ABC Saturday Breakfast Explores Perth’s Smallest Suburb

With just over 2000 residents and an area less than half a square kilometre, you might be forgiven for thinking there couldn’t be a lot to see in our next Hidden Treasure on ABC Saturday Breakfast.

Like some of our other Hidden Treasures, our next discovery sits quietly alongside some bigger neighbours but doesn’t rely on their crumbs to survive. 

With a strong community, an iconic park and exciting laneways behind cafes and bakeries bulging with donuts, let’s take a walk through what is very possibly Perth’s smallest suburb and find out what one of Perth’s most loved treasures likes about this hidden treasure

Highgate!

By absolute coincidence, our Hidden Treasure this weekend shares a lot in common with last week’s Hidden Treasure, where we discovered South Fremantle.

There is a backbone, or artery that is the focal point for activity for locals and visitors.  Where South Fremantle has South Tce, Highgate has Beaufort Street.  Where South Freo has South Beach, Highgate has Hyde Park.  And where South Fremantle has a big neighbour in Fremantle, Highgate has Perth City and Mount Lawley.

But when I visited South Fremantle I found iconic history with the Mills and Ware biscuits but in Highgate I found a living icon, a living treasure, who, more than just loving a quiet coffee in Highgate, loves the ABC and he loves Hidden Treasure … Dennis Cometti!

Mr Cometti loves the ABC and Highgate

For Mr Cometti, Dennis to me, Highgate cafes are just a bit quieter than the cafes up the road in Mount Lawley and he looks for one with lots of tables so he can sprawl out a newspaper.

Let’s take a walk around Hyde Park in glorious Kambarang sunshine.  Hyde Park is always filled with walkers, kids birthday parties, turtles and birds and is full of big Moreton Bay Fig Trees with massive buttress roots, perfect hiding spots during Hide and Seek.

As well as its current appeal for picnics and birdwatching and festivals and food trucks, Hyde Park is a significant historical site for Whajuk Noongar People who loved living by what was then more of a wetland area.

Facilities include benches, barbeques, water playgrounds, stages, fitness equipment and lots of grass and walking paths. 

Hyde Park

Across the road from Hyde Park heading east is Perth’s darkest street, Mary Street.  Completely enveloped by the canopies of huge trees, this street is more like a scene out of Harry Potter than a Perth suburb.  It’s gloriously dark and cool and leads straight through to Beaufort Street.

As you walk down Mary Street and just before you hit Beaufort Street, look for Mereny Lane which is completely muralised on both sides of the road.  Follow the laneway and enjoy the colours and opportunities for all those insta worthy pics. 

Highgate laneways are full of urban art

A bit further along Beaufort Street on the Highgate end, keep a look out for a little accessway that links Mereny Lane with Beaufort Street that has some tech urban art.  Little pictures on muralised walls that have QR codes that when opened on your phone play music and tell you more about the artwork and interact with it beyond just looking at it. 

Highgate high tech urban art

If you know Highgate or have just driven through, you’d probably be aware of the huge landmark on Lincoln Street, the ventilation stack.  Built in 1935 as a sewer vent it’s a 38-metre art deco vent and the second tallest poo chimney in Australia (biggest is 40 metres in Sydney). 

The big vent

Next to the big vent is the Police Museum is on Lincoln Street and only open a couple of days a week on Tuesdays and Fridays but the old Highgate Police Station has old uniforms, handcuffs and batons and tactical response armoured cars and old motorcycles and speed cameras and an interesting history as a secret wireless station during World War II.

Given the stereotype that police love donuts, it’s probably not a coincidence that the police museum has been set up in a suburb that is the donut capital of Australia with more bakeries and cafes selling donuts per resident than any other suburb in Australia.

Highgate is a hidden treasure because there are layers and spaces between your destinations in this suburb that need exploring.

Highgate proves that being small and having big neighbours doesn’t mean you only get the crumbs, you can bake the bread as well.

Have fun with a camera in arty laneways. Have fun with your phone by hovering it over techy urban art and see what happens.  There’s Perth’s darkest street and one of Perth’s most loved parks. 

In Highgate you can have your donut and eat it too, all in a space that’s more like a little country town than a suburb so close to the heart of the city.

Highgate urban art … walk the suburb and find your colours

ABC Saturday Breakfast Discovers Biscuits, Bulldogs, Bare Feet & Jam Tarts!

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we discovered one of our smallest suburbs is walkable and adorable.

If I was to tell you that you could walk or drive down the main drag of this suburb and stop and chat to adults lying on the verge in hammocks and other variations of swing chairs, what suburb comes to mind?

No caption needed

Our next hidden treasure was once famous for its biscuits and its bulldogs but these days there’s a few other reasons to make your way to a suburb worth wandering about and taking it easy.  Maybe take a hammock.

