York - A Day in the Country
Updated: May 20
We ventured out to York during the York Festival (late September to mid October) to catch the Wara Art Trail. It is a lovely drive to York (97km from Perth) and depending on the time of year it can be verdant green (winter) glowing yellow (early spring when the canola is in flower), dull yellow (wheat harvest) or shades of brown (summer).
The Wara Art Trail showcases spectacular larger than life straw sculptures. In 2019 the sculptures depicted a Murray River Cod (big enough to walk through and see how it had been constructed!) a Western Swamp Tortoise, a Bilby, a Numbat, a Rakali (Water Rat) and a Western Ground Parrot.
York has plenty to occupy you for the day with a main street full of historic buildings. York, established in 1831, was our first inland town but many of the buildings date from the 1890's goldrush years when York was the last stop before the long trek to the goldfields.
Start at the York Town Hall which houses the Visitors Centre. Make sure you look up at the pressed tin ceilings! Pick up an interactive walking trail map and then head off to explore the various parts of town, reading up on the history as you go or simply admiring the architecture. You can follow the 2.8 km Hidden Gems Trail or the 3.4 km Convicts and Crossing Trail. Combine the two for a total of around 6km as there is an overlap. York is so compact you can easily walk around to take in most of the sights.
The Hidden Gems Trail includes the Masonic Lodge, now home to a lovely souvenir shop/art gallery that also serves tea and coffee. From there you can explore the Old Flour Mill where you will find a small nature playground, Pert's Pantry where you can buy fresh bread and preserves, and other pop up arts and crafts shops. Next stop is the now disused York Railway Station - if you are lucky you will see one of the extremely long goods trains passing through! - then the War Memorial park with it's Krupp Gun, the Convent School and St Patrick's Church, the former York Primary School, the Uniting Church, the Girl Guides Centre which used to be the stables of historic Faversham House and you will finish at the York Bushland Garden. From here you can head down Ford Street and join the Convicts and Crossings Trail or head back into town along Avon Terrace.
The Convicts and Crossings Trail covers the eastern side of town and the western river bank. From the Town Hall the Trail takes you to the Pioneer Cemetery before crossing the bridge over Bilya (the Avon River) and onto Clifford Street where you might see some quirky gardens. Next take in the Old Hospital and the Residency Museum before admiring the historic grapevine at the old tennis courts, the croquet club, more churches and cottages. In summer when water levels are low you can cross Bilya at the Monger's Bridge site at Ford Crossing but when the river is full you will have to retrace your steps and cross over at the Swinging Bridge at Pioneer Avon Park. The kids will love exploring the Avon River Walk Trail alongside the river and rocking their way across the suspension bridge. Pioneer Avon Park (closed for upgrades Jan-Apr 2020) has a small playground, picnic facilities, barbecues and toilets. Seasonally you can also follow the Tiny Doors of York Trail.
Younger children can pick up a Nature Play WA Shire of York Nature Passport from the Visitor Centre and follow and record the fun activities as you explore.
The Grand Designs Trail showcases the history and architecture along both sides of Avon Terrace and covers around 1.5 km. This trail also overlaps the Hidden Gems trail and the Convicts and Crossing Trail so if you complete all three you will still only walk about 6 kms in total however it may take you a little longer as you stop more frequently along the way. The Grand Designs Trail includes 5 restored hotels (yes goldrush days meant lots of public houses!) as well as quirky buildings like The Sock Factory, the last sock manufacturer in WA, and the Rabbit Shed.
Download the Shire of York Tours and Trails app before you go or use the free wifi at the Visitors Centre. Simply search 'Shire of York Trails & Tours'.
If you prefer not to follow the trails you can also get a good map of the town from the Visitor's Centre and wander around exploring at your leisure or head up and down the main street reading about the town's historic buildings on the panels of the rubbish bins.
York also offers two cycle trails exploring many of the walking trail sites.
If the kids (or adults) have an eagle eye get them to take on the 60/60 challenge and find 60 of York's architectural features. Grab a guide from the Visitor's Centre or check out the York Festival website for locations.
If you are a car enthusiast make sure you explore The York Motor Museum recognised as one of the finest private collections of veteran, vintage, classic and racing cars in Australia. Often you will see vintage or veteran cars in the street as York is a popular day drive for Perth motor enthusiasts.
Visit between September and November and wander through the wildflowers at York Bushland Garden. The Visitors Centre can also advise canola locations in season.
The Carriage Diner on the banks of the Avon is a fun place to have lunch but there are plenty of places to grab a bite ranging from the bakery to a choice of hotels.
The views from Mt Brown Lookout are 360 degrees over the wheat fields and the town. You can see one of the storage facilities for wheat or canola - if it looks big from up here think how enormous it would be close up! You can tackle the 7.5 km Mt Brown Walk from town, a shorter 3.2km walk from the base or if your feet have done enough walking exploring town you can drive up to catch the views.
For a full list of walks and trails in York head to http://visit.york.wa.gov.au/york-trails.aspx
If you are driving home along the Southern Highway stop off at York Olive Oil Co a little way out of town. Try one of their excellent ice creams and let the kids play on the RISKY flying fox and nature playground - true risk assessment required here! Note this is a dirt road!
If York seems to have too much to do in a day spend a weekend here and really explore the various museums, go looking for wildflowers and canola fields or attend one of the many festivals, markets, motorbike and car rallies that York hosts throughout the year. For events go to : http://visit.york.wa.gov.au/events/
York is part of the magnificent Avon Valley so you can extend your journey beyond York to Northam, Toodyay and Chittering. The Avon Valley 500 Loop is a 2 day self drive tour visiting York, Toodyay and New Norcia.
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In the spirit of reconciliation Out and About- Family Nature Connection acknowledges the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar (Perth land) and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.