When you think Western Australia adventure, your thoughts might immediately go to prehistoric rock formations, red dirt, and incredible coastlines. Destinations like Esperance, Shark Bay and Broome attract thousands of travellers every year, and for good reason – the natural wonders on offer are some of the best in the world. As good as these places are, you’ll have to battle the swarms of other RVers also trying to call the place home for a few weeks. Luckily there are plenty of other hidden gems out there ready for you to explore without the crowds, just like this cracker of a spot we found when visiting Perth.
The humble village of Guildford is part of the greater region known as Swan Valley, which sits just 20km west of Perth. Back in 1829, it was one of the three towns established when the colonists arrived. Guildford was the market place, Perth was the main centre, and Fremantle was the port. The Swan Valley region has incredible historical significance, and best of all a lot of the remnants of the past are still on show for you to see. It some streets it’s almost like you’ve stepped back to a time long forgotten. It’s hard to believe you’re just 20km from the CBD! Follow us on a journey through a region with a unique history unlike any other capital city.
THE MIGHTY SWAN RIVER
You could spend all day just enjoying the sensational Swan River that snakes its way through the region. It really is the hero of the great Perth region. Perth was built on the 60km-long stretch of water back in the 1800s, and has thrived and survived on what it brings to the region ever since. At the mouth you have Fremantle and the port, and the backwaters of the Swan and its tributaries provide much-needed water to the vineyards and farms on the outskirts of Perth. The best thing for RVers is that you can get the full Swan River experience in a day or two, and some of the best hotspots are around the Guildford and Old Midland area.
One of these gems is Fish Market Reserve, which is just on the western side of the Guildford Rd bridge. There is plenty of room here to swing your RV around and park it, so this is the ideal spot to bring a picnic and set up under a huge shady tree by the glistening Swan River water. If you travel with a tinny or canoe, you can launch it at the boat ramp here and make the most of the river’s top class fishing, or just soak up sun while having a relaxing paddle.
One of the major tributaries off the Swan River is the Helena River, which runs into the foothills of the Darling Ranges to the Helena River Reservoir. The beautiful body of water and the Mundaring Weir is a top attraction of the area, and if you like your fishing you can try catching the hard-fighting catfish, or a tasty redfin perch. Even if you don’t your fishing rods, it’s a great day trip out to see the huge man-made weir.
You’re going to love the history of the Swan Valley area. The quaint colonial buildings are on show on almost every corner, which can all be seen on the number of self-guided heritage walks through the region. The first walk is ‘The River Ramble’, which will take you to past places like the Rose & Crown Hotel (top place for a refreshment!), the old Guildford Courthouse and Moulton’s Landing. The walk is under 2km long, and gives you a glimpse into what life was like back in the mid-1800s.
Most of the walks revolve around the incredible Sterling Square, an area which the local council have named the Guildford Heritage Precinct. The tree-lined park that is the town square was the original centre of old Guildford town, and was also a traditional meeting place for the local indigenous tribes. Across the street from Sterling Square, you’ll find the Mechanics Institute, which was established back in 1865 to train the working men of the region, although today it is used for entertainment and educational activities. There really is no end to the historical significance of the Guildford region, and the local council has done an amazing job to showcase this well to tourists.
What better way to end a day tasting wines than a trip to a chocolate factory! As the name implies, the Margaret River Chocolate Company was established in 1999 down south in the Margaret River, but has now expanded to also have a factory in the Swan Valley. Located on West Swan Road, you can merge this with a trip to Lancaster Wines and Cape Lavender – a wonderful lavender-themed gift shop just 200m away from the chocolate factory.
Inside, you’ll be treated to an incredible insight into the wonderful world of chocolate, and how it makes its way from a cocoa tree to a sweet delicacy in your local shop. You can do a tour of the factory, or just stop in at the shop to pick up a few treats for that evening’s Happy Hour.
It’s hard to believe a region full of such natural beauty and historical significance can be so close to the CBD of a capital city. Guildford and the greater Swan Valley region is an RV paradise – one where you can indulge in local delicacies, experience an incredible history lesson and let the natural beauty take your breath away. On top that, you’ve got a community that recognises what us RVers can bring to a region, and they cater for us. Why don’t you hitch up and go experience this local gem for yourself?
One of the best ways to explore Guildford and Old Midland is by bike – you can save money on fuel and means you don’t have to worry about parking the tow rig in the busy streets. So make sure you pack the pedals and enjoy the Guildford on two wheels!
SWAN VALLEY HIGHLIGHTS
- Sterling Square
- Three heritage walks
- Fish Market Reserve
- Margaret River Chocolate Company
- Helena River Reservoir
Perth Vineyards Holiday Park
186 Hale Rd Forrestfield
Ph: (08) 9453 6677
WA 194: Frank Lupino Memorial Park
WA 248: Eadine Springs Picnic Area
14 Yukich Close
Ph: (08) 9274 0777
706 Great Northern Hwy
Ph: (08) 9296 0970
Jarrah Ridge Wines
651 Great Northern Hwy
Ph: (08) 9296 6337
HOW TO GET THERE
If you’re approaching Perth from the south, take the Roe Highway Exit from the Kwinana Freeway before you hit the CBD to reach Guildford with ease. From the north, follow the Brand Hwy until the end, turn right when you reach the Great Northern Hwy, and follow the left turn towards Guildford. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you cross the bridge over the Swan River!