Yes, you can milk a cow and collect the eggs but these farmstays offer a whole lot more. Belinda Jackson rounds up some of the country’s best.
Settlers Rest farmstay, Swan Valley
Get your hands dirty mucking out the chook pen, fishing from the private jetty or preparing the animals’ feed. Pet lambs and rabbits supply the cuteness factor at Settlers Rest. And the three-bedroom self-catering Farm Cottage is thoughtfully appointed, with everything from an open fireplace to a TV, toys and even gumboots.
Wooleen Station, Murchison
“The romance of the Australian outback is part of our identity and Wooleen cattle station is all about its conservation,” says host Frances Jones. Kids will love spotting kangaroos, emus and sand goannas and pedalling through the bush on the two mountain-bike trails. A pair of rammed-earth, self-contained two-bedroom guesthouses sit amid the mulga landscape. Families can also set up tents and caravans on the Murchison River.
Wooramel River Retreat, Carnarvon
Situated between the World Heritage sites of Ningaloo Reef and Shark Bay, 120 kilometres south of Carnarvon, this riverside cattle, sheep and goat station also has 60 kilometres of Indian Ocean coastline. There are fire pits and artesian-bore baths for a family soak. Lodgings include the corrugated-iron Jackeroo Quarters and the Riverside Eco Tents. Or bring your own gear and camp beneath the gums.
Home Valley Station, East Kimberley
Experience a mini muster with the cattle station’s ringers, either on horseback or by four-wheel drive. Owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation, the station has accommodation ranging from eco glamping to luxury Grass Castle suites or you can pitch your own tent. Fish for barramundi, bird watch at the billabongs or go on a horseride (kids need to be over 10 and accompanied by an adult, although there are introductory rides for children aged six and over).
Bullara Station Stay, Coral Coast
This stay combines surf and turf, with more than 1600 head of cattle and a menagerie of local wildlife on a property close to Ningaloo Reef. Tim and Edwina Shallcross’s station is open to guests from Easter to October; wildflower season (July to August) is spectacular. You can stay in the Shearer’s Lodge, which has six rooms, or in one of two three-bedroom cottages, which have an outside fire pit and a hammock with views. There is also a campground for tents and caravans, accessible by two-wheel drive.
Margaret River Hideway & Farmstay, Margaret River
Two hairy Scottish Highland cows are the drawcard of these cottages set in the renowned wine region. The kids can also pet black-faced dorper lambs and baby alpacas, feed the geese and chickens and admire the proud peacocks and emus. The eight self-contained cottages sleep up to eight and encourage guests to get outside with covered verandahs, barbecues and outdoor settings.
Burnside Organic Farm, Margaret River
The McCall family aims to be self-sufficient and will happily teach their guests about organic farming and share the fruit of their labours. Pluck apples from the permaculture orchard, take a walk or tour the vineyard and taste Lara and Jamie’s organic wines. Family accommodation is in luxury two-bedroom limestone bungalows, set in the bush overlooking the paddocks and vines.
Top image: Wooramel River Retreat, Carnarvon