Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published September 1st 2013
Relax on beaches or just hang out with a lot of gnomes
For pre-civilisation human beings, life was pretty much one long series of day trips. We evolved to live with changing scenery and near-constant travel, and only with the relatively recent advent of agriculture and cities has that holiday come to an end. Bear that in mind when you're feeling cooped-up at home or work: spending long periods of time without going on a holiday is fundamentally unnatural. Of course, so is climbing into a car and driving a whole day's walk in an hour or two, but let's take it one step at a time.
Where are some good places you can go within a short drive from Perth? Ideally you'll be looking to relax, decompress, and maybe come back with some interesting things to tell your workmates about. So why not start with...
Just under a hundred kilometres and ninety minutes' drive east of Perth, visiting the Shire of York is a great way to get your historical appreciation and your relaxation in at the same time. York was the first inland settlement in Western Australia, and it's retained a lot of its old-world charm. From the pioneer cemetery to the wealth of heritage architecture, there's a lot of fun to be had just wandering around and looking at the buildings.
While the success of nearby farmland and the York Roller Flour Mill drove the town's prosperity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, York has very much become a tourist town. There's a wealth of cafes and restaurants up and down the main street, and care has been taken to keep nearby Avon River picturesque. The town hosts occasional music festivals, art galleries, a motor museum, and more adventurous day-trippers can even take advantage of the nearby skydiving and paragliding.
Is York too far away for you? For those who don't have easy access to a car (or only want to spend an afternoon) Rottnest Island is the perfect choice. You can get there and back via ferry from Perth's and nearby boat harbours, which even offer concession prices for the student day-tripper. Rottnest Island itself is beautiful, despite the off-putting name - on seeing the omnipresent quokkas, a Dutch sailor called the island a "rat's nest".
A dolphin in Thomson Bay (image by Vicsandtheworld).
Rottnest Island is most popular in the summer for a reason: the beachy activities, from swimming to surfing to snorkelling, are the main draw-card. It's worth a visit in winter too, though, if only for the (relative) quiet and the opportunity to take in the art galleries and cafes.
York and Rottnest Island are great places, but they're not going to astonish your friends back home. For something a little more off-the-wall, visit Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. It's at the corner of Wellington Mill and Ferguson roads, and it's exactly what it sounds like: a mock village populated by thousands of eerie garden gnomes. It's not some artist's weird project or gnome company's advertisement, though. It's one of those things that take on a life of their own - visitors contribute their own gnomes to the village, growing it little by little. Feel free to make your own contribution. Be aware that the Ferguson Valley is a lovely tourist destination in its own right, and should you get tired of gnomes, you can enjoy walks, cafes and wineries for the rest of your day.
Know a good place to go for a day near Perth? Let us know in the comments: we'll unleash hordes of WeekendNotes readers onto it and ruin the atmosphere.