ABC Saturday Breakfast … discovering hidden treasure on our most treasured destination

While our Hidden Treasures are traditionally within areas that maybe you haven’t considered visiting before, our next Hidden Treasure is all about what you might not know, or have experienced, at one of our most treasured destinations.

It’s not Broome, it’s not Margaret River and it’s not Three Springs or Narrogin.

It’s Wadjemup! 

Enjoy listening to the broadcast – live from Wadjemup – on the link below and enjoy reading below, about a couple of days on Wadjemup with my Producer, Tom Parry.

I’ve done a few stories on Wadjemup over the years, including a rite of passage visit with Matilda which was all about snorkelling at the Basin, getting a cream bun and a choc milk from the bakery and riding a bike and only stopping for quokkas, dugites and Ashton Agar.

I’ve covered the island’s remarkable ANZAC Day Dawn service and more recently Tom and I jumped across to the island in a seaplane, lifting off from the Swan River and spending time on the island to help Tom find his spirit quokka.

This sand-in-your-toes destination has the effect on West Australians that I described in last weekends staycation discussion.  You know you’re going to have fun but it’s the ability to relax and take on a pace of life far removed from your normal city life that is so appealing to us.

If you haven’t been to the island before you will typically hit the Basin, Geordie Bay, cycle around the island, hit the bakery three times a day and try desperately to remember what your Maths teacher taught you about angles when trying to capture a selfie with a quokka.

Interestingly, if you have been to the island before, you’ll probably still just do those same activities and experiences.  As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” but as I would say, “Let’s see what treasure is still to be discovered on our favourite island in the sun.”

Let’s discover a few of the experiences that those who work on Wadjemup wish visitors spent some time doing … just for fun and just for a bit of understanding.

A cultural tour is where a Wadjemup rite of passage should begin.  Before you put the flippers on or hop on a bike, put your cultural curiosity into gear.  

Enjoy a walking tour of the island that’s much more than a tour, it’s an experience that enriches your understanding of the island from an Aboriginal perspective.

Some of it is devastating and notorious but there’s also the beauty of a dreamtime story that describes how important the west end of the island is to Aboriginal people. There are traditional songs and a very special sand ceremony that reminds you of a time when Wadjemup was connected to the mainland.

The Wadjemup Museum has been recently renovated and full of new displays and new stories and ways of interpreting old stories through touchscreens and audio experiences.  Also, out the front is a new engaging space with a mini amphitheatre and installation of sculptures with interpretations of the island. 

New sculptures at the Wadjemup Museum

A military maze of tunnels that take you underground and give you an understanding of the importance of Wadjemup during World War II.  You descend down steep stairs into the bowels of Wadjemup and from there the artillery shells for the big guns on Oliver Hill were stored and plotting rooms calculated the required trajectory of the big guns that protected the sea lane approaches to Fremantle. Make sure you ask lots of questions because your guides know more than Google. It’s a well paced tour with lots of opportunities to learn and even more opportunities to go ‘Wow!’.

Into the bowels of Wadjemup we go

If you don’t have a boat when you’re at Wadjemup there are a few ways to get on the water and see the island from a different perspective. This summer there are fishing trips for kids to catch some herring and whiting and there are whale watching tours which mean you’re right in the middle of the action rather than departing from the mainland. If you don’t mind getting completely drenched, try the Rottnest Express Adventure Tour which races around the island but slows down and gives way to seals and whales.

Whales, seals and a good drenching

Wadjemup sits in the middle of the Leeuwin Current and this explains why the waters around Wadjemup are always a bit warmer. As I said to Tom, “You can’t blame the seals for the water being warm.”

The Thompson Bay Jetty is perfect for catching a squid in the evening. Cast a line with your mate, hold the torch light on the jig as it floats in the water looking like a prawn on its way to a nightclub and wait for a Kraken from the deep to slide its tentacles over the jig and then pull him in and try and avoid the spray of black ink as he leaves the water.

Herring, whiting, stingrays and squid … there’s a lot going on at the end of Main Jetty

Geocaching is modern day treasure hunting that gets kids outside while using their devices!  How cool is that?  Across more than 190 countries there are more than 3 million geocaches and a sneaky number of these little hidden stores are on Wadjemup. 

