Today we welcome back the lovely Nicola on the blog. Nicola is a Guildford local which means her and hubby, Ralph, were able to grab a Swan Valley Explorer Annual Pass each for $60. These special 12 month tickets for the bus are only available to City of Swan residents. I hope you enjoy reading about Nicola & Ralph’s Swan Valley Explorer day out as much as I did!
Upon hearing that the Swan Valley was to finally have a hop on hop off bus service, to say we were excited was probably an understatement!
My husband (Ralph) and I are incredibly passionate about wine and just love being on the Swan Valley’s wine wonderland doorstep. We have walked, we have cycled and we have Uber-ed – the first two were obviously a great form of exercise when indulging in a days wine tasting and lunch, but in 40c heat, it was often a struggle! (Especially after a few glasses of the good stuff).
Thank goodness for the new Swan Valley Explorer bus run by Adams.
The service was launched in November and not only gives visitors the fantastic opportunity to experience all what the Swan Valley has to offer but as a City of Swan resident, the benefits are really quite good. A day ticket on the hop on hop off service is just a mere $20 for the day for visitors and for us ‘locals’ it’s an incredible $60 a year! So we can use it again and again. Without a doubt, my husband and I will get our money’s worth – in fact we’re already planning our next route.
We recently popped into the Swan Valley Visitor Centre to buy our annual passes. All we had to do is show our City of Swan rates bill as a proof of address, pay our $60 and we were given a card. The staff at the visitor centre were super friendly and informative about the bus service. They gave good advice on where the bus stops and printed out an up to date timetable for us.
With our passes in our hand, away we went.
Bus timetables & routes
The easiest bus stop for us is right outside the visitor centre on the opposite side of the road. It was good to see other people waiting for the service. If the bus continues to be popular, the number of buses could increase.
At the moment, there is a limited bus service Monday to Friday and a more frequent service at weekends. But we’re hoping the bus will be a great success because not only is it good for all the businesses in the Swan Valley but it will hopefully mean that during the week, the services will be more frequent (and more trips for us!).
Because of the limited service on a Friday at the moment, my husband and I planned our trip ahead so that we could get the maximum experience out of our first visit and make sure we weren’t left stranded.
There are two bus routes: the Orange route and the Blue route. The main point of difference being that the Blue route stops via Caversham Wildlife Park.
The first Orange route bus leaves Guildford Train Station at 10.40am (Monday to Friday and weekends and Public Holidays). This bus then finishes its daily trip at Guildford Train Station at 5pm (weekdays) and 6.30pm (weekend and Public Holidays). The first Blue route bus leaves Guildford Train Station at 10.10am, the last bus arrives back at the station at 4.30pm (weekdays) and 5.30pm (weekends and Public Holidays).
These times are correct at the moment but can change at anytime.
We had pre-booked lunch at Sittella Winery for 1.45pm, so when we boarded the bus at 10.40am, knew that we had plenty of time.
On the bus
The first thing to mention about the buses is how really friendly the drivers are. We had a couple of different drivers as we hopped on and off, and they were all great and keen to know how our day had been.
The single-decker buses are decorated on the outside with vines and koalas – so not only look different from the usual Transperth buses but also look bright and inviting.
Inside, the buses are clean and comfortable – complete with air conditioning. There are also interactive TV screens, which have a running commentary about the Swan Valley, informing passengers of the next stop and also indicates for passengers to press the bell so that the driver knows when to stop.
The bus stops at some specific wineries and venues, such as RiverBank Estate, Sandalford Wines, Windarra Honey, Harris Organic, to name a few. But also stops at designated Transperth stops. For example, stop 11 is a Transperth bus stop which is a great stop for Maalinup Aboriginal Art Gallery, Swan Valley Oasis Resort, Supa Golf, Mash Brewing and Old Young’s Distillery. It just means that once you get off the stop, there is a bit of walking in between venues. As a local, we are already aware of where certain venues are, but it’s probably better for tourists/visitors to take a map from the Swan Valley Visitor Centre – so they can get an idea of where everything is.
Passengers can also download the current time-table by scanning a QR code on the bus – located on the back of the seats. This app can also let you know where the bus is when you reach the venue – and is a great help in planning your trip.
Our Swan Valley itinerary
Upper Reach Winery
Our first stop was Upper Reach Winery – which is stop number 14 and quite a way up through the Swan Valley and 15km from Guildford. We sat back and enjoyed the ride.
We had a lovely wine tasting at Upper Reach Winery. We were invited to select 5 wines to taste – and there is such a good list with plenty of wine varieties, ranging from the Swan Valley’s renowned Verdelho to the more unusual like a Petit Verdot.
We both selected the Verdelho, Unoaked Chardonnay, Reserve Chardonnay, Rosé and the Tempranillo but we were also given the Reserve Shiraz and the Petit Verdot as extras.
