Imagine standing atop a granite outcrop, taking in panoramic views of the Avon Valley.
The iconic Avon River glistens 200 metres below, and if you’re lucky (and super quiet), you may glimpse a shy rock wallaby basking nearby in the sun. There are no sounds but birdsong and the wind shifting through the forest behind you.
You must be in the Avon Valley National Park, 80 kilometres from Perth. The forest in these parts is known as ‘transitional’ due to the mix of jarrah, marri, and wandoo woodlands, the perfect environment for the endangered Black-flanked Wallaby who shelters in caves and favours the granite outcrops in the park and nearby Paruna Sanctuary.
This unique ecosystem covers 4800 hectares of bush reserve and supports an abundance of birds and wildlife. During the Noongar season of Kambarang/spring, delicate wildflowers colour the landscape. Let’s explore Avon Valley National Park, a Western Australian wonderland worthy of a visit or two.
How to get to Avon Valley National Park
Head out of the city on Toodyay Road before turning onto Morangup Road for a picturesque drive through the Nature Reserve and into the National Park. Once in the park, roads are unsealed but suitable for 2WDs. Campgrounds are signposted, but it pays to download maps before you get there.
Why visit Avon Valley National Park?
Most people visit Avon Valley National Park to camp out and escape busy city life for a day or two of ‘forest bathing’ and bushwalking. Being so close to Perth makes this destination the perfect day trip for a hike followed by a BBQ/picnic at one of the designated picnic areas. Avon Valley National Park is a nature-lovers paradise, a place to immerse yourself in the stunning Western Australian bush and spend quality time off-grid.
Avon Valley National Park is culturally significant to the traditional owners, the Whadjuk people. They have a spiritual connection to the Avon River/Gogulgar, which runs through the middle of the national park and, in winter, becomes a flooded, turbulent waterway and the scene of some spectacular rapids.
This is just the place for the annual Avon Descent paddle and powerboat race held in August - an event for thrill seekers and adventurers alike.
Speaking of thrill seekers, notorious Western Australian bushranger and repeat escapee Joseph Bolitho Johns, AKA ‘Moondyne Joe’, escaped Toodyay lockup in 1861 and hid out in a cave just north of the park in the area known by the Indigenous People as Moondyne. Joe was a British convict jailed in Toodyay and later Fremantle Prison for horse theft, among other misdemeanours.
Planning your escape!
Fortunately, you won’t need to find a cave to rest in for your escape into nature! If you plan to spend a night in the National Park, there are four designated camping areas with captivating views and basic facilities such as pit toilets, wood barbeques, tanks of untreated water and picnic tables.
Take your own drinking water and firewood (collecting wood in the park is not permitted), and check fire warnings before you pull out the marshmallows and sit in front of a roaring campfire. There will be signs where you enter the park.
Campsites cannot be booked and operate under a first come, first served arrangement. Self-registration for campsites can be found on Quarry Road near the entrance.
A fifth campground, Cec Barrow, is available for group bookings only. Contact the senior ranger (08) 9298 8344 for queries. Suitable for school or sporting groups.
Drummonds Campground has valley views forever and caters to tents, small caravans or camper trailers. The sites are pleasantly populated by trees for privacy and provide adequate room for multiple tents and vehicles.
Bald Hill Campground
Bald Hill, as the name might suggest, has fewer trees and is suitable for tents, small caravans or camper trailers only. The valley views are a short walk from the campsite and won’t disappoint. Bald Hill is also an ideal spot to set up for stargazing or try your hand at astrophotography. Explore Astrotourism WA to uncover the top stargazing locations in the Avon Valley region, with a special focus on Northam, recognized as an official Astrotourism destination.
Homestead Campground is a larger campsite suited to tents, camp trailers and caravans. This site is situated lower in the park, so it is not afforded the valley views – however, the surrounding bush is beautiful, and the space is plentiful.
Valley Campground is closest to the Avon River and caters to tents, camp trailers and caravans. Despite the river being tantalisingly close (by foot), signs indicate that crossing the railway line is not permitted. Trains pass at intervals, so there will be some train noise.
Hiking in the Avon Valley National Park
There are several bushwalking trails within the Avon Valley National Park. If you decide to go further afield and explore away from the roads or paths, let the rangers know where you are heading and always carry enough water and a mobile phone or personal GPS locator.
River Access Avon Valley National Park
While you can view the river from above at most vantage points in the Avon Valley National Park, there is no road access. A 30-minute drive upriver to Cobbler Pool (one of the Avon Descent checkpoints) is a parking area with river access.
Note that the river has strong rapids during the wetter months and slows to a trickle in Summer. Only experienced kayakers should access the water when it’s fast-flowing. Paddling WA has some great safety tips for new paddlers.
Walyunga National Park
You will find many places to access the Avon River with a kayak and several hiking trails further downriver at another of Western Australia’s beautiful parks, Walyunga National Park, where the mighty Avon River becomes the Swan River/Derbarl Yerrigan. Operators provide seasonal white water raft experiences in the park if you want to try something adventurous, even if you don’t have your own watercraft.
The Walyunga Campground is the only camping area in the Walyunga National Park - booking is required. The site provides basic camping for tents and swags only, with pit toilets, picnic tables and fire pits. The Swan River is 2 km from the campsite.
Hiking trails such as the educational 5.1km Syd’s Rapids & Aboriginal Heritage Trails and the moderate 11km Echidna Trail will get you close to the river and provide interpretation of indigenous history, plants and animals in this delightful park.
Hiking at Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary
A short distance from and adjoining the Avon Valley National Park is Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately run park by the not-for-profit Australian Wildlife Conservancy. The Sanctuary is home to some of Western Australia’s significant species, such as the Western Quoll (or Chuditch), Western Pigmy Possum, Honey Possum and Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo. Kangaroos and rock wallabies can also be observed.
The Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary is nothing short of gorgeous. A hike through the Paruna Gorge will lead you past trickling streams, abundant forests, and winding tracks. Gaining access to Paruna Sanctuary takes some organisation beforehand. The park is only open from 1 May to 31 October, and booking is essential - you will be provided with a code to enter the sanctuary gate. Entry fees apply.
There are three walks of varying difficulty within the private sanctuary. Numbat Trail is the longest hike, covering 12 km and is a moderate hike with some steep sections. Quenda Trail covers 6.8 km and is also considered moderate, while Possum Loop is an easy 2.3 km hike.
Put it on your list of Avon Valley must-have hiking experiences!
Tips for visiting Avon Valley National Park
- Standard National Park and camping fees apply
- Always check fire warnings before lighting a campfire
- Take enough fresh water to last your stay
- Leave no trace – remove rubbish when you leave
- There is no vehicle access to the river from the campgrounds
- Pets are not allowed
- Take your binoculars and camera
- All roads inside the park are unsealed but suited to 2WD vehicles
- Mobile coverage is not always assured – a genuinely off-grid experience