As part of your geochaching expedition, or to see Quokkas in the wild and not just outside the shops or inside your cottage, try one of the walking trails that criss-cross the island. The trails are a favourite hangout for the rangers who love sitting quietly and seeing what Quokkas do when they’re aren’t cake crumbs around.  

The path well-travelled on Wadjemup inevitably leads to the bakery. While the bakery is a wonderful rite of passage in its own right and eating a cream bun in the shade of a big old Moreton Bay Fig tree is a real treat, try a road less travelled and grab a felafel wrap loaded with jalepenos from the Lane Café, on the other side of the mall. Actually, even better than the felafel wrap is the Cray Dog. I’m no food reviewer but I know the words to use; succulent, dreamy, fresh, indulgent and joyful.

Cray Dogs. That’s right. Cray Dogs.

Wadjemup is a hidden treasure because there are tours and opportunities to get a better understanding of the Aboriginal experience and stories of Wadjemup … and because you can still snorkel and ride your bike but there’s time to explore bunkers and tunnels … and you can still have a cream bun and a choc milk but you can enjoy a felafel wrap as well. Or a Cray Dog. Or two. 

So next time you’re on Wadjemup, think about how you can discover some hidden treasure.

Wadjemup sunset from the Bathurst Lighthouse

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast … Lake Clifton and Preston Beach are happily between here and there

For Hidden Treasures, Ro sent me to get salty and explore an area that hasn’t changed, thanks to sliding door moments and big roads. Let’s hit the road and travel south. Not ‘down south’. Just ‘south’.

The first thing you need to know about Lake Clifton and Preston Beach is that they’re not backwaters.  Just like the thrombolites that lie by the lake, it looks like they’re not doing much but they’ve successfully survived by not doing much and they do it very well. 

Let’s start with the Lake Clifton Caravan Park which if you’re looking to have a quick getaway that includes your dog then this is perfect.  There are a few permanent onsite residents and while most of them are kangaroos and emus there’s a few people who call the park their permanent home. 

I love that their website asks you to make a booking but if you’ve made a last-minute decision as you’re driving past they’ll help fit you in.  It’s that sort of place … very laid back and very welcoming.

The 10th Light Horse Bridal Trail is 45 kilometres long and starts at the Harvey River Bridge alongside Yalgorup National Park and just south of the Harvey Estuary and Kooljerrenup nature reserve.  There are no real hills and if you love your walking and camping, particularly with kids, this would be a good way to spend a long weekend.

The Harvey River

Lake Clifton is a long thin lake that starts just south of Dawesville and ends at Myalup just to the north of Australind.

This is where you’ll find the Thrombolite reef. 

Science says Thrombolites are fragile rock like structures that are the work of microorganisms and represent one of the earliest forms of life on Earth.  But the oldest living culture on earth says they are Waggyaals Noorook, eggs left behind by the creator spirit.

Lake Clifton Thrombolite site

For bush walks the Lakeside Loop is around 5 kilometres and there’s kangaroos everywhere and little blue wrens flitting along the path to make you feel you’re in some sort of nursery rhyme – they’re just magical little birds.

There are several wineries to stop at and taste some local wines and ginger rum.

One of the wineries is even brewing some fierce ales and stouts as well. Ed, from the Thorny Devil Brewery, points out the flavour notes of his stout, slightly less eloquently than maybe Matt Preston would, “You can almost taste your sandshoes in it.” You know I love a good word and a hint to Ed’s age is his use of the word ‘sandshoes’.

There are a couple of great tour operators covering this area:  Mandurah Dreaming is an accredited Aboriginal tour operator and have a tour of the Thrombolites every Saturday from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

Salt & Bush run a Wildlife Nocturnal Tour through Yalgorup National Park that takes in the Lake Clifton and Preston Beach area, including the lakes.

Lime Kilns located in bush next to Lake Clifton are a really interesting example of a sliding door moment for the area.  While dredging and transporting shells from the lake had been going on for a number of years over a hundred years ago, the kiln only operated for two days before they realised the quality wasn’t what was expected when making lime onsite.  So the industry folded and with it much of the settlement, leaving the environment to slowly recover and be seen for what it is today.  

