ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Snake pits to sunsets in Scarborough. There’s so much to see before you get to the sea.

Scarborough?  Why is Scarborough a Hidden Treasure?  It’s got one of the most famous beaches in WA and Australia stretching along our coastline.  For locals and tourists alike, Scarborough provides relief from the summer heat and for generations has been the place to go. 

Whether you’re a widgie or a bodgie, a skater or a surfer, a bruncher or a luncher, Scarborough is the beach precinct we pack out every summer.  So, I was set the challenge of finding Hidden Treasure in a known treasure and this is what he found. Enjoy the audio link below and enjoy a bit of reading as well:

Scarborough.  What I found was that you can enjoy Scarborough without getting the sand between your toes or anywhere else, or that pesky saltwater stinging your eyes.

There are buses, there is Aboriginal urban art, there are walking tours to clear the mind, lookouts to blow your mind and snake pits and whale skeletons to explore. 

There’s even a hill just for watching the dying of the days light. And there’s enough burgers or fish and chips or ice cream for before or after all that activity.

Let’s start with Saturday Morning on the foreshore promenade where you’ll find Perth’s newest market. 

You might be familiar with the iconic Sunset Markets but if you’re up and about early you can try the Scarborough Beach Farmers Markets full of healthy local fresh fruit and veges and breads and brightly coloured vans and stalls selling cookies and crème brulees and deep fried cheesecake!

Put some headphones on and listen to ABC Saturday Breakfast as you explore the Beach Farmers Markets on the Scarborough foreshore.

Before we come back to the foreshore, let’s walk off some of the mornings treats with Bush, Beach and Bubbles!

Fun Fact!  The sand dunes in the Trigg area (we’re calling it Scarborough today) are parabolic. Try a walking tour with the Hike Collective which is as much about mental health as it is about just a little bit of physical exercise.

So, back to the foreshore and still keeping our toes away from the sand and water and not giving the lifeguards anything to do, let’s have a walk through the giant Whale Playground which is great reminder of just how big whales are and just how much fun we can all have in a playground.

The Whale Skeleton Playground

The playground flows into the grassy Sunset Hill and some really cool Climbing Walls and of course the iconic, notorious and infamous Snake Pit where my mum use to trek to Scarborough from Midland to dance as a widgie and then cool off with a swim and a malt milkshake that hopefully some boy would buy her. 

These days the Snake Pit is for skaters, scooters and even little bikes if it’s not too busy.  Tip that beanie back on your head, put a scowl on your face and if I’ve got my skater lingo right, “fill your dives to 3.5 metres and hit the ramps, rails and banks.”

Ssssssssnake Pit!

Around the foreshore, take some time to follow the Tjunta Trail, an urban art trail that tells the story about how a spirit woman finds a group of children who go missing.  There are five locations around the foreshore that tell the story although when the markets are on you might find them hard to see.

Tjunta Trail

Is that enough walking about for a while?  Let’s hop on the newest tourist experience in Perth that ….. drumroll please …. is free!  It’s free!

It’s so free that queues are starting to form as word gets around of the double decker bus, the Sunset Coast Explorer, that makes its way from the Scarborough Pool and winds its away along the sunset coast. 

The Sunset Coast Explorer … wave at the locals and their lattes

The bus has a crew of conductors to answer questions and tell you to sit down if you’re clowning around up the top in the fresh air.  It’s a hop on hop off service and is running all summer every Saturday and Sunday.  Be a tourist, have some fun and wave at the locals at the all the cafes.

Watch the local wildlife in their natural habitat

One of Perth’s best hidden treasure museums has to be the Mount Flora Museum.  We’ve spoken previously about museums that only survive because of volunteers and Local Government support.  This is one of the best if you’re interested in the social history of the area.  Exhibitions feature ‘windows into the past’. Check online for when they’re open or call the City of Stirling.

On top of the museum is one of Perth’s best lookouts and we really are going to have to do a Hidden Treasure on views of Perth because it’s little wonder this lookout on top of the museum used to be an observation post during World War II.  The lookout also has a really vivid mural that encircles you in a complete 360 degree burst of colour and representation of Australian wildlife.

