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?
Above: Go down The Rabbit Hole on the main street of Bridgetown for an amazing range of local artist workshops and galleries.
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.
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.
As published in the newspaper, Have A Go News, October 2017.
When I was a kid growing up in the country there was a time of year when I wasn’t allowed to spend the weekend with my mates, playing cricket or football or lazily riding our bikes around town looking for sources of adventure, like stealing mulberries from a tree and flinging them at passing cars.
It was that time of year, the only time of year, when Mum wanted to go bush. That one time of year when we went bush and didn’t take a chainsaw to chop up firewood.
I look back now and picture in my mind the sheer rolling hills of my childhood, a mass of pink everlastings that changed the colour of the landscape so greatly that even the snow gums picked up a pinkish hue from the reflected colour of this explosion of flora.
I didn’t enjoy it as a kid. You’ve seen one hill of everlastings and you’ve seen them all. Hunting for orchids was worse. Softly walking through the bush in search of something I can’t ever recall finding. The others found them. Eyes down, concentrating and walking slowly. I was more intent on filling my bucket with kangaroo poo to later throw at my friends, if I was ever allowed to play with them again.
I guess that’s how it is with some kids. I now take my own children on bushwalks of varying distances and they love it but I don’t know that they’re really interested in flowers. It’s about climbing to the top of a big rock or finding a big spider or finding their own animal poo to have fun with and then stopping in a country town for a Peters Drumstick.
If you love wildflowers and you want to share them with people who don’t love them as much as you do then build a trip that easily includes a lot more than petal-spotting.
Pick a direction to head in and just go for it.
How long is your trip going to be? A day trip? A weekender?
Let’s spin the bottle and pick a few destinations that mix it up for everyone in the car.
The Bibbulmun Track has a lot of opportunities that can be explored for periods of time ranging from a few hours to a few weeks. For a day trip, a drive up to the Kalamunda hills will put you in beautiful country for wildflowers and the fresh green growth of our own Perth hills. Kalamunda has a great range of art galleries, mountain bike trails and of course the famous Kalamunda Hotel for lunch and a cold refreshment or two.
If you feel like heading north for a daytrip then the Nambung National Park, home to the iconic Pinnacles, is an ideal wildflower daytrip with plenty of time to see plenty of other sites. As well as the Pinnacles, there are the dunes of nearby Lancelin and the township of Lancelin itself with good beach walking and swimming.
To turn this daytrip into a gorgeous weekender, head east to Carnamah, Dandaragan and the Coomberdale Wildflower Farm just to the north of Moora where wildflowers are picked, boxed and shipped all over the world. From there you can make your way back to the coast by travelling through the Coalseam Conservation Park which from September to November is simply a carpet of wildflowers that stretches to the horizon. From there it’s just a short drive for an overnight stay at Dongara.
Further east and an absolute WA bucket list is to get stuck into the Goldfields and do a tour of a region that’s not that far away and bursting with more colour than the Perth Skyshow. More than a daytrip, more than a weekender, give yourself at least a week to travel well throughout this region that is full of history and remarkable people and landscapes. Adjacent to Kalgoorlie-Boulder is the Karlkula Bushland Park, comprised of 200 hectares of bushland and very popular with bushwalkers.
An easy daytrip from Kalgoorlie-Boulder is to head 133 kilometres north to the small town of Menzies and then travel 50 kilometres west to Lake Ballard where the 51 statues by artist Antony Gormley are located.
For a south, maybe south-western spin of the bottle, head down the Albany Highway to a part of the world I’m proud to have grown up in, the Wheatbelt. The golden canola, dusky dryandra and fields of wheat that might bring on a few sneezes will also bring out the photographer in you.
Dryandra Woodland, 164 kilometres south-east of Perth and just to the north of Narrogin, is a wonderful land of wildflowers, emus, kangaroos and maybe even the elusive numbat. There are a number of well-marked trails to explore and the Dryandra Lions Woodlands Village manages a number of various sized woodcutter cottages if you want to turn an easy daytrip into a very relaxing weekend.
