t decide between the Fine Wine Trail and the Kids in the Valley Trail?
Take heart: there’s nothing stopping you from striking out on your own. The Swan Valley Visitor Centre is more than happy to help you arrange a personalised itinerary.
Having recently snagged a Gold Award at the 2018 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, you’ll find that the friendly and knowledgeable staff at the Visitor Centre have more than earned the right to receive the award — as well as the many others under their belt.
But what if, in spite of their best efforts, you still can’t fit everything you want to do into your trip?
That just means you’ll have to come back again someday — hungry for more adventures.