Enjoy the link above to read my story in Just Urbane about Dark Tourism.
Dark Tourism has become a buzzword in the modern era, that takes explorers to places associated with tragedy, death and suffering. Here’s where you can find thrills in the dark side …
Interestingly, dark tourism has a long history and can be traced back to the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. Bizarrely, if you could afford it, you could make your way from Britain to the Crimea and sit on the edge of the battle, being briefed by the Generals, and you could watch the action unfold from the comfort of a wicker chair and a refreshing gin and tonic as the Russians enfiladed the British cavalry as they rode towards the guns.
From the battlefields of the Crimea, to the childrens playgrounds around Chernobyl and from where John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas and to the little bank in Snowtown, there are sites and experiences that intrigue us, draw us in and challenge us to cross that line.
Coogee was a great suburb to explore and discuss on Hidden Treasures for ABC Saturday Breakfast. Ro and I flicked back and forth between the then and the now and it’s what I love most about Coogee because what was once horrible is now wonderful.
Coogee is a coastal suburb just to south of Fremantle and north of Kwinana and is very small for suburban Perth, just over 3sqm which makes it smaller than its northern coastal strip suburban cousin, Cottesloe.
If you’d been driving through Coogee on Cockburn Road in the 1970’s and even the 1980’s and someone in the car had said, “You know, all this will be a hidden treasure one day”, you most likely would have laughed and said they were crazy.
Driving along Cockburn Road in 2021 and it’s a very different story. From shipwrecks to colonial remnants this is a suburb that has gone from the need to quickly wind up your car window (remember those?!) to block the smell of Robbs Jetty and the skin drying sheds, to walking through fragrant vegetable gardens and olive trees and being welcomed by bees more interested in pollinating carrot and caper bush flowers than angrily protecting their domain.
Let’s start with the best shed in Perth. Technically it’s in neighbouring Munster but its such a great place to start and is just off Stock Road. It’s called Barn Finds and is a big rusty shed full of everything old you ever imagined could ever have been made. From a huge World War Two floating mine, to kids tricycles, cool drink signs, tools and toys it is packed and time here to explore and rummage is recommended along with the consideration of a tetanus booster but we’re all used to a jab to protect us these days!
Lake Coogee between Stock Road and Cockburn Road has good walking tracks around the lake and there are also some interesting remnants of two Pensioner Guards cottages and a well, from where many of the Pensioner Guards settled around 1876 after their service to their colony.
Sticking with the remnant part historic Coogee are the limestone kilns on Cockburn Road that were built around 1900 when the thriving industry of extracting lime for building and agriculture purposes was good work for most men in the district.
The Coogee coast has always been pristine and from Woodman Point right up to the border with South Fremantle where the old power station is, you’ll find great beach fishing, great picnic facilities and tuck shops, jetty’s for jumping off, a shipwreck called the Omeo and the adjacent snorkelling trail that is just a twenty meters off shore and Perth’s best and most accessible snorkelling attraction, and a stretch of brilliant white beach and calm water that is perfect for a day of sunbathing or swimming until the sun goes down behind Garden Island on the horizon.
Just a couple of minutes walk from the Omeo is the marina with a series of boardwalk style cafes where you can sit and play, “I’d have that one” as you point at a boat you like the most.
The Coogee lookout has one of the best vantage points in Perth and on the clear day that I was there recently I could see Rottnest, Carnac and Garden Island, down to Rockingham, across to the hills of the escarpment, up to the Perth CBD and across to the harbour cranes of Fremantle.
Finally, I want to take you to the Coogee Hotel, built and completed in the early 1900’s and from being a local watering hole it later became a orphanage before lying derelict for the second half of the 20th Century.
It’s now heritage listed and been renovated and operates as the proud, beating heart of Coogee, the Coogee Common.
There’s a restaurant and lounge bar and private dining rooms that are decorated in the style of days gone by but it’s the gardens that are the star of Coogee Common. Not only will you see the staff wandering around the garden snipping and picking bits and pieces for your brunch or lunch but you can wander the gardens or if you’re lucky, get a tour with Scott the owner.
He showed me rows of veges and creeping caper bushes, he helped Tom overcome his fear of bees by showing him their hives, nestled in amongst a row of olive trees and rosemary bushes. He showed me barrels of olives, stalks of kale, the fruit of the prickly pear which I remember fondly from trips to Puglia in Italy and he showed me a loofah which I just thought was a bath sponge but is a species of cucumber. He gave Tom some seeds so as well as Toms passion for companion planting he can now grow his own bath sponges which I’m hoping may encourage him to bathe more often.
Coogee Common is one of those places that during it, you’re already planning your next visit.
Vegetarian options are the standout meals because of the fresh produce from the garden but being presented with Fremantle sardines and the option of fish of the day caught off Rottnest earlier in the morning just puts a smile on your face.
So there you have it. What was once a horror drive through smells and sights that aren’t easily forgotten have been beaten into submission by the new smells and sights of Coogee.
I also learnt from Tom, who must have learnt it from Scott at Coogee Common about companion planting. Evidently there are good planting companions like apples and chives or sunflowers and cucumbers but there are also bad companions like wormwood which doesn’t like all other plants.
