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 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!”

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.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures has landed safely in the Avon Valley

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.

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.

Toodyay is a great place to begin an Avon Valley daytrip.

Two great museums are in Toodyay. The Connors Mill has working displays, steam engines, and the Ballardong Noongar connection is well exhibited and the Newcastle Gaol tells the tragic story of Dorrizzi brothers and also has some interesting history on Moondyne Joe who is described as not quite a bushranger but more than a horse thief.

The Bilya Walk Trail 6-kilometre Aboriginal Interpretive Art Walk tracks alongside the Avon River, showcasing how local Noongar people lived in the location.

The Toodyay bakery is the perfect spot to enjoy a pastie and vanilla slice (with white icing) on a balcony that overlooks the main street.

The Toodyay Bakery has a balcony to watch the world go by in the main street below

Enjoy stocking up on Christmas decorations at the biggest Christmas Shop in the whole world that is open all year.

Enjoy a walk through Pelham Reserve which has 6km’s of walking tracks with a lookout of the town and valley. Kangaroos and emus will be constantly crossing your path and the surrounding bush is one of the states best locations for Everlasting displays.

The fabulous Tea House Tables has regular events in a bush setting, where you will sit around mosaic tables and quietly sip tea in one hand and noisily scoff homemade cakes in the other. I wonder if they make mock chicken sandwiches?

Driving down to York there is the famous Motor Museum which is like a Peters Drumstick – a classic that’s hard to stray from. Let the smell of old oil fill your nostrils and reminisce about driving in the days of caressing your vehicles choke every morning to get it started!

Make sure you have a wander of the streets and find the Wara Art Trail. These Japanese inspired sculptures of braided wheat straw on wooden frames, including a bilby, numbat and western swamp tortoise are a great example of inspirational regional art projects.

York Wara art trail Bilby

In Northam, get there early enough in the morning and you can become a member of the balloonatic club with Damien the hot air balloon pilot who’s like an old sea captain, squinting at the night sky, checking the stars and the wind to find the safest place to take off and land.

The iconic Avon Descent starts in Northam and is part of the River Festival every August to celebrate this 124-kilometre epic and iconic race.

The Northam Wheat Silo was the first silo in Australia to have a giant mural painted on it and the flour mill mural pays tribute to the only wild white swans in Australia.

Before you leave Northam, make sure you take a walk on the suspension bridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Australia.

Motoring down to little Beverley there’s the very impressive East End Gallery. With over ninety artists there is local clothing, jewellery, paintings, sculptures and most of it is for sale! The kids will love the owl and the pussy cat in a very real pea green boat.

There’s also lots of rusty stuff at the back of the East End Gallery. It is the workshop for a sculptural artist called Michael Sofoulis and he has collected all the rusty metal for a million miles around!  Old bicycles, horseshoes of all sizes no matter what size your horse’s feet are, bits of gates, bits of cars, bits of sheds and fences.

Rusty stuff from miles around at the East End Gallery in Beverley

Beverley also has a Heritage and Mural Trail of chickens, kangaroos, sheep and more on Vincent Street, the main street of little Beverley.

Before you leave Beverley make sure you take a look at the very real vampire!

The Avon Valley is a hidden treasure because it’s a day on the road that won’t exhaust you.

The Avon Valley is a bit like the Margaret River Region.  There is the main road and there are the back roads. 

And there are pies and pasties for everyone in every town. And vanilla slices!

Sitting in the main street of regional towns is a great pastime

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

How to Turn a Pinnacles Weekender into a Cut-Down Day Trip, as published by the West Australian.

As published in the West Australian weekend travel supplement, West Travel.

So Chris Parry has packed the car and the kids, and headed north. Not really north. But still north.

In an article some time ago, Travel Editor for the West Australian, Stephen Scourfield, showed how to do the Pinnacles area as a weekender. Now for the cut-down version, designed to tick the box on a great experience and demonstrate great parenting by me.