South Fremantle. 

This is a suburb that I used to visit every Sunday to listen to the Jam Tarts back in the day at the Seaview Hotel.  Rockabilly pop was so cool and the Jam Tarts were the coolest. 

Exploring South Fremantle reminded me of those days because I have a daughter who is soon to be a world famous musician and I like sending her photos of things that would make great album covers and that’s another reason to enjoy a gentle suburban exploration of  South Fremantle because it is full of album cover worthy scenery.

South Fremantle by coincidence more than design has the layout of a fish skeleton.  There is a big backbone that has most of the weight and then the ribs coming off the backbone are smaller and lighter and filled with cottages with more geraniums than my nana’s concrete swans.  For South Fremantle the backbone is South Terrace which begins further north in Fremantle and then flows through the heart of South Fremantle.

Park your car somewhere along South Terrace and start looking around.  A bit like how the green cactus in Forrest Place is a meeting point in the CBD, the zebra mural is a good meeting point for South Fremantle locals or visitors to the area.  

The two zebras face each other with all the colours of a kaleidoscope and written above them is ‘Ootong and Lincoln’ which may be the names of the two zebra but also happens to be the name of the premises the mural is painted on and inside you’ll find everything to fill your retro heart; colourful 1980’s phones stuck on the wall, old trikes and my nana’s dining table and chairs; glorious Laminex in pale greens, blues and pinks and plenty of space to sit with your kids or a Zoom meeting on your laptop.

Hello! Chris speaking!

That’s what South Fremantle is all about, people who get out of their houses and meet up on South Terrace.

Outside Ootong and Lincoln, take a jump to the left or jump to right, avoiding fellas reclining in hammocks and swing chairs,  and you’ll find small boutiques with racks of vintage clothes and that’s another important feature of South Fremantle, lots of small shops.  Small shops doing big things for locals and visitors.

Small shops where there’s lots to be discovered

It used to be the opposite.  South Fremantle used to be about being a big employer with big factories, including the Mills and Ware Biscuit Factory – home of the little suitcase full of biscuits that you’d buy at your local show.

Mills and Ware was the biggest supplier of biscuits in Western Australia and the South Fremantle factory, barely off South Terrace, opened in 1899 and closed in 1992.

The biscuit factory are now apartments but there’s a park and there’s enough of the original factory structure to make it a pilgrimage for those that remember their favourite biscuit.  Biscuit.  Not cookie.

Big biscuits

To please the pilgrims there are large sculptures of biscuits in the park and you can try and remember the names of your favourite biscuit.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a representation of a gingernut biscuit. The king of biscuits.

Back on South Terrace there are fresh seafood shops and seafood cafes with fresh prawn tacos that remind us of the fishing boat harbour not more than a fishing rods cast away.  These days the fishing boat fleet is smaller but any walk around boats and jetties is always interesting and watching hulls being scraped and masts being rigged in the shipyards is a day out any day of the week.

My next stop is probably the number one reason to come to South Fremantle, particularly as the sun starts to warm us all up.

The South Beach Recreation Reserve is the end of the line for the suburb and throws all of its eggs into a basket of summer fun for everyone.  It starts with a dog beach and playground at the northern end of this little precinct and then opens up into sprawling lawns with lots of shade and a perfect beach for all ages, looking out to Wadjemup, Carnac and Garden Islands.

There’s a café that your kids can walk into barefeet for a drumstick and in summer there are night time markets on Saturday nights that are described as being community based for young and old and lovers and friends and when you walk through South Fremantle, everyone won’t be a lover but everyone will be your friend.

South Fremantle is a hidden treasure because it’s completely walkable in thongs, down streets with sleepy men in hammocks to retro cafes and vintage shops with laughing barefoot kids.

There are nostalgic memories of old biscuits, old phones and old bands playing in old pubs and swimming and markets on balmy summer nights. 

The only thing it doesn’t have is a 2021 Premiership WAFL team, but there’s always next year.

Big biscuits

ABC Perth visits Kwinana … still a bit of industry but there’s a lot more to take a look at.

For ABC Saturday Breakfast, Hidden Treasures often finds itself in the job of discovering suburbs we normally just drive through on the way to somewhere else, or suburbs that just seem to be too suburban to be of interest.

Our next Hidden Treasure is a lot more.  Our next Hidden Treasure challenges a perception that’s been around since the 1970’s.  Our next Hidden Treasure challenges you to stop awhile in a part of Perth that’s far from suburbia but still part of the metropolitan area.

When I was a kid, I’d listen to the stories my dad and his mates would tell on the veranda of our little holiday house in Shoalwater Bay.  From Japanese Army Helmets found on the end of Garden Island to giant sharks off Woodman Point, these stories always seemed to be something they’d overheard on the boat ramp.

