I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published March 21st 2013
Explore our local history at this delightful country town
Top Reasons To Tarry In Toodyay
With its main street lined by quaint heritage-listed buildings, life in Toodyay appears to continue at much the same leisurely pace that it has for well over a century. A long-time favourite with day-trippers from Perth, over recent years the town has developed numerous fans from further afield, due to its appealing mixture of picturesque scenery, fascinating history and friendly locals.
Toodyay's picturesque main street, Stirling Terrace.
An easy one hour drive from Perth, Toodyay was first settled in 1836 (although the original location was changed in the 1850s, due to flooding), just a few years after the first British settlers arrived at Fremantle. These days, it's a typical small Australian country town, surrounded by peaceful farmland and native bush: a dramatic contrast to the noise and chaos of life in Perth, just an hour away. However, although it's small in size there is much to see and do. The following paragraphs give you a glimpse into some of the interesting things to do and see which you'll find in Toodyay and around the local area.
History Toodyay's history is almost as old as the Swan River Colony, and its origins are reflected in the many heritage buildings which are still standing. I strongly recommend going for a walk along the town's streets, so you can get a better feel of the place, and see the lovely old buildings up close. There are also a few museums in town, which history buffs will find intriguing.
Newcastle Gaol on Clinton Street was constructed during the 1860s, using convict labour, and was one of several places that the famous Western Australian bushranger Moondyne Joe was incarcerated. These days it's a fascinating museum, where visitors can wander through the courtroom, tiny prison cells and the police stables. The gaol is situated at 15 Fiennes Street, and is open to the public from Monday to Friday 10am - 3pm, while on Saturday and Sunday the opening hours are 10am - 3.30pm. For more information go to this website or call the museum on 08 9574 2435.
The old Newcastle Gaol at Toodyay is reputed to be haunted.
Connor's Mill, on the corner of Stirling Terrace and Piesse Street, is another iconic Toodyay structure which now houses a museum. Built in 1870 by local businessman Daniel Connor, it was used as a steam-powered flour mill for many years until the 1920s when it was converted into a power house. These days, it's an impressive museum which tells the story of Toodyay's early settlers, and especially the families who used to live it. It's also reputed to be haunted (as is the Newcastle Gaol), so look out for any paranormal activity as you amble around. The museum is open seven days a week from 9am until 4pm. For more information, call Toodyay Visitors Centre on 08 9574 2435.
Picnics There are several lovely parks in Toodyay, which are perfect for enjoying a picnic lunch. My personal favourite is Duidgee Park, which can be accessed off Harper Road and is right on the Avon River, with beautiful views of the town and surrounding countryside. In addition to sheltered picnic tables, barbecues and public toilets, the park also has a great adventure playground for the kids and a delightful miniature railway which offers rides to visitors for a small fee. The railway is only in operation during the cooler months of the year, from Easter until November.
Duidgee Park, near to the Avon River, is a great spot for a picnic in Toodyay.
Shopping lthough it's just a small country town, Toodyay is a great place to indulge in some serious shopping therapy. Many of the historic buildings in the town's picturesque main street have been beautifully renovated and now serve as cafes, galleries, gift stores and boutiques. An 'olde world' lolly shop is a popular destination for those with a sweet tooth, while several well-stocked antique shops sell a variety of beautiful items from yesteryear. Courtyard Antiques at 111 Stirling Terrace is a fascinating establishment specialising in antiques, collectables, arts and crafts. I found the crafts section especially evocative as it reminded me of an old-fashioned country haberdashery with all its crafty little bits and pieces.
Courtyard Antiques is situated on Stirling Terrace in Toodyay.
Those with a penchant for op-shop trawling will also find plenty to keep themselves occupied in town, while monthly Massive Car Boot Sales, held on the second Sunday of each month at Toodyay District High School on Drummond Street East, provide visitors with more opportunities to discover pre-loved treasures. To find about the car boot sales, call the high school's P & C (which organises the event) on 08 9574 4554.
Lovers of fine locally produced arts and crafts will also enjoy wandering through the studios and galleries of local artists. Like a lot of country towns, Toodyay is home to many talented artisans and their work can be seen in various places throughout town. It's a great spot to visit for Christmas shopping or to buy something unique for a special person in your life.
Before visiting Toodyay, check out this website which provides a short introduction to Toodyay's various small businesses.
