12 things to see and do in Toodyay, Western Australia
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
An hour’s drive through rolling hills northeast of Perth brings you to the delightful country town of Toodyay. Close enough to Perth for a day trip, this town is a delight for visitors. Established in 1860, and with a current population around 5000, there is enough to see and do here for a few days.
1. Tourist Centre and Connors Mill
It was surprisingly lovely to be greeted like an old friend by the enthusiastic staff. All my questions were well answered and great advice given. There were plenty of brochures with activities to do in the local area, and they also sell locally produced handcrafts.
Enter through the Tourist Centre into Connors Mill, originally a flour mill constructed around 1870. Today it is a museum with operating machinery that gives you an insight into the agriculture of the area. There are also posters detailing stories of people associated with the building. It is a great way to bring the local history alive, especially finding out that former convicts overcame their beginnings and became prosperous gentlemen of the district.
2. Coca Cola Cafe and Museum
The retro decorated red white and black Coca Cola cafe is home to over 6,000 items. This collection has taken the owner over 45 years to accumulate, and worth the nostalgic visit.
3. Post Office
Opened in 1897, the post office today houses a delightful selection of locally made handicrafts and produce. I love crafts that have been created with discarded items. These upcycled birdfeeders were delightful.
4. Christmas 360
The plain Jager storefront belies the amazing Christmas decorations inside the third largest Christmas shop in Australia. Festive cheer just leaps right out and entices you inside. Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, and this shop amazed me. It is well worth strolling through and soaking up the Christmas spirit, at any time of the year.
5. Victoria Hotel
Built onto over the years, the hotel was originally a store. The hotel sign states it dates from 1888, and is a great example of a country pub.
6. Fire Station
This art deco inspired building was a fire station from around 1940 until 2002, and was used as an Art Gallery a few years ago. Now it is a gift shop called Avon Valley Gifts.
7. Police Station
Well worth a quick photo with this quirky upcycled policeman outside the police station. He even has the word TOODYAY above his breast pocket.
Walking over the rail line and through the war memorial park, you come up to the 1867 built Courthouse. Originally this was the site of the convict hiring depot. Signs nearby detail part of the history.
9. Newcastle Gaol
Not to be missed, this gaol museum was small but very interesting.
Moondyne Joe, a notorious bushranger, escaped from the depot lock up, and this resulted in this stronger building being constructed in 1864.
The courtyard was where convicts would be chained up, and their cells are open for you to step inside and imagine what life was like for them. There are interesting displays of various items from the 1800s.
A ticket of leave convict was a well behaved convict who could work for wages, and choose who he worked for. He was sent to a hiring depot and not allowed to leave the area without special permission from a Magistrate.
If he was of good behaviour as a ticket of leave convict, he could be granted a Conditional Pardon. This meant he could leave WA, but not Australia. However, the Eastern States complained about these convicts coming to their side of the country, so a Certificate of Freedom was introduced. This meant they could not leave Western Australia until their sentence was served, and then they became an Expiree.
10. Dorizzi Memorial Cell
In one of the former cells posters tell a sad story about the Dorizzi family. They used the gaol as a private residence in the 1930s. Each of the five sons used a cell as their bedroom, and the parents slept in one of the front rooms. Tom (born 1914), Gordon (born 1916) and Bert (born 1918) worked in the family trucking business. The three boys enlisted in the military in 1940 and 1941, as did another Toodyay man Reg Ferguson. Bert and Gordon died on Feb 11th 1945, Tom on March 11th 1945, and Reg on 23rd March 1945. I cannot imagine the anguish of the parents when they received the notification that their precious sons had perished as Prisoners of War in Borneo.
11. Pelham Reserve
Stunning views over the valley and beyond can be seen from the lookout at Pelham Reserve.
There are several walking trails here, from 20 minutes return to 60 minutes return. They are well signposted with different coloured arrows. As I visited in early October, the hills were sprinkled with a colourful variety of wildflowers. Families were picnicking, people walking their dogs, and others taking photos of the flora. The walking tracks are over rough and steep ground at times, and not suitable for wheelchairs.
12. Walking around the town
Leaving the car parked and walking around the town was a fabulous way to slow down and really enjoy the sights. Being spring, there were many glorious flowers in front gardens.
People were very friendly, whether local residents or visitors. Everywhere I went people greeted me and stopped for a chat, even just to ask where I had already visited that day.
I stayed overnight at the local Caravan Park, next to the river. Along with many other visitors, I relaxed to the simple bush sounds and smells whilst sitting and looking at the setting sun over the river.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short weekend stay in Toodyay and would highly recommend visiting this town. Often small country towns are driven through on the way to a distant destination, but taking time out to explore and learn about them can be inspiring and enjoyable.