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 … discovering hidden treasure on our most treasured destination

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

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

It’s Wadjemup! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New sculptures at the Wadjemup Museum

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

Into the bowels of Wadjemup we go

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

Whales, seals and a good drenching

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cray Dogs. That’s right. Cray Dogs.

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

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

Wadjemup sunset from the Bathurst Lighthouse

As published in the West Australian … Ramming Speed!

Originally published by the West Australian newspaper and on http://www.waterwanderers.com.au

Chris Parry and family enjoy a wander along the river on a kayaking tour.

Have you noticed the blue sky that is finally above us?

As I paddled my way up the Swan River in a Water Wanderers kayak, I was reminded of a career a long time ago, singing and serving on the wine cruise boats that made their way up to Mulberry Farm and other Swan Valley destinations.

Leonie Cockman from the Water Wanderers has an easier job than I did when I worked on the river. She doesn’t have to put on a cabaret act while making sure sozzled people don’t jump overboard. She also provides a better lunch than the cheese cubes sweating on yellow serviettes in cane baskets that I used to serve.

My Water Wanderers tour of Ascot Waters started out as a Fathers’ Day prize and Leonie offered to take the whole family on the water. A late change in the line-up saw my brother Jamie step in and he was partnered with Tom, while my kayak partner was Matilda.

After a briefing on the correct paddling technique, we forgot everything Leonie taught us and launched the kayaks at Adachi Park in Maylands, setting off up river. Both kayaks were sea-going and equipped with rudders controlled by the paddler at the back. I quickly got the hang of lining up Jamie and Tom amidships and calling out to Matilda, “Ramming speed!” Tom would holler in horror and then berate his Uncle Jamie for not avoiding the collision. I was happy to then withdraw our bow, paddle away and leave my brother to deal with my son’s protestations.

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Ramming speed! Picture: Chris Parry

While not strictly encouraging this behaviour, Leonie was laughing, which is all the encouragement I need. She was in her own kayak and would skim around us, pointing out the features of the riverbank and cautioning us when craft bigger than ours — and they were all bigger — came cruising past.

We threaded our way through the moored array of boats at the Maylands Amateur Boatbuilding Yard, which is just 4km from the centre of Perth and provides a place for boat builders to plane and hammer their days away, dreaming of tight hulls and firm decks.

WA has a great history of boatbuilding and it was an important indicator of the early success of our colony that boatbuilding was been established on the Swan River, utilising local timbers.

Just a little way up the river is Tranby House, one of the colony’s oldest surviving buildings and the site of one its first farms. Built in 1839, it was the third house to be built on what was known as Peninsula Farm.

These days, Tranby House and Peninsula Tea Gardens cater to weddings and events, and are open for high tea every day of the week, serving tea in Royal Albert china.

As we continued upriver, we stayed close to the banks to make sure we got a good look at the birdlife along the way, including eastern great egrets, white-faced heron, pelicans and black swans.

Being in a kayak provided a real sense of being part of the environment around us. I felt I was more observant and was hearing more than I ever had on any of the motorised adventures I’ve had on the river.

As we paddled into Bayswater waters, Leonie pointed out the bat boxes attached to the shoreline trees in the Baigup Wetland.

Designed to attract bats looking for a home, this project aims to reduce mosquito populations. One bat may consume over 1000 mosquitoes in an evening and they are considered an effective and ecological alternative to chemical spraying to reduce mosquito numbers on the river.

Just before the Garratt Road Bridge, we crossed to the other side of the river and made our way through the wetlands to find a suitable landing for our sturdy craft. Leonie pulled out chairs and baskets from the kayaks’ storage holes and very quickly we’d set up a picnic camp.

From one basket, Leonie produced bottles filled with homemade lemonade. The sprig of mint within each bottle was a touch of genius, although as it was treated with great suspicion by my six year old lad. “A stick with leaves is in my drink!”

Leonie had made an absolute feast for our group and we each had a favourite. For Jamie, it was the vegetable quiche. For Matilda, it was the banana jam with coconut sprinkled on top, and for me, it was the homemade bread. Tom devoured a glass jar with peanut, caramel and pretzel chocolate cheesecake in hypnotic silence, save for the sound of the little metal spoon scraping the inside of the jar.

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After lunch, we returned our craft to the water and made our way through the wetlands before emerging back into the river proper, where we hit the sort of wind I can imagine drove the early Dutch sailors crashing into our shores. Paddles dug deep and fortitude dug deeper. I realised that as I dug my paddle into the water I was pushing my feet forward on the rudder pedals, causing the rudder to shift to the left and then to the right with each desperate paddle thrust. This caused us to lurch to port then lurch to starboard, unsettling Matilda, who was convinced we were about to be introduced to Davy Jones somewhere deep below — or, at the very least, fall among the big, brown jellyfish that surrounded our pitching vessel.

