ABC Saturday Breakfast Rides the River

Whether it’s to try out a new Christmas present, a family day out, being a tourist for the day or showing off our city to a visiting friend, there is one place that is guaranteed to make it special, one place that is our most treasured place.  It’s not hidden, but there are hidden treasures to be found on it.  Where are we going?  The Derbarl Yerrigan.  The Swan River.  Our river.

Some of our Hidden Treasure stories have included elements of the Swan River.  It was when I looked around Bassendean that I first thought about a river story. 

We talked about the confluence of the Helena River and Swan River and the thrill of watching people fall off stand-up paddleboards and I watched kids swinging on a rope and tyre tied to a gnarly old tree sticking out of the bank on the Guildford side.

Our Hidden Treasure this morning is for all of us who love the river, love getting on it, but don’t have a boat. Here’s a few things you can do to get you on the water on one of the world’s great city waterways.

We’ve already mentioned stand up paddleboards as a spectator sport and tyres on a rope as an age-old pastime on the river but let’s get to my list of ten things for riding on the river if you haven’t got your own boat.

Surfcats:  I can remember as a kid watching cricket on tv and the camera would pan across to people on the river in surfcats and they would sometimes blow over when the Freo Doctor was in and then you’d see people stand up.  I also remember Tony Greig baiting Bill Lawry about going out on a surfcat, knowing Bill couldn’t swim. These days the surfcats are stronger and a family of four can enjoy sailing and imagining they’re winning the America’s Cup.

Transperth Ferries:  This is probably the best way to see the city, the river and all of the activity on it. For just a couple of dollars you can hop on at the Mends Street Jetty in South Perth or ferry terminal at Elizabeth Quay.  At both ends of a ten-minute journey you’ll find ice cream shops and cafes, or something finer if you like.  You can open the windows and have your head out in the breeze, watch cormorants on the navigation markers with their wings spread wide, drying them in the sun.

Electric Ferry: For a different type of ferry, a tesla on water, try the Little Electric Ferry Company which also operates from Elizabeth Quay.  This little fleet is fully electric and looks like something Gatsby would go boating in.  They travel up to Claisebrook and tie up in the inlet and give you enough time to duck into the pub for a beer before heading back down the river and sometimes they stop off at the pontoon wharf outside Perth Stadium, just up from Matagarup Bridge.

Zipline: Also up from Matagarup Bridge, literally, is the recently opened zipline which launches you from the bridge and across to the east bank.  It’s a great way to fly like a bird, scream like a banshee and land like James Bond.

Nautipicnics: Staying with the electric theme on water, if you want to get your dog on the water and have a go at being a skipper for a day, even without your Skippers Ticket, you can take out the groovy little Nautipicnics boats. 

Nautipicnics … no Skippers Ticket needed … but watch where you’re going!

Perfect for exploring the banks around Maylands and Bayswater, chugging alongside a pelican as it’s taking off like some 1930’s flying boat.  They’re set up with a central table and a shady bimini so you can glide around the river and graze your way through a cheese platter with cheese of a better quality than my days working for Boat Torque.

Water Wanderers: These guys do sunset tours, wetlands tours and Leonie will find little spots to pull into and give you amazing desserts served in Mason Jars, designed to top up your energy levels for your adventure.  I did a tour with Leonie as a Father’s Day adventure with my kids and my brother Jamie.  Matilda and I would line up Jamie and Tom and yell ‘Ramming Speed’ and then bump against Tom who would get cross with his Uncle Jamie for not avoiding us while Leonie would just laugh, mostly.

Try ‘Ramming Speed!’ with the Water Wanderers

Water Bikes: For a completely different way of being on the water, how about riding a bike on the water.  These are the only bikes you don’t need to wear a helmet for. Tom and I recently headed down to the little beach near the Narrows Bridge on the South Perth side and took a couple of these out with Penny and Nev and while they know their history and can answer lots of your questions we were happy just to watch Tom look up as we pedalled under the Narrows Bridge, hearing from underneath all that frantic and rumbling activity of north and south bound traffic and trains.  The bikes have two pontoons and are lightweight and easy to move through the water although my little legged companion started to get a bit weary as we turned for home so Nev tucked his pontoons under Toms bike and did the pedalling for both of them.  These guys can do the taste test style experience or longer up the river and sunset tours.