Old Lime Kilns

As you pull into the Preston Beach General Store you’ll notice a couple of signs proclaiming how good their burgers and fish and chips are. This is a general store where I was lucky enough to be looked up and down by a couple of locals sitting out the front and a couple more standing at the counter when I walked in. 

It was assumed I was after bait as I have that rugged, salty fisherman look about me.  A nod of the head indicated where the bait fridge was but I quickly explained I was after a fish burger.  As I waited for the burger, I wandered the store, looking at the range of squid jigs, poppers and burley cages. 

I looked at the thong rack, ready for travellers who need a pair for the beach.  There were sandcastle buckets, jumper leads, crossword books, stubby holders and pocket knives.   

This is the General of general stores.  There was even flotsam and jetsam adorning the front veranda of the store!

Preston Beach General Store. Putting the ‘General’ in ‘general’.

Preston Beach is about 12 kilometres long and perfect to sit and eat the best fish burger in the world. It’s accessible for 4WDs or you can park in the carpark and walk through the dunes to the beach which is great for swimming and more often than not, good for losing your thong in the soft sand – good thing the general store is just up the road.

It can be soft even on the track to the beach so make sure you’re prepared to lower your tyre pressures or the only place you’re going is deep into the sand.

Eat the best fish burger in the world on a beach, from the bonnet of your car, looking out to sea. Perfect.

Lake Clifton and Preston Beach are Hidden Treasures because nothing has changed from when they were both popular, it’s just that a fast road was built that takes you past it. 

They’re still great spots for camping, bushwalking, beach driving and fishing, looking at ancient living things, sipping some very good local wine and brews and eating the very best fish burger in WA from the best general store in WA with a bait fridge bigger than the drinks fridge and the best sign in WA that boldly says “Bloody Good Fish & Chips”. 

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Joondalup … it’s no longer at the end of the line

With Jo Trilling on Hidden Treasures for ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, we took what used to be a trek but is now a hop and a skip up the road to Joondalup. Have a listen to the link below, or read on, or do both:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/saturdaybreakfast/hidden-treasures-joondalup/13485714

While you would never admit it to your kids or grandkids, there’s something that happens when your first-born child or grandchild arrives.  It just seems to be imprinted on the memory a bit more.  You remember every detail about their birth and those that come after aren’t remembered less fondly, they’re just not as well remembered.

Joondalup is Perth’s first planned city, built from scratch, born from the bush.

We can remember when we first travelled there. To be honest, we probably made sure we filled up the petrol tank.

When you arrived, you wondered why there were such wide streets and fancy paving.  Who was ever going to love this baby and look after it and nurture it?

Joondalup is a big local government area but let’s focus on our traditional Hidden Treasure objective, exploring a suburb.

I’ve mentioned in the past the longing to get back to Bali.  I’m really missing a swim that isn’t really a swim, just walking slowing through the middle of a big resort pool with a big hat on.  Well you can do that in the suburbs, at the Joondalup Resort.  It’s got a big resort pool that would completely remind you of being in Asia if it wasn’t for the singing of the magpies and laughing of the kookaburras as someone slices badly on the fairway of the resort golf course.  Maybe the golfer was put off by the kangaroos that lie around the fairways.  Currently the resort occupants are only visiting AFL teams. For the ladies, keep on eye on the resort calendar because in August they host a Ladies Night Market full of stuff…for ladies.

Time to move into the heartland of the suburb and take a look at Edith Cowan University.  When I attended the campus you could look out the window and see kangaroos boxing in the bush.  You still see the kangaroos but they’re now hopping through a very established campus, including hopping past the biggest periodic table in the world on the Science Building.  It reminded me of the great pick-up lines for elements, “Forget Hydrogen, you’re my number one element.” and “Are you carbon because I’d like to date you?”

The biggest Periodic Table in the world

I think Edith Cowan herself would have wanted a mural of those pick-up lines on the science building somewhere.

