ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures discovers Bicton, a very green riverside suburb.

Bicton is south of the river and it runs right alongside it.

It’s east of Fremantle and nearly a third of the suburb is dedicated to a green belt of bushland, parkland and outdoor activities that is just as important to families today as it was to Aboriginal women and children before the Swan River Colony, when the men hunted and hung out on the Mosman Park side, while the women and kids got to hang out at Jennalup, what we now call Blackwall Reach.

The hidden treasure of Bicton is its access to the river and how it has retained its pristine riverside bushland while providing open spaces for picnics, concerts and beaches for sandcastles and swimming. And it has jetties.

It’s a tradition with Hidden Treasures that we start by meeting Ro’s requirement for “What’s there for sport?”

When we spoke about Midland a few weeks ago I encouraged people to get out there and watch baseball as something a bit different to the footy, basketball and cricket.

Bicton is home in WA to a sport that is worth watching and has tamed down a bit since the infamous 1956 Melbourne Olympics clash between Hungary and Russia.  Have you guessed it?

Water Polo!  At the Bicton Pool you can watch the home games in the Australian Water Polo League for the Fremantle Mens Mariners and the Fremantle Womens Marlins and they’re the most successful teams in the competition, kind of natural for Western Australian sport.  It’s a great spectator sport and I wish other sports could start off as exciting as the ‘swim off’ where both teams swim furiously to get the ball first. And those little caps are kind of cool as well.

Next to the Bicton Pool you’ll find Freestyle (pic above), a very popular meeting point sculpture that is part of the City of Melville We Love Art Project. 

Also next to the Bicton Pool and the Freestyle sculpture you’ll find the Bicton Baths which is almost unique in Perth now for being fully enclosed by a jetty that is perfect for jumping off or fishing for big bream and even bigger flathead.

Incredibly, this little area has more!  It’s also the location, in the adjacent Quarantine Park, for the annual Broome to Bicton Concert featuring the greatest band in the world, the Pigram Brothers. It’s a popular park all year long with families and for this reason Mr Whippy makes regular visits.

Continuing north along the river foreshore you get to the slightly controversial Blackwall Reach limestone cliffs.  Whether it’s just for the adventure, a rite of passage or reckless tomfoolery, it’s a long standing activity to jump off the 10 metre high limestone cliffs into water that can reach 25 metres deep and where scuba divers can discover an old barge at 14 metres and is the most intact wreck site in the Swan River, and populated by all sorts of fish, including sea horses. 

This area is actually an underwater tidal gorge and probably the most diverse and highly populated area of the river for underwater life which makes it popular with humans and dolphins for fishing and is one of the best spots on the Swan River to watch dolphins.

On land at Blackwall Reach is the Jenna Biddi Yorga (Womens Feet Walking) walking trail, described by Trails WA as Grade 1. It’s 2km in length and is one of the most scenic, peaceful and bird filled walks in Perth. 

Continuing our way north we find ourselves at one of Perth’s best family spots, Point Walter, with its rite of passage walk on the sandbar, great BBQ facilities, little beaches, public art, including the famous Habibi sculpture, and another jetty!

The joy of Point Walter is how perfect it is for everyone to learn their water activity.  It’s perfect for learning to swim or use a stand-up paddleboard, fish off the jetty, or do bombies onto big brown jellyfish.

Each year (though currently paused for Covid) there is one of the best outdoor family concerts held in Perth, the Point Walter Concert. It’s currently scheduled by the City of Melville for January 2022.

If you decide not to take a picnic, there is a very good café, although I much prefer to call it a kiosk! Order up some milkshakes and some hot chips and a day at Point Walter with the sun setting behind the western suburbs can’t get any better. 

If you head into the streets of Bicton check out the iconic Leopold Hotel which revels in its link to AC/DC (although these days you’re more likely to find families playing Jenga in the big sofas than screaming lead singers doing stage dives). Also seek out Little Stove, a little café that is a big meeting point for those in the community who need coffee to survive. It has local produce, including honey, giftcards and eggs from their own chickens.

Bicton is a hidden treasure next to known treasure.  Next door to Bicton are the flashy lights and attractions of the Fremantle district with its heritage and café culture to lure us in. 

If you cast your net a bit wider though you’ll find that Bicton is a treasure trove of riverside activities to explore or just relax in.  Bicton rivals Kings Park for its ability to provide bushland activities in the metropolitan area that appeal to all ages and abilities.  In some ways it’s better than Kings Park because Bicton has jetties!

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures discovers a shipwreck and how many rocks it takes to name a suburb

King Neptune from Perth’s iconic past … the Atlantis Marine Park

Click on the link below for a Hidden Treasures discussion about unexploded ordnance, a shipwreck, an icon and a suburb that’s more like a town:

Hidden Treasures recently crossed the fine line that exists between a ‘Sunday drive’ and a ‘road trip’. 