Waterbikes … no helmet required

Swan River Seaplanes: Just around the corner on the South Perth side you’ll find the opportunity to take off from the river in a real seaplane.  Taxiing across the water, picking up speed and bouncing into the air is exciting and not something you can do every day.  Their destinations range from up and down the coast, across to Rottnest or back on the river for a picnic. Check out their website, http://www.swanriverseaplanes.com.au, for more information on taking to the skies above Perth and along our amazing coastline.

What a way to roar across the river! Take off in a seaplane this summer!

Pedal Boards: Jeff operates from near the jetty at Point Walter and let’s firstly take a look at his pedal boards.  These are a cross between a stand-up paddle board and a penguin.  While you stand on a board with handlebars, there’s two little flippers under the board that do their best impression of Happy Feet and send you along in whatever direction you steer.

Swans: Swans on the Swan.  How can life get can any better than pedalling a swan on the Swan this summer? Forget the tube of sunscreen, you’re going to need a big tube of Voltaren the following day but honestly, it’s not because they’re hard to pedal, it’s just that those muscles aren’t working out enough each day. Jeff is busy launching and retrieving his swan pedal boats and pedal boards but still has time to show me his pride and joy, a recently painted black swan that is ready to be launched this summer.  I think he needs a red swan because as we all know, red means it goes faster.

Swan Pedal Boats. Fun doesn’t get much funner!

The Swan River is a hidden treasure because of these activities.  I bet there are things on this list you’ve never heard of and I bet there are some on the list you’ve heard of and never done.  The Swan River is more than a glorious view to drive past or walk along. 

Get on it and feel the treasure.      

ABC Saturday Breakfast Discovers Hidden Treasure in Bassendean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Perth Road, the main street of Bassendean

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

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

Polite Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

The Heritage Gates to Bassendean Oval

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

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

As published in the West Australian … Ramming Speed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ramming speed! Picture: Chris Parry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to know more?

See waterwanderers.com.au.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures discovers Bicton, a very green riverside suburb.

Bicton is south of the river and it runs right alongside it.

It’s east of Fremantle and nearly a third of the suburb is dedicated to a green belt of bushland, parkland and outdoor activities that is just as important to families today as it was to Aboriginal women and children before the Swan River Colony, when the men hunted and hung out on the Mosman Park side, while the women and kids got to hang out at Jennalup, what we now call Blackwall Reach.

The hidden treasure of Bicton is its access to the river and how it has retained its pristine riverside bushland while providing open spaces for picnics, concerts and beaches for sandcastles and swimming. And it has jetties.

It’s a tradition with Hidden Treasures that we start by meeting Ro’s requirement for “What’s there for sport?”

When we spoke about Midland a few weeks ago I encouraged people to get out there and watch baseball as something a bit different to the footy, basketball and cricket.

Bicton is home in WA to a sport that is worth watching and has tamed down a bit since the infamous 1956 Melbourne Olympics clash between Hungary and Russia.  Have you guessed it?

Water Polo!  At the Bicton Pool you can watch the home games in the Australian Water Polo League for the Fremantle Mens Mariners and the Fremantle Womens Marlins and they’re the most successful teams in the competition, kind of natural for Western Australian sport.  It’s a great spectator sport and I wish other sports could start off as exciting as the ‘swim off’ where both teams swim furiously to get the ball first. And those little caps are kind of cool as well.

Next to the Bicton Pool you’ll find Freestyle (pic above), a very popular meeting point sculpture that is part of the City of Melville We Love Art Project. 

Also next to the Bicton Pool and the Freestyle sculpture you’ll find the Bicton Baths which is almost unique in Perth now for being fully enclosed by a jetty that is perfect for jumping off or fishing for big bream and even bigger flathead.