So Coogee makes it as one of my favourite hidden treasures because it has transformed itself and I want to go back with family and friends and do it all again.
Is there anything better than meeting people? Even better than a sunset, even better than climbing a mountain. Meeting people fuels the soul and sparks the life in us.
On a media trip to Malaysia last year I met one of India’s rising stars of journalism, Yvonne Jacob. Yvonne is the Features Editor for Just Urbane, a fantastic magazine aimed at the market of Indian men but with something for all of us, anywhere in the world.
If you can’t get to your favourite newsagency in India, you’ll find the online version of Just Urbane on Magzter and subscriptions are as cheap as chips. If you look hard enough you might even find something in it that’s written by me.
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.
Above: Foxes Lair, Granite Walk
Above: Whether you call them yabbies, coonacs, gilgies or marron…they’re great fun to catch and eat.
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.
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.
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.
ABOVE: SWAN RIVER SEAPLANES TAKE OFF ON WATER AND LAND ON … LAND.
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.
ABOVE: AN EVENING CRUISE IN MALACCA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Above: Tom gets instructions from the SeaLink Skipper
Wonderful discussion on the ABC Breakfast Show with some very funny talkback callers confessing to all sorts of things that have just ended up in their bags.
Do we leave our values and compliance with rules at home when we check in to a hotel? As the hotel card is pushed down to activate the lights do you scan for what you can put in your bags? Pens? Notepads? Body Lotion? Do Not Disturb Sign? Lamps? Batteries from the tv remote?
I’m a pen guy. Love them.
Above: My favourite hotel pen from The Palace of the Lost City in Sun City, South Africa. If you’re reading this Sun City it was my daughter Matilda who put the pen in my bag.
My son Tom is still worried the Narrogin Police are chasing after him for taking the complimentary biscuits in the room at the Narrogin Albert Facey Motel.
The Top 10 items taken from hotel rooms:
Pens and notepads
Do Not Disturb signs
Shower Gel, body lotion, shampoo
Box of tissues
Things you will likely be charged for include:
Robes and linen
Wheels on the bottom of the bed
Pocket a pen, squirrel away the toiletries and maybe take a few tissues if you need them but try and leave everything else for the next guest.
You’ve paid for the room, you haven’t paid for its contents.
On the ABC Perth Radio Breakfast Show we recently discussed the continued popularity of dark tourism.
It doesn’t have to be morbid but it does have to involve death in wars, disasters, murders, terrorism or assassinations.
The darker side of history has meat on the bone and the gristle as well. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen and maybe sometimes in the shoes of those responsible.
It’s about confirming our fears, confronting the reality of the history books we grew up with and perhaps providing closure on those images we’ve seen on tv’s in our own lounge room, like that Paris tunnel in 1997 or the New York City skyline in 2001.
The rise in tourist numbers at destinations such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, the concentration camps of World War II, prisoner of war camps in Sandakan and Ranau and the killing fields of Cambodia are all examples of a phenomenon that is attracting those seeking a broader understanding of the events that took place at those sites.
In Australia, many events and sites may be seen as dark tourism. Off the Western Australian coast on the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia ran aground and the ensuing mutiny saw 125 men, women and children brutally slaughtered. The islands can be visited for an understanding of these events and there are also museum exhibitions in Geraldton and Fremantle, displaying grisly skulls marked with the slashes of the mutineers swords.
In Snowtown, South Australia, the little bank where the bodies in the barrels were discovered in the late 1990’s is a popular stop for people wanting to take a quick pic.
Most issues in our lives have a line that we decide we will or won’t cross. Dark tourism has many lines that cross in different directions, challenging our sense of morbidity, appropriateness and thresholds of respect.
It’s a great topic for publication and radio and sure to get you thinking about your own dark tourism bucket list.
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.
Above: The sumptuous lounges of the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur are perfect for high tea, gin and tonics or just resting between shopping sprees.
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.
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.
Above: The Avon Valley has rolling hills filled with wildflowers, rolling fields of canola crops and great towns with bakeries, museums, galleries and pubs.
What a rollicking chat about travel toilets, kids travel bucket lists and we even found time to talk about some day trip options from Perth.
Kids travel bucket lists is a wonderful topic. When I was a kid I always wanted to visit India because of Rudyard Kiplings story, Rikki Tikki Tavi, the story of a mongoose and his fight with some evil cobras.
We had a wonderful caller, Eloise, who described how she wanted to go to Hawaii because of the travel shows she had seen and some influences from social media as well.
Kids have travel dreams, just like grown ups. I was able to take my daughter to Sun City in South Africa and on safari at Sanctuary Retreats Makanyane Safari Lodge because of her love for the romcom movie, Blended which featured South Africa and in particular Sun City Resort.
ABOVE: SUN CITY WHERE MUCH OF THE ROMANTIC COMEDY MOVIE, BLENDED, WAS FILMED.
Books, movies, social media posts by celebrities and even sporting events inspire our destinations. What a great way to decide where you’re going to go next!