Fun Fact: Boat ramps were the internet of the day.

One of the stories I remember hearing, when I was dragging a Jatz cracker through the French Onion dip, was how fish caught in Cockburn Sound would arc when cooked in microwave ovens because of the metal content caused by industry pollutants.

Irrespective of the truth and accuracy of this story, it’s a bit metaphoric for how we felt about Cockburn Sound in the 1970’s, and the area we know as … Kwinana.

Well, most of the industry is still there but there’s also a lot more in Kwinana, including a strong sense of community that is proud of new facilities, old heritage and even older culture.

Let’s start with a remarkable wetland and bush walk experience that is ridiculously close to the Kwinana Freeway but you wouldn’t know it.

The Spectacles Wetlands is named for its aerial view which shows two circular lakes joined by a narrow drain, making it look like a pair of spectacles. 

The Spectacles are spectacular

The Spectacles is 360 hectares and part of the wider Beeliar Regional Park and has great Noongar interpretative signage along a 5km heritage walk trail and explains the perspective and special importance of the area to Noongar Elder Joe Walley.

As well as the Aboriginal Heritage Walk Trail, there’s a boardwalk over the wetlands which feature a paperbark forest and lead you to the Biara Lookout which is the perfect location to sit quietly and watch the lakes resident birdlife.

Aboriginal Heritage Walk Trail signage

This is the reason why I’d do a day out in Kwinana.  Come to the Spectacles and then do the other things we’re going to talk about but come for the trails and boardwalk, the wetlands, Aboriginal stories and big spiders in big webs and a paperbark forest partly submerged in wetlands that provide amazing reflections from the still water.

Chalk Hill has a panoramic view to Rockingham, Wadjemup and the Darling Escarpment. It’s also where local Aboriginal people who worked at the nearby refineries used to live because prior to the 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal people didn’t qualify for housing. Going further back in time the hill was used by local Aboriginal groups to light signal fires. It’s a nice steep walk up a sealed path and short dirt track.

Sitting at the bottom of Chalk Hill is Smirk Cottage. This small, two bedroom cottage built in the 1900’s, cared for by the Kwinana Heritage Group and around the grounds are lots of examples of old agricultural machinery and equipment and who doesn’t love sitting on an old tractor.

Just four years ago the Adventure Park won best park in Australia.  It’s got boardwalks, flying foxes, climbing nets, a tree maze, water play, squirting pelicans, great birthday party facilities that you can hire, including one with a kitchen! If you’ve got a kid that is too cool for playgrounds there’s a huge skate park next door.

Adventure Park, Kwinana

For walkers and cyclists and with multiple entry and exit points along the 21 kilometre route try the Kwinana Loop Trail.  Look for the Aboriginal heritage signs along the route to get a better understanding and connection with the bushland you’re travelling through.

Amongst the smoke stacks, desalination plant and refineries is a pristine beach for horses. In summer there can be dozens of good looking horses splashing about, lying back on a blanket reading the form guide or playing volleyball like Tom Cruise in Top Gun.  On my visit I met a champion of WA trotting, Mighty Conqueror.  It may sound like an ambitious name but he’s got the wins and the prize money to make him worthy of the name.

Kwinana Horse Beach, where all the good looking horses hang out

The SS Kwinana shipwreck is a big cargo and passenger steamship that ran aground in the 1920’s onto what we now call Kwinana Beach. In the 1960’s, inspired by South Fremantle Oval, it was filled with concrete.  It’s good to walk the length of an old ship and imagine where the bow was and the bridge and the boilers, and on the sides you can still see rusty steel plates and rivets. 

For a day trip feast, whether you like it greasy by the beach or grilled at a table there are plenty of great fish and chip shops in Kwinana.

Kwinana is a hidden treasure not because it’s reinvented itself but because its learned to live with itself and tell a bigger, better story. 

The industry is still there but look closer and you’ll find ancient stories, wetlands, views, shipwrecks, beaches for long legged champions and adventure parks for little legged champions.

Lots of adventures to be found and enjoyed in Kwinana

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast … Sunday afternoon in the seat of parliament, in the suburbs.

For Hidden Treasures, Ro and I discover West Perth. I think it’s Perth’s quietest weekend suburb and perfect for a walk from secret parks, historical buildings, old school fun and old school food!

West Perth is where you’ll find our seat of government and with a bit of cardboard you can also make a seat of your own and find more fun than anything you’ll find in the Upper or Lower Houses of Parliament.

But!  This is a walk for Ro and her dad that has a lot of Western Australian brick and mortar significance and ends with the best name for a toastie in the world … a jaffle. 

Before we get to buildings let’s start at a park that when you drive past along Wellington St you probably think is just a few trees and a bit of grass but is a lot more.