Next up the road is the HBF Arena, home to the Cardi’s.  I’m not going to say they’re mighty but they have put down very strong WAFL roots into the ground and like all WAFL grounds, it’s close to the heart of the suburb and easy to get to and watch some great footy.

Let’s head to the top of the suburb to Nanika Park to check out a mural.  Murals and other public art are important to Joondalup because it doesn’t have an architecture yet that reflects the culture of its community, it’s simply not old enough yet. 

Together is a Beautiful Place to Be

So public art is a standout feature in this suburb because local artists are used and they consult with local schools and community groups to visually create what is important to them. The mural at Nanika Park is a great example of this.  Local artist Hayley Welsh worked with Joondalup Primary School to create the whimsical, ‘Together is a Beautiful Place to Be’.

Let’s duck across to Yellagonga Regional Park which is a great stretch of wetland and pristine bush, full of walking trails and opportunities to sit quietly and watch an amazing assortment of birds that live in the area and migrate to the area. There’s even a jetty!

Lake Joondalup

There’s a walk trail that starts at Lake Joondalup and makes its way for 28 kms up to Yanchep National Park called the Yaberoo Budjara Heritage Trail. It follows the movement track of the local Aboriginal people and was later used by settlers as a stock route.

The track starts at Neil Hawkins park which is nestled against Lake Joondalup and features some more examples of Joondalup public art that acknowledge the Aboriginal contribution and connection to the land through the Bibbulmun Yorga sculpture and the very cool Flight of the Black Cockatoo Table Tennis Table, available to play on all year long.

Flight of the Black Cockatoo in Neil Hawkins Park

Next to the war memorial is the Two Up Brewery, a brilliant spot to try local onsite brews and they’re building a great reputation for creating products that also tell wonderful wartime stories about the role of service men and women, children and families.

Great beers, great service and great stories at the Two Up Brewery

Making our way into the cbd streets of Joondalup, there are murals and sculptures including the bizarre ‘Interlace’ that senses your presence and squirts water.

Joondalup’s love of public art continues into the evening with visual light display murals on the library and a remarkable sculpture called ‘Love Motels for Insects’ that lights up at night to attract horny insects who want a big night out on the town. Dirty bugs!

There are 1000 ceramic medallions with depictions by community groups, laid into the paving so watch where you’re walking because there’s a lot to see, including the Walk of Fame!

The Walk of Fame features name plaques of famous locals. There is a problem however because the Walk of Fame is missing Joondalup’s own hidden treasure, an 80’s and 90’s Perth rock god, now employed in the heart of Joondalup at the City of Joondalup.  The lead singer of The Marigolds and The Neptunes, the one and only Jamie Parry, my big brother.

It’s a Hidden Treasure because you can enjoy getting there, particularly by train, and you can enjoy the luxury of a resort, parks, bushland and lakes, the tribalism of local footy and the defining of a maturing and connected community through its telling of stories in artwork on the ground and on the walls throughout the day and the night.

Joondalup is a hidden treasure because just like that first born, you’re always just a bit more interested to see what it becomes.  You want to tell it, “I remember when you were just a twinkle in an Urban Planner’s eye!”

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Cold Country … Dryandra Woodlands Delivers Shivers

It’s time to seize the day and embrace the cold. Really. 

Grab your best flannel shirt and prepare for it to soak up woodfire smoke! For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Hidden Treasures let’s drive out of this town and into one of the best woodland adventures you can have in Western Australia. have a listen to the link below of just continue reading:

This is a getaway that will need torches, jaffle irons and ugg boots. 

You’ll even find flowers in winter

The Dryandra Woodlands are less than two hours drive south of Perth, although you may want to stop off at Wandering, Williams or Narrogin, depending on which way you go and whether you need to get supplies.

Dryandra Woodland

In the centre of the 28, 000 hectares is the Lions Dryandra Woodland Village, full of wartime era nissen huts and even earlier, but more recently refurbished, woodcutter cottages of varying sizes and all facing the setting sun with a view of grazing kangaroos in the dying of the light.

The dying of the light in Dryandra

I grew up in the area and it’s fair to say that Dryandra brings out the Les Hiddens Bush Tucker Man in me, or perhaps more accurately the Russell Coight.

