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

ABC Saturday Breakfast: From the Porongurups to Rotto, Tassy gin to South Australian cuttlefish and the wonders of Malacca.

A recent conversation with the ever bubbly Andrea Gibbs on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast explored some destinations that took us around Western Australia, over the border to some of my favourite states and finally overseas to a destination that’s just so cool to say and even better to experience.

abc2

Firstly, with ABC Producer Molly Schmidt firmly twisting my arm, we explored her hometown and holiday hangout, the Porongurups and Albany.  Then we ventured across the coastline with some descriptions of Elephant Rocks, Greens Pool, a bit of beach driving at Peaceful Bay and the discovery of giants in the forests around Walpole.

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ABOVE: WALPOLE TREETOP WALK

Then we had a chat about new ways to see new destinations and Rottnest is a great example of this.  This familiar destination is a rite of passage for Western Australians and a bucket list item for most tourists to the state.  With the new seaplane service taking off from the Swan River in front of the city you’re on Rotto in 20 minutes and can explore this incredible island, both on land and beneath the waves, before making your way back on one of the many ferry services available.

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ABOVE: SWAN RIVER SEAPLANES TAKE OFF ON WATER AND LAND ON … LAND.

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ABOVE: THE BASIN AT ROTTNEST ISLAND, MORE THAN A FAVOURITE, IT’S A RITE OF PASSAGE.

Next we took a trip to Tasmania and Andrea got very excited by my descriptions of the more than 20 gin distilleries to be found on the island and various DIY gin courses that are available.  We then came back to the mainland and to our great neighbour, South Australia.  There’s so much to see and there’s more to see than amazing wineries.  There’s some cage diving with Great White Sharks and a slightly more sedate wildlife encounter at Whyalla in the Spencer Gulf you’ll find the opportunity to snorkel with giant cuttlefish.

To finish our travel tour we hopped on a plane to Malaysia and visited Malacca.  I love just saying it. Malacca.  The Straits of Malacca have been an important sea trading route for centuries and led to an influence in this gorgeous town of food, culture and architecture in the styles of the Portugese, Dutch and British.  Interestingly, as well as having world heritage significance, funky hidden bars, evening river cruises and smiling faces everywhere, it is also one of the first large towns anywhere in the world to ban smoking in public.  Malacca.  Say it with me.  Malacca.

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ABOVE: AN EVENING CRUISE IN MALACCA

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ABOVE: MALACCA, OR MELAKA.

Travel discussions can lead you down a rabbit hole of inspiration.  This year try and think a little bit about trying to benefit the destination you’re going to.  Consider, for example, amazing destinations like South Australia who need our help as tourists to recover from the bushfires, particularly on Kangaroo Island.  In Western Australia, try a road trip to a country town you haven’t visited before or find a new way to visit a familiar destination, like a seaplane ride to Rotto.

Enjoy your travels, don’t be put off travelling, just try and contribute with your travelling.

6PR Radio: Chrissy and the Gentleman Traveller Find Luxury Abroad

 

On Perth’s best talkback radio station, 6PR, I recently discussed with my fine friend and colleague Chrissy Morrissy some options for luxury abroad; the magnificent Apurva Kempinski in Bali and the distinguished Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur.

A bit closer to home I spoke about day trips through the Avon Valley, from bakeries to canola crops, from Bentley Blowers to the history of this beautiful part of Western Australia.

The featured image for this post is the Apurva Kempinski Bali, located in Nusa Dua. The inspiration for the design are the classic and iconic rice terraces found throughout Bali.

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Above: The sumptuous lounges of the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur are perfect for high tea, gin and tonics or just resting between shopping sprees.

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Above: What makes a beautiful resort that you will return to again and again?  Water slides for the kids? Restaurants? Waterfront views? Rooftop bars? Maybe.  The Kempinski has all of these things but I think it’s the people who work there that are the greatest influence on your enjoyment.  Tom is holding a soft toy of the Bali Myna, an endangered local species of bird that the Apurva Kempinski is working hard to protect.

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Above:  The Library at the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur.  Come for the atmosphere, stay for the food.  An enchanting and refined menu full of passion for the flavours that represent the melting pot culture of Malaysia.

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Above: The Avon Valley has rolling hills filled with wildflowers, rolling fields of canola crops and great towns with bakeries, museums, galleries and pubs.

ABC Breakfast Show with Nadia and Russ: Staycations. You don’t have to stay at home to have one.

A whirlwind opportunity to talk about and redefine the staycation.  You don’t need to stay at home and find yourself visiting Bunnings.  A staycation can be about getting out and about in your state.  Not very far from home but still out and about.

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A night away, not far from home is my new definition of a staycation

As Published in Have A Go News: Top Ten No Tech Travel Accessories

Have A Go News newspaper recently published my list of the Top Ten No Tech Travel Accessories that you should have on every trip.  They’re also all lightweight and easy to store.

Aquatabs are as close as I get to panic prep packing but because they are easy to tuck in your toiletries bag with other medications they’re worth having if you ever doubt the safety of the water you’re drinking.

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Have a Go News is distributed throughout Western Australia to nearly 2000 community centres, recreation centres, supermarkets and more.

So, my Top 10, in no particular order but I must admit the first thing in any of my bags is a pen . . .

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