Lifestyle Travel Swan Valley Insider's Guide
Swan Valley Insider's Guide
Written by Rachel McGeorge
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

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The Swan Valley is everything you'd expect of a town whose main business is food and wine. Conveniently, you still have mobile phone reception, and in an emergency, you're only thirty minutes away from the Perth CBD if you're on call.

While there are many wine tours on offer to show you around, sometimes the best way to explore a place is with the help of the locals. Growing up in Guilford, Alyce and Lara frequently spent their weekends visiting the Swan Valley, even before they were old enough to appreciate the wines for which the valley is recognised. Both insist that the Guilford township is the ideal spot to start. Commonly referred to as the gateway to the Swan Valley, Guildford was one of the first three towns established as part of the Swan River Colony in 1929. The best way to explore is a walking tour of the township leading you past the heritage listed buildings, antique stores, and charming eateries on offer, including the Rose and Crown, WAs oldest (still running) pub.

With Spring in the Valley drawing huge crowds each year, spring is the most popular time to visit, with all kinds of events on offer. However, the Valley is open all year round, and has something to offer for every season. On hot summer afternoons, the Guildford girls recommend visiting Jane Brook to try their white port. Served over ice with a wedge of lemon, the crisp, golden-coloured port is light and refreshing, perfect to beat the heat.

For a more classic summer treat, they suggested heading to Oggies Ice-creamery for ice creams and sorbets flavoured with local fruits, as well as all the classics. For something with a little twist, they recommend a visit to the Edgecombe Brothers Cafe for their famous home made Muscat ice cream.

A well kept secret of the Swan Valley, Windy Creek Estate produces some of the best whites you'll taste in Western Australia. At the estate, you'll be met by the family that grows and produces the Windy Creek wines, which are only available at the cellar door. This means you'll have to stop by to taste their crisp premium white or strawberry-flavoured rose because they're not available anywhere else.

For the winter months, Talijancich is the name to remember for a smooth red. The winery has been operating for over 75 years, and their speciality has always been the shiraz. Uncomplicated and full-bodied, the Talijancich red is definitely a favourite among the locals.

As one of Western Australia's newest wineries, Sittella has not let its youth prevent it from becoming a local favourite, yet it still gets missed from most Swan Valley guides. Another winery favoured by locals is Brookleigh, with its extensive grounds, equestrian centre, and acclaimed Stewart's Restaurant.

Wild Swan Distillery is another recent addition to the Swan Valley. Established in 2002, the distillery currently offers vodka, gin and flavoured vodkas. Their pure, chilli, and lemon vodkas have won prizes at the San Francisco World Spirits Show. Wild Swan will soon have whisky and brandy on offer once their first oak barrels have matured.

Newer still is the Mash Micro Brewery, another recommendation from the local girls. Named after the brewing process, which uses all natural raw ingredients, Mash is the best spot for a refreshing pint. And while you're there, why not visit the Mash Brasserie, serving meals to match your favourite beer.

While the Swan Valley is predominantly a wine region, there's also a selection of things to do for the kids (or the designated driver). The first, of course, is the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. Walking in, you are led to a selection of milk, white, or dark chocolate drops to taste before you are swept up among the large selection of chocolates available for purchase. Mondo Nougat is another favourite spot for those with a sweet tooth. Following the traditional Italian recipe, the nougat is made from the finest ingredients the area has to offer, including the world's best natural honey and fresh almonds.

Another suggestion from the Guildford locals is a visit to Elmar's in the Valley. On the estate is a German-style restaurant, micro brewery with award-winning beer, and a small goods and gift store. A recognised name for natural, locally-produced, gluten-free small goods, Elmar's in the Valley aims to broaden the experience with traditional German dining and beer.

Like many small towns, it's hard to keep a secret in the Swan Valley. In a region with so many delightful spots, the locals are only too happy to share them, so nothing will stay secret for long.