The Avon Valley is located east of Perth and is dotted with historic towns. We started with York and worked our way up towards New Norcia, with a stop at the Big Camera in Meckering on the way.
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About 60km east of Mundaring is York, a quiet, weekend town with lots of friendly folks. The main strip is decorated with beautiful period buildings like the York Town Hall. Built in 1911, it is the largest town hall ever built in WA and its elaborate Edwardian design plays an important part in the town’s identity. We went for a stroll down the main street and stumbled upon Penny Farthing Sweets, a lolly shop that sells all sorts of local and imported sweets. The guy is really nice and offered to take a photo of us with his penny farthing and some jumbo lolly pops.
Nearby town is the Swing Bridge, built by convicts in 1853 as the first temporary bridge to cross over the Avon River. It was reconstructed in 1988 due to safety concerns. There is also the Sock Factory, which is a bit disappointing because it’s just a sock shop. The York Mill is a little more interesting – the building used to be the old flour mill but is now a retail and hospitality complex.
Just outside of York is the Mount Brown Lookout. The ascent is about 342m above sea level and gives stunning 360 degree views of York and the surrounds. There are picnic facilities and electric BBQs and we stuck around for lunch after taking in the views.
This town was a lot bigger than what we expected. It was mainly a residential town with the standard shops and pubs, but it is also home to Australia’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge.
This great little town was originally establishment in the 1830s on the Avon River about 5km from the current town site. The local Aboriginals called the area ‘duidgee’, which means place of plenty because there was heaps of wild game and bush tucker in the area. The settlement moved up river 30 years later due to seasonal flooding. It used to be called Newcastle after the Duke of Newcastle, and in 1911, the name was changed to Toodyay to avoid confusion with the town of Newcastle in New South Wales.
Toodyay also used to be Moondyne Joe’s home. We learnt all about Moondyne Joe while exploring the Fremantle Prison so it was great to see the country town that he lived in. Joseph Bolitho Johns arrived in Australia in 1853 to face about ten years of imprisonment because he stole some cheese, bread and bacon. Because he was so well behaved on the ship, he was offered his ticket of leave to find employment, land and a woman when he arrived in Fremantle. He worked in Fremantle until the end of 1854 before he received a conditional pardon and moved to Toodyay in 1860. Over the next 10 years, Joseph was arrested twice, escaped prison six times and was eventually pardoned by the governor in 1873. Every year on the first Sunday of May, the town holds the Moondyne Festival and the streets are filled with entertainment and displays. There is even a moustache competition, but unfortunately we would be halfway up the west coast when the festival would be on.
A kooky attraction in town is the Cola Café & Museum. It has heaps of Coca Cola paraphernalia like glasses, posters, clocks, tins, toys, everything you can imagine. The collection started 60 years ago and there are now over 6,000 items. The café serves retro food so grab something to eat while you check out all their junk.
A very quiet, tranquil town that was established in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine monks. The monks live according to the guidance and rhythms of The Rule of St Benedict, which has been followed by monks since the 6th century. When the monks settled in New Norcia, they experienced many hardships in the arid conditions of the Australian environment. They taught the local Aborigines about agriculture and Christianity and in the early 1900s, two boarding schools were built – one for boys and one for girls. The emblem for the town includes the Latin word PAX, which means peace.
The town has a very strange atmosphere. There were signs all over the place that said PRIVATE – NO ENTRY, or RESIDENTS ONLY, even though we never actually saw any residents. The Abbey Church bell rang every 15 minutes and the busiest places in town were the pub and roadhouse.
The New Norcia Hotel was one of our favourite places. The grand building was constructed in 1927 as a hostel for parents visiting their kids at the boarding schools. We stopped by on our first day for a drink and got to taste some of the local beer and wine while listening to the jukebox play the worst of the 90s.
- Abbey Ale – 7% deep golden clear brew with a refreshingly sweet and crisp taste full of tropical fruit, honey and malt and very gently hopped.
- New Norcia Shiraz – full of sweet plums, prunes, chocolate and currants. Fine, gentle tannins, a rum spirit and sweet like a fortified.
- New Norcia Muscat Liqueur – a rich brown caramel with lots of spiced fruit flavours, smooth and warming with long-lasting finish of honey nut, caramel and coffee.
Our second favourite place in New Norcia was the swimming pool and it proved to be the perfect way to cool off. The water was surprisingly cold.
If you plan to stay in New Norcia overnight, there are only two places to stay – The Roadhouse or next to the oval. It costs $7 a night for an unpowered site.
We stopped by Bindoon on our way to the Coral Coast because we had strong recommendations for three independent sources that the town’s bakery was amazing. When we rolled up, the small town looked fairly average with a strip of shops that included an IGA, butcher and a medical centre, but once our eyes set on the Bindoon Café & Bakehaus, we knew we were in for a treat.
Set in a new, modern building with a funky black and orange interior, the Bakehaus has been open since 2000 and is an award-winning business that makes great baked goods. The friendly staff were more than happy to go through what pies and savouries they had available while we gazed at their massive range of cakes, slices and rolls. Dave settled on a bacon and cheese sausage roll while Juz went for the steak, bacon and cheese pie. Both were delicious with each ingredient’s flavour standing out individually.