My school camps were held at Dryandra and in between kids staking their feet on protruding sticks, eyes being punctured by protruding sticks and kids being impaled on protruding sticks it’s fair to say I’m keen to gather up all the protruding sticks and put them in our fireplace when we arrive.

You’ll need to.  Dryandra is cold.  It’s next door to Wandering which is as cold as cold gets in Western Australia.  I thought I knew what cold was, growing up in Narrogin and playing hockey on a Saturday morning, or more recently hot air ballooning in the Avon Valley, but Dryandra cold is relentless, it keeps shivering itself further inside your skin, deeper, deeper, until it coils itself around your bones and doesn’t let go.

But that’s why you’re here.  To freeze on an afternoon bush walk.  To freeze on an evening discovery tour to see the local wildlife.  To freeze while you’re having a hot shower and to freeze while you sit by the fireplace. 

The bedrooms of the cottages are filled with bunks and, with multiple rooms, there are lots of options for keeping couples and friends together and farters and snorers in their own quarantine. 

There are big sofas and a wood fire and you can use the firewood as it’s provided or chop it into smaller pieces with the axe provided. Wood chopping in a flannel shirt – dreams are made of this.

There’s an inside toilet and there’s an outside toilet for the dads. And there’s a front veranda that looks out over a grass field and the forest.  Perfect for sitting with a cup of tea and a gingernut biscuit while you watch the kangaroos grazing as the sun sets over the woodland.  The caretakers pay the roos well to make their regular appearances.  If you don’t see kangaroos I’ll eat my South Freo beanie and wear a Swan Districts beanie for a week.

Western Grey Kangaroos

There are lots of well-marked walking trails that will last 30 minutes or 4 hours or if you’re worried about drop bears then you can stay in your car for the Darwinia drive trail.

Barna Mia is an unforgettable experience that can be bitterly cold but will warm your heart.  In the middle of Dryandra, as night falls, participate in a nocturnal tour under the guidance of Parks and Wildlife staff and with red light torches spot all sorts threatened and precious animals in our bush, like bilby, woylie, quenda, boodie and maybe even a drop bear.  

Possum spotting can be done from the back porch of your cottage or a short stroll into the surrounding bush.  With an old Dolphin torch, shine it up into the trees like a World War II searchlight and if you see one, hold the light to the side as shining it into their eyes is just as annoying and horrible for their little eyes as it is for us.

Hello possum!

Try some campfire cooking.  Take your trusty, rusty jaffle iron and put some tinned spaghetti between some white bread and stick it on the fire and for sweets wrap a banana with some chocolate in alfoil and stick it on the coals.  Get the kids to make damper balls (as Tom said, “Must have been a big damper.”) and dip them in jam.

Get a local Aboriginal experience.  Have a look at the WAITOC website for Narrogin Aboriginal tour operators or ask the cottage caretakers for advice on who to contact.  I recommend Ross Storey.  Sit on a log around a small fire and listen to Ross talk about his country and he will teach you how to throw a boomerang and he’ll put local ochre on your face, do a smoking ceremony and pass around kangaroo skins and Aboriginal tools from the area, including woomeras and spears.

Ross Storey’s Stories

Do some modern day treasure hunting by locating sneaky geocaches in the bush.

Geocaching is modern day treasure hunting

The nearby Williams Woolshed is another unforgettable experience on your way to Dryandra or on your way back home. They’ve recently set up a drive-thru but sitting inside and being presented with the best sausage roll in the world is worth getting out of your car for.  My dad never allowed food in the car.  Once every three years he’d stop for a drumstick or spearmint milkshake but that was it.  No food in the car.  Ever.  Not even butter menthols.

Dryandra is a Hidden Treasure because it’s not featured in any big tourism campaigns but it’s always big in my annual getaway plans and it’s a getaway that gets you together, whether it’s huddled by the fire telling stories, walking through inspiring bush or waiting for the first person to ruin the ambience and scare the roos as they bite through their gingernut bikky. Soak it in your tea people!

