UPDATED 2018: For farmstays near Perth, WA, there are two areas we recommend; Margaret River & Swan Valley. Here’s our guide to both, with all farmstays listed below.
A very popular destination for farm stays near Perth, right beside Perth in fact, is the Swan Valley, Australia‘s oldest wine producing region which was founded back in the 1920’s by Italian and Croatian immigrants.
It has a lot in common with its newer rural tourism rival Margaret River, to the south: Though the latter is a more laid back destination, their food and wine scenes are similar, but where Margaret River might get extra points for its ease of access to some of the world’s finest beaches and untouched nature, Swan Valley probably has more to offer the foodie, with an enormous amount of fine quality fresh food straight from local farms to be found at both markets and restaurants, and of course it scores higher on convenience, being far closer to the city of Perth.
As well some really great boutique wineries and fine dining restaurants, its culinary tours are famous throughout Australia. There is a rising micro brewery culture in Swan Valley too, you’ll find excellent organic markets and a healthy arts scene, much of it highlighting native art, with plenty of galleries and artisan stores around.
It is also a much easier trip from the city of Perth, you can be there in just half an hour from downtown in fact, and so it does get more visitors than Margaret River. Don’t imagine it doesn’t have an abundance of nature to be enjoyed though. There are many wild bush walks and isolated stretches of land that can keep hikers, campers and mountain bikers entertained for days.
The Swan River Food and Wine Trail is a 25 mile drive through some lovely scenery with over hundred various attractions along the way. Adventure seekers for example will appreciate Bell’s Rapids with its famous Avon descent or the Whiteman Park conservation area. Caversham Wildlife Park is part of Whiteman and is a popular detour for kids as is the Outback Splash Family Fun Park in Bullsbrook. Golfers can spend time at The Vines Golf Course, while foodies have most to enjoy at places like the Nougat Factory, Whistler’s Chocolate Factory, the Cheese Factory and Oggie’s famous Ice Cream Cafe for example.
And that’s not even mentioning some of the charming boutique wineries of which there are over forty, many still owned by the descendants of the immigrants who started out here nearly 100 years ago. You’ll also find international labels here too though with bigger vineyards and modern industrial cellars.
The Swan Valley is home to some internationally famous estates: the Mandoon Estate, Houghtons and Sandalford being the best examples. In terms of produce it is particularly known for its fortified wines and also does well known varieties of Chenin Blancs, Cabernat, Chardonnays and Verdelho.
The gateway to the Swan Valley is the charming old town of Guildford, where you can find the Swan Valley Visitors Centre, a useful stop for first time travellers in the area, which has a wealth of information on some of the above mentioned attractions plus many, many more.
From Guildford there are many ways to explore the area, most people drive but some cycle, while some take the even slower route with culinary cruises down the Swan River (You can also arrange cruises direct from the city of Perth itself) or horse drawn carriage tours.
The Swan Valley is proudly progressive and of note for agritourism/farmstay exponents, one of the initiatives it can be proud of is in being the first Humane Food Region in Australia. This is a stated commitment to the welfare of animals on farms in the local area.
FARMSTAYS IN SWAN VALLEY
The Margaret River Wine Region
The famous Margaret River wine region to the south of Perth has been producing some of Australia‘s best wine since the 1960’s, with now at least 100 wineries to be found. Wine tours are very popular and a few vineyards also double as hotels. It’s not all vineyards though; other, more general agriculture & agritourism goes on, and you’ll have a good choice of other more regular Australian farmstay experiences too.
Having said that though people generally come to Margaret River for two reasons: surfing and wine; two seemingly incompatible industries that live happily side by side here. The town centre itself seems to focus mainly on surfing and beach culture at first but dig around and you’ll also find many high class restaurants, art galleries and craft studios, which make the town itself a very nice relaxing place to stroll around. The wine culture’s stronghold is to the north of the town, north along Caves Road to be exact, where most of the area’s wineries are located.
Most of these wineries are boutique affairs, there is very little in terms of mass marketing and/or industrial levels of production, and so the whole business has a friendly, intimate feel that is infectious to the visitor. The owners really are enthusiasts and it shows.
The Margaret River climate and soil constitution is often compared to the South West of France and many Bordeaux grapes grow very well here including Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Merlot and most notably Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s most famous export being possibly the SBS, a fine local blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc though with some of its Cabernet Merlot blends also being popular.
In terms of natural environment, though most of the drive south from Perth can be fairly dull, much of the coastal area surrounding Margaret River makes up part of the huge Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, a stunning mixture of granite cliffs, wild forest and incredibly pristine beaches, some of the most beautiful in the world in fact. Be sure to explore!
You can expect farmstays in Margaret River to be pretty high quality but with the same friendly, easy going atmosphere that defines the area.