ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Spitfires, Curry Puffs, Sculptures & Logs Over Creeks … Welcome to Bull Creek

On ABC Hidden Treasures we’ve recently been doing some special issues, like WAFL footy and Aboriginal Tourism. It’s time to get back to the idea of hidden treasures in our suburbs.

Some adventures require a lot of planning, other adventures are looked forward to with anticipation and excitement. 

Other adventures are opportunistic moments to explore new ground and dare I say it, as just a reason to spend some time with the kids and get out of the house.

Not quite a road trip but more than a trip to your local café around the corner.

Welcome to Bull Creek. 

Let’s start with a coffee and something to eat at the Little Parry Café.

When little Tom stands in front of a café that is named for his stature and his surname it is a remarkable photo opportunity to have him stand in front of it and an even better opportunity to try and work out why a dish simply called Waffle could appeal to an eleven year old boy. 

No wordy review needed from Tom, just a thumbs up as the other hand wipes maple syrup from his chin.

This a little café that also doubles as a little art gallery and there some great local paintings and drawings in this little space.

Little Parry at Little Parry

You won’t wear off the waffles in the short walk from the café to one of Bull Creek’s most treasured shops, Bull Creek Oriental Supplies.  This is a store that has been run by the  gorgeously cheeky Li Ling for more than 20 years and as well as all those spices and flavours of Asia that you can stock up on you can also fossick for utensils and bits and pieces you won’t find anywhere else plus all the chips and chocolates you might be used to buying when you’re in Bali and other parts of Asia.  Plus, I can assure you that their curry puffs are the best in Perth.  Light and fluffy with a generous vegetable filling and my only regret was not buying the lot. Great to eat as you leave the shop and you do these quick exhales of breath because they’re nice and hot.

Pork Floss! Lemon Water! So Much More and Don’t Leave Without A Bag of Curry Puffs

A few years ago I wrote about the Aviation Heritage Museum in a story about all of the things alongside the freeway that you should have a look at.  I rate this museum, firmly and proudly in Bull Creek and run by volunteers as an absolute treasure in this state and you don’t need to be an aviation buff to get a buzz from hearing a very real and very loud Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire being started or crouch your way through the fuselage of an Avro Lancaster bomber or look at Catalina Flying Boat and imagine what it was like seeing these take off and land on the Swan River during their famous double sunrise flights during World War II.

The Awesome PBY Catalina Flying Boat

What I love most about this museum is that you’re not guided in a particular direction.  My kids ran one way and I ran the other.  We’d call out, “You’ve got to see this!” Admittedly there can also be a bit of “Where are you?” and “Tom, get off that aeroplane wing!” but the staff, who are volunteers and filled with stories to compliment the more than 30 aircraft on display, mostly just smile so long as you’re not trying to spin the propellors or sitting in cockpits pretending you’re Biggles.

There’s a dam down south and a few wheat silos with murals but the Stockland Shopping Centre in Bull Creek mural has to be one of the biggest in Perth and displays the Noongar seasons and local birds. It’s on the south side of the shopping centre.

An absolute highlight of Bull Creek is a sculpture in Centennial Park called the Pilgrim, by Western Australian artist Russell Sheridan  and was part of Sculptures By The Sea about four or five years ago. 

I spoke to the artist about this piece and it’s inspired by his love of Michael Leunig cartoons and the resemblance of the man featured in the sculpture to the main character in Leunig cartoons is very evident.  Russell Sheridan explained to me that the dog is the passive observer to the burdens of life that we all carry, whether it be regret or being bullied or being discriminated against.  It sounds a bit grim and heavy but just like a Leunig cartoon there is that element of inspirational whimsy that will lift you up and keep you in the fight!

The Pilgrim

While not the Nile, I was inspired by the Pilgrim to find the source of Bull Creek.  In a glorious remnant piece of Bull Creek Park, next to Brockman Park and the playground, is the source of Bull Creek.  There’s a small and steady flow of water that meanders through some of the most extraordinary bushland you’ll find on Perth. 