Incredibly, this little area has more!  It’s also the location, in the adjacent Quarantine Park, for the annual Broome to Bicton Concert featuring the greatest band in the world, the Pigram Brothers. It’s a popular park all year long with families and for this reason Mr Whippy makes regular visits.

Continuing north along the river foreshore you get to the slightly controversial Blackwall Reach limestone cliffs.  Whether it’s just for the adventure, a rite of passage or reckless tomfoolery, it’s a long standing activity to jump off the 10 metre high limestone cliffs into water that can reach 25 metres deep and where scuba divers can discover an old barge at 14 metres and is the most intact wreck site in the Swan River, and populated by all sorts of fish, including sea horses. 

This area is actually an underwater tidal gorge and probably the most diverse and highly populated area of the river for underwater life which makes it popular with humans and dolphins for fishing and is one of the best spots on the Swan River to watch dolphins.

On land at Blackwall Reach is the Jenna Biddi Yorga (Womens Feet Walking) walking trail, described by Trails WA as Grade 1. It’s 2km in length and is one of the most scenic, peaceful and bird filled walks in Perth. 

Continuing our way north we find ourselves at one of Perth’s best family spots, Point Walter, with its rite of passage walk on the sandbar, great BBQ facilities, little beaches, public art, including the famous Habibi sculpture, and another jetty!

The joy of Point Walter is how perfect it is for everyone to learn their water activity.  It’s perfect for learning to swim or use a stand-up paddleboard, fish off the jetty, or do bombies onto big brown jellyfish.

Each year (though currently paused for Covid) there is one of the best outdoor family concerts held in Perth, the Point Walter Concert. It’s currently scheduled by the City of Melville for January 2022.

If you decide not to take a picnic, there is a very good café, although I much prefer to call it a kiosk! Order up some milkshakes and some hot chips and a day at Point Walter with the sun setting behind the western suburbs can’t get any better. 

If you head into the streets of Bicton check out the iconic Leopold Hotel which revels in its link to AC/DC (although these days you’re more likely to find families playing Jenga in the big sofas than screaming lead singers doing stage dives). Also seek out Little Stove, a little café that is a big meeting point for those in the community who need coffee to survive. It has local produce, including honey, giftcards and eggs from their own chickens.

Bicton is a hidden treasure next to known treasure.  Next door to Bicton are the flashy lights and attractions of the Fremantle district with its heritage and café culture to lure us in. 

If you cast your net a bit wider though you’ll find that Bicton is a treasure trove of riverside activities to explore or just relax in.  Bicton rivals Kings Park for its ability to provide bushland activities in the metropolitan area that appeal to all ages and abilities.  In some ways it’s better than Kings Park because Bicton has jetties!

Wadjemup Rites of Passage and New Opportunities for Adventure

There’s a little island off the coast that for quite some time now has attracted Western Australians, other Australians and increasingly the international traveller seeking a genuine sand-in-your-toes destination or maybe just an insta-worthy-pic with the worlds cutest animal.

Wadjemup (Rottnest) has just taken a couple of Red Bulls and is revved up for a summer that can still remain laid back or it can put you on your back with exhaustion.

Skydiving, fishing tours for kids, water parks, walking tours and new facilities like refreshment vans on the west end of the island now mean you don’t need to carry litres of water on your bike (plus, always remember that the various tour sites with volunteer guides carry lots of water that you can use to top up your water bottle ….. for free).

Tom and I began our day a bit differently for a trip to Wadjemup.  Rather than Barrack Street, Freo or Hillarys, we head to the South Perth foreshore. Within minutes of our arrival, the Cessna Caravan from Swan River Seaplanes comes diving out of the morning sun and lands smoothly on the water in front of us.

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Above: From South Perth to Wadjemup

The take off was more graceful than my graceless body surfing at City Beach.  The aircrafts pontoons lift off the water in the direction of Crown Casino and the Optus Stadium before banking to the west.

There was time to take in the view of the city, the coast, the ocean and then Wajemup came in sight.

I was scheduled to go live on air, in the air, with 6PR radio to describe the experience but the flight was so fast we’d landed at Wadjemup before they could cross to me.  Even with two laps of the island to take in the view the flight was only 20 minutes.