School holidays should be relaxing but the pressure as a parent to deliver new experiences and encounters can become a quest. “Not another playground!” was the despairing exclamation the night before. Inspired by Stephen’s article, I thought I could do a version that would be cheaper and maybe leave the kids exhausted the next day (and on the following day there was cricket on the TV).

Stephen had left home at 10.30am on Saturday. Scratch that. Get up at sparrows, wrap some toast in some Alfoil for the kids and hit the road.

The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park is about 250km north of Perth and a trip is made all the more enjoyable since the 2010 opening of the Indian Ocean Drive. Trying to enjoy a northbound day trip on the heavily trucked inland Brand Highway is near impossible.

How good is the Indian Ocean Drive? If you ever spin a bottle to work out what direction you’re going to head for a day trip out of Perth, make sure the bottle points north. Indian Ocean Drive offers a great driving experience. It is scenic which is enough to tick the boxes of all the occupants in my car.

Looking at Stephen’s itinerary, we are experiencing the wonder of the Pinnacles just after he has left home. It’s a summer’s day and by 10.45am it’s warm but the Kids’ Driving Songs CD still hasn’t melted on the dashboard from my apparent carelessness. Yes we still like a good compact disc in the domain of my car.

While Stephen is still on Wanneroo Road, I have paid my $12 entry per vehicle and begun the 4km Pinnacles loop in my seldom-tested four-wheel drive.

Here’s a photography and driving tip in one: you don’t need a 4WD for the Pinnacles loop but your photos will look better with a rugged vehicle to match the landscape.

As Stephen explains, the Pinnacles are “limestone pillars thought to represent the remains of a forest covered by moving sand dunes and petrified”. Alternative suggestions for their creation include the raw material for the limestone coming from seashells that broke down over time into lime-rich sands and then a bit of research adds some descriptions none of us are going to remember, such as “vegetation forming acidic layers of soil and humus” and “precipitation of indurated calcrete with subsequent erosion of the aelolianite”.

The Pinnacles Discovery Centre has now taken it under my advisement that my kids’ explanation deserves a display board. According to them, the Pinnacles were formed in ancient times by a group of children competing in a sand castle competition.

All of the children coincidently built the same style of structure that we now know as the Pinnacles. To celebrate this coincidence, it was decided not to smash the sand castles at the end of the day and let them stay there forever.

While we’re at the Pinnacles Discovery Centre, I reckon on Stephen’s trip you would probably be somewhere around Seabird, a small community 100km north of Perth. The Seabird community of the 1960s rejected the proposed name of Chalon and chose the name Seabird after a schooner of that name wrecked nearby in 1874.

The Pinnacles Discovery Centre is a very well articulated display of history and local flora and fauna. While the displays of snakes and lizards easily impress, it is noticeable how intrigued people are by the display of sandgropers. All I’ve ever known about this elusive insect is that it is the colloquialism for West Australians.

The sandgroper is subterranean and occurs widely across Australia in sandy soils. In WA it was available in the 1970s as a soft toy to raise money for Telethon.

After stocking up on some cold drinks, snacks and other essential items, such as glow-in-the-dark tshirts at the Pinnacles Discovery Centre shop, we make our back to the now suitably dusty 4WD and back on to Indian Ocean Drive, but only for a minute.

Spying a track on the coast side of the road, I pull into it and we make our way along a suitably narrow, sandy track, a genuine air of concern in the car. Surrounded by scrub with just a narrow band of white sand ahead of us, we round a bend and there’s a vehicle in trouble, spinning sand like a sprinting sandgroper.

With the owner pulling the shirt off his back and kicking his floor mats under the back wheels I ask if he needs some help. I realise immediately it’s the wrong question to ask of a man in trouble being watched by his girlfriend. No man in trouble wants help. I should have said, “I’ve got some gear in the back. Do you wanna use it?” It’s too late. He’s committed to refusing my help. We look at each other, both of us understanding what I must do. Slowly I get back in the car and complete a 15-point turn. As slowly and as quietly as possible, I drive off back the way we came.

