ABC Saturday Breakfast: Long weekends, overnighters and day trips

What a great chat on Saturday morning ABC Breakfast with Christine Layton, discussing the Australia Day events from Broome to Albany to keep you entertained and then a few suggestions for daytrips and overnighters throughout Western Australia.  Get out there and find new adventures even on the most well trodden path.

Below are some pics to help you pick your next regional day trip or overnighter.  Have you been to Bridgetown or Rockingham recently?

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Above:  Go down The Rabbit Hole on the main street of Bridgetown for an amazing range of local artist workshops and galleries.

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Above:  There’s no way you will leave the lolly shop in Bridgetown without a smile on a face and a bag full of sweet treats.

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Above:  Get to Rockingham which has the best range of aquatic activities in Western Australia.  Kite surf in Safety Bay, visit the penguins and dolphins on Penguin Island and in Shoalwater Bay, swim with dolphins off Palm Beach, hire jet skis, jet packs, stand up paddle boards, kayaks or cast a line on the beach and flick in some whiting and flathead.

Little Ferry Big Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elizabeth Quay is the home port for the Little Ferry Company

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

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

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

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

Fact Box

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

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

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

 

 

Rockingham Time

As a guest of Quest Apartments and Rockingham tourism operators, my family enjoyed a very busy weekender out of Perth.

Great weekenders, and the much savoured long weekend, often mean we try to travel as far as we can to somehow ensure the best time possible because we’re as far as we can be from home.

For so much of the Australian population, the state capital cities are our homes and these cities all have fond traditional weekend destinations. In Melbourne, the locals love Daylesford while in Sydney it might be the Blue Mountains.  In Brisbane there’s the Gold Coast while Adelaide has the Barossa Valley and Hobart has just about the whole island of Tasmania to choose from to get away for the weekend.

In Perth, Margaret River is the big one to head for. Close to four hours from Perth it is renowned for its opportunities to indulge and excite.

What about if I told you that south of Perth, just 45 minutes away, or north of Bunbury, just 90 minutes away, is a seaside community that offers high quality accommodation less than five minutes’ walk from the most remarkable beach and boardwalk in Western Australia and has a well-coordinated suite of tourist activities to interest anyone with a heartbeat?

For a breakaway with the family, and to shake off the beguiling summer laziness of the weeks immediately following Christmas, we headed to Rockingham to have an adventure and try out the Christmas presents, including the snorkel sets, boogie boards and beach towels.

For two days my family of four experienced the brilliant freshness and vibrancy of the Quest Apartments, a Rockingham Wildlife Encounters tour of Shoalwater Bay with dolphins, seals, ospreys and pelicans surrounding us for over two hours, a stand-up paddle board lesson tailored for all ages and dining experiences along the Palm Beach foreshore to rival and largely outdo the most popular Perth beachside eateries.

On top of this, I took the opportunity to experience the Jetpack experience available on Rockingham Beach and my son Tom enjoyed a ride on one of the jet skis available for tour group hire.

On a recent trip to Rockingham by a very different route I had arrived on Rockingham Beach after jumping out of a perfectly operating aircraft at 14000 feet.

As I had swung in my harness, linked in an embrace of clips and straps to my tandem skydiving instructor, I had looked around. We were high enough that there was curvature to the horizon and I could see Penguin Island and the smaller islands of Shoalwater Bay and the broad, thin white stretch of Palm Beach that marks the Rockingham foreshore.

It was at the Penguin Island jetty, where Shoalwater Bay meets Safety Bay that our weekend began. By mid-morning we were on the waters of Shoalwater Bay, within the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.  Just past Seal Island we encountered a pod of ten dolphins.  Watching them graze on the sea grass below and lazily rise to breathe was remarkable but then the pod must have realised a few of us had cameras.  Sliding behind the wake of the boat they suddenly leapt from the water, spinning and splashing with what I am absolutely sure were smiles on their faces.

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Dolphins of Shoalwater Bay

We make our way around the bay and find some seals basking in the sunshine on Seal Island. All males, these seals get down to Rockingham from the islands around Lancelin to the north of Perth to escape the females and enjoy a bit of fishing and lazing about doing nothing on the beach.  Oh for the life.

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Dolphins of Shoalwater Bay with Seal Island in the background

It’s a tour with so much to see and while I probably am not usually too keen on commentaries, there is a lot worth listening to as well. After a quick stop on Penguin Island to successfully locate some little Fairy Penguins it’s back to the mainland, about a kilometre away, to complete this first adventure that has surprised and thrilled us all.

We make our way to the Quest Apartments and the kids are immediately impressed by the spaciousness of two adjoining rooms but before they can grab the remote control for the television it’s time to hit the beach and try out the snorkelling gear and boogie boards. Palm Beach has to be the best beach in Western Australia for a child to learn how to snorkel and Waikiki Beach, with the sea breeze in your back, has to be one of the best boogie boarding beaches.

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Quest Apartments Rockingham; new, fresh and close to all the action

That evening, we are sun blasted and salt encrusted and even though the kids are fading they don’t want to miss an opportunity to walk along Palm Beach once the sun has set and with torches and nets in hand they catch some prawns as they flick along the surface the water. It’s strictly catch and release as we’ve booked into Rustico’s, a popular tapas bar on the foreshore and with a big day deserving a big meal we suitably indulge and then walk back to our rooms for the evening where salty heads sleep soundly.

