The Hills is an area along the Darling scarp in Perth.
The Darling Scarp is a range of hills that lie to the east of the Swan Coastal plain, on which metropolitan Perth is situated. The Perth Hills is the 'brand' used by tourism bodies.
The hills is really about four different sets of suburbs and settlements that lie on the roads that cross the hills. The separate sets do not necessarily link well, and the roads can be narrow and winding and lack any cross-hill public transport. A drive in the hills can be an intriguing voyage of discovery going through the hills, specially in wildflower season,
Listed from north to south:
- Swan hills - To the north, the very sparse settlement of Gidgegannup ("Gidge" to locals) lies on Tooday Road (the road to the country town of Toodyay). Long drives through the area reveal a range of features worth checking out. The best information about the area is from the Swan Valley Visitor Centre in Guildford.
- Mundaring hills - To the east, the Great Eastern Highway rises over the scarp at Greenmount, and is the main entry point for the Mundaring-area suburbs. Mundaring Weir and Mundaring town have a range of places to eat and things to see and do. The Mundaring Visitor Centre in Mundaring is the best location for information. It also has a small museum adjacent which is a must see.
- The Helena River, on which the Mundaring Weir is located upstream, separates the Mundaring and Kalamunda areas. It can be accessed only from a few points, as it is locked up as a water catchment zone and vehicle access is prohibited.
- The Mundaring Weir Road links Mundaring and Kalamunda. It is a great way to view Mundaring Weir and the bush around it. You might see kangaroos in the wild here.
- Kalamunda hills - To the east, Kalamunda and Lesmurdie are accessed by Kalamunda and Welshpool roads. In Kalamunda there is a Visitor Centre which is very helpful in getting information about the area and what to do.
- Armadale hills - To the southeast, Karagullen and Roleystone are accessed by Brookton highway, as well as being reachable by 'back roads' from the Kalamunda part of the hills. Armadale has a good Visitor Centre for information about places to see and things to do.
Darling Scarp was first crossed by Ensign Dale in the first ten years of the fledgling Swan River Colony (now Western Australia).
The granite escarpment around Kalamunda and Greenmount provided raw materials for buildings and structures in Perth and Fremantle a hundred years ago. They were connected by the older railway lines that travelled over the scarp. The railway services in the area have long since closed. The quarries where the stone was collected from are now very popular rock climbing locations. Stathams quarry in Gooseberry Hill, and Mountain Quary in Boya are two excellent rock abseiling and climbing locations.
The Scarp, and the hills further east, contain a range of national parks where you can go bush without being too far from the city.
- Swan Hills (Toodyay Road area) - best accessed by car, public transport does not exist.
- Mundaring Hills - well served by bus transport from the rail terminal of Midland.
- Kalamunda Hills - well served by bus transport.
- Armadale Hills (Brookton Highway area) - best accessed by car, public transport does not exist.
It is possible to take a long drive around the Swan Hills/Gidgegannup area to get a sense of what it is like. Similarly it is possible to a large looparound through the Mundaring Hills area, with the possibility of linking into the Swan Hills/Gidgegannup area via a number of roads that link down to Great Eastern Highway.
Connections between the Mundaring and Kalamunda hills area are much more limited. Either:
- Scott Street, Greenmount (off Great Eastern Highway) via Ridge Hill Road to Gooseberry Hill Road
- Mundaring Weir Road, from Kalamunda to Mundaring or vice versa.
- Cycle Perth's Eastern Region - a booklet available at the Hills tourist/information centres provides a wealth of information about the various routes for the fit and the not so fit. 'Perth Hills Road Ride 1' is an off highway / back road route to Mundaring from Midland. The more adventurous 'Perth Hills Road Ride 2' involves the road between Mundaring and Kalamunda (Mundaring Weir road), a winding trail through the forest.
The train from Perth terminates at the Midland interchange station, which has bus services that radiate out through the foothills and the Mundaring Hills localities. There are no trains that go close to the Swan or Kalamunda Hills areas.
Infrequent buses from the interchange station service the suburbs. A Swanview bound bus can take you close to John Forrest National Park.
- 1 John Forrest National Park (About 30 mins drive from central Perth. It is well signposted off Great Eastern Highway). Some roads in the Park are closed before sundown. Named after an influential Western Australian Premier (the first, in fact), in 1947. Before its naming, government dole workers during the Great Depression constructed fountains, benches, etc. which are typical of national parks today. The park is situated in the beautiful area on either side of Jane Brook as it passes through the Darling Range to the Scarp. The park is made up of thick bush and is home to many small forest creatures.
- 2 Mundaring Weir (Take Mundaring Weir road from Kalamunda). A scenic reservoir surrounded by hills and forests. Good for a picnic, and there are hiking trails nearby. The weir (a large dam) was completed in 1903. Visitors may walk over or around the Weir, and the surroundings have picnic areas featuring public barbecues. There is also a museum nearby which documents the history of the Weir and the Pipeline project. The Mundaring Weir Hotel is also a historic landmark and offers good food, accommodation and often live (usually classical) music.
- 3 Kalamunda Zig Zag Trail. A popular scenic drive with great views over Perth. Also walkable, since traffic is slow moving, as long as you are careful. The route is a converted rail line.
- Hike - The railway reserves heritage trail. It is possible to access it at any point - and most road crossings are signed as part of their trail.
For those who want to Rocky pool in Swan View (at the western end of the John Forrest National Park) can do the whole circuit, to Mount Helena, and return down through Mundaring and Glen Forrest. It is possible to find places to buy drinks and food in the former railway station locations. There is also a pamphlet available at the Mundaring Tourist Information office on the Great Eastern Highway, as well as a website - but some of the information needs checking.