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.

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

Beautiful by day and by night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this enough blue for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape Plan

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

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

Visit the following websites for more information:

www.pullmanbunkerbayresort.com.au

www.margaretriver.com

www.westernaustralia.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No buzz words.  They’re real words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Published in Have a Go News newspaper … let’s go where the air is rarefied!

Have a Go News is a Western Australian newspaper with a hardcopy circulation of over 80,000 each month and a very strong online presence.

Click on the link below and hopefully you’ll be whisked away to the July issue of Have a Go News. Scroll through to page 40 and you can read my published story about hot air ballooning in the Avon Valley.

Have a Go News (July 2021)
Mist. And cold. Very cold.

There’s a reason that songs are written about being in the air. 

‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘99 Red Balloon’s, ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘Danger Zone’ are just a few classics inspired by the feeling of being up there, where the air is rarefied.

Hidden Treasures is going on a special adventure beyond Perth this weekend.  We’re going further than we’ve travelled before, past Guildford and Midland that we’ve explored before and up and over the hills and out to the Avon Valley.

Our hidden treasure can only be discovered in the darkness but is soon revealed by the dawn of a new day. 

Let’s go hot air ballooning!

The Avon Valley isn’t far from Perth and if it was north or south it would just about qualify as part of the Perth Metropolitan Scheme.  Being just over an hour’s drive away it’s wonderful how easy we can leave the city behind, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Arriving at the Northam Airport I’m the first to arrive and there is nobody at the airport except for the resident cat.  It’s so cold that the cat jumps into my car. 

As other people start to arrive and huddle around the coffee making facilities, I’m taken by news articles on the wall that describe the history of hot air ballooning in the world. This sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s true, in 1783 a sheep, a duck and a rooster went riding in a hot air balloon in France. 

I had thought that the airport would be our take off point but Damien, our chief pilot, has been letting go of weather balloons and squinting at the night sky like an old sea captain. For this morning’s flight with Windward Balloon Adventures we must head west of Northam.

These guys have all the permissions required from the shire and farmers to access properties, so long as we remember to close the gates.

Still in complete darkness, our pilots inflate the balloons as they lie on the ground and the roar and brightness of the gas burners is a bit like those aerobatic displays of jet planes whooshing over your head. 

After a final briefing we climb into our basket and just like that, we’re away. No seatbelts. No worries.

I’ve done some wonderful air related activities in my life from the fastest and longest zipline in the world with my daughter Matilda down the side of a mountain in South Africa, to twice jumping out of aeroplanes, flying a beautiful Tiger Moth over Perth and the seaplane to Rottnest, and even trekking up mountains and being above clouds.

When I jumped out of an aeroplane I thought about the words of John Magee, a World War II Spitfire pilot who wrote a poem called High Flight with the first line, “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” and the last line, “Put out my hand and touched the face of God”.

Astronaut Michael Collins died recently, and he once remarked that he wondered what John Magee would have been inspired to write if he could have been in orbit above the Earth. 

As we ascend from the paddock that becomes a mist shrouded valley beneath, I looked to the east and had author Douglas Adams’ words in my head, “There is a moment in every dawn when light floats and there is the possibility of magic.  Creation holds its breath.”

I can tell you I held my breath and it was amazing.  In so many of life’s travels and adventures it’s been the sights that are the most awesome but what was so immersively different about a hot air balloon experience is that sound becomes part of the canvas before you.

There is the possibility of magic ….

It’s mostly silent apart from the whoosh of the gas burners every so often to get some altitude. Looking down and around you’re suddenly struck by the sounds of parrots having an early morning squabble in the trees over who’s sitting on the best branch, sheep all going baa as they move across a paddock far below and even a dog barking from somewhere. 

There are other balloons to help with the perspective of what we’re all a part of this morning.  They drift along as we drift along and we rise and fall and our hearts sing with the joy of witnessing to a new day in a beautiful part of the world.

As we continue to drift, we travel over bushland with granite outcrops beginning to be warmed by the early rays of the sun and kangaroos jumping through the trees and in the distance on hills to the west we can see the shadow of our balloon and directly below us the reflection of the balloon is crystal clear in the river below.

We land in a harvester scarred paddock with a gentle bump and everyone helps roll up the balloon into a bag that is much easier to manage than any sleeping bag.

The Avon Valley stretches from New Norcia to Beverley, with the historic communities of Toodyay, York, and Northam all just a short Spotify playlist of flying tunes away.

Northam has the Avon River running through it and the champagne breakfast after the ballooning is held in a café overlooking the river, complete with white swans and suspension bridge.  During a champagne toast we are all welcomed to the club of Balloonatics.

Hot air ballooning in Northam is a hidden treasure because maybe Northam doesn’t seem far enough for a big adventure.  Also, ballooning may be somewhere on the bucket list but it gets pushed down the list because of the need to get up early. Get over the time thing and get it done. It’s just an hour away and you’ll be up, up and away. 

