Jump in the car, head east, and in less than half an hour you'll be in a valley of delights, the Swan Valley, where there's something going on just about all the time.
Over two weekends in April you can eat your way around the four corners of the globe during Taste of the Valley, in July get nice and cozy with a bottle of red for Seafood and Shiraz, in early August there's the splash and dash of the Avon Descent, in mid-October there's Spring in the Valley (if you must) and in November, Sandalford Winery hosts A Day on the Green.
After work on Friday, jump in the car and head east for about half an hour along Great Eastern (told you!) Highway, Guilford Road or Reid Highway. Follow your nose (or the signs) and you'll hit the Swan Valley Drive
, a showcase of the best of the Valley on a 32km loop of West Swan Road and Great Northern Highway.
When you get there
There's a handful of restaurants on West Swan Road between Henley Street and John Street: Mallard Duck Café
, Milston Gardens
, and Bleeno's Bistro
on Merrich Estate
winery. And, excitingly, it's Mongolian Barbecue night at Chapel Farm
on Toodyay Road.
Of course there are wineries, but there's other great stuff too. Just off Toodyay Road you'll find the whirls of rusting steel standing amid the eucalypts. There's a sculpture wonderland, showcasing the work of Australian artists and a collection of Robert Juniper
, the Gomboc Gallery
. From the gallery there's walking trail to Jane Brook Estate Wines
and Garbin Estate Wines
(phone (08) 9274 1747).
If you're passing by or staying at Oasis Resort and you fancy yourself a competitor, show 'em what you're made of on the supa golf and putt-putt courses, or the Laser Corps combat field. The round the action off with a coldie at Mash Brewing.
If you've got the kids along, take a trip to the Cuddly Animal Farm on John Street so they can part and cavort with Old McDonald's creatures. One block away on Henley Street is the Reptile Park. Don't forget Caversham Wildlife Park down in Whiteman Park, and the thrills of the Birds of Prey Flying Display.
Of course, we all know the doyens of the Swan Valley, Houghton's and Sandalford. But here I'd like to list a few wineries which I like: Talijancich for their dark and dingy cellar and their Verdelho, Baxter-Stokes for the loquacious vintner and their Muscat bottled in elegant imported olive oil bottles, Ambrook for their friendly vintner and their Shiraz, Sittella for the stunning scenery and their Merlot, Carilley Estate for the beautiful rose garden and their Chenin Blanc.
Just quietly, I've never had the palate for Lamont's wines, but hey they certainly can cook! And even better tapas is on the menu until 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Yummo!
The head brewer and head chef of Mash Brewery are in cahoots to provide a selection of dishes that suit the handcrafted beers on tap. Another place where you can have a bite to eat while you get the steins swinging is Feral Brewing over on Haddrill Road. Otherwise, for a more K&K (that's couth and cultured) evening, there's the fine dining experience of Dear Friends down on Benara Road; they were Gold Plate winners in 2008 and bookings are essential.
Pull up a pew lakeside at Mallard Duck Café
and let the tranquility take hold as you sip your 'cino. Upper Reach Winery and Café
serves breakfast from 9am, so devour a hearty brekkie before getting started on the wine tastings. I just love Lily of the Valley Café
on John Street (phone (08) 9296 1509): they only open on Sundays from 11am until 5.30pm and serve hearty home-cooked fare that you can partake of in the traditional English conservatory surrounded by roses and lavender. Indulge yourself here in a boysenberry tart!
There are tastings for the teetotaller too! The Margaret River Chocolate Company on West Swan Road offers them in abundance; just up the road, Oggie's Ice Cream Café (phone (08) 9296 6095) has a range of flavours to get the tastebuds watering; and Mondo Nougat on Great Northern Highway wants you to indulge your sweet tooth and enjoy la dolce vita.
What to bring home
Buy a jar of jarrah honey from Quick Stop
on West Swan Road.
Where to stay
At the cheaper end, try the Perth Vineyards Holiday Park
, Swan Valley Oasis Resort
, or Chapel Farm
At the pricier end, try Thie My Chee Retreat, Stocks Country Retreat, Strelley Brook Farmhouse, or The Vines Resort and Country Club.
For a farmstay adventure, try Keller's B&B Farm Experience or Settler's Rest.
What to leave behind
Forget the BYO alcohol; this is one weekend getaway when you won't be left wanting.
What to splurge on
Get yourself a bottle of Sparkling Gold
from Jane Brook Estate Wines
a bubbly made in the traditional methode champenoise
style and injected with 23-carat gold leaf from the Perth Mint
. C'est magnifique
Then pick up a barrel from Baxter-Stokes Wines (phone (08) 9296 4831): an itty-bitty 2.5-litre one or a big, fat 50-litre one. And then the port or muscat to fill it.
Got any other suggestions? Share your insight below.