A few people sit in the shade beside the river, stopping to watch its white swans as they preen, a couple arching their necks into a classic love-heart.
It’s a pretty scene next to the Avon River in Northam — but it’s only a start.
For, from this heart of one of our oldest inland towns, the artery of the Dorntj Koorliny track leads on up the river, across and down the other bank, then across the wide waterway again, and back to this spot.
It’s a nice riverside ramble before summer comes in and it gets hot out here.
But before we set off, let’s first duck in to the Northam Visitor Centre on Grey Street. There’s helpful advice, of course, and a nice spot to sit overlooking the river, and an art gallery, migrants’ display, environmental display and Northam’s first people display.
This is a town trying to reinvent itself. And, next door to the visitor centre, the Bilya Koort Boodja Centre for Nyoongar Culture and Environmental Knowledge is part of that reinvention. It gives insight into Aboriginal culture through interesting displays and storytelling.
Now, grounded with quite a bit of background education, surely it’s time to stroll.
And so, we’re off on the Dorntj Koorliny track along the river, first upstream past Bernard Park.
The full stretch is 18km, leading to Burlong Park, on the north side of the river. This is an Aboriginal heritage site, the adjoining deep pool believed by some to be where the wagyl came to rest.
But visitors can tailor it to perhaps a 9.2km loop, just crossing back over one of the bridges back into town. I’d take a little daypack with a snack lunch, some water and a flask of tea and some biscuits, and saunter the day away.
The track was completed as a joint enterprise between Northam’s Noongar community and the Avon Valley Environmental Society.
For this is Ballardong Noongar country and as the wagyl came through here, it spread knowledge of the seasons. Birak, “first summer”, starts in December, so now’s the time to promenade.
SEE & DO
There is public artwork around the town, from Perth artist Chris Nixon’s mural on the side of Northam Optometrists to a series of statues along the main street telling the story of Northam. Get locations from the visitor centre. Be sure to check out Amok Island’s just-completed mural on the old Northam Flour Mill.
Northam Heritage Centre is at 425 Fitzgerald Street. It holds the history of the town and has great railway displays. The rail line arrived in Northam in 1886 — the start of a period of growth and prosperity for Northam. The Kalgoorlie line was completed in 1895, and a new station opened in 1900. The line was extended in 1917, to connect the west to the Eastern States. At its peak, the railway employed 1200 people in the district. The museum is open seven days, 11am to 3pm (from 1pm on some days. Phone the visitor centre for advice). Entry is $5 for adults, $3 for concessions and $2 for children.
Snack at Lucy’s Tearooms, the oldest cafe in Northam, or contemporary Cafe Yasou, and sit in the sun. Both are in Fitzgerald Street.
There’s a wide range of accommodation, from historic homestead to bed and breakfast, and chalet retreat to hotel-motel. Northam Visitor Centre can advise and help with accommodation.
Take it easy, hook in to history and catch the train to Northam. The AvonLink between Midland and Northam (via Toodyay) takes just over an hour. There are five return services (10 trips) a week. It has free wi-fi and air-conditioning. transwa.wa.gov.au and plan your journey on AvonLink.
Northam Visitor Centre is open seven days a week, 9am to 4pm. northam.wa.gov.au