Unfortunately I have heard (June 2019) that the Swan Valley Explorer buses are no longer running. Please contact the Swan Valley Tourist Centre for more information.
Looking for some inspiration for the Swan Valley Hop On Hop Off Bus?
Let the Travelling Corkscrew help you discover the hidden gems of the Swan Valley utilising the new Swan Valley Explorer, Hop-on/Hop-off bus.
Source: Bryce Walker
I’m planning to visit the Swan Valley a lot this year and I will be sharing with you my trips and suggested itinerary.
I will let you know what routes are best, what can be achieved in a day and where the best spots are for you to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you have some tips or a recommended route, let us know too. I would love to try out your suggestions!
I’m A Bit Of A Nerd
Not only do I work in the same industry as the Travelling Corkscrew and nerd out about online marketing, but I’m also a bit of a nerd when it comes to planning a trip around wine. I even wrote a post about it.
When I go on a self-guided tour I will ALWAYS make an itinerary. I want to make sure that I can maximise my time at each of the venues I visit and make the most appropriate route.
I had a little bit of time off over the Christmas/New Year break so I decided to drop into the Swan Valley Visitor Centre where they were more than helpful in answering all of my questions about the Swan Valley Explorer.
I asked if they had any suggested itineraries for the Hop-on/Hop-off bus and I was advised that they weren’t aware of any.
To help with my planning, I was given printouts of the following
- Swan Valley Explorer timetable, including orange and blue routes. A digital copy can be found swanvalley.com.au.
- Swan Valley Map. A digital copy can be found on swanvalley.com.au.
- Swan Valley Visitor Guide. A digital copy can be found on swanvalley.com.au.
And in true Travelling Piccolo style, I then created my very own spreadsheet!
You can also read about Nicola and Ralph’s visit to the Swan Valley on the Swan Valley Explorer and you can read about their suggested itinerary and their day.
So What Was The Plan For Our Day?
I had an ambitious itinerary for the day, however, I did this so we had a bit of flexibility.
- Catch the first bus of the day, leaving at 10:10am from the Guildford Train Station
- Our first stop would either be Riverbank (stop #3) OR Sandalford Winery (stop #4) and if we have time, walk to Ambrook Estate from Sandalford Winery and then walk back to catch the bus.
- Our second stop would be Black Swan Winery (stop #8 on the orange route or stop #9 on the blue route) and walk to Little River Winery and Cafe. We would then jump back on the bus at the same drop off point.
- Our third stop would be Upper Reach Winery for tastings (stop #15 on the orange route or stop #14 on the blue route), lunch at the Riverbrook Restaurant. We would then walk to Mann Winery, and then onto John Kosovich.
- Walk across the road to Pandemonium to catch the bus back to Guildford train station.
Our Swan Valley Explorer Trip – What We Did And Where We Went
We had friends coming from the Southern Suburbs, so they opted to catch the train from Bullcreek to Guildford Train Station, where they jumped on the bus. As Bryce and I live quite close by, we opted to catch an Uber to the Swan Valley Visitor Centre and jump on the bus there. We made sure to arrive with plenty of time to spare, while our friends who were catching the train, ensured that they arrived at the Guildford Train Station at 10:03, to jump onto the Swan Valley Explore bus at 10:10am .
Stop 1 – Sandalford Winery
We decided before leaving Guildford that we would stop at RiverBank Winery, however, we learnt pretty quickly that you had to alert the driver, either by pressing the bell or by letting the driver know when you first get on that you want to stop at a venue.
We learnt this as the bus continued to drive past Riverbank Winery.
Fortunately, as a group, we had been discussing making stop number one either Riverbank or Sandalford Winery, and the Swan Valley Explorer made that decision for us.
Both Riverbank and Sandalford Winery open at 10am on weekends which was why we thought these wineries would be a good start for the day.
We arrived at Sandalford Winery around 10:20am.
Source: Bryce Walker
I knew that the bus would take us down the Sandalford driveway, as the Swan Valley Explorer timetable notes what type of stop you should expect and in this instance, it mentioned that it would be a premises stop.
The bus takes you down the driveway and drops passengers off at the drop-off/pick-up point in the car park, as shown above.
Source: Bryce Walker – Our reflections in the window, looking into a room with wine barrels.
Source: Bryce Walker
There is a small fee to do a tasting at Sandalford and as a group, we opted with the Reserve range at $5 per person. Depending on the wine range you opt for, the price will differ.
If you make a purchase at the end of the tasting, this fee is waived.
Our first tipple for the day was a glass of the Sandalford Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling (Non-Vintage). We all agreed that this was a great way to start.
This was followed by a few more tastings.
Our friend Mike opted to pay an additional $3 to taste the Sandalford Sandalera, and at $95 a bottle, he was not disappointed.
At the end of the tasting, our friends Mike and Amanda purchased a couple of bottles, so their tasting fee was waived, while Bryce and I didn’t buy any bottles of wine which meant we each had to pay the $5 tasting fee.
Before leaving the venue, we asked to scan the QR code so we could see when our bus was due to arrive.
I found the web app to be a little clunky, but I hope as the popularity of the service continues, that we will see some improvements. As a general rule, expect a new bus to arrive at each of the venues every 15-30 minutes.
Stop 2 – Black Swan Winery & Restaurant and Little River Winery
Our second stop for the day was the Black Swan Winery and Restaurant. We arrived around 11am.
As the hop on/hop off bus heads north along West Swan Road, we did have to cross the road to get to the Black Swan which did take a little while to cross. It would be great to see a pedestrian crossing added so it is safer for patrons who’re using the service to safely cross the road.
