Sights and Sounds: Swan Valley – Western Australia

Just 25 minutes away from Perth’s CBD is Swan Valley. There is so much to do there that you could spend a few days just trying to get through it all. The Swan Valley information site offers a few day trip itineraries you can follow:

Or you can plan your own self-drive trip like we did using the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail Map. There is also a printable children’s activity book that you can print out for the kids.

This was our itinerary…

Katich’s The Grape Place

Our first stop was Katich’s The Grape Place on West Swan Road where you can sample and buy freshly picked grapes, melons, peaches, honeycomb, and a few other things depending on what’s in season. Even though you can’t see the vineyard or pick the grapes yourself, this place is worth a visit just for the grapes.

Swan Valley Grape Place

As much as I loved this place, it was probably a good thing we didn’t stay long. There is something about plastic wrap and a child’s need to poke holes into it with his fingers. Then there was a need to show who was strongest by lifting up the watermelons!

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And when I took them outside to “keep them out of trouble”, they fancied themselves to be winemakers stomping on grapes that were just lying around on the gravel. I’m sure a few more hairs turned gray on my head after this visit.

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So yes, I was relieved when we were finally off to the next stop…

The Margaret River Chocolate Co.

No visit to Swan Valley would be complete without a visit to the Chocolate Company! Located further up along West Swan Road, the Chocolate Company is just a stone’s throw from the Grape Place.

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It’s like stepping inside Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory! Well, almost.

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They have a string of awards to boast about, too, so if you are a true chocolate connoisseur, it would simply be criminal to skip past this place during a visit to Swan Valley.

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The boys were overwhelmed by the choice of chocolates before them and they wanted to buy everything. In the end, they settled for a giant chocolate freckle that was as big as their faces and a scoop of ice cream.

Margaret River Chocolate Co

Caversham Wildlife Park

On Whiteman Drive East – round the corner from the Chocolate Company – is Caversham Wildlife Park, one of the many wildlife sanctuaries you can visit in WA.

Caversham

Although there is so much to do that you could probably spend a whole day there, we took a whirlwind visit to see the wombats, farm animals, reptiles and the kangaroos.

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G2 was even game to feed the animals and touch the snake. G1 was put off by the smell so he went off to sit with his grandfather while the rest of us explored the park a bit more.

Caversham 1

We were all ravenous by the time we were done with Caversham Wildlife Park so it was on to Chesters Restaurant for lunch…

Chesters of Heafod Glen Restaurant

Described as the “quintessential dining experience for lovers of food and wine”, no self-respecting foodie could walk past this restaurant without partaking of a meal there. Chesters is the Winner of the Gold Award for “fine and contemporary dining” in 2011/2012. They offer a range of award-winning Heafod Glen wines, as well as their own produce such as infused olive oils and housemade dukkah.

Chesters Restaurant

They have a kids’ menu that was right up G1’s alley (since he loves Western food) but there was nothing suitable for G2 (who takes after Daddy with his very Asian palate). While G1 ate both his and his brother’s share of lunch, G2 subsisted on fresh air and sunshine. I had the risotto (which I really enjoyed) and a glass of white. Not being much of a wine drinker, I picked the one that sounded the most appealing based on the description on the menu. It sounded a lot better than it tasted.

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It was on to dessert after lunch…

Oggies Ice Cream Cafe

Since Oggies Ice Cream Cafe was on the “family itinerary” for Swan Valley, I thought it was not to be missed. If I had to sum up the experience in a word, it would be “underwhelmed”. There was nothing particularly special or unique about it that made it stand out from all our other ice cream experiences.

My SIL2 ordered the mint ice cream which was reminiscent of the artificial mint flavouring that was around when I was a child. I was never partial to them then and I guess that hasn’t changed. Perhaps we chose our flavours poorly but as far as ice cream goes, I thought it was just average. If you are visiting Swan Valley and find yourself pressed for time, I would give this one a miss.

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House of Honey

We scooted off to the House of Honey for some honey sampling and to purchase some honey to take home with us. They also sell ice cream – all manner of honey-flavoured ice creams that I thought would have made for a more interesting ice cream experience except that we were already stuffed to the brim so we had to skip this one.

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After seeing the likes of the Superbee Honey Factory in Queensland, I’m afraid all our other honey visiting experiences have fallen short. It was also disappointing that we couldn’t get any fresh honeycomb – all that was available were three tubs of “mint” honeycomb. If you’ve never been to honey tasting, the House of Honey is still worth a visit. There is also a cafe there you can grab a decent cuppa from.

The Maze

Our last stop was the Maze Family Fun Park which is actually another place you could spend a whole day at. Currently, these are the things you can do at the park:

1. Mazes – there are 5 mazes at present with the main attraction being the Timber Maze. At the end of the Timber Maze is a prize the children will enjoy. The 4 other mazes aren’t quite as interesting but there will be a new hedge maze that is set to open in April 2014 that looks pretty cool, though.

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2. Outback Splash – do not attempt to visit the Maze without the kids’ swimwear or be prepared to suffer the wrath of your children. There is no way to enter the Maze without passing the water feature so don’t even dream of sneaking past it – you won’t get away with it.

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There are further plans to extend the water feature with an estimated completion date in 2020.

 

3. Children’s Games – play hookey, volleyball or giant chess!

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4. Jumping Pillow – bounce around on the giant air pillow (or play in the sand area surrounding it – as my boys were more interested in).

5. Children’s Playground – just another playground like any other but it’s and old favourite that the children never seem to tire of.

You can also do these things (which we missed because we didn’t have time):

Strawberry Farm

We saw a strawberry farm on the way to the maze but by the time we were done at the maze, it was closed. I’m sure it would have been another attraction the boys would have enjoyed.

To do justice to Swan Valley, I think you really need at least two days there. We were on a fly-by visit so this was all we could manage.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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