Here’s a post-dated travel review about our holiday experience in Perth last year. This article was first published in Babytalk Magazine December 2011 issue.
Having had a wonderful farmstay experience during our honeymoon in New Zealand a few years back, we vowed to repeat the experience one day. So when E turned one in March, we started planning for our first overseas family holiday. He had a huge fascination with animals and always loved books that illustrate graphics of animals particularly sheep, horse, cow, duck and cat. The song ‘Old MacDonald’ worked like magic in catching his immediate attention every single time. The decision to go for a farmstay came naturally.
The relatively short plane ride of 5.5 hours as well as the similar time zone were the prime reasons we settled on Perth as our destination. As E wasn’t exactly a very good traveller or easy sleeper, the itinerary had to be free and easy and planned around his schedule.
Upon reaching Perth International Airport, we headed towards Swan Valley with our pre-booked rented car. We basked in the scenic countryside view as we drove past hills, vineyards and green pastures with sheeps and cows grazing the grass contentedly.
Located just 25 minutes from the airport, the self-contained cottage of Settlers Rest Farmstay exuded the charm of a classic Victorian home set amidst a large private farm. According to the owner, Corrine Reside, the 100-year old house was rebuilt and restored to resemble the true Australian architectural farm cottage of the 20th century. This unique country home was tastefully decorated with yesteryear furniture, photos and antique pieces, complemented by the comfort of modern amenities. Don’t be alarmed to see a rusty treasure chest box and a coal-fired stove adorning the ambience around the house. On cold nights, the authentic wood fireplaces in the living area and master bedroom worked well to keep us warm.
For a city folk like me, I found the historical home setting a tad too eccentric at first but as the hours passed, the strangeness turned into ease as I embraced the cosiness of the cottage. The dining room overlooked the beautiful farm and made waking up for a hot breakfast more than rewarding.
The rural cottage came with three bedrooms that accommodate up to eight guests. Cooking is possible here as the kitchen was completely equipped with everything you need to prepare a meal. Feeling adventurous, we drove to the nearest Coles supermarket at Midland Gate Shopping Centre situated approximately eight kilometres away to buy some food supplies and whipped up a simple yet sumptuous dinner.
Other child-friendly amenities in Settlers Rest included bathtub with non-slip bathmats, bed rails, baby cot, high chair, DVD player, night light, electric blankets for the cold months and air-conditioner for warm days. There were also rubber boots for the little ones to wear when exploring the farm as well as a children’s playground just a few steps away from the cottage. With a washing machine and dryer at no extra charge, we could pack light and do our laundry there. The only downside was, the bathtub did not come with a detachable shower head which made cleaning the younger ones a little challenging.
ANIMALS IN THE FARM
We woke up to the beautiful sound of chirpy birds singing happily the next morning. After a hearty breakfast, we headed to the horse stable outside the cottage. Upon seeing us, the goats rushed towards us for a treat of carrots. The horses and sheeps nearby got equally excited and started an animal choir to rally for attention. Amazed from seeing these animals in real compared to what he had always seen in the books and on TV, E stood there and stared at them for the longest time. Soon, three handsome llamas appeared to check us out. With huge adorable eyes and thick furry coat, they looked every bit cuddly but beware, these creatures are very cautious of strangers and would spit whenever one tries to feed them. According to Corrine, their observant and cautious traits made them reliable farm guards to ward off stray dogs and foxes from attacking the sheep and chickens.
We took a leisurely stroll down the farm as we went from paddock to paddock feeding more horses. You won’t be able to miss Xena, the most friendly cow we have ever met. We were also lucky to be given a chance to meet Blonde, the 43-week pregnant mare whose foal was due the following weekend. I secretly wished that she would pop before we leave. Corrine explained that Blonde had previously mothered two other foals which went on to win many horse show awards.
At the end of the farm was a calm river amidst an Australian bushland – a perfect stop for picnic! Before making our way back to the cottage, we stopped by the chicken coop to pick up some freshly laid eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast and said hello to Racheal the rabbit. As the evening comes, relax and listen up for kookaburras calling in the distance.
