A warm welcome awaits
Mt Elizabeth Station: The traditional gate, a traditional welcome. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

There's a country welcome in rural WA and, in this Australian Year of the Farmer, we pay special attention to farm and station stays around the State, where the city-country divide can truly be bridged.

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From small farms handed down through generations to big agribusinesses, farming is intrinsic to the Australian way of life.

Working farms and stations are part of the backbone of WA - the homes of the farmers who feed and clothe us and provide building materials to house us.

And those farming families are also great hosts.

Tourism has provided diversity, income streams and social benefits for many farms and stations.

It brings in cash but it also brings through a stream of fresh faces and new interests.

As much as farm and station stays can enhance travellers' appreciation of agriculture in WA, and the lives of our farming families, tourism can add to rural lives.

Some farm and station stays in WA have been among my favourite places for years - touchstones in different environments and agricultural communities to be revisited time and again.

Mt Elizabeth Station, on the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley; Parry Creek Farm near Wyndham in the Kimberley; Ninghan Station near Paynes Find in the Gascoyne; Wooleen Station and Homestead in the Murchison; Watson's Way on a working farm near Bonnie Rock.

These are among the few I have "collected" but there are plenty of options out there.

In Harvey, an hour-and-a-half's drive south of Perth, Harvey Hills Farmstay is on a 248ha farm overlooking Harvey Dam.

Guests have the opportunity to feed pet kangaroos, goats, sheep, cattle, donkeys, chickens and turkeys.

In the Ferguson Valley, near Bunbury, Ferguson Farmstay has cows to be milked, baby calves to feed and pony and tractor rides.

In Donnybrook, Boronia Farm has a self-contained cottage on a 64ha working organic farm, surrounded by forest.

Lucieville Farm Chalets in Bridgetown is on a working farm with 135ha of paddocks, fruit orchards and natural bush.

Pump Hill Farm Cottages in Pemberton has mudbrick and rammed-earth cottages, friendly farm animals and a popular hay ride.

In Witchcliffe, south of Margaret River, there's a dip into life on a 67ha farm with 20ha of native bush, within a five-minute drive of Redgate Beach.

Sheep at Yallingup Shearing Shed. Picture: Darcy Harwood

Guests at A Sunshine Farmstay near Albany get a private three- bedroom house that can sleep up to seven people on a beautiful property.

The 1950s-style Abbey's Cottage, 22km west of Gingin and 25km east of Guilderton, looks out over paddocks. There's 68ha of cleared parkland with mature gums, pines, tea-trees and blackbutt trees - plenty of farm animals and 23,000 olive trees.

At Gumleaf Cottage in Hovea, on the doorstep of the Swan Valley, kangaroos, possums and bandicoots might visit at night and there are farmyard animals by day. Guests (especially the children) can join in animal feeding and care mornings and evenings, and collect the eggs. There are also rabbits, chickens, parrots, and a talking pink and grey galah. But the highlight may be the golden Haflinger ponies.

And these are samples, just examples, of course.

For those who just want a short, fun glimpse into WA's agricultural heritage and life, there are some good farm shows, too.

Tumbulgum Farm, on the South West Highway in Mundijong, has highly entertaining daily sheep mustering and shearing, cow milking and whip cracking.

The Yallingup Shearing Shed, in the South West, has entertaining and educational live shows - shearing, sheepdogs in action mustering and working the sheep, and bottle-feeding baby lambs.

Both are star attractions on the WA tourism scene.

Visitor centres can provide advice and book farm and station stays.

The West Australian

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