Just what I needed

As published in Just Urbane (June/July Issue): Pullman Bunker Bay Resort has Luxury, Landscapes and Culture

Beautiful by day and by night

For the June/July issue of Just Urbane I contributed a story about one of Western Australia’s best and most loved resorts, the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. Below is a pdf of the story published in Just Urbane:

Writing about resorts is always interesting.  I’ve just realised how much has changed for me in recent years when I’m looking for a resort.  Firstly, they’re usually overseas.

In the Age of Coronavirus I’ve had to look closer to home for the resort experience and I found one that is not only in my backyard but has developed a reputation for more than luxury, it is being acknowledged for including the history of Indigenous people in their story in an environment that feels like the resort is part of the local bushland.  It’s not about keeping the bush out; it’s about fitting in with the land how it’s always been.

Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is just over three hours drive from Perth and sits at the top of one of the greatest wine growing areas anywhere on Earth; the Margaret River Region.  These days it’s also world renowned for it’s other produce, including everything from cheese to truffles and steaks to ice-cream. There’s also world class surfing and fishing that can be experienced on a coastline that is both rugged and beautiful and if getting wet isn’t your thing, you can trek the coastline along the Cape to Cape Walk, an unforgettable journey through national parks alongside coves and cliffs for a distance of around 120 kilometres.

Hang on.  This is meant to be a story about a resort.  Well I promise you it is but it’s nice to know that you’ll be staying in a region that should be on the bucket list of anyone who loves good wine, great food, amazing adventures and awesome scenery.

But let’s get back to the resort and just relax, maybe planning a few short trips around the region but also taking the time to adjust to the time you’re in, resort time. 

It’s almost underwhelming when you arrive.  It’s not that it’s not sophisticated.  It’s just not grand.  You know when you arrive at the big resorts and there are long, wide steps leading up to the huge atrium style space for the reception and the concierge area and there’s also a community of staff to open doors, take your bags, offer you a refreshing drink and maybe there’s even a local cultural performance going on, or local musicians? That’s not the Pullman Bunker Bay way.  There’s lots of natural stone, a water feature, a simple driveway and an entrance that leads to a small reception counter.

But as I smile at the receptionist, I get distracted.  Peripherally my vision is being pulled to the left and my mind is telling me to forget about checking in and to check out the view.

This is why Pullman Bunker Bay Resort exists.  Bunker Bay.

Nestled just to the east of Cape Naturaliste, this small bay is extraordinary for being a sanctuary of shelter from the wild winds that batter nearby Cape Naturaliste to such an extent that a limestone lighthouse has been there for over a hundred years, warning ships from its rocky shores.

Bunker Bay is an aquatic paradise but probably not for those who seek the thrill of surfing.  There’s a lot of surf to be found in the region but this little bay is for those who want to dip a toe in the water, maybe do some paddling or snorkelling but whatever it is you choose to do your heart rate won’t take much of a jolt as this peaceful stretch of perfect sand and water immerse and calm you.

The resort is slightly elevated above the beach and the restaurant and pool have a view of Bunker Bay that is probably the only frustrating aspect of the resort.  I don’t know which way to look.

Is this enough blue for you?

This is a resort that provides meals that source produce locally and present it in a style that will make you regret leaving your phone in your room.  The view needs photos.  The food needs photos.  I need to lie down.

Ideal, comfortable and despite what’s outside, I don’t want to leave it

The resort has a community feel about it as you walk around.  There are no hallways or corridors, just open paths and vegetation between small blocks of earthy toned rooms that feature massive floor to high ceiling windows that allow the light and colours of blue sky and green trees to pour in throughout the day before being replaced by the brilliant starlight of a night sky that you only see when you’re away from the city.

So what has really changed for me in what I look for in a resort has probably been connected to the growing age and expectations of my children but it’s also linked to what we all have to learn when we start travelling widely again; thinking about out footprints and the footprints of the airlines, accommodation and travel services and experiences we all use. 

Beyond good sustainability and waste management, I’m looking for opportunities to engage with local culture as part of my luxury experience.  I want local art in the rooms that are available to purchase to support local communities, I want to contribute in a way that’s more than just coming to the area and staying, eating and drinking for a few days.  I want to meet local people and learn why their world is even more amazing than the most instagramable drone photo of yet another beach.