Harold Boas Park has little lakes, little bridges, little waterfalls and little rock cascades that are perfect for holding your own tin foil boat Avon Descent.  There are trees that were planted in 1900, creating secret, shady gardens for picnics and it’s also a very popular spot for wedding photos.

Little bridges, little waterfalls, little rapids… Harold Boas Park is a real suburban hidden treasure

I love this park because it can be a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle that surrounds it but can’t be seen or heard.

Parliament House is our next stop, about 10 minutes walk from Harold Boas Park.  Do your thing out the front, sitting on the front steps, take in the view of the Barracks Arch and St Georges Terrace and the view out to the hills but it’s the back of Parliament House I want to take you to. 

Premier Tom Parry at the eastern side of Parliament House

Our most familiar view of Parliament House is of the front that faces east, with its vertical square edged columns.  It’s impressive, but it’s the western side, the original front of Parliament House, made from brick and tile materials sourced from Wadjemup and Donnybrook, that is beautiful.  It’s particularly impressive right now, as there are some beautiful wildflower displays, including impressive kangaroo paws, in front of the western side.  

The Constitution Centre of Western Australia is an impressive name to match a very impressive building.  It’s a two minute walk from Parliament House and on the way you’ll pass the impressive Hale House where the Premier has his office. 

The Constitution Centre provides all sorts of information and excursion opportunities for school groups or anyone interested in our systems of government.  As we’re doing this walk on a Sunday, it’s not open but it’s a beautiful building worth looking at.

Fun Fact: Many years ago I worked for the Electoral Education Centre and used to run elections for kids on their favourite chocolate bars (Violet Crumble had mass appeal back in the day) and sometimes schools would invite me to run their school council elections to show students how the electoral system worked.

The Old Observatory is one our finest buildings that you’ve passed by a million times as you make your way to Kings Park or the CBD.  It’s prominent but elegant and these days it’s the home of the National Trust and like the other buildings in this story, they aren’t open to the public on a Sunday but they don’t need to be.  Enjoy how beautiful this building is from the outside and then get ready for a bit of fun that back in the day would have been frowned upon but these days even gets applause from a lone security guard doing his rounds. 

Box sliding!  I used to think the grassy slope near the river in East Perth was the best box sliding location in Perth but there is a new contender.  Between the Old Observatory and Dumas House is a great slope of well-manicured grass that is perfect for some timeless fun that requires no tech, just a decent square of cardboard. 

A piece of cardboard and down you go!

Just make sure you don’t slide into the impressive Japanese Friendship Garden at the bottom of the hill which has perfectly raked stones and delicately placed temples and tiles. 

The Japanese Friendship Garden

Our final historic brick and mortar site is the Edith Cowan Memorial Clock, made famous by Russell Woolf earlier this year when he campaigned for its renovation and for the clock to be fixed.  It is fixed and impressive, though still requires a lot of looking both ways to get across to the roundabout it’s located on. 

It’s a wonderful reminder of Edith Cowans importance as the first woman elected to any parliament in Australia.  Looking at the clock, it’s also a wonderful reminder that it’s time to walk back into the heart of West Perth and grab something to eat.

Edith Cowan Memorial Clock … it works and it’s wonderful.

Hay Street during the week is full of people and cars and heaving cafes and lunch bars but on a Sunday it’s like the main street of a country town which is perfect because there’s a café that stays open that has its roots in Geraldton.

The Jaffle Shack in West Perth. Open on a Sunday afternoon for jaffles! And coffee! And jaffles! Jaffles!

Grab a coffee and a spag jaffle and debrief your West Perth adventure.  Jaffles are Gods way of saying a toasted sandwich can be so much more if you work at it.  

West Perth is a hidden treasure because particularly on the weekend it is quiet and easily walkable.  It’s a treasure because not everywhere in the world allows such close access to important buildings when they’re closed on weekends.  You can walk around them, touch them, sit on the front steps of Parliament House and look down St Georges Terrace and proclaim what you would do if you were the Premier. 

It’s a hidden treasure because on the weekend it’s the eye of the storm.  All of the activity is swirling around it at Kings Park and the CBD, while West Perth is gloriously quiet and lazy, until Monday comes around.

ABC Saturday Breakfast … a great dad joke is at the heart of a great staycation

For Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I finessed and found that the art of a good dad joke is at the heart of a good staycation.

Listen to our chat on the link below and read a few words below the link!

Staycations aren’t new but staycations are definitely increasing in popularity.  Have you ever thought about staying for a weekend at a place not far from home?  Have you ever wondered if it would be worth the trouble and the expense?

How far do you have to travel before you can say you’ve been somewhere, or that you went away for the weekend?

For Hidden Treasures this Saturday, Chris is handing in his homework after being set the task by Molly to study up on the art of being a traveller at home and whether it’s a waste of time or the best use of time.