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Above: Wadjemup from the air with Swan River Seaplanes

Meeting us on the island is the Rottnest Island Authority Executive Director, Michelle Reynolds, who has very generously accepted the challenge of showing us around the island.  For the next few hours we are regaled with historical stories, modern day plans and have the opportunity to learn and experience the island like I have never done before.

A climb of the Wadjemup Lighthouse is 155 steps and because I’m a father I’m allowed to generate the odd dad joke or two so I asked Tom how many steps it was coming down.  Easy. Remember he’s only ten.

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Above: Wadjemup Lighthouse and one of the new refreshment vans

We visit the bays, inspect the beaches, salt lakes and tuart groves and watch as ospreys nest and seals bask and loll.  We buy refreshments from the new vans and felt a bit guilty, as we entered Michelle’s airconditioned car, that we were possibly depriving a thirsty cyclist of a much needed peach iced tea.

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Above: Refreshments from the van at Fish Hook Bay

When we parted ways with Michelle it was with a new appreciation for the work that is going into making Wadjemup better but also for acknowledging what people love most about the island experience, a laid back lifestyle where even sunburn and grazed knees just don’t seem to hurt as much as they do on the mainland.

Tom and I headed to the bakery to get a well deserved cream bun and a choc milk before making the ten minute walk to The Basin for a well anticipated swim.  Along the way Tom met his spirit quokka.  We didn’t attempt a selfie but first contact was made as Tom got down to eyelevel with a quokka and his outstretched finger was sniffed and touched by this amazing little animals nose.

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Above: First contact.  Meeting your spirit quokka.

At The Basin, a Christmas choir was singing from the waters edge and even the fish were joining in.  As carols reverberated off the limestone cliffs Tom and I swam along the reef edge and spotted all sorts of fish that were bigger than my foot, in fact both feet put together!  Bream, Trevally, Snapper and even a couple of retired old cods, just hanging out by a weed bank discussing the latest flotsam, jetsam and tidal trends.

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Above: The Basin

The fast and comfortable journey back to Perth by SeaLink ferry was made even better by the opportunity for Tom to take the captains chair on the bridge and monitor the compass as we made our way into Fremantle Harbour.  He was in his element, scanning from river bank to river bank and warning pelicans to get out of the way.

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Above: Tom gets instructions from the SeaLink Skipper

What a way to spend a day in WA!

Need to know more?

http://www.swanriverseaplanes.com.au

http://www.rottnestisland.com

http://www.westernaustralia.com

http://www.sealinkrottnest.com.au

For information on my day with Tom on Rottnest have a look at my Instagram account @chrisparrywritesforus

West Australian newspaper: Driving Down Your Freeway

freeway1968

Mitchell Freeway construction 1968. Can you spot Parliament House?

Originally published in the West Australian.  The writer was a guest for some, not all, of those mentioned in the story below. This story was also broadcast on 6PR.

Part I

Looking at what lies alongside the freeway is not unlike the journeys we make to further flung destinations; we look for something new, we seek an experience and we feel better for it.

Alongside the Mitchell and Kwinana Freeway there is spectacular and pristine bush with innovative rehabilitation and sanctuary programs. There are wetlands, coffee strips, museums, historical icons, playgrounds and of course, Western Australia’s Parliament House.

The Perth Metropolitan Scheme of 1955 resulted in the construction of the Narrows Bridge and its far reaching freeways. Along the way, northbound and southbound, there were suburbs and communities divided and bushland demolished.

The 30km Mitchell Freeway runs from just before the northern side of the Narrows Bridge and currently ends at Burns Beach Road in Joondalup with a new extension approved and imminent. The Kwinana Freeway is 72 kilometres long, running south from the Narrows Bridge and becomes the Forrest Highway from Pinjarra Road.

I begin my Freeway travels by starting from the north at the Joondalup Resort. Just a minute from the Mitchell Freeway off Hodges Drive, this resort is encircled by a world class golf course with resident kangaroos at sunset. Accommodation is befitting the best that we fly to Bali for and many rooms overlook a very impressive resort pool. Sitting on your balcony at night you can watch as the pool becomes a mood light, cycling through a variety of hues while newly married couples seek yet another photo opportunity by its edge.