Pullman Bunker Bay does this.  I came home with local art, I came home having met local Indigenous Elders and having participated in a tour of the resort that opened my eyes not just to the worlds longest surviving culture but to what the plants outside my room could do for my health, why the coastal plants down by the beach were so delicious, how to find frogs on trees and lizards in rocks, how to speak local language and why the six seasons of the Wadandi people make so much more sense than our western understanding of the weather in Australia. 

This is a resort that is more than a base while you tour the Margaret River Region.  It’s more than a family vacation or honeymoon destination.  This is a resort that is like the best teacher you ever had.  Remember those teachers who inspired you and made you forget to look at the classroom clock and as you made your way home at the end of the day you were thinking about what you had learned in that lesson?  That’s what Pullman Bunker Bay Resort does for you.  Sure, you’ll swim in the pool, play at the beach, and groan with delight at the end of every meal but somewhere along the way you will also learn something about a beautiful culture and a remarkable landscape.  Best lesson I’ve had in a long time. 

Escape Plan

Covid-19:  While vaccination programs continue to roll out across the world and Australia has a program in place to vaccinate its population by the end of 2021 international travel is still not likely to resume until 2022. Check regularly with police, health and customs authorities before travelling.

Getting There:  From Perth, the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is an easy drive of just over three hours, all of it on good highway roads with regular service stations and the regional cities of Bunbury and Busselton along the way. 

Visit the following websites for more information:

www.pullmanbunkerbayresort.com.au

www.margaretriver.com

www.westernaustralia.com

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Aboriginal Tourism around Perth and a bit further.

Beyond stories, Aboriginal tourism is about tangible opportunities to feel ochre on your face, touch kangaroo skins, dance and have some fun.

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I thought that we should do something to be a part of NAIDOC Week, which celebrates the culture and contribution of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. Below is a link to our discussion about Aboriginal tourism experiences in Perth and down the road.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/saturdaybreakfast/naidoc-hidden-treasures/13449400

I thought we’d look at just a few of the immersive experiences that are available to learn and understand more about Aboriginal culture and just to enjoy and have fun.

As a local, it’s a great time to be exploring tourism opportunities.  Without the international tourists crowding the scene our world is our oyster and our world has the oldest and most remarkable living culture in the world. 

Whether you’re after education or entertainment the opportunities to immerse yourself in an Aboriginal Tour and Experience aren’t just limited to the great red dirt northern expanses of the state, they’re right here in your backyard and in your neighbour’s backyard.

They’re even increasingly around where you’ve always walked and cycled or gone to the footy.  Keep a look out for signage, statues and sculptures at your favourite spots, particularly for interpretive signs giving new life and understanding about where we live and who has lived here before us.

Here are a few of my favourite Aboriginal Tours and Experiences that are here in Perth and just a couple that are a little bit down the road.

All of them are accredited tour operators and are members of the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council who have the coolest corporate values you’ll find; 1) Connection to Country 2) Welcome to Country 3) Have Corroborees … to share and learn!

No buzz words.  They’re real words.

Let’s start in Mandurah and welcome you to Mandjoogoordap Dreaming. Anyone who has taken the Freeway and Forrest Highway down south has seen the longest name sign Main Roads has ever had to install.  The ‘Mandjoo’ means ‘meeting place’ and the ‘goordap’ means ‘of the heart’.  George at Mandjoogoordap Dreaming will teach you how to make bush twine and forage for bush tucker and learn the bushcraft of the region during walks along the Mandurah foreshore and estuary and a little bit on a bus for little legs and older legs.

Let’s keep going a bit further down the road but only as far Bunker Bay just to the west of Dunsborough.  Pullman Bunker Bay have partnered with local Elders to give guests the opportunity to do a Six Seasons Tour by exploring the gardens at the resort.  When I did the tour with my kids, Elder Nina Webb showed them the plants that could be eaten, used for medicine, and showed me what ones just look good as a bouquet for.  We found frogs behind leaves and lizards on rocks. 

This is one tour that showcases not just the flora and fauna but also the culture and language of the local Wardandi people and are showing how to work alongside a modern hospitality experience to include some authentic culture in your resort getaway.