Let’s not kid ourselves that the staycation is a construct of the pandemic. They aren’t that original but they have had a makeover.  I sometimes wonder if my school holidays in Shoalwater Bay would now be seen as a staycation because we’re all so used to flinging ourselves all over the planet these days. 

From Narrogin to Shoalwater Bay in 1980 was a bit like that first trip to London when people would come to the airport to see you off.  The neighbours would line up along Grant Street and wave as the Toyota Crown made its way down the street and out of town. Messages would be left with friends about when we would be returning and jobs allocated for the collection of mail and watering the garden.

Let’s start by defining the staycation.  Is it in your state, your city or town, or in your backyard?

A staycation has to be close.  It doesn’t have to be cheap but it should be simpler to arrange than the itinerary of 10 days in Europe or 3 families convening at a resort in Bali.

A staycation should be about finding a different layer. If you’re having a staycation in the Perth CBD don’t just shop, go to a live comedy show or a secret bar, if you’re going to Rottnest don’t just snorkel at the Basin, participate in an Aboriginal Cultural Tour, if you’re going to Fremantle don’t just do the markets, see a footy match.

So, let’s find a staycation hidden treasure that is a very well-known weekend destination.

Innaloo.  Now, this is for Tom who loves a good dad joke….. “I’d rather be Innaloo than Upper Swan.”

Innaloo is 15 minutes from my home.  I’m familiar with it. I know it and sometimes it’s a destination, sometimes I’m just driving through it.

For a staycation the key is not to do too much and keep the ingredients simple:

Accommodation:  

Stay there …. this isn’t a daytrip!

Quest Apartments is an interesting accommodation option because while it is perfectly located for an Innaloo staycation and has the level of friendliness at reception and comfort in your room to put you in a holiday mood, importantly it’s offering more than a splash of weekend luxury.

Very comfortable, lots of room and a view with the CBD on the horizon

Up the road is the Osborne Park Hospital and Quest provides wheelchair accessible apartments for those on waiting for treatment and there’s a nearby medical facility that has clients travelling regularly from as far away as Albany.

They also have a program called ‘You Can Stay’ for young regional people who are diagnosed with cancer.  If you live more than 100 kilometres from your hospital treatment they will provide you with free accommodation.

Dining:

There are restaurants and cafes within walking distance of your accommodation and Quest has charge back facilities with quite a few of the local establishments but not with Tom’s number one dining bucket list. While we did eat out at some great restaurants and try some quirky bubble tea, we did frequent, on two occasions, the IKEA restaurant.  As part of his dining experience we got to see behind the door where your dining tray goes when you put it on that conveyor belt. 

Oh, Tom!

Leisure:

Movies (don’t take your packet of twisties in a bag, buy a choctop!)

Shopping (buy something outrageous)

Parks, (City of Stirling Civic Gardens and Lake Jackadder)

A short walk from the Quest Apartments (burn off that choctop and popcorn)

And remember that if you see someone you know, act with amazement that they happen to be at this same place on the planet as you and ask them where they’re staying.

Innaloo is a Hidden Treasure because of the opportunity to stay there.  It’s what makes the difference between the combat of finding a car bay on the weekend and feeling like you’re on holiday by walking from your room to the shops or the movies and back again.

I expected we would have fun. What I didn’t expect was how quickly we would relax and detach ourselves from being a local to feeling like a tourist.

Innaloo is a Hidden Treasure if you stay there.  It loses its sense of urgency and gives you a sense of indulgence.  You spend money on things that you wouldn’t do normally but that’s ok because you’re on a holiday budget, not a home budget.

I hope Molly likes my staycation assignment.  It’s not too long, it covers the requirements of the set task, and I think, just like Innaloo, it’s got A+ written all over it!

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 Perth Saturday Breakfast: Why Gosnells is like peeling an orange.

Gosnells … like peeling an orange, the segments of a vibrant and historic community are revealed.

There is a public art sculpture in the heart of Gosnells.  The heart of Gosnells is very busy and as traffic belts along Albany Highway and the shops on its edges clamour for your attention, stop and look at this sculpture and watch it reveal itself and in so doing, reveal the suburb it represents.

It’s called ‘The Pioneers – The Peeled Orange’, and as the orange is peeled away the segments reveal the people who worked in the orchards which were so abundant in the area upon settlement as part of the Swan River Colony.

It’s an accurate reflection of the workers in the orchard but it’s also an accurate reflection of the many segments in Gosnells that come together to make it whole. 

For Hidden Treasures let’s explore another of our suburbs that get driven through quickly and see if we can find some reasons to stop a while in a community that is enjoying the fruit of its labours in creating new spaces and places to sit a while.

