Please enjoy the discussion below about sports tourism; what it’s worth, why we do it and how we do it:
In 1987, Fremantle was revitalized to support one of the globes biggest sporting events of the 1980’s, the America’s Cup. Today, you can touch the mystical winged keel of Australia II at the WA Maritime Museum on Victoria Quay.
Mitchell Freeway construction 1968. Can you spot Parliament House?
Originally published in the West Australian, October 2015. The writer was a guest for some, not all, of those mentioned in the story below. This story was also broadcast on 6PR on 30 October 2016.
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.
Taking the opportunity of a summer holiday day trip to Mandurah, I’ve hired a Bowrider Runabout from Mandurah Boat and Bike Hire. The drive from Perth to Mandurah takes less than an hour on the Kwinana Freeway and exiting at Mandjoogoordap Drive will lead you directly into Mandurah.
Driving a boat around the Mandurah canals and estuary isn’t as relaxing as being on open water. It’s a busy waterway system and even though you don’t need a Skippers Ticket to hire a boat from Mandurah Boat and Bike Hire, I’m glad I’ve got mine and know a few of the rules to keep things safe and friendly.
Less than a minute from leaving the jetty and while the kids are still laying down their towels on the bow lounge seats I spot dolphins ahead of us, just relaxing in the water in front of the huge Moreton Bay Fig tree at Stingray Point.
The tree was planted in 1930 and has been surviving well until in recent years too many cormorants have been nesting in the tree and the toxicity of their droppings has been burning the foliage.
After a slow chug through some of the nearby canals, admiring boats as big as houses and houses as big as castles, we head out to the estuary. At Boundary Island we cut the engine and drift up onto the beach. It’s a popular spot to stretch your legs and have a swim, although walking through the shallow water may result in undesirable interaction with the resident crabs.
Heading out into the broad expanse of the estuary the kids jump off the back of the boat and do a couple of laps of the boat before climbing aboard. We make our way back to our departure point at the same time as a lot of boats are heading back to various pens and ramps.
Many of the boats on the water are pontoon hire boats and look to have two or more families on board. Fully shaded and with plenty of seating they look perfect for a day on the water with plenty of room to move about. Typical of my ungrateful mob, I am derided for not hiring a pontoon boat so I nudge our bow into the wake of a passing boat, slip sideways and allow a nice amount of water to spray over the bow and drench the wretched children.
Before returning the boat we take another look in the canals and easily locate more dolphins. I idle the engine and let the kids spot them surfacing, taking bets on where they’ll surface next.
After we return the boat we walk along the boardwalk, admiring the public art on display, and enjoying some Cicerello’s fish and chips and Simmo’s ice cream before heading back to Perth.
It’s an easy day trip break that hasn’t broken the bank or left us completely knackered. I reckon we’ll be back again next year but I’m guessing we’ll be on a pontoon boat with friends. That’s fine by me.
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?
Originally published by the West Australian newspaper
Before driving to Geraldton to meet a charter flight to the Abrolhos Islands I did a quick internet search on the drive from Perth. Just checking the distance and potential stops along the way to have a stretch.
In 1629, a good sailor had the remarkable ability to calculate latitude but not longitude. So sailors who could navigate were, at best, capable of working out how far up or down they were but had to guess how far across they were based on the estimated speed of their vessel.
It’s for this reason that so many ships from centuries past slammed into our coast as they flicked under the Cape of Good Hope and belted across the Indian Ocean on the Roaring 40’s and made a guess when to turn north for the Dutch East Indies.
And there I was, calling up in a matter of seconds on the internet a route map for my north bound destination.
In 1628, preparations for a greater voyage than mine in 2015 were well underway.
The Batavia had just been built. It was the most magnificent ship that the VOC, the Dutch East India Company, had ever built. It promised its owners years of delivering valuable cargo and satiating European appetites for spices, bringing with it enormous profits for an already wealthy and powerful shipping company.
My preparations for this trip had largely been based on rereading one of Western Australia’s great books, Islands of Angry Ghosts by Hugh Edwards. First published in 1966, my copy got wet at the beach many years ago and has an odd look and smell to it but that’s become part of its appeal.
I am reacquainting myself with the story of the Batavia; how it became shipwrecked off the Western Australian coast and the unfolding drama of 386 years ago which saw villains and heroes fight out a remarkable battle for survival that left over 120 men, women and children brutally murdered.
Geraldton is 424km north of Perth and is the heart of the Mid West Region. Driving with a few rest breaks in quiet seaside towns like Leeman, Jurien Bay and Dongara will get you there in about five hours or you can fly up and miss all the scenery and be there in an hour. The shared fascination my daughter Matilda and I have for the story of the Batavia and the curiosity to see the Abrolhos Islands where it all happened is why we’re sharing this adventure.
Our flight with Geraldton Air Charters is one of several available that operate from Geraldton Airport. While there are also plenty of boat charters that make the 70km journey out to the islands we had some time constraints that have us choose an option that gets us in and out in a day.
