Heartlands Region

May 1st, 2001 Features, Scoop Traveller

Things to do

Drive through the charming Avon Valley National Park. The roads are unsealed and you’re far from civilisation, but the wildflowers will captivate you.

Canoe on the Avon River, but do it in a tour because it isn’t for the inexperienced. Explore Northam for its history and follow the heritage trail around historical sites.

Watch for kangaroos and other natives as you drive through Dryandra Woodland — the wheatbelt’s only remaining forest after land clearance.

See A B Facey’s homestead at Wickepin (where it’s just been transported from the Narrogin area).

Catch up with one of Australia’s two giant sheep at Wagin, and stay for Woolarama if it’s early autumn.

The biggest heartlands party in October is the Kulin bush races, where you can watch the various animal races, watch the band, have a few drinks and crash out in the campground.

See in real life what you’ve seen in a million geology textbooks at Wave Rock in Hyden in the east of the region, and keep your eye on the kids if you scale the granite to the top. Look at Hippo’s Yawn too — it’s another interesting formation.

Explore the history of Australia’s only monastic town at New Norcia and have a great time filled with water sports on the coast.

Go fishing and cray fishing in Jurien — see if you can hook the grouper, dhufish or snapper the area is famous for.

Hire a dune buggy and buzz the dunes at Lancelin. Swim lazily or surf-ski through the deep blue water, or join in the local pastime of windsurfing and discover why it’s among the world’s best.

Hop on a 4WD coach tour from Perth or Cervantes and see the sight early Dutch explorers through was an ancient ruined city, the same one people come from all over the world to see — the Pinnacles. Take your camera and lots of drinking water and if you drive, be very careful — none of the Nambung national park roads are sealed and conditions can get rough.

Look around the history of where farming and gold prospecting combined to created the Northeast Wheatbelt.

About the region

When European settlers moved out from Perth in search of farmland, the area we now call the wheatbelt was a vast bushy plain wedged between the northern coast of sand dunes and white beaches and the goldfields towards the east.

In fact, several of the far-eastern wheatbelt towns like York and Southern Cross struck gold as well, but their fortunes were short lived and they became more important as departure points for gold rush workers heading east, and their history today reflects their dual culture of agriculture and mining.

As the population of Perth and Albany grew and people went even further afield, the colony of Western Australia found itself with a huge demand for grain and livestock, and the vast bushland east of Perth was all but cleared to accommodate farms.

The last reminder of the inland’s former bush landscape is the Dryandra woodland on the way to Narrogin, and such widespread land clearing has had its effects. Today, salination of the land caused by overuse and erosion (unchecked by natural bush) is a major problem for the WA farming industry and arable land is steadily being lost because of it.

Unspoiled areas are to be found towards and along the coast, where the Nambung National Park is home to a large desert area of enormous sand dunes that end at long beaches where the sand is almost pure white. Very popular with international holidaymakers, the area’s main drawcard is of course the Pinnacles. Giant buses with oversized 4WD chassis crawl over the dunes and show tens of thousands of Europeans and Asians the famous petrified towers every year.

The general weather ranges from warm to very hot throughout the area, but the high flat plateau upon which much of the inland lies experiences extraordinarily bitter winter temperatures.

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Perth pioneers spread throughout the heartlands region in search of success — for most part in agriculture or gold. They established one town after another to serve as service bases for farms until they reached the dusty goldfields, clearing bushland and laying down the foundation for an industry that would dominate the area and leave its mark in the massive storehouses and silos that seem to guard the horizons.

The farms go on forever amid salt pans and copses of mallet of eucalyptus trees and the area is still pretty full of wildlife. A drive through the region, for example from Perth to York or Albany, will reveal the vastness of the agricultural operations of the state.

In the areas that are still bushy, wildflowers bloom in spring and transform the land into a riot of colour. The coastal scrub in particular is beautiful in season, and the dunes hide more natural treasures than just the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung national park.

The coastal townships of Lancelin, Jurien and Cervantes are the bases for great holidays or daytrips. Use them to see the Pinnacles and surrounding area or just enjoy the fishing, swimming, or water sports without going anywhere.

Lancelin has some of the best windsurfing in the world with an international reputation, and is home to a major world tournament. Jurien was the culmination of a farming venture that never happened before the few locals shared the secret of their excellent fishing, and today it exports crayfish worldwide.

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