In Mid-Summer Nights Dream, Shakespeare describes a character as “though she be but small she is fierce”.  This is like Bull Creek Park.  As Bull Creek flows towards the Canning River, it is surrounded by a small piece of bushland.  There’s a log over the creek to walk across and a great path that requires you to push ferns out of the way and there’s bird life and enough green canopy to block out the noise of the busy city roads nearby. Interestingly, it’s very well protected by the City of Melville and you’re required to scrub and wash your boots before you enter to prevent dieback entering this small but fierce bit of bush.

Where Bull Creek Begins

Bull Creek flows into the Bull Creek Inlet which Noongar people called Gabbilju.  The inlet has some good interpretive signage about the creek catchment area and an excellent walking trail that will take you from Gabbilju right around the river to the Riverton Bridge.  But that’s a suburb and a story for another day.

Where Bull Creek Ends

Bull Creek is a Hidden Treasure because it will surprise you.  A little walk on the wild side by a little creek, Spitfires, curry puffs, local art and inspirational sculptures make this your afternoon out when you’re too tired for a road trip but never too tired to have some fun with your kids.

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.

As Published in Have a Go News newspaper … let’s go where the air is rarefied!

Have a Go News is a Western Australian newspaper with a hardcopy circulation of over 80,000 each month and a very strong online presence.

Click on the link below and hopefully you’ll be whisked away to the July issue of Have a Go News. Scroll through to page 40 and you can read my published story about hot air ballooning in the Avon Valley.

Have a Go News (July 2021)
Mist. And cold. Very cold.

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 classics inspired by the feeling of being up there, where the air is rarefied.

Hidden Treasures is going on a special adventure beyond Perth this weekend.  We’re going further than we’ve travelled before, past Guildford and Midland that we’ve explored before and up and over the hills and out to the Avon Valley.

Our hidden treasure can only be 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.

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.”

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 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.

There is the possibility of magic ….

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.

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 to Beverley, 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 in Northam is a hidden treasure because maybe Northam doesn’t seem far enough for a big adventure.  Also, ballooning may be somewhere on the bucket list but it gets pushed down the list because of the need to get up early. Get over the time thing and get it done. It’s just an hour away and you’ll be up, up and away. 

You don’t have to be religious to feel inspired by creation taking it’s first breath for the day
Coffee and Have a Go News newspaper … a perfect start to your morning (especially on page 40)

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 Saturday Breakfast Hidden Treasures: Midland … the end of line and loving it.

The Amazing Ro Edwards on ABC Saturday Breakfast, getting Perth up and about every weekend

Ro Edwards on ABC Saturday Breakfast is getting Perth up and about every weekend and being a part of her show is exciting and a lot of fun. Our program Hidden Treasures is making a habit of discovering places that have always been there but maybe you just haven’t stopped there before.

Midland was originally proclaimed and named as Midland Junction in 1891 because it is the junction of major roads leading to Perth from the north and east.

Midland is the suburb where many adventures begin as travellers head east on Great Eastern Highway, or north on the Great Northern Highway, and it’s where travellers to Perth give a big sigh and say, “We’ve made it.”

Midland is the end of the line.  Literally.  The eastern metropolitan train line starts from Perth and finishes in Midland. Although I reckon that most Midland locals are adamant that the train line actually starts in Midland and finishes in Perth, making Perth the end of the line.

It’s the railway that is as connected to the community and history of Midland as a carriage on the tracks. 

I once had a conversation with the Sultan of Johor about his favourite town in Johor, called Muar.  He wanted Muar to be like Melacca, just up the road to the north.

I said ‘I’ve been to Melacca. I’ve been to Muar. They are both great.  Why do you want Muar to be like another town just up the road?  Why would you go to the trouble of becoming like something else that you then have to compete with anyway? Be yourself.  Be known for your history and build on that.’

I thought it was pretty good advice and so did he.

Midland is a bit like Muar. It’s not the best house in the street but it’s got really good residents who are really proud of showing off what they’ve got. Up the road there’s the historical glitz and glamour of Guildford, off to the north there’s the Swan Valley vineyards to sozzle your senses and over the back fence to the east are the hills of the escarpment, overlooking Midland.