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Joondalup Resort and its remarkable pool

 

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Joondalup Resort pool, one of it’s many colours by night.

Travelling south, my next stop is off Ocean Reef Road and is a sprawling series of wetlands that make up the Yellagonga Regional Park, over 1400 hectares listed by the Western Australian Government as ‘Bush Forever’. A strong community program led by the City of Joondalup is improving awareness of responsible pet management, prevention of hand feeding wildlife and increasing feral animal awareness to ensure birdlife, reptiles and amphibians are thriving.

Just a short way south and on the other side of the freeway is the Craigie Bushland which has significant conservation value. In 2008 the City of Joondalup supported a proposal to develop a conservation sanctuary within the bushland to protect native animals and plants. A feral-proof fence has been completed and surrounds just over 40 hectares of the 53 hectares of bushland.

Next stop is the beautiful double act of Lake Monger on the western side of the Mitchell Freeway and the café strip of Leederville alongside the freeway on the eastern side. Getting off at Vincent Street I decide I will look at Lake Monger first.

Lake Monger is a wetland habitat for many birds but it’s the numbers of black swans that get the cameras out for the tourists, particularly on the northern edge of the lake where photos of the swans will also capture the city skyline behind. Lake Monger is also a popular exercise habitat for people who walk, run and ride their way around the 3.5 kilometre track that surrounds the lake. Just keep one eye open on the archery group that like to send a few salvos into targets on the western side.

Two minutes’ drive away is the Leederville café strip, perfect for a range of refueling and retail therapy at any time of the day and late into the night. A popular recent addition is the timber decked pop up alfresco area that occupies a few car bays and is regularly moved along the street to reside outside one of the numerous cafes or restaurants. Families can enjoy the nature playground at the bottom of Oxford Street with its popular shaky plank walk.

The last stop for my Mitchell Freeway experience is a trio of attractions, two of which are particularly well known and the other a bit less known. Firstly, Western Australia’s Parliament House. In the Stephenson Plan for the Perth Metropolitan Area part of the justification for putting the freeway through the Barracks included that the Barracks blocked the view of St Georges Terrace for politicians looking down the Terrace and the people of Perth from looking up the Terrace at Parliament House. A survey in 1966 by The West Australian recorded nearly 10,000 votes in favour of saving the Barracks and less than 1500 against.

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The western side of Parliament House

Surprisingly easy parking is available at the front of Parliament House and the security is friendly about photos being taken of this impressive building. While construction commenced in 1902, the eastern façade we are most familiar with was built in the early 1960’s. It’s the western side of the building on Harvest Terrace that I love looking it. It was the original front of Parliament House and has a grace and distinction that deserves more attention. Public tours are available on Monday and Thursday mornings and the tour experience is dependent on whether Parliament is sitting.

Walking across nearby Malcolm Street and down Cliff Street I head down Jacobs Ladder, the fitness icon of the city. This steel and concrete structure attached to the 43 metre cliff face looks like a giant slinky and is just over 240 steps. Make sure you keep to the left or you’ll be flattened, pummeled and trampled by those getting fit and staying fit.

Before venturing to the southern side of the river I have a final stop to make that is adjacent to the busiest road network in Perth. Alongside the freeway, the on and off ramps into the city, Mounts Bay Road and literally a one minute walk from Jacobs Ladder is John Oldham Park. Featuring enough vegetation to deaden the noise of traffic and block the city from view, this park also has enough water to attract a variety of wildlife, a wonderful shaded waterfall feature, a series of small pedestrian bridges and a playground for the kids, including what must surely be the longest playground slide in Western Australia. During the week you’ll see plenty of office workers from the nearby cbd just enjoying the tranquility of the green shady paths. On weekends it’s families who are discovering the BBQ facilities and easy parking that make this a real surprise packet for those looking for a new park experience.

 

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Above and Below: Oldham Park, tucked away from the nearby world of hustle and bustle.