A brilliant and joyous, vibrant lookout with no smell of wee, old ciggy butts and beer cans

Scarborough is a hidden treasure because there’s a lot to do and see before you get to the sea.  Places to walk, places to sit, markets to explore, bus rides to whoop for joy and wave at the locals, local and ancient history, lookouts with views to forever all make Scarborough a staycation destination that I’ll tell you a more about next week.  But that’s a story for another day.

Leopards and Lifesavers on ABC Saturday Breakfast

On ABC Saturday Breakfast we discovered Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour. There’s no port and there’s no harbour. But there’s still a lot to do and for us to talk about.

When I was a boy, the area was wild and the only inhabitants were an odd collective of shack owners and my girlfriends family had a holiday shack at what was then known as Long Point and the sandy track needed a real four drive to get out there.

I tried desperately to reach her in my Ford Escort and failed miserably.  Merrilee’s dad had to come and rescue the little Escort from a sandy grave.

These days there are boat ramps, golf courses and a golf pro shop that is unique in Australia as the only golf pro shop to sell pies and sausage rolls.  They’re not made by Titleist or Callaway, these are freshly delivered by the Pinjarra Bakery!  You can buy a few new tees for your golf bag and sneak a sausage roll into the side pocket. Just don’t drop your crumbs on the green.

Port Kennedy has a Leopard tank!  Nearly 10 metres long and 42 tonnes of steel tracks, turret and gun barrel.  A bunch of these steel behemoths were gifted to communities across WA and expect to see them on your travels through our towns, including Esperance, Geraldton and Bunbury but this is a great stop during your trip to Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour and I know it’s not quite a battleship but sitting on the barrel like Cher makes a great photo.

The tanks never left our shores, never fired a shot in anger and were used to train army personnel and feature in exciting tv recruitment advertisements.   

Scientific Park sits alongside the sea from Long Point and extends down to Secret Harbour.  From a science perspective the area provides a record of sea level and shoreline changes going back 7,000 years and from a visitor perspective the park is one of the Bush Forever sites that we last talked about when we discussed Mirrabooka so low impact recreation is allowed, like walking on paths and not running up and down the dunes.

Our good friend and activity, geocaching, is also on offer in the Scientific Park.  Download a geocaching app and see what you can find in Scientific Park and also in nearby Lagoon Park where you can also usually find some black swans hanging around.

Remember when playgrounds were just at the corner of ovals and featured a steel slide that even in winter had families using them as barbeques?

There are lots of good playgrounds around Perth but this summer, for a daytrip with your kids or the grandkids, the day can kick off with a bang at the Harbour Playground.  There are big things to climb up, jump off, scramble through and swing down and has an underwater theme with seaweed ropes, whirlpool nets and a giant octopus guarding its lair.

It’s a very accessible playground for kids with disability and the interpretive signage is also written in braille. It’s great to see councils investing in playgrounds that capture inclusiveness as well as imagination.

It is a great warm up act before walking through the dunes to the beach less than a minute’s walk away.

Would you like to meet the surf lifesaving crew with the biggest smiles in Perth?  The Secret Harbour Surf Life Saving Club.

Very smiley lifesavers

One of the reasons is that one of their members is 81-year-old Alan who joined as a young ‘un when he was 73.  Rebecca runs the Nippers down there and is famous for training her up and coming lifesavers to never stop smiling, even when people are doing the wrong thing on a beach that is famous for always having waves. Thanks for calling into the show Rebecca!

Secret Harbour is renowned for having the only beach in Perth that has waves all year round that is perfect for skim boarders, boogie boarders, beginner and professional surfers.  It’s a very popular beach on Boxing Day for debuting for all those Christmas present boogie boards.

It’s a wide beach that’s nearly 6 kilometres long so plenty of room for everyone to relax, paddle, splash and smash without getting in the way of other people.

Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour have Rockingham to the north and Mandurah to the south.  Both of those destinations are loved by Western Australians for the fishing and other aquatic activities from boats, jetties and beaches.