Our firm favourites were the 2018 New Release Unoaked Chardonnay ($23) – which displayed some wonderful stone fruit, rich nectarine and pear with such a balanced finish – and the 2017 Tempranillo ($35) – such a good drop, brimming with dark plum fruits and grippy tannins.
The 2014 Petit Verdot ($45) was a big wine with such great depth of flavour. We were chuffed that we had the opportunity to taste it.
We informed cellar door staff that we were on the bus, and they let us know about their wine postal service – if you purchase over 6 bottles or more it is just $10 to send out locally – which saves lugging cartons on and off the bus.
It is worth pointing out that unlike private wine tour where the private bus usually has a storage unit for any purchases, the Swan Valley Explorer at this stage does not cater for this. This is merely because you hop off one bus and then hop on another and not necessarily getting back onto the same bus.
We had a bit of time on our hands after our wine tasting at Upper Reach, so knowing that the bus was approximately 30 minutes away, we walked over to Mann Winery.
This little winery is less than a few minutes walk from Upper Reach Winery. It was the first time we’ve ever been to Mann and we’ve always been keen to try their famous Sparkling wines. Mann Winery are usually only open for 6 months – once they have sold their sparkling, that’s it!
We loved the 2016 Cygne Blanc ($32) – a deliciously crisp sparkling which is made from white Cabernet grapes. It’s super dry and the effervescent bubbles really tingle on the palate.
We bought a bottle and really can’t wait to drink it at Christmas!
We realised upon leaving Mann at just before 12.40pm that we were cutting it a bit fine – and had to run to get the bus which we saw pulling into Upper Reach. Thankfully we made it just in time!!
Next stop was number 17 – just outside Swan Valley Central but instead of visiting the shops there, we headed across the road and enjoyed a 20 minute stroll to Sittella, where we had planned to do a wine tasting before our lunch.
We had an incredible wine tasting at Sittella and were able to relax and enjoy much of the range.
Stand out favourites were the 2017 ‘The Calling’ Verdelho (currently on special at $150 a case). This wine was brimming with tropical fruit and hints of apricot – it was so refreshing and easy drinking. Our favourite red had to be the 2016 Swan Valley Coffee Rock Shiraz ($52.20), it was bursting with liquorice, cherry and ripe plum. It was so luscious and rich.
We were more than ready for lunch. The view at Sittella never fails to disappoint – our table was on the verandah overlooking the vineyard – and what a view.
We ordered half a dozen oysters and then chose the midweek special menu – 2 courses for $42, which is amazing value and truly delicious. We also chose to have a bottle of Verdelho for lunch. It was so lovely to sit back and admire the views (and a small wedding ceremony too!).
We thought a walk would be a good idea after lunch and knew that if we crossed the Maali bridge, the road would lead to Ugly Duckling Wines. It’s such a pretty spot walking over the bridge and Swan River – a great place for a picnic!
Ugly Duckling Wines
It’s only a 15 minute walk to get to Ugly Duckling Wines but we realised we were short on time. So we had a quick tasting of just a couple of wines before erm…running for the bus again!!! Having spotted it coming up West Swan Road, we knew we’d have to dash!
We enjoyed the 2018 Rosé ($24) it was so crisp and really packed the punch with strawberries and dark cherry.
After all that lovely wine tasting we sort of decided it would be refreshing to have a beer! So Feral Brewery was our next stop and a pint of a hoppy Perth Local went down a treat. Lucky we caught the Orange route bus because the Blue one doesn’t stop there.
Now, I must point out that this bus was the 3.40pm that leaves Guildford Train Station – and the last bus in the limited weekly service. It reached Ugly Duckling Wines at approximately 4pm. We chose to go to Feral Brewery as we were catching up with friends at that end of the Swan Valley. So as the driver dropped us off, he kindly informed us that was the end of the bus service. This was absolutely fine by us and we would have to Uber back home later that night.
Will we use the Swan Valley Explorer bus again?
There are so many routes/days out ahead of us in the Swan Valley and should we want to a complete round bus service back to Guildford, we can easily plan another trip. Another idea is to make Funk Cider our last stop, because it’s easy to walk home from there. We can also plan to just go out for lunch in the Swan Valley – make an afternoon of it at say, Sandalford Wines or the Cheese Barrel.
The opportunities as a local are endless – and very exciting.
My husband and I were pass number 42 and 43 – and to one of the bus drivers, the first annual pass he’d seen. It’s only been a few weeks since the Swan Valley Explorer was launched but we are proud to get behind this really quite brilliant service – and the more people who do support it means a more frequent service and that ultimately puts the Swan Valley on the map.
Guildford is a mere 20 minutes by train from the city – the Swan Valley is really THAT close! There’s wine, beer, cider, gin, cheese, nuts, nougat, restaurants, art, cafes, tea rooms, mini golf, lovely walks, stunning scenery…the list is endless and it’s all on the doorstep!!! So what are you waiting for? Get on board the bus!