Let’s start with a brisk walk through the Ellis Brook Valley Reserve where you’ll find yourself in the richest, most diverse wildflower location in the metropolitan area.  There are a range of wilderness trails of varying difficulty and the Easy Walk Trail has very good wheelchair access and a great view of Perth.  Just make sure you take enough water as there aren’t any water facilities in the Reserve.

The Mills Park Nature Play Space is the only play space in Perth where if a child, parent or carer, falls off the log path you’ll fall into wetlands.  It’s a remarkable space that has a slightly elevated pathway over a wetland that is full of paperbark trees.  With flying foxes, opportunities to make cubbies and lots of ways to get really dirty it’s a park with a real sense of adventure and activity.

Mills Park Nature Play … enjoy falling in!

For a bit of settler history and a great look at some old agricultural machinery and vintage motor cars have a look at the Wilkinson Homestead. When I was out there, local volunteers were dressed for the part for a visiting school group and the homestead, built in 1912, is fitted out with period furniture and displays that reflect the rural settler life of Gosnells.  There’s even an outside dunny to scare the kids.

Wilkinson Homestead

With the hustle and bustle of Albany Highway giving us most of our impression of Gosnells you might be surprised to learn there is a very quiet and most splendid wetland that is home and refuge to waterbirds, frogs and turtles.

The Mary Carroll Wetlands has walking trails alongside the two lake systems and is ringed by pristine bushland. It’s a great spot to enjoy a bit of nature and you can get involved with its protection by joining the Friends of Mary Carroll Wetlands and do some seed collection and revegetation activities.

Mary Carroll Wetlands

The Centennial Pioneer Park sits between the Gosnells cbd and the Canning River, which is flowing like the Avon at the moment. 

This park is overlooked by the impressive Spinning a Yarn sculpture and Aboriginal mosaic mural and the park features a tree top walk and an amphitheatre and playground. It is also where the naughty and noisy birds from the peaceful Mary Carroll wetlands are sent to. These are the birds who love to sing loudly and over the top of every other bird.

Hidden Treasures loves urban art. In the heart of Gosnells is a self-guided 40-minute walking tour of public artworks, including murals in little laneways and sculptures on street corners and overlooking the Canning River.  Two of my favourites aren’t the biggest on the trail but they’re the two that made me smile the most, and pull out my camera. 

The Peeled Orange

Firstly, the Peeled Orange, that we’ve already mentioned, is a tip of the hat to the historical European settlement days when orange groves were seen throughout the area.  The sculpture shows different people in the segments of the orange, including the farmer, his wife and the labourers who worked in the orchards.  My second favourite is just a couple of big strides down the street where you’ll find a possum, turtle and lizard peeking from underneath a manhole cover and about to make a run for it along the footpath.  It’s about the hope of the community for nature to live within the community.

The Gosnells Railway Markets are a regular weekend market so there’s no need to look up when they’re on next.  There’s a steam train and diesel train to look at and lots of stalls selling local produce, including cheesecakes and cookies and a great stall that is full of one of life’s essentials, Russian dolls. 

Lots of colour to be found at the Gosnells Markets

Now is probably a good time to duck into the most prominent building in Gosnells and home to lots of local events and celebrations or just a night out for good counter meal.  The Gosnells Hotel is the only pub I’ve found in Perth that does a brisket sandwich.  Brisket.  It’s meat like my Nana used to cook and it’s glorious.  

Inside … there is a brisket sandwich. Brisket.

Do you like a bit of fright in your night?  I don’t even like my motion sensor light going on outside. The Gosnells Ghost Walk is a tour that requires sturdy shoes and bravery. Now a little disclaimer, I haven’t done the tour yet but I’ve heard all about it from Miranda at the City of Gosnells who coordinates it and I’m booked and ready to go when they commence their next season under a full moon from February to April next year.

It’s a short season, the spirits can get a bit restless and it’s getting harder to find supernatural insurance cover.  With local support and paranormal participants, the tour explores the old timber mill and railway bridge and discovers deadly love triangles.

Are you up for the Gosnells Ghost Walk?

Gosnells is a hidden treasure because it’s about discovering wetlands and flowing rivers you didn’t know were there, discovering tree top walks and singing birds, finding a brisket sandwich and finding culture and history through public art, historic homesteads and night time walks to encounter the spirits from our colonial past.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Mr McGregor in our suburbs … it’s actually not scary at all.

Outside Broadcast, live from City Farm

Community gardens are thriving in our urban areas.  Some are inspired by a commercial opportunity to support a business, some are designed to teach kids how to get dirt under their fingernails and others are designed to be opportunities to make connections with people in your community who just want to grow some food or make better use of unused spaces.

The ABC is currently running a wonderful campaign to provide new books for kids who may never have held a new book.  I’m very lucky that growing up I was given many new books and one of my favourites was Peter Rabbit. 