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Rustico’s Tapas on the Rockingham foreshore

The following morning after a great foreshore brekky we meet up with Bill at Surf Mania who is keen for us to have a go on a stand-up paddle board. I wish I had a few photos of us falling in after overbalancing but we are all surprised with how stable the boards are, particularly on the still waters of Palm Beach.  Just watch out for local resident, Bluey, when you’re walking through the water (see pic below).

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A very mean and bold blue manna crab, called Bluey, stopping me from getting closer to my family in the background.

We all take our turn and while I was obviously the best at standing up and paddling I don’t say anything to the family, choosing to wait until I can write and brag about the experience.

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Up and about on a Stand-Up-Paddleboard

Having completed the slow, calm and relaxing activity of stand-up paddle boarding we make our way a few hundred metres down the beach, about halfway between the café strip and where the skydivers are starting to land on the beach. We’re at one of Rockingham’s newest adventures, the jetpack experience.  The device works through a water jet propulsion system with arm levers that determine the direction you travel.  The controls are surprisingly sensitive and as Jetpack and Flyboarding Adventures operator Edward explains, you need to learn quickly how to vary your direction and altitude to avoid being dunked in the water.  It’s tough to get the hang of and you swallow a bit of water but it is something completely different and completely enjoyable.  With a bit of practise I’m sure I could be put to use doing stunts for the next James Bond movie.

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Up and about, and down with a splash, at Jetpack and Flyboard Adventures on Rockingham Beach.

Checking out of Quest Apartments later that afternoon I notice my daughter Matilda on the balcony taking a last look at the sea view. She turns and tells me that she is thinking about what I always tell her; if you’re sorry to leave it means you’ve had a great time.  She says she is very sorry to leave.

As we drive back to Perth I think about a family weekender we recently made to Broome, near the top of Western Australia. Broome is often described as being on ‘Broome Time’. I guess it’s meant to convey a slowing down, a lack of rushing about and taking it easy.

Is it possible we can enter a new description in the lexicon of Western Australian travel?

Rockingham Time.

Let Rockingham Time be a very Western Australian description for making the most of every minute. Let Rockingham Time be more than the traditional view of Rockingham being a pleasant day trip from Perth.  Let Rockingham Time be a weekend, or even better a long weekend to explore and indulge yourself, your friends and your family at full speed.

Whatever your age, whether it is a taste for dining or a thirst for adventure let Rockingham Time guide you through at least two days of exquisite time well spent.

Get to Rockingham. Get stuck in to what it has to offer.  Be exhausted and be alive.

Fact Box

Rockingham is 40km south of Perth and is home to the Royal Australian Navy’s biggest fleet base at Garden Island.

Quest Apartments Rockingham features 96 fully self-contained studio and one and two bedroom apartments with rates starting from $199 per night. Call 08 9591 0600 to enquire about their summer packages.

For information on tours, adventures and equipment hire in Rockingham call the Rockingham Visitor Centre on 9592 2778 or email enquiry.rtc@westnet.com.au

January 2017

The West Australian newspaper: Wandering the Swan River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ramming speed! Picture: Chris Parry

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

Paddling along the Swan River. Picture: Chris Parry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paddling along the Swan River. Picture: Chris Parry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See waterwanderers.com.au.

Is That All For Me? Pan Pacific High Tea for a High Roller Kid

The writer and his apprentice were guests of Pan Pacific Perth.  The article was provided to Pan Pacific Perth.

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Three tiers, so little time

Tom’s first comment was, “Is that all for me?”

I watched Tom. I love watching him do anything at all and this was no different. He was focused on the tiers in front of him, fully occupied with his own delicate tea cup of sweet, fresh apple juice and his hand reaching out for his food like one of those old money boxes I had as a kid where the hand shoots out, grabs a coin and then withdraws back with its booty.

Tom started on the first tier which held a peanut butter man, nutella soldier, brioche with shredded honey ham and lettuce and two freshly made corn chips with boccincini and tomato.  Five minutes later they were gone.

The second tier required one hand to push down on the chair as he reached up with the other hand for rocky road, pandan and vanilla crème, profiterole with festive icing and a chocolate fudge with its own little hat; a strawberry macaroon.

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Tom meets his first Executive Chef

By this stage he was beginning to forget the journey and just wanted the finish line.  Desperate to commence the final ascent he asked if he could forego finishing each of the second tier treats and launch himself at the summit.

Positioning himself on his knees, resting his tummy on the lip of the table, he leaned in and reached for glory.

Atop the final tier was a gingerbread house with resident gingerbread man and snowman, Olaf in fact.  The house was in need of a good decluttering though.  Every room in the house was completely packed with chunky rocky road, adding substantial weight to this sweet dwelling.

With assistance from Leah to lower it to the table, Tom looked at me and said, “Epic!”

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Leah and Tom tackle Olaf

I asked Tom why he said that. What made him use the one word that I know from his vocabulary and character is saved for only the best of times and the best of experiences?

“It’s yummy and fun.”  Perfect.