Utes, boats and jet ski’s are Port Kennedy institutions

Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour are a Hidden Treasure because  if you spend some time there this summer, between the two bordering tourist hot spots of Rockingham and Mandurah, you’ll find a quieter spot and you’ll find a car spot closer to the beach and playgrounds and you’ll also find a great pie from a golf pro shop, just don’t walk in there with sandy feet.

As published in Have A Go News newspaper and online … don’t let the players on the field have all the fun when you visit Optus Stadium

The Romans knew the value of a good stadium didn’t they?  Can you imagine doing a tour of the Colosseum when it was at its peak?  Game day at the Colosseum may have had more on the line for most of the participants but just to have walked through the service tunnels and holding cells and then maybe walking around the top, seeing up close the linen sails that extended outwards on elaborate rope and pulley systems to provide shade for the audience, would have been amazing.

Having zipped up my Ozone ‘Ghostbuster’ jumpsuit and climbed into my harness and adjusted my straps, I walk with the other members of our merry band through the bowels of Optus Stadium, past crates of plates and all sorts of things destined for what is above. There are no lions, gladiators, Roman centurions or terracotta amphorae filled with wine, but there’s still a lot going on.

But we’re going higher than those who are sitting in the seats and corporate boxes, we’re even going higher than the stadium’s halo roof, a continuous fabric cantilevered structure that circles the stadium, providing valuable shade and spectacular lighting displays.

Listen and lean

We’re heading more than 40 metres off the ground to a small row of seats where harnesses keep you safe but can’t restrain your excitement as you watch a match unfold from a perspective even Roman Emperors couldn’t dream about.

This is what amplifying your experience is all about when you come to Optus Stadium. Getting as much out of your experience as possible and being a part of the narrative of your adventure, not just relying on the teams playing on the field below you to provide all of the drama and excitement.

If the height and the view is not quite enough of a challenge then you can always do the lean out, relying on your tour leaders’ instructions and your harness to prevent your fall.  With your back to the field, you inch your way backwards, right to the very edge, and hold your harness line and then lean out and let go of your harness.

As good as I get at handballing

A few photos will be taken that show you holding your arms out or pretending to handball a footy.  I’ve already decided to do the tour again because I want to do the lean out and pretend I’ve gone up for a big mark of the footy. 

This experience is all about levels.  Literally and metaphorically.  You literally go up to the highest level of the stadium to reach your seat.  You ride a lift, climb 78 steps, emerge through hatches and at each level the view gets better and better. On a catwalk alongside the stadium lights, you walk around the stadium until you’re at the eastern end.

This is where you’ll find your seat, the highest seats in the house and if you think it can’t get any better that’s when you can take it to the next level and lean out over the edge. 

From a sporting perspective I enjoy my footy but have mates who love it more.  I couldn’t help thinking of my mates, not just for the excitement of the experience, but for the perspective you have with an aerial view. 

Every twitch of a player, the transfers of play, the switches and flow of the game is entrancing.  It’s like watching the coach’s magnet board come to life!

Don’t drop your chewy

As a precinct, get ready to do more than watch some great sport when you come to Optus Stadium. Get ready to participate.  Get ready to lean out off the edge of the most beautiful stadium in the world and let rip with a huge scream. 

With the HALO experience, Matagarup Bridge climb and soon to be launched 400m zipline, plus Aboriginal cultural tours and stadium behind the scenes tours, there’s so much you can do with your time when you visit Optus Stadium.

There doesn’t even need to be a game on.  Optus Stadium is more than a beautiful sporting arena, it’s already got history and atmosphere and even though it’s new, it has that rite of passage feeling about it that means you want visit it, whether you’re visiting Perth or looking for a day out if you live in Perth.

Want to Know More?

The Ozone booking office and merchandise store is located at the western end of Optus Stadium and their website is www.theozone.com.au.

Verdict

With only a moderate level of fitness you can do the game day rooftop experience all year long, or on a quiet weekday with no sport. The HALO experience will meet your need for an awesome view and level of excitement with great staff and great harnesses. And you get a free cap!

ABC Saturday Breakfast Discovers Hidden Treasure in Bassendean

Hidden Treasures is coming off an amazing exploration last weekend of jetties around Western Australia and this weekend we thought we might slow down the pace of things.