Source: Bryce Walker
We were served by Garry, who advised us that there would be a small tasting fee ($8 per person), which wouldn’t be reimbursed if we purchased wine. Even though we had to pay for the tasting, we felt this was fair, as, by the time you work your way through the list, you would have consumed approximately one glass of wine.
When we arrived, the restaurant was empty. This was the first time I had been there when the restaurant looked like this. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had attempted to have lunch (without a booking) where I would be turned away because the restaurant was full! We said that we were interested in lunch and Garry suggested that we go through the white wine tastings and then once completed he would place our order and let us know when our food was ready and we would come back for the red wine tasting.
We opted for the “Grazing Plate for 2” for lunch which included:
- Chicken & sherry infused pate,
- Pork samosas with cranberry & coriander
- Deep fried camembert cheese
- Chefs dip of the day (Capsicum)
- Grissini, Seeded bread loaf, EVOO & balsamic.
We ordered two of the platters to share between the four of us and at $28 per platter, we thought this was great value.
The menu suggested that we match the platter with a glass of Wooded Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc or Shiraz. Garry suggested that we match the platter with a bottle of the Wooded Chardonnay as it was quite a warm day and we would be sitting outside.
The bottle was a great addition to the platter and it didn’t last long.
Source: Bryce Walker – We really enjoyed the view of the vines while enjoying our lunch. It was so lovely and green.
Before we left I wanted to grab a quick photo of our group. It was so nice of Bryce to make sure that there was a space for me if we ever wanted to Photoshop myself into it!
The group thought they were quite funny/clever.
Once we finished our tastings and lunch, we walked across the road to Little River Winery. I had been to the winery once previously and I couldn’t wait to head along again as I was craving some of their sparkling wine!
When we arrived there was a couple who were being served, so we spent some time looking at all of the money that had been attached to the wall and posts.
This tradition of attaching foreign money to the wall has been going on for quite a number of years, and it was a great way to distract us while waiting for our tasting.
When speaking with the owner Bruno, he mentioned that for many years prior to Rose becoming popular, he would create a Rose style wine, however, as this wasn’t a fashionable drink at the time he would be left with over stock.
This all changed about five years ago with this style of wine now becoming more and more popular.
We really enjoyed our time at Little River. Bruno was a wealth of knowledge and we just loved the wines. We walked away with quite a few drops, including three of the sparkling wines which were at a special price of $65 for the three.
We enjoyed the sparkling wines for New Years.
Before we left we each had a glass of the Vin Doux.
The Little River Winery website describes the Vin Doux as “80% Semillion, 20% Chenin Blanc. Semi-sweet, medium weight, soft with fruity aromas but also very floral. The flavour is fruity with crisp acidity and lemony finish that lingers. Perfect with curries and spicy foods or fresh fruit. Drink now… very cold.”
We jumped back on the bus and headed for our next stop Upper Reach, where we had originally intended to have lunch.
Stop 3 – Upper Reach Winery and Mann Winery
Our third and final hop on/hop off bus stop for the day was at Upper Reach. Nicola and Ralph recently jumped on the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus and also visited Upper Reach, so it was great that our experience was just as enjoyable as theirs.
As the bus stops at the premises, it meant that we were dropped right outside of the cellar door.
When we arrived, we headed straight for the tasting room. We had arrived pretty much right on 3pm and we asked what time the kitchen would stop cooking, which was 3pm. We quickly moved across into the kitchen and asked what we would be able to order and we selected a couple of sets of fries and a cheese platter to share.
We moved back into the tasting room while they were preparing our food. The kitchen staff said that they would let us know once our food order was ready.
We ended up walking away with a couple of bottles, including a bottle of sparkling wine, there current Chardoanny vintage and another from 2014.
The view from the tasting room is quite spectacular with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vines and grassed area.
The view from the restaurant, Riverbrook, is just as spectacular as the cellar door. We opted to eat inside, rather than sit out on the verandah.
Once we finished the tasting and our food, we walked down the road (next door really) to Mann Winery. I haven’t been to the cellar door before, so I was excited that they were open.
Mann estate opens on the 1st August every year and once their wine is sold out they close their doors.
The Travelling Corkscrew and her family visited the estate back in 2015 and my experience was just as memorable.
Source: Bryce Walker
I just love a winery cat! And this was one chilled kitty!
It was lovely to have the cellar door to ourselves and have a really good chat with Durham. If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the Travelling Corkscrew’s cellar door bio on Durham and the winery. Durham’s family has an extensive and long history with the Swan Valley.
We bought a couple of bottles of the Cygne Blanc which is made using a White Cabernet grape which is unique to the Swan Valley and patented by the Mann family. The name Cygne Blanc translates to white swan, which is present on the wine bottle.
We then made our way back to Upper Reach Winery and caught the next bus back to Guildford which got us in around 6pm.
As we were still a little hungry, we stopped in at Alfreds Kitchen for burgers and chips. This venue has quite a cult status and following in Perth.
What I Will Do Next Time?
The next trip I take out on the Hop On Hop Off bus, I plan to add Feral Brewing into the mix and then walk down the road to Faber Winery, Laughing Barrel and then onto Swan Valley Wines.
I would also like to incorporate breakfast in Guildford before jumping onto the bus. Some options include:
- Guildford Milk Bar
- Guildford Village Tea Rooms
- Little Guildford
- The Lounge Room on James
- Padbury’s Restaurant
- Riverside at Woodbridge
- Rose and Crown Hotel
I would also love to see Riverbank Winery open for Breakfast on a Saturday morning. I think this would be the perfect way to start the Hop on/Hop off bus. They’re open for breakfast on Sundays if you were to choose that option.
And finally, I will continue visiting the Swan Valley with Bryce who has a pretty sweet camera set-up. He quite often takes photos which I can then use on the blog. If you want to check out his work, he has a Flickr account or you can follow him on Instagram.