The silence in the car doesn’t last long. An even smaller track leads off to a massive sand dune that is crying out to be explored. We leave the car and climb this monster of bright, white sand, surrounded entirely by bush. I remember the kids just running, falling and laughing but my favourite memory is of my boy running off into the distance, at least 150m away, on his own, flat-strap and barefoot.

Back in the car, we continue the drive south, taking in the recommended scenic lookouts until we arrive in Lancelin. At the Endeavour Tavern we grab a massive wooden table outside in the beer garden and order some equally massive pizzas to fill it — and somehow make some space for drinks. The kids run off to explore the expansive lawns and roll down the grassy slope, occasionally colliding with like-minded happy kids.

Looking at Stephen’s itinerary he has checked into the Pinnacles Edge Resort, enjoying his exploration of the surroundings and looking forward to a luxurious evening before taking in more of the area’s sites tomorrow.

At about the time Stephen is slipping easily into the comforts of good service and good food, I’m making my way back down Indian Ocean Drive.

I will be home in a couple of hours, having provided my family with more stories to tell and more adventures to remember, and all done in just one day.

Any angle of a Pinnacle is a good angle but it’s the light you want to wait for. I didn’t have time for that though.

A Wheatbelt Weekender

There’s some bias to be declared. I’m a Narrogin boy.  I haven’t lived there since 1988 but it’s still where I call home and my kids love getting back there every year to see where I went to school, got into fights, played sport (sometimes well, sometimes not) and the houses I lived in.

For this trip we’re doing some different bush walks and we’re also going out onto a farm to drive across paddocks and throw nets into a dam and catch some yabbies which can be called coonacs, gilgies and I’m still not sure what the difference is.

Having checked in to the local motel we grab our coats and trekking poles and head off to Foxes Lair, a local woodland full of trails of varying lengths.

We take the Granite Walk which is only just over a kilometre but has what we’re looking for; lots of granite boulders to scramble up and over and the Old Rifle Range where we successfully fossick for bullets embedded in the old mound behind where the targets would have been placed.

Having secured in the Parry annals our somewhat surprisingly successful archaeological experience, it’s time to make our way out of town to try our luck at catching some yabbies.

Driving across the paddocks to get to the dam attracts the attention of the sheep who all thought we’re there to feed them and they watch every move we make.

We pulled in hundreds of yabbies using nets and we also tried the old way of meat on a string being slowing pulled in.  Slowly, Tom.  Slowly.

We were on a strict catch and release experience but if we were catching what we caught it would have been a feast for the ages.

Speaking of dinner, the sun was getting low in the sky and the glow of a slow burning tree stump reminded us it was getting late and it was time to think about dinner.

A chicken parmy at the pub for dinner, the venerable Duke of York, was the one request of the kids and I half succeeded.  In the world of Covid19 we couldn’t eat at the pub but they happily cooked up a parmy storm and delivered it to our motel room on the top of the hill.

The following day is spent slowing winding our way north through small towns and slightly bigger than small towns; Cuballing, Popanyinning, Pingelly, Brookton, Beverley and York.  Beverley in particular was thriving with art galleries and cafes open to all and lots of murals on the walls of shops in the main street.

We take some time on the way back west to Perth to explore the Wambyn Nature Reserve, a gentle woodland with easy tracks that is a nice diversion from the heavy traffic heading back into Perth.

That’s it.  A weekender with plenty of time exploring the outdoors and plenty of time in the car exploring each our Spotify playlists.  Something for everyone, the perfect roadtrip.

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Above: Foxes Lair, Granite Walk

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Above:  Whether you call them yabbies, coonacs, gilgies or marron…they’re great fun to catch and eat.

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Above: A few of the local lads.

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Above: The gorgeous Narrogin Town Hall

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Above: Down a little laneway in York