For those in your group who are bored sitting by the fireplace or walking through the bush then you can arrange to visit Barna Mia, in the heart of Dryandra, where you can do a night time tour of the sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife that you can watch under the stars.
Finally, if you can’t leave Perth there is one of the greatest wildflower displays in Western Australia right in the heart of Perth. Kings Park is so renowned for its annual wildflower display that there’s a risk of complacency because you expect so much. With a variety of species and colour to dazzle our eyes and cameras, plus the nature playground, various cafes and walking trails and only minutes from every Perth CBD activity it’s little wonder that Kings Park is the centre of Perth’s universe from September to November.
So my tip for a trip to see the wildflowers this year is to remember what else there is to see. Enjoy the wildflowers but try and enjoy something else to go with it. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy a Peters Drumstick as you lean against the bonnet of your car in the main street of a country town that’s not so far from home.
For further information on local tips to find wildflowers, best places to stay and local attractions, have a look at the following websites or contact Chris through firstname.lastname@example.org or his website at www.chrisparrywritesforus.com
To find out what’s going on at Kings Park look at: www.bgpa.wa.gov.au or call (08) 9480 3600
Please remember that however you choose to travel make sure you are safe and prepared. Much of Western Australia is remote and you should always carry what you need to survive including medications, water and suitable clothing. Please be aware that mobile telephones may not work in some locations featured in this story.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
While not strictly encouraging this behaviour, Leonie was laughing, which is all the encouragement I need. She was in her own kayak and would skim around us, pointing out the features of the riverbank and cautioning us when craft bigger than ours — and they were all bigger — came cruising past.
We threaded our way through the moored array of boats at the Maylands Amateur Boatbuilding Yard, which is just 4km from the centre of Perth and provides a place for boat builders to plane and hammer their days away, dreaming of tight hulls and firm decks.
WA has a great history of boatbuilding and it was an important indicator of the early success of our colony that boatbuilding was been established on the Swan River, utilising local timbers.
Just a little way up the river is Tranby House, one of the colony’s oldest surviving buildings and the site of one its first farms. Built in 1839, it was the third house to be built on what was known as Peninsula Farm.
These days, Tranby House and Peninsula Tea Gardens cater to weddings and events, and are open for high tea every day of the week, serving tea in Royal Albert china.
As we continued upriver, we stayed close to the banks to make sure we got a good look at the birdlife along the way, including eastern great egrets, white-faced heron, pelicans and black swans.
Being in a kayak provided a real sense of being part of the environment around us. I felt I was more observant and was hearing more than I ever had on any of the motorised adventures I’ve had on the river.
As we paddled into Bayswater waters, Leonie pointed out the bat boxes attached to the shoreline trees in the Baigup Wetland.
Designed to attract bats looking for a home, this project aims to reduce mosquito populations. One bat may consume over 1000 mosquitoes in an evening and they are considered an effective and ecological alternative to chemical spraying to reduce mosquito numbers on the river.
Just before the Garratt Road Bridge, we crossed to the other side of the river and made our way through the wetlands to find a suitable landing for our sturdy craft. Leonie pulled out chairs and baskets from the kayaks’ storage holes and very quickly we’d set up a picnic camp.
From one basket, Leonie produced bottles filled with homemade lemonade. The sprig of mint within each bottle was a touch of genius, although as it was treated with great suspicion by my six year old lad. “A stick with leaves is in my drink!”
Leonie had made an absolute feast for our group and we each had a favourite. For Jamie, it was the vegetable quiche. For Matilda, it was the banana jam with coconut sprinkled on top, and for me, it was the homemade bread. Tom devoured a glass jar with peanut, caramel and pretzel chocolate cheesecake in hypnotic silence, save for the sound of the little metal spoon scraping the inside of the jar.
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?
The writer and his apprentice were guests of Pan Pacific Perth. The article was provided to Pan Pacific Perth.
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.
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!”
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?