It was a short trial by wind — perhaps 500m, maybe a bit less. As our kayaks ground on the shore we’d departed from just hours earlier, we unzipped our life jackets and dropped our paddles with relief and regret. Relief to be off the water, away from the wind, and regret to be off the water, away from our adventure.

The Water Wanderers operate throughout the year and have a range of different river tours available, including a spectacular sunset tour. The Ascot Waters tour is available Wednesdays and Saturdays. No experience is necessary and, as Tom and Jamie proved, age is no barrier. Now how’s that for getting in a dig at an older brother?

Want to know more?

See waterwanderers.com.au.

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!

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast … don’t be bashful, don’t be shy, step on up and have a try! Enjoy a showcation by getting to a regional show.

For Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I were joined by my good mate Tom, who coincidentally is my son.  Tom gave some wonderful descriptions about his favourite showbags, rides and why reggae bananas aren’t a very good prize.

Listen to our chat in the link below and read below about the things we love most about regional shows in the notes below:

Whether you follow the traditional seasons or the cultural seasons, it’s nice to know that we’re headed for some sunshine.  But there is another season upon us and it’s one that should have us checking our tyre pressures, making a new roadtrip playlist and filling up the tank for a big day out or maybe even a weekend away. 

This is the season for regional agricultural shows. The smell of hot donuts is in the air! It’s time for a showcation!

Could there be a better reason to go for a drive?

Could there be a better reason to visit a town you haven’t explored?

Could there be a better reason to go down the road less travelled?

Could there be a better reason to make up a new Spotify playlist that caters for all ages in the car as long as they like Lindsay Buckingham’s Holiday Road and John Denver’s Country Roads.

Have a look at the Agricultural Society website and you can search by date or town and see what’s coming up.  We can’t mention every show but let’s give a shout out to a great little bunch of shows coming up that are just a couple of hours away:

  1. YORK 4 September
  2. MOORA 18 September
  3. TOODYAY 9 October
  4. KATANNING 23 October
  5. NARROGIN 16 OCTOBER – Best poultry shed in the southern hemisphere.
  6. GIDGEGANNUP 30 October – 75th Anniversary and Gordon the Show President says that all his volunteers live with the creed, “Put a country show on the city doorstep.”  This year the Gidgy Show will feature a sheep dog guiding sheep through the actual show pavilions and stalls.  Not a paddock, but through the actual show.

Agricultural shows are really important to country communities.  It’s a time for volunteers, it’s a time to show off local art and crafts, jams and chutneys, biscuits and cakes and collections of bottles and barbed wire and for Mayors to award blue ribbons.  There are deals to be made over the purchase of a new tractor and decisions to be made over which rooster has the plumiest feathers and which ram has the biggest marble bag.

Make an offer at a regional show.

There are also some other important decisions to be made and that’s why I need the help of Tom who fills me with joy and empties my wallet.

The season of agricultural shows brings together at least two of Tom’s loves …. Roadtrips and the Narrogin Show.

  • There is no better indicator of character type … what showbag do you buy and when do you buy it, at the start of the show or the end?
  • Showbag memories … Mills and Ware suitcase, Schweppes Bicep Challenge and the best ‘In my day’ reference you can make ….. the Bertie Beetle.
  • Lost Dad Tents are proof that everyone is catered for.
  • Miracle Gadgets! A new way of peeling, grating, slicing and dicing vegetables or a magic cloth that washes and dries your car all by itself!
  • Enjoy the spruikers and their calls to get your participation to drop a ping pong ball down a clowns mouth. Calls like; 
    • “Every player wins a prize!” and “Don’t be bashful! Don’t be shy! Step on up and have a try! 
    • And the bumper car calls accompanied by a Bon Jovi soundtrack, “Left hand down!  Left hand only!” and “One way ‘round drivers, one way only!”
Left hand down drivers! Left hand down only!

Regional agricultural shows are hidden treasures because they provide the lure to get you out there.  To see a town you love or have never been to.  To see a community come together. To see big tractors and big sheep.  To self-proclaim yourself the best bumper car driver and eat food that is good for you, as long as it’s only once a year.

For me it’s about spending time with my best mate.  The Royal Show is just 20 minutes drive from my house but the Narrogin Show, The Gidgy Show and so many others, are a bit further away and that time together is real treasure.

Every player wins a prize….even if it’s just a reggae banana

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: Cold Country … Dryandra Woodlands Delivers Shivers

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

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

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

You’ll even find flowers in winter

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

Dryandra Woodland

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

The dying of the light in Dryandra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Grey Kangaroos

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

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

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

Hello possum!

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

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

Ross Storey’s Stories

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

Geocaching is modern day treasure hunting

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

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

Just what I needed