Looking for a perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon outing? Just off the Great Northern Highway in Brigadoon (40km from Perth) you’ll find a series of streams and waterfalls on the edge of the Darling Scarp. Bells Rapids is the meeting of the Avon and Swan Rivers, and a perfect place for a picnic, hike or a little downtime in nature.
To get to Bells Rapids take Cathedral Avenue and follow it until it becomes Orlov Trail, and just look for the signs. You’ll get to a gravel road that follows the river to a car parking area. TOP TIP: Don’t stop at the first car park, drive to the end of the road for the best parking.
The park features a footbridge bridge that spans the river and gives you great views of the rapids. Water levels vary depending on the time of the year. It often drys up completely towards the end of summer. If you want to see some proper white water action it’s best to visit in winter or early spring.
On a hot day, there are several rock pools along the river that makes for an inviting dip. But beware, if you do go swimming at Bells Rapids, take care as the river can have strong undercurrents. Western Grey Kangaroos are also abundant in the area. And you can see spectacular wildflowers in Spring, and other birds and wildlife if you keep your eyes open.
Of course, the number one activity in the wet season here is white water kayaking. Adrenaline junkies take advantage of the bumpy stretch of rapid, putting their lives in nature’s hands during the annual Avon Descent White Water Race – a two-day event over 124 kilometres. Bells Rapids is a great vantage point to watch these competitors race.
The Avon Descent
Held in August every year, the Avon Descent begins in the town of Northam, 100 kilometres east of Perth. It proceeds down river through the town of Toodyay into the upper reaches of the Darling Range escarpment stopping overnight at Cobbler Pool. On Day two competitors tackle major white water obstacles including Bells Rapids. The marathon concludes with a 30 kilometre flatwater stretch to Bayswater.
Thousands of people usually cheer on the competitors at various viewing locations in the Avon Valley. Enjoy the Avon Valley Festival at Bells Rapids, featuring live music, food trucks and rides for the kids. It’s a great day out!
Bells Rapids Walk Trail
There are several trails around Bells Rapids and adjacent Jumpbuck Hill including a 2.5km River Walk and the slightly longer 3km Goat Walk both offering spectacular views of the Swan coastal plains below, along with the rolling countryside of the Swan Valley.
The longest walk is a 4.5km circuit, boasting panoramic views of the river valley and coastal plains. The circuit walk takes about 1-2 hours and includes some steep ascents, so make sure you’re wearing sturdy boots.
As far as hikes go, this is a great one to start your hiking adventures. Or if you are more seasoned, it is a lovely little walk along the Swan River.
I’d suggest you get out there and experience it!!!
And once you’ve conquered the Bells Rapids trails, and want to find a hidden gem of a waterfall off the beaten path – I’d suggest you check out Bells Falls. It’s a short hike upstream from the Bells Rapids Footbridge. Or take the bridle trail from Bell’s Lookout on Campersic Road. The hill is quite rocky and steep to get to the bottom of the falls so I’ve been told, and the trail isn’t well marked or maintained. But I’ve seen that someone has installed a swing in the tree next to the falls. Such a perfect Instagram worthy photo opportunity!
So if you’re looking for a place to get out in nature and enjoy scenic views of the countryside and flowing water, then Bells Rapids is your place. And you are just a short drive from the best attractions in the Swan Valley. And for me, this means it is the perfect stop (with a walk) to build up an appetite for an indulgent winery lunch.
Things to know before you go:
- The water level will depend on the season. During the drier summer months, there may be little water in the river.
- Take care as the water can flow quite heavily, especially during the winter and there are several strong undercurrents.
- This area gets busy during weekends and on public holidays. If you can it’s best to visit during the week.
- Dogs are permitted at Bells Rapids.
- There is no camping at Bells Rapids.
- Facilities are limited to one toilet block.
- There are no picnic tables, public BBQs or kiosk or cafe, however there are plenty of beautiful spots to stop by the river – just bring some camping chairs.