OTHER NEARBY ATTRACTIONS
Being Western Australia’s oldest wine growing region, Swan Valley caters more than just for wine enthusiasts and is a perfect destination for families and couples alike. Among the kids-friendly attractions include:
► Caversham Wildlife Park houses over 200 species of animals, birds and reptiles in an environment closest to their natural habitats. Expect koala bears, wombats, wallabies, dingos, possums, owls and more. Feed the laid-back kangaroos and see little joeys snuggling up in their mummies’ pouches. The park is stroller-friendly.
► Cuddly Animal Farm is great for kids! They get to pet, feed and interact with baby farm animals such as ponies, donkeys, lambs, calves, ducklings, chicks and more.
► The Maze in Bullsbrook is a timber maze that also features a look-out tower, supa-slide, walk-in aviary and more small resident animals.
► Margaret River Chocolate Factory is a must-go. Watch the manufacturing of chocolates, sample them and shop for delicious souvenirs. Before you leave, don’t forget to try the irresistible iced chocolate milk.
► Oggies Ice-Creamery offers a mouth-watering selection of Australian ice-cream!
► Windarra Honey’s products make thoughtful gifts for the parents and in-laws back home. Don’t forget to ask the owner which one is the queen bee in the bee-keeping box.
► Shopping From K-Mart and Target to Big W and Myers, shopping for baby items in Australia can be an exciting experience. With a huge variety to choose from, we found that selected toy brands are cheaper compared to those sold locally, so don’t forget to hunt for great bargains there!
The trip opened up E’s eyes to the world of knowledge and brought much joy to him. From calling a horse ‘neigh neigh’ for the past few months despite our repeated attempts to correct him, he magically named it accurately for the first time ever during the trip. He has also learned to differentiate between varying temperatures, telling us it’s ‘cold’ whenever he touches a chilly surface now.
Although travelling with a child requires lots of advance planning and bulks of energy (plus some patience!), it was nonetheless a vacation to cherish in years to come. We thoroughly enjoyed the free and easy, self-drive trip and the wonderful Australian culture, nature and food. Most of all, it was about taking some time off from the mundane working life and spending quality bonding time as a family. We can’t wait for another vacation next year!
WHILE IN PERTH…
If you have a few more days to spare and would like to venture out of Swan Valley, these places are worth visiting too:
► Freemantle Located only 30 minutes from Perth’s city centre, Freemantle offers an eclectic mix of art, food and architecture. The vibrant weekend market offers fresh fruits, vegetables, art and crafts, and local goods.
► Mandurah Situated around 45 minutes away from Perth’s city along a beautiful coastline, Mandurah is known for its protected waterways, beaches and boating and fishing activities. Sign up for a one-hour canal cruise and catch a chance to see wild dolphins in action. To complete the visit, stay a night at the luxuriously affordable Seashells Mandurah at approximately A$163 per night.
VISITING PERTH WITH KIDS…
It’s useful to know that…
► Infants below one are allowed to sit on their parents’ laps while travelling in a taxi. For toddlers, they are required to sit at the back passenger seat using a seat restraint.
► When travelling with children, it’s best to stay in self-contained accommodations such as serviced apartments. Besides privacy, you can pack light and bring along fewer clothes as they usually provide a washing machine and dryer in the room at no extra charge. Some come with laundry powder as well. The Medina Executive Barrack Plaza at Perth’s city centre is an ideal choice in terms of location, comfort and affordability (from A$162 per night).
► High chairs are widely available in restaurants and cafés, except in certain low-end ones such as Chinese take-away/dine-in and McDonald’s – so you may leave behind your baby’s booster seat.
► In a nutshell, Perth is a very child-friendly destination with baby changing facilities available almost everywhere.
► If you plan to self-drive, some car hiring companies offer the rental of GPS, car seat, baby stroller and portable DVD player to entertain the little ones during a long journey. Rental charges for these items start from A$2 to A$5 per day. We particularly like the one-stop services provided by Burswood Car Rental.
► Don’t forget to drop by the famous Corica Pastries (106 Aberdeen St Northbridge) for the most delicious apple strudels in town. One bite is never enough!