On this episode of Hidden Treasures on ABC Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I walked up and down dunes and along windswept beaches to find a shipwreck, find lost statues from Perth’s iconic past and find out how many rocks it takes to name a suburb.

How many suburbs in Perth would you find an internet description that says; 

“Large sections of the suburb are fenced off due to unexploded ordnance left behind from past military activity in the area.” 

How many Perth beachside suburbs would have a beach sign at a prominent lookout spot that warns of;

“No lifesaving service, steep stairs, dangerous current, submerged rocks, dumping waves and snakes.”

Welcome to Two Rocks. Perth ends here.

Two Rocks is the furthest northern extent of the Perth metropolitan area.  It’s over 60 kilometres from the Swan River.  Its better-known neighbour, Yanchep, is 7 kilometres to the south.

It’s a big suburb, more than 50 square kilometres with the suburb’s population living in just 2.3 square kilometres.

Two Rocks has a distinct feel.  It’s more like a seaside town than a suburb.  There are dinghy’s on street verges.  Flotsam and jetsam gathered after storms adorn the verandas of houses like some sort of trophy collection. In the southern suburbs we hang Christmas lights. Up here, they hang what the sea has hurled at them.

The adorning doesn’t stop there.  To complete the seaside town impression, many of the street poles have opportunistic handwritten signs selling a local service or seasonal produce.  Octopus is a current favourite for $20kg! I’m sure when the time is right there are signs that say, “Crays 4 Sale”.  Not lobsters.  Crays.

Not a bad price. I think it would be better to just say ‘Occy’

As you head up Two Rocks Road turn left at ‘The Spot’.  It’s a sandy track to the best left-hand break surf spot we’re allowed to talk about.  It takes a bit of paddling to get out to the break and if the waves are more than a metre there’s normally a rip.

As I drive into carpark at ‘The Spot’ I feel like a new cowboy in town swinging open the saloon doors.  All heads turn to look at this Narrogin plated vehicle that takes the last bay at the end of the line.  Tying my car up to the rail I turn and see that the faces are all still turned towards me.  Not only do I have Narrogin number plates but I’m wearing a flannelette shirt.

The black steamer wet suit clad lads give me a “G’Day” and I give one back and then we’re all friends, talking about the conditions and which way I need to trek to find the Alex T Brown, a shipwreck that reveals herself differently each season, depending on the wind and tides. 

The track from the car park to the shipwreck of the Alex T Brown

The Alex T Brown was a 65m, four masted schooner that blew ashore on this day(29 May) in 1917. Many parts of its hull and rigging can be found in Two Rocks and Yanchep, including the Yanchep Inn.  For my visit, I found a long line of metal rivets attached to a beam, possibly the backbone of the hull.  I sat next to the wreck, looking out to sea for a while before the trudge back to my mates in the carpark, a round trip of about 700 metres through up and down dunes and very soft beach.

A schooner lies here, the Alex T Brown

From the history of the sea to the history of iconic Perth let’s head to the lightly wooded and weed entangled paths of the old Atlantis Marine Park and make our way to King Neptune who sits on top of a small hill with a big smile and an impressive trident held in his mighty limestone hands.

Atlantis Marine Park was the place to go throughout the 1980’s.  Built at the beginning of the 80’s and closed at the end of them.  There were dolphin shows and lots of water related adventures that involved tubes, mats and slides while wearing a pair of stubbies, a terry towelling hat and no sunscreen.

These days the remains of the park rival anything you’ll find in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  As well as King Neptune you can be an amateur Perth cultural icon archaeologist and discover statues of dugongs, narwhales and elephant seals and if that’s not enough statue action for you, head up to the gardens at the local tavern and you’ll find many other marine themed statues that were in the park.

Check out the local bakery and cafes that overlook the marina.  It’s a great spot to hold a coffee in one hand, pastie in the other and watch boats being launched and retrieved, old hulls being sanded and kids fishing from the marina jetty.

From the Tavern, cafes or bakery, it’s a great view of the action in the marina

Are there two rocks in Two Rocks?

There are definitely a couple of very impressive rocks that are at either end of the beach that begins at Wreck Point and then further up the beach at the Marina end.  The rock off Wreck Point has a raggedy hole that is a photographers dream in any weather.  The beach allows dogs and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to walk to the other end where this bigger rock is a bit like a bridge with a tunnel at the bottom, that allows the breaking waves to impressively spray from. 

One rock
The other rock

Two Rocks is a hidden treasure because it’s a suburb that doesn’t feel like a suburb. It feels like the seaside town you used to visit and wish you could get back to.  You can.  It’s called Two Rocks. Perth ends here.