As a kid in a country town I was a lot like Peter, sneaking into backyards with fig, loquat, and mulberry trees, brushing away the fruit flies for a sneaky snack.

There were some people though who didn’t like kids pinching their fruit and were after me to put me in a pie just like nasty Mr McGregor wanted to do with Peter. Those illustrations in Peter Rabbit that show him being chased through the neat rows of vegetables and little tool sheds remind me very much of my childhood.

Throughout Perth there are some amazing and inspiring examples of commercial gardens, local government coordinated gardens and community gardens organised by and for the community.

Forget Broome Time, come and enjoy some City Farm time.  Within a half hectare of space are rows of little plants, little sheds, wandering chickens and free range kids and opportunities to get noisy and dirty or just quietly wander around with your hands behind your back, leaning in occasionally to study the leaves of a plant and think about what you could do at home with a packet of seeds.

Overlooked by the urban world, community gardens are still thriving

I love the constant change of City Farm. Every time you come in here it’s different.  Things have grown or been pulled out to grow new things.  The markets can have odd shaped vegetables and flour bag pants and the following weekend have bee workshops and odd shaped fruit. 

It’s not hippy but it is hip. I feel like I can let Tom wander off on his own and he’s not going to come back dressed like John Butler but he may have a story to tell about a chicken he chased, or how he wants to grow some oddly shaped vegetables at home.

Further south you’ll find a garden you’re allowed to wander and explore called the Coogee Common.  It’s run by Scott and his gardens supply the restaurant that’s part of the premises, the old Coogee Hotel. Not only will you see the staff wandering around the garden snipping and picking bits and pieces for your brunch or lunch but you can get a tour with Scott once he’s finished making your meal.

Kale stalks at Coogee Common (according to Jo Trilling we blanch them)

He helped Tom overcome his fear of bees by showing him their hives, nestled in amongst a row of olive trees and rosemary bushes.  He showed us barrels of olives, stalks of kale, the fruit of the prickly pear and so many rows of vegetables and piles of little terracotta pots that once again I started having visions of Peter Rabbit running for his life.

Let’s get up to North Perth for a trio of community garden experiences.  Let’s start with the Kyilla Community Farmers Market.  Every Saturday morning this little market sets up camp at the Kyilla Primary School with farm direct and locally made produce, and the stalls are constantly changing to reflect what’s being grown.  Last weekend it was oyster mushrooms.  As a country boy familiar with walking the paddocks with a bucket and a knife and filling it up with field mushrooms the size of dinner plates, I scoff at these more elegant fungi but nevertheless they are delicious on a piece of heavily buttered toast in the morning.

Just around the corner in North Perth, on the rather aptly named Farmer Street, is the North Perth Community Garden that is growing community support as diverse as its produce, including the Warrigal Greens, an Australian and New Zealand native plant that’s a bit like spinach. It’s a quieter space than City Farm.  Nobody is going to ssssh you if you talk loudly but it does feel more contemplative and slower, as you plant or prune or toss some compost over the fence to stir up the neighbours who happen to be a Mens Shed who are helping make this area a precinct of peaceful activity for locals.

How cool is the North Perth area for community gardens and there’s more!  The City of Vincent has been featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia for its Edible Verges program which allows locals to make use of their verge spaces by allowing vegetable and herb gardens to be cultivated by residents.  If you find yourself driving through the suburbs of Vincent, take a moment to duck into some of the residential streets and check out just how many verges have replaced paving with crops.

Finally, let’s head over the Causeway to Victoria Park.  The Victoria Park Community Garden has been going for more than ten years and is a space that allows for the leasing of small allotments as well as communal spaces for an orchard and a frog pond that is popular with kids and reminded me of another Beatrix Potter classic, Jeremy Fisher, riding the river on his lily pad leaf and the illustration of the trout coming up from below.

The Victoria Park Community Garden uses a quote from Audrey Hepburn to inspire those who participate and visit, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” and with the high participation of young people at this garden there’s a lot to be hopeful for.

Community Gardens are Hidden Treasures because they remind us what being in a community is all about and the importance of good old fashioned busy bees to keep people involved and the great thing about a busy bee is the drink at the end of the day in the company of grimy, dirty people just like you. Community Gardens have stacks of pots, lots of rakes and shovels and rows of odd shaped plants and I’m still reminded of Mr McGregor’s garden but I’m not afraid anymore.

Live on air in the fresh air

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: Spitfires, Curry Puffs, Sculptures & Logs Over Creeks … Welcome to Bull Creek

On ABC Hidden Treasures we’ve recently been doing some special issues, like WAFL footy and Aboriginal Tourism. It’s time to get back to the idea of hidden treasures in our suburbs.

Some adventures require a lot of planning, other adventures are looked forward to with anticipation and excitement. 

