The historic town that still has no traffic lights

The sparkling coast of Western Australia is where most tourists set their sights on their Wild West adventures. But when the locals want to escape, they head inland.

Toodyay is one of a group of towns east of Perth, beyond the 4,800 hectares of bush that make up Avon Valley National Park.

Like many small towns in Washington State, Toodyay is steeped in history. But what separates it from comparable cities are its well-preserved heritage sites, as well as its colorful characters from the past.

The architecture of yesteryear is everywhere, especially among the storefronts of Stirling Terrace, many of which were built shortly after the city was settled by Europeans in 1836. Such is the local reverence for the past, most The town’s big celebration is the annual Moondyne Festival named after WA’s famous bushranger Joseph Bolitho Johns, better known as Moondyne Joe. A notorious prison escapee, the outlaw hid in the hills of Moondyne near Toodyay.

Each year, thousands of people flock to the city to celebrate colonial life with period costumes and street theater, mustache contests and cleavage contests.

The festivities are among many at Toodyay, which prides itself on its calm lifestyle for locals and relaxing atmosphere for tourists.

Population: 4,439, in the 2016 census

There are a lot of options for food when it comes to Toodyay Town.

Who lives here?

Toodyay is as much an agricultural town as it is an excursionist town. A tourist who goes for coffee at one of the local cafes will likely cross paths with a local farmer who comes to town for supplies.

Kevin and Rebecca Keys have run Toodyay’s popular Cola Cafe for the past seven years and every Saturday they interact regularly with passing bikers.

“Monday through Friday we have retirees from Perth and tourists and on the weekends it’s more tourists and regulars, and also a lot of bikers,” said Michael.

“So around 8 am we’ll have an average of 100 cyclists for breakfast.”

Egg Benedict is the most popular dish on the morning menu, but the 1950s-themed cafe is making an exciting trade with its 12 varieties of burgers.

The cafe doubles as a Coca-Cola museum, thanks to a huge collection of memorabilia kept by its original owner. Everything from Coca-Cola yoyos to jukeboxes and even an open-sided Model T delivery truck is on display.

Much of the city’s popularity with tourists is due to its proximity to Perth, just under an hour’s drive southwest. For many, it’s an manageable distance for frequent commutes, but also far enough away to feel away from the hustle and bustle. Locals like to brag about the total absence of traffic lights in Toodyay.

Michael says the welcoming atmosphere at Toodyay keeps people coming back.

“When people come from other cities, they always comment on how friendly the city is,” he said.

Avon River passing under the Toodyay Footbridge
Avon River passing under the Toodyay footbridge.

What’s going on there?

For a small town, Toodyay has an impressive list of cultural and sporting events. In addition to the annual Moondyne Festival in May, there is also the Toodyay Picnic Race Day in September, the Toodyay Music Fest in March, and the Toodyay International Food Festival in August.

The food festival is timed to coincide with the Avon Descent, a 124-kilometer paddlecraft race on the Avon River, which runs through Toodyay. The two-day race started in 1973 and since then more than 35,000 people – from novices to kayaking champions – have braved the whitewater race.

Festival-goers peruse the stalls and sample their treats on the banks of the River Avon in Stirling and Duidgee Parks.

But foodies don’t have to wait for this annual event and can instead hit the road to discover local products. The Toodyay Food and Picnic Trail is an “autonomous journey” that takes producers and producers of dates, olive oil, wine, breads, pasture meats, condiments and even camel milk.

Inside the Toodyay bakery.
Inside the Toodyay bakery.

Tourists and locals alike take advantage of the beautiful wildflower season in the Avon Valley. Toodyay is the central hub and the starting point for many wildflower walks. Following the trails of Dawn Atwell Nature Preserve, Rugged Hills Preserve, Majestic Heights Preserve, Panorama Preserve, and Pelham Preserve, flora lovers can spot wild orchids and fields of immortals.

The list of family activities is long. There is the Toodyay Miniature Railway on the first and third Sunday of each month, and historical exhibits such as the Newcastle Gaol Museum (Toodyay was once called Newcastle) and Connors Mill, which shows how steam-driven wheat mills once worked .

There’s also the popular Toodyay Bakery, which is voted the city’s number one restaurant by TripAdvisor reviewers who rave about the delicious coffee and pastries.

How is life ?

Lesley and Kevin Hug arrived in Toodyay 24 years ago in search of an idyllic country town to raise a family. The couple operated mines in remote places like Kalgoorlie and Marvel Loch, and were looking for a home-based business.

Escape to the countryside - Toodyay
The historic Connors Mill, now a museum, located on Stirling Terrace.

The couple bought Toodyay Caravan Park and, eight years later, Toodyay Holiday Park and Chalets.

What struck Lesley about the city was the welcoming community.

“We took a look, checked out the schools and all the facilities and sports clubs, met the locals and everyone was very friendly, and the country charm of the city is just beautiful,” he said. she declared.

“It met all of our expectations and more. The kids have wonderful memories of growing up there and every time you go it’s like coming home.

“The whole city is your home.

What are the jobs?

Toodyay has a mixed bag of employment opportunities. Census data reveals that most local workers are employed in the mining industry, followed by local government, secondary education and supermarkets.

Tree changers who work in the city choose Toodyay because it is quite close to Perth. Travel by car takes just under an hour and an additional 10 minutes by train on the AvonLink.

For some, Toodyay is the perfect place to settle down at home and at work. Paula Greenway has lived in the city for 32 years and has her own pottery and sculpture studio there. Greenway, who is also a Toodyay County Councilor, runs workshops and retreats at her large estate.

She said growing tourism has opened new doors for local artists and business owners, many of whom display their wares in the main street store Uniquely Toodyay.

“It’s not just artists, it’s olive oil and macadamia nuts. It’s pretty amazing, it’s just shock, ”she said.

“Over the years we’ve all been told that we have to be ready for China, but none of us are because we’re all a small business.

“Most of the small businesses are located on out of town properties; there is a lot of diversity.

Why move there?

The average age of the inhabitants of Toodyay is 51, and judging by this, it is quite possible that the empty-nests have discovered the tranquility of the town.

And as serene as he may be, no one can call him asleep. Its calendar of events is only growing and major projects such as the new $ 13 million Toodyay Sports Precinct, which includes a hockey field, four multi-purpose netball and basketball fields, four tennis courts. , a pavilion with changing rooms and a 25-meter outdoor swimming pool. , makes it more and more attractive to young families.

Here is a city that embraces its past and opens up to a new future.

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