Festival fills York with fun

Will YeomanThe West Australian
A York street scene.
Camera IconA York street scene. Credit: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

As far as day trips go, they don’t come much better than Perth to York.

Especially at this time of the year, when one of the best wildflower seasons we’ve seen in years is in full swing. And with the annual two-week, family-friendly York Festival starting this Saturday — well, what’s stopping you?

The town of York is about 100km east of Perth. Northam and Toodyay lie to the north, Beverley to the east. The drive takes you along Great Eastern Highway and then York Road, first over the Darling Scarp, then through the jarrah and wandoo forests that eventually give way to rolling green hills.

Finally, York reveals itself nestled in the valley alongside the Avon River.

Avon Terrace, York.
Camera IconAvon Terrace, York. Credit: Mogens Johansen

The first settlers arrived in the Avon Valley — now part of WA’s Wheatbelt, which stretches from Jurien Bay in the north to Wagin in the south — in 1831. York was properly established four years later, making it WA’s oldest inland town.

This York was made for walking.

Avon Terrace, with its historic town hall, courthouse complex, post office, stately hotels and olde-worlde shops like the cute Penny Farthing Sweets.

Picturesque Avon River, with its modern children’s playground, a beautiful walk trail and quaint swinging bridge.

Mt Brown, with its unparalleled views of the town and surrounding countryside speckled with jam trees, York gums and all manner of native shrubs haunted by wattlebirds, fairy-wrens, honeyeaters and the like.

Mt Bakewell seen from Mt Brown.
Camera IconMt Bakewell seen from Mt Brown. Credit: William Yeoman/The West Australian, Will Yeoman

York’s oldest privately settled area, Blandstown, with its many architectural treasures, such as the heritage-listed Bridge House (1860) and Balladong House (1890), both on Balladong Farm (1831), around which Blandstown sprang.

Along the way, there are plenty of places to recharge your batteries.

You might stop in at one of York’s many historic churches, such as St Patrick’s Catholic Church, designed in the Gothic style in about 1887. Or the Holy Trinity Church, which you can reach via the aforementioned footbridge spanning the Avon River. The stained-glass windows by WA artist Robert Juniper are stunning.

The historic York Post Office.
Camera IconThe historic York Post Office. Credit: Will Yeoman

Or you might visit the superb York Residency Museum, and learn something of the town’s early history and that of the area’s original inhabitants, the Ballardong Noongar people.

Or the York Motor Museum in Avon Terrace, established in 1979 and bursting to the seams with an eclectic collection of cars, motorcycles and motoring memorabilia. Not far down the road is Rabbit Shed Collectables (as owner Stanley Coates says, “If it’s not here, they didn’t make it.”).

Or Gallery 152, with its cafe and gift shop. The exhibitions are always accessible and colourful, the works affordable. And the coffee is excellent. It’s too tempting to nip across the road afterwards to peruse a new or second-hand book at Barclay Books.

The York Town Hall.
Camera IconThe York Town Hall. Credit: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian, Mogens Johansen

York food & drink: a selection

Botanicalia Cafe, 152 Avon Terrace.

Settlers House York.

Bellissimo York.

Nguyen’s Bakery Cafe.

The Good Life Store, 109 Avon Terrace.

Gather York, 10 Henrietta Street.

Imperial Homestead, 83 Avon Terrace.

Castle Hotel, 97 Avon Terrace.

Lake Kimberley Bar & Grill, White Gum Farm, 680 Cameron Road.

Like this year’s wildflower season, the 2021 edition of The York Festival promises to be one of the biggest and best yet, with more than 90 events ...


Breakfast with Stephen Scourfield, featuring a spoken word and music performance celebrating the Avon River, and food by Gather York. Proceeds go to the York-based River Conservation Society. yorkfestival.com.au/whats-on/writers-program

The York Society’s walking tours by history buffs Rob Garton Smith and Ian Phillips, including the “Death” Tour, Convict York Walk, Architecture Tour and Churches of York Tour

A monster Jazz Program curated by Mace Francis

York Festival Writers Program

“Rare and endangered crafts” embracing blacksmithing, fibre weaving, bootmaking, printmaking, embroidery and woodcarving

Circus workshops with NeuroCircus

A Lego recreation of York’s Avon Terrace.

Improv comedy with The Big HOO-HAA.

Stargazing on Wongborel (Mt Brown) with Dadajaal Dance Company, Ballardong Noongar storytellers and astronomy guide Riley Johnston.

Community Program

York Medieval Fayre presented by Act Belong Commit.

Arts and crafts markets presented by Event Pop Artisan Markets.

Performances by the Western Australian Police Force Pipe Band.

For families, there’s a superb playground and picnicking area in Pioneer Park by the Avon River.

York Festival full program and bookings: yorkfestival.com.au or phone 9641 2328

A bus for the day of the York Festival Writers Program departs from the State Library of WA, 15 Francis Street, at 9am on Saturday, October 2, arriving in York about 10.30am and then departing York at 5.15pm, arriving at the State Library about 6.45pm. Tickets are $35 return, plus booking fee, and can be booked at yorkfestival.com.au/events/writers-program-bus-tickets

AUSLAN services will be provided at selected events. yorkfestival.com.au/your-visit/accessibility

To find out more about what to do in and around York while you’re there, and to discover more accommodation and eating options, see visit.york.wa.gov.au

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