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Part II

As I cross the Narrows Bridge, built in 1959, duplicated in 2001 and then adding a railway bridge in 2005, I leave the Mitchell Freeway behind and begin travelling on the 72km Kwinana Freeway.

No sooner have I got on when I get off. I’m visiting the Old Mill, undoubtedly one of the best known landmarks in Perth but perhaps feeling a little neglected by the public in recent years. Built in 1835 it was a fully operating flour mill for over twenty years and subsequent guises saw it operate as a hotel and even a poultry farm. It’s open to the public with guided tours available most days of the week.

From the Old Mill I walk across Mill Point Road to see if anyone is fishing under the bridge. There are some dads teaching sons how to cast a rod and sons eyes that keep being distracted by Rottnest bound ferries, jet boats and a convoy of kayakers.

Just up the road from the Old Mill is the octagonal Pagoda, a Perth landmark and cultural institution. Described as ‘Edwardian Oriental’, most of the activities it’s famous for are as bygone as the era it was built in; ballroom dancing, roller-skating and jazz music. Its current guise as a restaurant lends a welcome opportunity to enjoy lunch before exploring more of the highlights of the Kwinana Freeway. As it’s a Sunday, I am fortunate to time my lunch with the Pagoda High Tea.

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The Pagoda Ballroom and Pagoda Resort; historical and vibrant.

There’s a pianist caressing the keys in tune to the clinking of tea cups and champagne flutes. It’s over 8 years since I was last at the Raffles in Singapore but I’m reminded of it now. The long bar and striking architecture is elegant and I regret it’s taken me so long to experience this Como treasure.

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The refined tinkling of the ivories set a high class scene for high tea at the Pagoda.

After a fantastic lunch there’s an easy stroll over the nearby pedestrian bridge to Como Jetty. I love jetties. There’s life on a jetty, if not on top then always underneath. There are people fishing, taking selfies with the river backdrop, a pelican on a light pole and barnacles and mussels underneath.

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Como Jetty

Back on the freeway and just past the Mt Henry Bridge I take the Leach Highway exit. The Aviation Heritage Museum is less than a minutes drives from the off-ramp. With a Spitfire out the front that is mounted on a stand like a giant Airfix model you’re already smiling as you walk through the front doors. The museum is full of civilian and military aviation history including more than 32 aircraft.

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Bullcreek Aviation Heritage Museum

A Catalina flying boat to the right, a DC3 Dakota on the left and that’s just in the front shed. In between the two big sheds there’s a CSIRO rocket aimed at the moon and in the bottom shed is the massive Lancaster, another Spitfire, Canberra bomber, Vampire and Macchi jets and so much more. Get there at the right time and the volunteers will start up a Merlin engine for you (as long you agree to wear ear protection) and you can even arrange for a tour inside the Lancaster.

My next stop is on the other side of the freeway off the Anketell Road exit. The Spectacles, within the Beeliar Regional Park, has spectacular Banksia woodlands and a track that allows options for short and long walks. The wetlands within the park contain great diversity in flora and fauna, including the formidable Banksia, bronze mushrooms, snakes and very big spiders with even bigger webs.

The Spectacles wetland area covers nearly 4 square kilometres and got its name from its perspective from the air where the two lakes are connected by a drain. Continuing work from local volunteer groups is seeing the wetlands accessibility and interest increase with boardwalks and information boards.

Every third Sunday morning of the month The Friends of the Spectacles gather at the Spectacles to relocate irrigation pipe for Banksia rehabilitation, weeding and other activities including a sensational morning tea that was more like a growers market.

The final stop on my freeway travels is Yalbanberup Pool which is part of the Serpentine River and accessible from Mandjoogoordap Drive.

Yalbanberup Pool is part of the Serpentine River. It’s a quiet spot and many kayakers on the river find it’s a good half way stop between Guananup Pool to the north and Goegrup Lake and Black Lake to the south. Without the sound of paddles gently slapping the water there’s not much else you’ll hear other than the lapping of small waves on the shore if the breeze is up. The banks are lined with a variety of tall grass, tea trees, sheoaks and paper barks shedding swathes of soft white bark.

