17 February 2012
Laden with maps and colourful brochures of wineries and chocolate factories, stomach rumbling in anticipation, I journeyed along the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail. This is a 32km loop past wineries, breweries, restaurants, and stalls selling local produce. I spent the day sampling award-winning wines, Belgian white beer, rocky road, tasty nougat, and local gourmet cheese. This really was a tough gig.
The Swan Valley is best known for its shiraz, cabernet and verdelho drops. If you had the time or the alcohol tolerance you could tour the A (Ambrook Wines) to W (Windy Creek Estate) of the region's vineyards. There are close to 50 wineries to choose from.
Sample wines from well-known estates such as Houghtons, or pop into little known family-run vineyards. Make an effort to visit the winery that produced Western Australia's first vintages, Water's Edge. Established in 1829, it still has the original underground limestone cellar from the 1840s.
Combine wine and cheese tastings at Lancaster Wines, situated on the banks of the Swan River. Their outdoor tasting shed is a delightful spot to appreciate the Swan. Their selection includes a verdelho, chenin blanc, rosé, the old vines shiraz, cabernet merlot, a late picked chenin dessert wine and their sticky shiraz, among many more. Lancaster Wines has some of the oldest vines in the Swan Valley.
The region is not just about wine, though, with over 20 locally made brews in the Swan Valley. Visit the Feral Brewing Company, Ironbark, Mash, and Duckstein Brewaries, Elmars in the Valley, the Great Northern Distillery and Wild Swan Distilling Company. Tantalise those taste buds with a lager or pilsner while relaxing in a beer garden.
Sipping wine or chugging beer on an empty stomach can only lead to disaster. Pack a picnic and head to the Swan Valley riverbank, or splurge on a fine meal at one of the many winery restaurants.
Then there's dessert... Just across the road from Lancaster Wines, you'll find the Margaret River Chocolate Company factory. Yep, there's one in the Swan Valley too. I was lured by the promise of chocolate, and lots of it. Enjoy their free tastings of white, milk and dark chocolate drops, or salivate over their divine specimens of handmade chocolate.
Keep some room for Mondo's traditional Italian nougat. Watch the 'nougatiers' at work from the special viewing area, plus there are free tastings and lots of goodies to purchase. You'll be everyone's best friend back at the holiday park!
Okay, so I have been a bit side-tracked by food and beverages, but the Swan Valley is not just about gluttony (unless you choose for it to be). There are plenty of opportunities to work off those extra kilojoules.
Pick up a self-guided Heritage Walk Trail map and explore Guildford on foot. Guildford was settled in 1829 and is National Trust classified as an historic town. All trails start and end at the Old Guildford Courthouse and have interpretive panels along each one. Guildford was once a bustling market town and river port until the development of the railway line made the town's port facilities irrelevant.
Along the way, visit Woodbridge House (1885). The house is open to the public Thursday to Sunday (and Monday public holidays) from 1pm to 4pm. The adjacent old coach house has been made into a gift shop and tearoom. Other historic reminders include the Rose and Crown Hotel (1841), and Padbury's Store (1869) and Cottage.
While you're in Guildford, browse the selection of antique stores on the main drag. The retail therapy doesn't end there. The Town Hall also hosts the Guildford Heritage Arts Craft market every third Sunday of the month where you can purchase homemade crafts or cupcakes.
Fancy a game of golf? The Vines Resort & Country Club boasts two world-class championship courses, with high rankings in Golf Australia magazine. It's not uncommon to see kangaroos on the greens either! The Vines Café & Bar dishes up tasty lunchtime meals. While you won't snag a chicken caesar for under $17, the service was excellent and the beer was cold.
Whiteman Park is a one-stop spot for attractions. Covering almost 4000ha, you can traverse bushwalking and cycle trails, have your photo taken with a koala at Caversham Wildlife Park, and even see eagles, falcons, kites and owls swoop and soar overhead at the Western Australia Birds of Prey Centre.
Take the Transport Heritage Trail to admire an operational 1920 Fordson at the Tractor Museum, a 1924 Model T Ford Ambulance within the Motor Museum of WA and the exhibits inside the Revolutions Transport Heritage Museum.
When you're done seeing the sites, there are plenty of BBQ facilities dotted about to organise a good cook-up. Even your pooch will be happy at Whiteman Park with an off-lead dog park enclosure for them to enjoy.
If you're over in Perth, treat your taste buds and tour the Swan Valley. With my waistline well and truly challenged and my arms full of chocolate and wine, I was in for a real happy hour back at the van park!
Guildford is only 30 minutes from Perth. Take the Great Eastern Hwy for approximately 14.7km to reach Guildford.
Free cheese and wine tastings
Open 7 days
5228 West Swan Rd, West Swan
(08) 9250 6461
MARGARET RIVER CHOCOLATE COMPANY
9am to 5pm
Closed Christmas Day 5123
West Swan Road West Swan 6055
(08) 9250 1588
640 Great Northern Highway Herne Hill 6056
(08) 9296 0111
GUILDFORD HERITAGE ARTS CRAFT MARKET
Third Sunday of the month
9am to 3pm
Guildford Town Hall James and Meadow Streets, Guildford
FOLLOW THE SWAN VALLEY FOOD AND WINE TRAIL
Pick up a map from the Swan Valley Visitor Centre, Guildford.
PACK A PICNIC
Enjoy the serenity by the river
BROWSE GUILDFORD'S ANTIQUE STORES
James Street, Guildford
THE SWAN VALLEY VISITOR CENTRE
Historic Guildford Courthouse Meadow and Swan Streets, Guildford
(08) 9379 9400
WHERE TO STAY
PERTH VINEYARDS HOLIDAY PARK
91 Benara Road Caversham WA 6056
(08) 9279 6700
BANKSIA TOURIST PARK
219 Midland Road Hazelmere WA 6055
(08) 9250 2398
DISCOVERY HOLIDAY PARKS – PERTH
186 Hale Road Forrestfield WA 6058
(08) 9453 6877
CAVERSHAM WILDLIFE PARK
Adult $22 Aged pension $17 Child $8
Open 9am to 5:30pm
BIRDS OF PREY FLYING DISPLAY
Adults $9.00, Children $5
Saturday, Sunday and school/public holidays.
Shows at 11am & 2.30pm (weather permitting)
Mussel Pool West – car park 18, Whiteman Park
MOTOR MUSEUM OF WA
Whiteman Park Village – Building 9 on park map
(08) 9249 9457
TRACTOR MUSEUM OF WA
(Entry by donation) Whiteman Park
Open Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and school/public holidays 10am to 2pm
Closed Good Friday/Christmas
BBQ AT WHITEMAN PARK
$1 coin-operated BBQs
Open 8:30 to 6pm
Off Beechburo Rd and Lord St
TOUR OF LANCASTER WINES
Premium Tour $5 per head (includes eight tastings including premium wines two whites, four reds plus dessert wine and fortified).
Deluxe Tour $8 per head (includes eight tastings plus cheese platter and crackers). Allow 45 minutes
(08) 9250 6461
Ford Street, West Midland
(08) 9274 2432
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KYLIE DAPIRAN ADDITIONAL IMAGES COURTESY OF TOURISM WA, ASPEN PARKS & LANCASTER WINES