Over the Easter long weekend, the Hidden Treasures program for ABC Saturday Breakfast discovered Mount Hawthorn. If you missed it, just look up ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast and look for the April 3 episode, scroll the sound bar to nearly the end and you’ll find me having a great chat with Roanna Edwards.
Just to the north of the CBD, Mount Hawthorn is a suburb with big streets full of big green trees and big wide laneways where kids have built their own skate ramps and bike jumps.
The attraction of Mount Hawthorn as a hidden treasure is not just that there’s a lot to discover, it’s that it’s successfully gone full circle. Like most old suburbs of Perth, it had a town centre feel about it when it was first established but over time it just became part of the rat race, an almost annoying need to slow down as you made your way along Scarborough Beach Road. Once again, it asks you to slow down like you would have done in the old days and discover the old and the new.
Let’s start in the green streets of Mount Hawthorn and discover some bus stops and a little cottage that was built in a day while a crowd cheered and provided food and drinks for the builders.
ANZAC Cottage in Kalgoorlie Street, was built in a day in 1916 by the local community for a returned serviceman from Gallipoli, Private John Porter. Work started at 3:30am on the 12th of February 2016 and at 5pm the final touch, raising a flag at the front of the house with the letters ANZAC embroidered on it, was achieved at 5pm.
On nearby ANZAC Road and up Kalgoorlie Street, have a look at the bus stops that have been transformed into tributes to the Vietnam War and the Gallipoli campaign, complete with murals and sandbags.
Now let’s take a tour along Scarborough Beach Road in Mount Hawthorn from Braithwaite Park on the western end of the suburb, to Axford Park on the eastern end of Mount Hawthorn’s retail heart.
Braithwaite Park is one of those parks that back in my day I would have called a theme park. In my day a playground had a stainless steel slide and an old milk crate for parents to sit on and watch you burn yourself on the slide. This park has Perth’s best version of a flying fox and it’s called the cable ride. It’s about 40m long and perfectly exciting for wide eyed children discovering the thrill of speed for the first time. There is a nature play area with rocks to scramble over and tunnels to run through and shady barbeque areas that make this one of the best known kids party locations.
Next stop is one of the reasons why traffic stops along this strip. With a quirky shop front on Scarb Beach Road and with an entrance up a little laneway is the Art Garage.
From its grimy and greasy past as a mechanics garage to its central role in supporting local artists, inspiring young minds and developing community spirit, the Art Garage hosts exhibitions, runs workshops including ones for these school holidays. Learn to draw, make soap, do some pottery, indoor plant design or turn up in your favourite 70’s outfit and learn how to do macrame. Over Easter, stop by and have a look at the wire sculptures by artist Jan O’Meara which include a full-size mare and her foal.
As you walk towards the shopping strip, keep an eye out for the street art and murals including my favourite, the wombat, which isn’t using his legs because he’s flying along with a pair of bat wings.
For anyone old enough to remember what main streets used to look like before malls and shopping centres, fill your nostalgic heart by looking up at the Tredways Shoes sign.
If your nostalgic heart is still beating from the Tredway Shoes sign you’ll find trestles of old vinyl records being sold out the front of a local shop that sells books and records inside.
The iconic Paddington Ale House is our next stop and is the beating and boisterous heart of Mount Hawthorn. From relying on a sports bar and those always after a big night, these days it’s more about meals for families, date nights and all of it in an environment of refurbished history.
Now we’ve reached Axford Park – Named after a World War 1 local soldier who won the Victoria Cross and lived in Mount Hawthorn. It’s a small park with a big heart. There is a memorial to those who have lost their lives in war and a wall of remembrance and twice a year the City of Vincent hosts an ANZAC Day service and a Remembrance Day service, supported by local schools who lay wreaths and sing the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand.
In summer, Axford park hosts food trucks on Friday nights and throughout the year in the adjacent carpark you can discover the Provedore Markets, Perth’s best market for imagining you’re in Italy.
So next time you’re wondering where to go for a day trip, give Mount Hawthorn a go. Lots of history, lots of activities, lots to eat and drink and a lot to like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Above and Below: Oldham Park, tucked away from the nearby world of hustle and bustle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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