Wardandi Elder Nina Webb takes resort guests at Pullman Bunker Bay on a tour of what is right before their eyes … and opens them!

We’ll stay south for another experience but head east to Kojonup to the Kodja Place.  It’s with great sadness that my friend and local legend Jack Cox passed away in March and I wish to thank his family for letting me mention his name today.  Jack used to greet visitors with a bush tea that was actually bought at the Kojonup IGA and he used to tell international visitors that he needed their help to find lost sheep in the gardens surrounding Kodja Place. The Kodja Place will continue to tell stories about his remarkable life and his family who lived in the area.  If you are putting together a bucket list of Western Australian cultural travel experiences, make sure the Kodja Place in Kojonup is on it because it’s a complete tapestry of stories from Noongar life to settler life in the area.

On our way back up to Perth let’s stop near Narrogin and go into Dryandra to meet my friends Ross Storey and Marcelle Riley.  As part of the Narrogin Noongar Ranger Tours and Experiences these guys tell beautiful stories through the use of dollmaking and in bush walks. I grew up with Ross and if you’ve ever wondered if anyone can talk more than me then just listen Ross talk about his country.

Ross Storey, based in Narrogin and telling stories about the Wheatbelt
Ross makes sure that all ages can participate, learn and have a lot of fun

Back in Perth let’s look at some tours that will be so immersive you’ll no longer see the land around you as a city landscape, you’ll see and feel the land the way it was.  Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences will walk you around the city, the river, and even on Wadjemup and get you singing songs, touching kangaroo skins, using tapping sticks and smelling ochre and crushed leaves in your fingers.  This is storytelling with knowledge, passion and fun and have you smiling all the way home.

Deadly Diva Experiences for Women is an experience I wish they’d let me participate in.  Tahn tells campfire stories and does wildflower walkabouts and it’s all for the ladies. It’s inspiring and intriguing and let’s use my favourite word of the day … immersive.  She is now looking at a once a year tour for the curious fellas so watch this space very carefully.

Get up to Kings Park as a family and participate in the Kings Park special events program that focuses on local Aboriginal culture and takes kids into the world of Kings Park before roads and playgrounds.

Finally, get to the Yagan Square Nyumbi where at 5:30pm every Friday you watch and participate in a smoking ceremony and dance.  The performers change each week.  Some Fridays it’s an Elders group and other times it’s the kids getting up and sharing stories with an audience that includes tourists, office workers and passers-by who never walk by when they see what’s going on. They also love a photo at the end of the performance and some of those kids will give you some cheeky feedback on your own dancing skills.

These are experiences for our community to be proud of and enjoy. Aboriginal tours and experiences are hidden treasures because they’re immersive and substantial on so many levels but most importantly, you can discover, learn, and have fun while you’re doing it.

Top 10 Aboriginal Tours & Experiences in Western Australia

Are you a tourist?  Are you a local?  Are you interested, curious, amazed or attracted to learning more about the oldest living culture on Earth?

Here are my Top 10 Aboriginal Tours and Experiences in Western Australia, a state that stretches across a land that is over 2.5 million square kilometres with the worlds most beautiful beaches, remote deserts and ancient forests:

  1. Six Seasons Tour at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort (see featured image with local Elder Nina Webb showing Tom Parry how to use the guidebook while Pullman Bunker Bay Resort General Manager Leighton Yates watches on).
  2. Camping With Custodians (Pilbara and Kimberley Regions)
  3. Bindjareb Park (Pinjarra, South West Region)
  4. Black Tracks (Kununurra)
  5. Wuddi Cultural Tours and Centre (Dumbleyung, Wheatbelt Region)
  6. Laverton Art Gallery (Laverton, Northern Goldfields)
  7. Nyungar Tours (Perth)
  8. Yamaji Art Gallery (Geraldton, Mid West Region)
  9. Mandjoogoordap Dreaming (Mandurah)
  10. Jacks Story Telling Kojonup (Don’t let Jack tell you the tea is made from bush plants.  He gets it from the local supermarket up the road.)

These are experiences for the world to be proud of.

Discover. Immerse. Learn.