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Above: Yalbanberup Pool

A short drive south brings me to the Murray River and Pinjarra Road exit off the Kwinana Freeway and the end of my freeway travels. Beyond this point is the Forrest Highway, leading into Bunbury.

In the 1950’s Perth traffic congestion at the Causeway end of South Perth and Victoria Park was one of the reasons for the push to build the Narrows Bridge and freeway. Another option favoured at this time was to put the freeway down Barrack Street and over the river to Mends Street. By the 1960’s work was well under way to construct the freeway and in 2015 the work still continues to lengthen and widen it wherever possible.

There’s an old joke about ‘family’ not being a word but a sentence. Perhaps this joke applies to ‘freeway’ as well. It’s here to stay and just seems to get busier by the day.

Finding out what’s on either side of it is part of the relationship and travel experience you can have with it.   Sometimes we all just need to get off the commuting carmageddon and see what’s out there.

Little Ferry Big Fun

The writer and his family were guests of the Little Ferry Company.

What a difference people make. The experiences we have when we travel are always made better by the people we meet.  Those who greet us, escort us, serve us and manage our expectations turn a good time into a great adventure.

Skipper Kevyn, the owner and operator of the Little Ferry Company, may not be as pretty as his two little vessels but he’s a man of passion for his craft and his river.

The Little Ferry Company operates two electric vessels on the Swan River. The design of the boats is inspired by the Gatsby era of the 1920’s.  A brass bell, curved windows and elegant cedar trim are decadent maritime styling and stepping aboard is a wonderful feeling of comfort and nostalgia.

Casting off from Elizabeth Quay is a bit confusing for the ears. Expecting a chug-chug from the engines there is nothing to hear.  It’s quieter than a Prius.  It’s also more fun.

The two German electric motors operate on lithium batteries. The Germans learnt how to make electric marine motors for their renowned U-boat fleets of World War I and World War II. It’s a long way from the North Sea to the Swan River but the heritage is clear to see, hear and smell.  These are vessels that are void of vibration, fumes and noise.

As we make our way out of Elizabeth Quay on yet another blue sky Perth day, we turn to port and make our way up river. Sticking with the river channel boat traffic, there’s no getting away from the fact that these boats attract a lot of attention.  Perth boating traffic is always a bit friendlier than the road variety and the smiles and waves are certainly evidence of how attractive these vessels are.

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Elizabeth Quay is the home port for the Little Ferry Company

Skipper Kevyn gives impressive commentary ranging from the past, the present and the future. He talks passionately about the history of the Western Australian Rowing Club building, the current buildings along the foreshore and those that are up and coming, such as the remarkable Ku De Ta restaurant site on Point Fraser and the imposing Perth Stadium on the eastern bank opposite Claisebrook Cove.

For the kids, the vessels are a delight in not having to sit still. There are windows to stick heads out of, plenty of comfortable seats to try out and a skipper who’s only too happy to give a young sailor the opportunity to ring the brass bell as we enter Claisebrook Cove.

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Claisebrook Cove is an opportunity to grab a coffee from the numerous cafes or a beer and a meal from the Royal Hotel. Doing a walk around the precinct, including Trafalgar Bridge which spans the inlet, takes about 15 minutes and stretches the legs nicely before the return trip back to Elizabeth Quay.

There’s a great feeling of optimism about Skipper Kevyn and his Little Ferry Company. With the increase of services and attractions on the Swan River, the opportunity to travel to fresh new destinations in vessels that are beautiful and comfortable will appeal to day trippers, overseas tourists, wedding parties and old salts just wanting to get on the water.

Fact Box

The two vessels cruise the Swan Rover every day between 10am and 5:30pm and are located in Elizabeth Quay. The ferry can be boarded one way or return from Elizabeth Quay or Claisebrook Cove in East Perth.

Single fares for adults are $12 while a return fare is $22. A family fare return is $58.

For details on Little Ferry Company special offers and news call Kevyn on 0488 777 088 or check out the website on www.littleferryco.com.au