You don’t have to be religious to feel inspired by creation taking it’s first breath for the day
Coffee and Have a Go News newspaper … a perfect start to your morning (especially on page 40)

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures goes up, up and away in the Avon Valley

Giant Man and Tiny Balloon

For ABC Saturday Breakfast Hidden Treasures, Ro and I went somewhere we haven’t been before … beyond Perth! Up and over the escarpment and east to the Avon Valley.

There’s a reason that songs are written about being in the air. 

‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘99 Red Balloon’s, ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘Danger Zone’ are just a few of the classics inspired by the feeling of being up there, where the air is rarefied.

Let’s have an adventure that is discovered in the darkness but is soon revealed by the dawn of a new day. 

Let’s go hot air ballooning!

The Avon Valley isn’t far from Perth and if it was north or south it would just about qualify as part of the Perth Metropolitan Scheme.  Being just over an hour’s drive away it’s wonderful how easy we can leave the city behind, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Arriving at the Northam Airport I’m the first to arrive and there is nobody at the airport except for the resident cat.  It’s so cold that the cat jumps into my car. 

As other people start to arrive and huddle around the coffee making facilities, I’m taken by news articles on the wall that describe the history of hot air ballooning in the world. This sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s true, in 1783 a sheep, a duck and a rooster went riding in a hot air balloon in France. 

I had thought that the airport would be our take off point but Damien, our chief pilot, has been letting go of weather balloons and squinting at the night sky like an old sea captain. For this morning’s flight with Windward Balloon Adventures we must head west of Northam.

These guys have all the permissions required from the shire and farmers to access properties, so long as we remember to close the gates.

Still in complete darkness, our pilots inflate the balloons as they lie on the ground and the roar and brightness of the gas burners is a bit like those aerobatic displays of jet planes whooshing over your head. 

After a final briefing we climb into our basket and just like that, we’re away. No seatbelts. No worries.

Dark Shadows Welcome a New Day

I’ve done some wonderful air related activities in my life from the fastest and longest zipline in the world with my daughter Matilda down the side of a mountain in South Africa, to twice jumping out of aeroplanes, flying a beautiful Tiger Moth over Perth and the seaplane to Rottnest, and even trekking up mountains and being above clouds.

When I jumped out of an aeroplane I thought about the words of John Magee, a World War II Spitfire pilot who wrote a poem called High Flight with the first line, “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” and the last line, “Put out my hand and touched the face of God”.

Astronaut Michael Collins died recently, and he once remarked that he wondered what John Magee would have been inspired to write if he could have been in orbit above the Earth. 

As we ascend from the paddock that becomes a mist shrouded valley beneath, I looked to the east and had author Douglas Adams’ words in my head, “There is a moment in every dawn when light floats and there is the possibility of magic.  Creation holds its breath.”

Creation Holds Its Breath

I can tell you I held my breath and it was amazing.  In so many of life’s travels and adventures it’s been the sites and sights that are the most awesome but what was so immersively different about a hot air balloon experience is that sound becomes part of the canvas before you.

It’s mostly silent apart from the whoosh of the gas burners every so often to get some altitude. Looking down and around you’re suddenly struck by the sounds of parrots having an early morning squabble in the trees over who’s sitting on the best branch, sheep all going baa as they move across a paddock far below and even a dog barking from somewhere. 

There are other balloons to help with the perspective of what we’re all a part of this morning.  They drift along as we drift along and we rise and fall and our hearts sing with the joy of witnessing to a new day in a beautiful part of the world.

A Collective Noun for Hot Air Balloons is a … Drift

As we continue to drift, we travel over bushland with granite outcrops beginning to be warmed by the early rays of the sun and kangaroos jumping through the trees and in the distance on hills to the west we can see the shadow of our balloon and directly below us the reflection of the balloon is crystal clear in the river below.

We land in a harvester scarred paddock with a gentle bump and everyone helps roll up the balloon into a bag that is much easier to manage than any sleeping bag.

The Avon Valley stretches from New Norcia in the north to Beverley in the south, with the historic communities of Toodyay, York, and Northam all just a short Spotify playlist of flying tunes away.

Northam has the Avon River running through it and the champagne breakfast after the ballooning is held in a café overlooking the river, complete with white swans and suspension bridge.  During a champagne toast we are all welcomed to the club of Balloonatics.

Hot air ballooning seems to be on the bucket lists of many people but keeps getting pushed down the list not from the fear of hanging from a basket but from getting up so early.  Get over the time thing and get it done. It’s just an hour away and you’ll be up, up and away. 

Windward Balloon Adventures in the Avon Valley

Special Tip:  The National Ballooning Championships will be held in the Avon Valley between 30 August and 4 September, with lots of opportunities to be a spectator and a participant. 

Giant Man in Tiny ABC Studio