Like so many of our Hidden Treasures, it’s not that you have to dig deep to find the treasure, you just have to know where to look.

Let’s stick with the history bit first, move through what you can do now, eat out of an old lunchbox and finish with a sport that’s huge in Midland and America.

For history, anyone who has driven out that way would know about the Midland Town Hall. 

Midland Town Hall

It’s impressive and always feels like you’re going to drive into it as you head along Great Eastern Highway which takes a gentle curve to the right as you drive past this great building is Midlands most recognisable building. Just like the road in front of it, it’s got a gorgeous curve to it that makes it not just impressive as Federation architecture but it’s charming and elegant.  With the addition of the clock atop its dome serving as a memorial to local men who lost their lives in war, it’s also a reminder of the sacrifice made by those men and their loss to the community.

After a Mayoral Ball to mark completion of renovations, it’s now a popular cabaret venue and hall for hire (which isn’t as dodgy as it sounds).

The Midland Railway Workshops were the burning, molten metal heart of Midland.  You could hear the work being done for nearly a hundred years by a workforce that came from all over Perth but mostly came from the surrounding streets of Midland.  These days, a walk through and around the sheds is remarkable. 

Midland Railway Sheds

They are towering buildings with big industrial doors and windows and while they’re industrial buildings they are beautiful, magnificent and inspiring.  In the years ahead they may become spaces for sport, for the arts, for movie studios, for many things but for now just get out there and enjoy exploring these big buildings that built trains and rolling stock are also a photographers dream in any light.

Midland Railway Sheds

Trillion Trees partners with the ABC tv series Fight for Planet A and the nursery grows more than 200,000 seedlings each year and is a great oasis to wander around and purchase some native plants from volunteers from a range of diverse backgrounds and employment training programs. They’re also working with local schools, including Woodbridge Primary School and Moorditj Noongar College, teaching the kids about cultural ecology.

The Midland Junction Arts Centre is the cultural heart of Midland provides workshops for all ages, has three galleries, workspaces for artists and want-to-be artists and works really hard to engage the community in creative ways.  A huge range of workshops are available including after school ceramics for the kids, life drawing for the adults and tactile tours for participants with disability to experience the arts through discussion and touch.

Blue Beautiful Exhibition at the Midland Junction Arts Centre (Yes you can have a slushy! Beat that Banksy!)

The Robot Bun Factory is an example of the quirky cafes springing up all over Midland, some selling records and bric-a-brac, others selling local art but when a café gets you coming back you know it’s not just about the robots and free board games, it’s about bao buns served in 1950’s style tin lunch boxes and a local crew doing their best to put a funky pin in the map of Midland.

There’s always action at the Robot Bun Factory Cafe

The Midland Farmers Markets are one of the oldest markets with the freshest fruit and vege produce alongside live music and pickles, cakes and jams. The next one is tomorrow and its out the front of the City of Swan offices on Market Square.

While Guildford has the antique shops, Midland has second hand shops and charity shops that are a rummagers delight and my teenage daughter Matilda’s obsession as she searches high and low for clothes or diligently and silently flicks her way through boxes of old records.

Watch some baseball or teeball at Charlie Hodder Baseball Field.  Baseball has a rich history going back to the 1940s and a rich competition that is great fun to watch in the stands with a hot dog.

Photo courtesy of the Swan District Baseball Club

Midland is a hidden treasure because it’s not trying to be like something else.  Surrounded by glamourous neighbours, it has dug its heels in and supported by a rich rail history, they are building a community and attracting visitors for the art and culture, fresh produce, funky cafes, collections of charity shops and sport you might have only seen before in the movies and on tv.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures Visits Coogee

The Coogee Hotel … now the Coogee Common

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.

ABC Saturday Breakfast with Roanna Edwards

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!

Barn Finds in Munster, just off Stock Road

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.

Lake Coogee
Historic Lime Kilns

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.

Steps to the Omeo, just 20 metres offshore

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 garden
The garden is full of hard workers
Wherever you look there is produce ready for your plate

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.

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.

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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.

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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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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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