Great Day Trips: Perth to Chittering Valley Wineries and New Norcia
For such a big state there's so much to see and do within an hour or two of Perth. No doubt you've read plenty on the Swan, Margaret River, Freemantle, Rottnest Island, the spectacular coastline and, for eco-tourists, the Lake CliftonStromatolites. Perth and its spectacular west coast locations are legendary for breathtaking natural beauty and opulent architecture. But what about the east? Once you venture away from the coast to The Chittering Valley Wine Trailand some of its more interesting neighbours, there is a whole new world of spectacular colours, flavours and history to tempt any visitor.
AvonValley National Park
Get a taste of that famous Western Australian landscape with a visit to the AvonValleyNational Park. Take the Great Eastern Highway one hour northeast and follow the signs from Bullsbrook.
The AvonValleyNational park showcases Australia's heartiest tree and plant species and all those magnificent colours that are quintessentially Australian. From the wetter Jarrah forests of the south to the drier north and the lush life along the flood plains of the AvonRiver, the park offers a fascinating and varied ecosystem. Tall white and grey gums, with striking green scrub, spectacular wildflowers and that magnificent red of the Australian outback come together to give visitors a visual feast. The ideal time to visit is spring and if you are hiring a rental car, choose a 4WD (SUV) to access the most spectacular views of the Avon Valleyand the local wildlife including western grey kangaroos, bobtail skinks, rock dragons and countless species of birds.
In addition to the hiking, photographic and nature watching opportunities, there are plenty of places to enjoy a picnic lunch or take in some history. The park was the home of bushranger Moondyne Joe in the 1860s, a bushranger renowned for his ability to escape custody. For the more adventurous traveler, canoeing, hiking and white water rafting tours are available and four wheel drive (SUV) tracks are plentiful.
Chittering Valley Wine Trail
North of Avon Valley National Park lies one of Western Australia's most picturesque wine regions, the Chittering Valley Wine Trail. If you're not a drinker, don't worry, it's also a charming drive. You'll find clusters of wineries on the Chittering Road/Chittering Valley Road – and a nice road trip experience. The Chittering Valley Road snakes along beside the BrockmanRiver, giving you views of the pretty green valley, Blackboy Ridge Reserve, historical townships, the rugged red dirt landscape and the abundant life along the river. A trip north along the Chittering Road and Chittering Valley Road and then the return trip on the freeway is a good option as you'll find more tasting and dining options along the freeway.
Perhaps the most popular area for wine lovers is Lower Chitteringwith a cluster of boutique wineries, most with cellar doors open all year round, some even with accommodation options and fresh produce to sample.
With a string of awards and organic certification, WesternRange wines are a favourite (and expensive choice) in Europe, and a well-kept secret in Australia.
Award winning wines, fine dining and function centre – this is a favourite of brides seeking a unique drop and maybe even a venue for their wedding day
A better option for families as it sports a relaxed dining area and produces a range of fresh produce. Olives, olive oil, citrus and delicious dukkah are all available.
This is the pick for rich red wine lovers with a relatively new vineyard of Merlot and Cab Sauv vines. You can also find sweet rose blends and some fresh produce for sale.
If you just can't get enough of the local wines, there are plenty of other wine regions throughout the Perth Hills and wider area – so head back to Perth, refresh and take your taste buds out again tomorrow. Gingin is especially recommended by locals.
If you want to squeeze a little more in to your day trip, consider heading further north to New Norcia for a literally unique Australian experience. New Norcia is Australia's only Monastic Town and is a favourite among those seeking a spiritual experience.
New Norcia is an historical town perched part on the red dirt that makes Western Australia famous and part on the semi-barren farmland loved by olives and other arid region crops and part nestled on the MooreRiver. For a small town, the architecture is nothing short of astounding, with beautifully designed, Spanish-influenced grand old buildings, stunning cathedrals and chapels, a beautiful contemporary art gallery and snippets of history everywhere you turn. A trip to the museum is well worth a look as the town has had a very unusual history.
But visitors don't come for the landscape or even the architecture; it's the religious presence in the town that attracts both the faithful and the curious. Australia is one of the few secular countries on earth (and also the home to one of the first atheist political leaders) so New Norciareally is a curiosity.
The Benedictine Monasteryopened in 1846 and little by little the town followed. In the tradition of the Italian Benedictine Monks, accommodation was offered to travelers and is still available today and a number of rules, including silence, are to be observed, making it a very authentic experience. Travelers seeking a spiritual experience are encouraged to stay for a night as the customs in the Monastery follow fifteen centuries of tradition. The Monastery consists of 64 buildings, almost half of which are part of the National Trust, so a tour is well worth it.
For day trip visitors, you won't need to take in the sights to know you are in New Norcia, the philosophy of the monastery has penetrated the entire town, giving an air of peacefulness, serenity and good will – making it a pleasant stop for any visitor.
Perth, its surrounds and indeed all of Western Australiahas so much to offer visitors; it's hard to imagine trying to see much of it in a mini-break – that's why you'll probably need to return again and again, like so many visitors before you!