A bit like when you’re on the country highways and hit those little towns that require you to slow down from 110 to 60, our next Hidden Treasure is about swinging in off a busy road and slowing down to the pace of life in a suburb that might remind you of growing up, or perhaps just visiting, a favourite country town.

Like those big entry statements that our country towns love, let’s give you a big ‘Welcome to Bassendean’!

Let’s start at the outskirts of Bassendean where you’ll find more trains than a Thomas the Tank Engine book. And carriages as well!

The Railway Museum in Bassendean is on the north side of the tracks and is as much about restoration as it is exhibition and is open every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon.

There are steam engines like the beautiful Katie, that began her service in 1881 on the Fremantle to Guildford line and big old diesel engines and carriages in various states of restoration and all with dreams of hauling people and cargo once more.

Katie

This year has been very important to the museum as it marks 150 years of railways in Western Australia when the first track was built in 1871 down near Busselton.

Just like so many heritage museums and sites around Western Australia, the Railway Museum would just be a scrapyard without volunteers to light the place up with enthusiasm and skill and the work they put into making the museum interesting to kids is wonderful, particularly the birthday parties in an old 1947 dining carriage.

Crossing over to the south side of the tracks, it’s just a short drive along Guildford Road to the intersection with Old Perth Road which is where you will find the main street of Bassendean.

I’ve been told to move on from banging on about jetties so I’ve picked a new subject to get all misty eyed about … main streets.

Bassendean is like a country town for lots of reasons but right up there at the top is its main street.  While the old Bassendean Hotel is still finishing its renovation there are shops and urban art on this street that are really enjoyable to explore and mooch your way through. 

The main street of Bassendean is just like the main street of country towns.  Last week I spoke about jetties being the first opportunities for independence, being allowed to be on a jetty without my parents, armed with a tackle box and a couple of handlines.

Old Perth Road, the main street of Bassendean

Main streets are the same.  I was allowed to walk down my hometown main street, looking at the book exchange, newsagency and ask the butcher for a slice of polony. As Sue and I had an earlier chat about, her kids could walk into the shops of the main street in her town and they were known as her kids, just as she is known as her parents youngest daughter even now when she goes home.

Last weekend I walked down the Bassendean main street.  There were cafes that serve polite conversation.  Really.  The sign out the front advertises coffee, food and polite conversation. There was a butcher, a book exchange, gift shops selling gorgeous local products, including the weirdest candles I’ve ever seen and will not be drawn to describe them further!

Polite Conversation

There’s urban art that is turning those unattractive bits of our environment into something more as part of the Whimsical Art Project, adding life and colour to street poles, drains and broken paving.

For some great outdoor areas in Bassendean head down to the river and if the river isn’t enough for you to enjoy then here are three reserves on its banks. Beach Reserve has a couple of small beaches perfect for kids and are also popular launching spots for stand-up paddle boarders. Just up from Beach Reserve are the native bush expanses of Bindaring Park and around the corner, near the bridge that leads to Guildford is Swan Reserve which has some great mosaic sculptures in a bush setting, it also overlooks two rivers (Fun Fact: it’s called a confluence) and there’s a group of geese that will hiss and lower their heads at you but still take your bread crumbs.

Geese at Swan Reserve (alternative title ‘Old Ducks Surrounded by Geese’)

It is so good of me to find time to mention Bassendean Oval.  Although they are the home to an average footy club, the ground is well above average.

Like all good WAFL grounds, it’s open to run onto and enjoy a kick to kick with a mate or your kids or just to walk a few laps around and look at the beautifully maintained heritage of two of Perth’s greatest grandstands, the Bill Walker Stand and MacDonald Stand.

The Heritage Gates to Bassendean Oval

Bassendean is a Hidden Treasure because it’s a reminder to me of everything I love about regional Western Australia and ‘savouring familiar sights’

Little shops with staff who love to talk, people sitting on park benches watching the world go by, houses with verandas, streets with kids playing cricket, bush to explore and a footy oval close by, a main street close by and a community close by and not closed off.

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”.