WA’s second largest inland town and its largest agricultural settlement, Northam has developed near the junction of the Avon and Mortlock rivers in the productive Avon Valley, about 97km east of Perth. Northam is a major railway centre, a favoured spot among hot air balloonists, and it has WA’s biggest military training camp on its outskirts. The town got a kick along in the 1890s as a staging post for diggers on their way to the Eastern Goldfields. Hordes of tough prospectors used to take a rest at Northam before stocking up and tackling the harsh trek of 450km and more into ‘the land of dreams.’ Built in 1836 by John Morrell, the founder of Northam Morby cottage was the town's first church and school and has now been lovingly converted to a museum. The oldest public building still standing is the original police station, which received its first lock-up guests in 1866, while the old railway station, listed with the National Trust, has also been turned into a museum. Just out of town on the Northam-Toodyay road is Avonlea Park Alpaca Tourist Farm where you'll see those exotic wool growers and a swag of Australian birds and farm animals. Hot air ballooning is big around Northam and there are few better ways to get a bird's eye view of the beautiful Avon Valley.