The Swan Valley region of Perth, Western Australia is built on a unique history and heritage blending indigenous, pioneering colonial and southern European roots.
Welcome to Nyoongar country
Nyoongar Aboriginal people of the Wadjuk tribe have inhabited the region for at least 40,000 years and are the traditional owners of Western Australia’s Swan Valley. They have a strong connection with the land and believe a Dreamtime serpent, the Wagyl, once travelled across the country, carving out the Swan Valley and the Swan River. They say the Wagyl still lives deep within the Swan River waters to this very day.
Captain James Stirling sighted the Swan Valley in 1827, before the founding of the Swan River Colony and official settlement of Western Australia (WA) in 1829. He quickly realised the Valley’s rich soils would sustain settlement.
The first agricultural ventures by colonial settlers began in 1829 with arable and livestock farming and it wasn’t long before large estates were formed, lending the area a gentrified British character.
Western Australia’s oldest wine region
Viticulture emerged in the Swan Valley region in Western Australia (WA) some 181 years ago, making it the oldest wine region in Western Australia and one of the oldest in Australia.
The industry came about due to the foresight of botanist, Thomas Waters who recognised that the region’s climate would produce wines of the quality developed in France, Italy and Spain. Waters planted root stock from South Africa at Olive Farm in South Guildford, which is today located on Great Northern Highway in the heart of the Swan Valley.
Croatian and Italian Migration
Migrants flocked to the Swan Valley after World War I, again in the 1920s and following World War II. Croatian farmers were among these people and were largely responsible for transforming the Valley from traditional agricultural lands to vineyards.
Southern Europeans joined the growing industry, drawing upon the winemaking skills of their homelands to help Swan Valley viticulture flourish. During this time the Swan Valley had more operating wineries than the wine regions in New South Wales or Victoria.
The significant Croatian influence has put the Swan Valley alongside other ethnically-driven Australian wine producing regions, like the German-influenced Barossa Valley and the Italian-influenced Riverland.
A good way to explore and gain an appreciation of the region's history is to follow the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail.
Take a more leisurely pace on foot or by bike to absorb the history. The Guildford Heritage Walk Trails will take you by significant heritage locations, with interpretative panels, that fill you in on the lively characters and historic tales of this charming township. You'll also find interpretive signage along the Swan Valley Heritage Cycle Trail that will give you an insight into what makes the Swan Valley so special.
If you're interested in finding out more about the history of the region, why not check out the City of Swan's Local History Collection?