Other adventures are opportunistic moments to explore new ground and dare I say it, as just a reason to spend some time with the kids and get out of the house.

Not quite a road trip but more than a trip to your local café around the corner.

Welcome to Bull Creek. 

Let’s start with a coffee and something to eat at the Little Parry Café.

When little Tom stands in front of a café that is named for his stature and his surname it is a remarkable photo opportunity to have him stand in front of it and an even better opportunity to try and work out why a dish simply called Waffle could appeal to an eleven year old boy. 

No wordy review needed from Tom, just a thumbs up as the other hand wipes maple syrup from his chin.

This a little café that also doubles as a little art gallery and there some great local paintings and drawings in this little space.

Little Parry at Little Parry

You won’t wear off the waffles in the short walk from the café to one of Bull Creek’s most treasured shops, Bull Creek Oriental Supplies.  This is a store that has been run by the  gorgeously cheeky Li Ling for more than 20 years and as well as all those spices and flavours of Asia that you can stock up on you can also fossick for utensils and bits and pieces you won’t find anywhere else plus all the chips and chocolates you might be used to buying when you’re in Bali and other parts of Asia.  Plus, I can assure you that their curry puffs are the best in Perth.  Light and fluffy with a generous vegetable filling and my only regret was not buying the lot. Great to eat as you leave the shop and you do these quick exhales of breath because they’re nice and hot.

Pork Floss! Lemon Water! So Much More and Don’t Leave Without A Bag of Curry Puffs

A few years ago I wrote about the Aviation Heritage Museum in a story about all of the things alongside the freeway that you should have a look at.  I rate this museum, firmly and proudly in Bull Creek and run by volunteers as an absolute treasure in this state and you don’t need to be an aviation buff to get a buzz from hearing a very real and very loud Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire being started or crouch your way through the fuselage of an Avro Lancaster bomber or look at Catalina Flying Boat and imagine what it was like seeing these take off and land on the Swan River during their famous double sunrise flights during World War II.

The Awesome PBY Catalina Flying Boat

What I love most about this museum is that you’re not guided in a particular direction.  My kids ran one way and I ran the other.  We’d call out, “You’ve got to see this!” Admittedly there can also be a bit of “Where are you?” and “Tom, get off that aeroplane wing!” but the staff, who are volunteers and filled with stories to compliment the more than 30 aircraft on display, mostly just smile so long as you’re not trying to spin the propellors or sitting in cockpits pretending you’re Biggles.

There’s a dam down south and a few wheat silos with murals but the Stockland Shopping Centre in Bull Creek mural has to be one of the biggest in Perth and displays the Noongar seasons and local birds. It’s on the south side of the shopping centre.

An absolute highlight of Bull Creek is a sculpture in Centennial Park called the Pilgrim, by Western Australian artist Russell Sheridan  and was part of Sculptures By The Sea about four or five years ago. 

I spoke to the artist about this piece and it’s inspired by his love of Michael Leunig cartoons and the resemblance of the man featured in the sculpture to the main character in Leunig cartoons is very evident.  Russell Sheridan explained to me that the dog is the passive observer to the burdens of life that we all carry, whether it be regret or being bullied or being discriminated against.  It sounds a bit grim and heavy but just like a Leunig cartoon there is that element of inspirational whimsy that will lift you up and keep you in the fight!

The Pilgrim

While not the Nile, I was inspired by the Pilgrim to find the source of Bull Creek.  In a glorious remnant piece of Bull Creek Park, next to Brockman Park and the playground, is the source of Bull Creek.  There’s a small and steady flow of water that meanders through some of the most extraordinary bushland you’ll find on Perth. 

In Mid-Summer Nights Dream, Shakespeare describes a character as “though she be but small she is fierce”.  This is like Bull Creek Park.  As Bull Creek flows towards the Canning River, it is surrounded by a small piece of bushland.  There’s a log over the creek to walk across and a great path that requires you to push ferns out of the way and there’s bird life and enough green canopy to block out the noise of the busy city roads nearby. Interestingly, it’s very well protected by the City of Melville and you’re required to scrub and wash your boots before you enter to prevent dieback entering this small but fierce bit of bush.

Where Bull Creek Begins

Bull Creek flows into the Bull Creek Inlet which Noongar people called Gabbilju.  The inlet has some good interpretive signage about the creek catchment area and an excellent walking trail that will take you from Gabbilju right around the river to the Riverton Bridge.  But that’s a suburb and a story for another day.

Where Bull Creek Ends

Bull Creek is a Hidden Treasure because it will surprise you.  A little walk on the wild side by a little creek, Spitfires, curry puffs, local art and inspirational sculptures make this your afternoon out when you’re too tired for a road trip but never too tired to have some fun with your kids.