Throughout the year Toodyay hosts several major festivals. Held every May, the Moondyne Festival is Western Australia's foremost colonial festival, and is named after the famous bushranger Moondyne Joe. The festival includes a variety of fun, family focused events and activities including a circus, town fair, wood-chopping and blacksmithing displays, art exhibition, antique collectors' display and children's entertainment. The locals really get into the spirit of things with many dressing up as historical characters such as convicts, swagmen, 'floozies', temperance ladies and even a town crier. Visitors are also encouraged to dress up in period costume, so go for it and get into the spirit of the event.
Toodyay's Moondyne Festival is one of the town's biggest annual events. Image is from the Toodyay Visitors Centre website.
To celebrate the Avon Descent, Western Australia's premier white-water event which is held in early August each year, Family Fun Days are held in various towns along the Avon and Swan Rivers. As well as providing ample opportunities to cheer on competitors, these events also provide heaps of fun, affordable and family-friendly activities and entertainment. In 2013 the Avon Descent Family Fun Day in Toodyay will also include the Toodyay International Food Festival: an added impetus to escape the city and head for the Avon Valley.
Toodyay Agricultural Show which is held every year in October is a typical country show with much to see and do for the whole family, including interesting agricultural displays, lots of fun rides and colourful sideshows. For more information closer to the big day, call Toodyay Visitors Centre on 08 9574 2435.
The peaceful waters of the Avon River at Toodyay are perfect for canoeing novices to have a paddle, although conditions get a bit rowdy on other parts of the river. Experts consider that the rapids of the Avon provide some of the best white water paddling in the world, and every year, during the Avon Descent, competitors challenge each other to see who can make it down the river to Perth first. Therefore, don't paddle too far out of town unless you really know what you're doing.
If safety precautions are observed, canoeing is a fun family activity to do on the Avon River near Toodyay. Image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Nilfanion).
Drives Around Toodyay
Toodyay is a great base, or destination, for several interesting drives. A popular day-trip is to drive from Midland along Toodyay Road, passing the picturesque Noble Falls Reserve and the small town of Gidgegannup. This route climbs the Darling Escarpment and provides spectacular views over Perth and the Swan Valley. Noble Falls, just outside Gidgegannup, are especially beautiful during late winter and early spring, after there's been some regular rain. The beautiful wildflowers which bloom everywhere at this time of the year are an extra attraction, and there are a couple of well-marked walking trails which can be followed to the best viewing spots. It's a great spot for a picnic, and benches, barbecues, toilets and a small playground are provided for the convenience of visitors. From Noble Falls, it is a short and easy drive on to Toodyay.
The Avon Historic Tourist Drive is also very attractive, and begins in Toodyay. This 98 kilometre route follows the original trail between Toodyay, Northam, York and Beverley, and passes beautiful agricultural country and some of the most historic settlements in Western Australia. There are several attractive picnic spots along the route, both in the towns and out in the countryside.
Also beginning in Toodyay, the Pioneer Pathway follows the route that many settlers and prospectors took en-route to regions further east. Traversing small Wheatbelt hamlets such as Goomalling, Trayning and Nungarin, it provides an insight into the life and times of Western Australia's early settlers.
Kununoppin, one of several small Wheatbelt hamlets along the Pioneer Pathway.
The Pioneer Pathways is one of Western Australia's greatest secrets, and unfortunately many travellers neglect it in favour of better known drives in the Perth Hills and Avon Valley. However, the Wheatbelt is spectacular at any time of the year, and the locals are friendly and down-to-earth. Most of the towns along the route have small but fascinating pioneer museums, and there are often interesting sculptures in the public parks. Here and there are nature reserves which are home for a wide variety of native fauna and flora. These are especially beautiful during the spring, when hundreds of spectacular wildflowers are in bloom.
One day really isn't enough to see all that Toodyay and its surrounds offers. Therefore, why not stretch your visit over a few days? Toodyay offers a variety of accommodation options ranging from a caravan park where you can pitch your tent, to traditional hotel rooms, comfortable chalets and quaint bed and breakfasts. To find out more about what is available, visit the Toodyay Visitors Centre website or call them on 08 9574 2435. The friendly staff are more than happy to respond to any queries you may have, and help you make the most of your sojourn in this picturesque and historic hamlet.
Historic Hoddywell Cottage is one of many lovely Bed and Breakfasts in Toodyay. Image is from the Hoddywell Cottage website.