Perth in Western Australia is situated on the edge of a desert, yet in the surrounding hills you can find beautiful wineries on gentle green slopes. There’s the famous prison at Fremantle, the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin, a village of Gnomes and mysterious geological formations known as The Pinnacles – all accessible on a day trip from the state’s capital.
- Swan Valley
The Swan Valley is Western Australia’s oldest wine growing region and contains those attributes of landscape that accompany viticulture: art, restaurants, beautiful vistas… and lots of el vino! In 2014 the Swan Valley celebrated 180 years of wine making, and it produces some of Australia’s best Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Shiraz and Petit Verdot grape varieties. The reliable Mediterranean climate makes it perfect for growing subtle, dependable varieties, and the numerous wineries have cafes and restaurants to help you enjoy your time. All within a half-hour’s drive from Perth CBD.
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- Cervantes Pinnacles
If you don’t mind a longer drive, the Pinnacles near the coastal town of Cervantes provide a similar experience to Hanging Rock in Victoria – a mysterious rock formation that has an eerie ambience. The Pinnacles are limestone formations that look like termite mounds standing like monoliths in the desert. It’s close to a 200km trip from Perth, but well worth it to see this other-worldly sight. Cervantes itself has a tiny population and is a centre for lobster fishing.
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- Historic town of York
York is an hour and a half drive from Perth, and has some beautiful architecture befitting a town founded in 1831. York is in the Avon Valley, which was located as a source of new land for agriculture following the establishment of Perth a few years before. When gold was discovered nearby in the 1850s, York experienced a boom in development. It has some of the best preserved examples of Victorian and Federation architecture in Australia.
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Gnomes are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like them you’ll love Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. If you are one of those who might be looking for excuse not to visit, then the fact it’s 200km south of Perth might be a good reason. The Gnomes first appeared to protest a road development, but after a while some 30 of them chose to call the area home and a village was built for them. They appeared on local and national media, and the legend was born. Yes, it’s truly a phegnomenon… https://instagram.com/p/1Da2YxMTjB/
- Margaret River
A gourmet food and wine area, the Margaret River region is a day trip south of Perth where you can visit dairy farms, wineries, breweries, chocolatiers, even a nougat factory. If you visit the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, you can say you’ve stood on the most south-westerly point on the Australian mainland and watched two oceans crash together. From September to December you may even see humpback and southern right whales. https://instagram.com/p/z9_A_wDDwP/
- Fremantle Prison
The morgue, the whipping post, the gallows – yes, there’s fun for young and old at the Fremantle Prison. It also has a reputation as one of WA’s most haunted buildings. Tour groups report doors opening and closing and the sensation that there’s someone behind them… Spooky! Convicts were first brought to WA to provide labour for settlers. A limestone ridge at Fremantle was chosen as a site for the prison to house them, the limestone providing the materials for the prison and housing for officers. The building was completed in 1859. You can tour the tunnels under the prison for an even spookier adventure.
- Rottnest Island
It means ‘Rat Nest’ in Dutch, but that’s because the first European to visit in 1696 mistook native quokkas for rodents. You get a ferry from Perth to the island, where there are no privately owned vehicles – you get around by foot or bicycle, which you can hire. Only 114 people live on the 19 square kilometres, which has beautiful, sheltered bays suitable for sailing, diving and swimming – it’s also a surfing hot spot with its own national comp. The not at all rat-like quokkas are still there, and you can take a guided tour to see them.
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From Gnomes to prisons, colonial architecture to ancient Pinnacles, you can find a lot within a day’s travel from Perth, along with wildly beautiful landscapes and fine boutique wineries.
(Featured image: Robert Young)