The Chief Pilot, Wendy Mann, has a busy weekend ahead of her. As well as our flight there is a local band to fly out for a party on one of the seasonally occupied islands. Easter is one of the busiest weekends on the Abrolhos and the flight out just needs to follow the long white wakes of the numerous boats making their way out to the islands from Geraldton.
Our first look at the islands are those in the Pelsaert Group, wrongly named after Commander Pelsaert of the Batavia in the belief that the ship sunk in this group of islands.
This is the most southern group of islands and we fly over numerous wreck sites including the Zeewjik, Ocean Queen, Windsor and Ben Ledi.
Further to the north is the middle group of islands in the Abrolhos, the Easter Group. Of the 122 islands in the Abrolhos around 20 have established camps for the fishing community and nearly all of these are in the Easter Group. Jetties protrude over the coral from these islands that are dotted with colourful huts that are home for fishers and their families through the crayfishing season of March to June.
We fly on and soon reach the Wallabi Group and our pilot skilfully tips the wing so that it is just above sight of Wiebbe Hayes’ stone fort on West Wallabi Island.
After Pelsaert and a number of his crew sailed the longboat to Batavia to seek help, the highest ranking official in charge was Jeronimous Cornelisz whose leadership style was keen on mutiny and piracy. He scattered the survivors to various islands under the pretence of searching for food and water.
Hayes and his soldiers found plentiful water and food on the island and constructed the fort with flat rocks as protection from the wind and later as a defence from repeated attacks by well-armed mutineers led by Cornelisz, who they managed to capture shortly before the return of Pelsaert in the rescue ship Sardam.
Wiebbe Hayes was promoted on the spot by Pelsaert and later became an officer. There is nothing else we know about this remarkable young man who designed and constructed the first European structures in Australia.
We land on East Wallabi Island, where Wiebbe Hayes and his men first landed before crossing the shallow water to West Wallabi Island. The gravel airstrip, one of three throughout the islands, was built during World War II by the RAAF and the occasional flight of Avro Ansons was stationed there with staff from the Flying Training School based at Geraldton. We walk from the aircraft to Turtle Bay, a beautiful curved stretch of white sand, strewn with an assortment of shells.
Snorkelling in Turtle Bay is amongst the best you will find in Western Australia. Over 200 coral species have been identified in the Abrolhos and I think I saw all of them. The vivid colours of the coral stay fixed as hundreds of differently coloured fish mix the palette by swimming across your view and trepang loll back and forth to the rhythm of the sea. We give our favourite coral the scientific name of Ladies Hanky; it is bright purple and looks like it has been gently draped on the reef.
We explore the shoreline, filled with stubborn oysters, grumpy crabs and a feeling of discovery around each craggy bend. Walking around the island reveals massive osprey nests and skinks with black and gold speckled scales. Elusive from our view are the tammar wallabies that on West Wallabi Island were such a valuable food source to Wiebbe Hayes and his men.
In the afternoon, we decide to go searching for flotsam and jetsam along the beach, leaving our pilot to relax on the beach.
By the time we reach the western tip of the bay I am laden down with a bag of beachcombing treasure. As we walk along we hear a cry for help.
Marooned on the beach, with hulls fixed as fast on the sand as the Batavia on the reef, are two jet skis whose riders need the combined pushing power of a dad and his daughter.
After a few minutes of rolling and cajoling we have the jet skis free of the Abrolhos grasp that seems so eager to hold vessels that touch her shores. One of the jet ski’s drivers is Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.
On a recent island adventure Matilda met Ashton Agar but, with apologies to Ashton, in the eyes of this eleven year old girl a jet skiing Minister for Foreign Affairs trumps an Australian Test and Perth Scorchers cricketer.
After more snorkelling, sorting through our beachcombing, writing some messages in the sharp, white sand and watching a seal shuffle along in the shallows, we return to our aircraft.
After the wheels lift off at the water’s edge we fly over the wreck of the Batavia and the other islands of importance to the Batavia story; Traitors Island where Pelsaert left a note to the survivors saying he would be back with a rescue ship, Beacon Island where most of the survivors of the shipwreck were killed and Long Island where the mutineers, including Cornelisz, were tried, found guilty and had their hands cut off before they were hung.
Before heading north back to Batavia, Pelsaert sailed the Sardam to the mainland where two mutineers were put ashore, most probably near Hutt River between Geraldton and Kalbarri, to make whatever life they could for themselves. Ever mindful of opportunity for the VOC, Pelsaerts last words as they sail away advises the two young men that if they find riches to make signal fires to attract future ships. They’re never heard of again.
When we contemplate the possible fate of these two men, and perhaps other shipwreck survivors, read what the English explorer George Grey recorded in his diaries. In 1839 he led an expedition through the Mid-West Region. His observations of what he saw as completely different to other Aboriginal communities included huts with clay rendering, a series of deeply sunk wells and cultivated crops of local root vegetables.
As the plane descends to Geraldton airport late in the day I make the travellers mistake of becoming melencholy that this modern day adventure is about to end. I tell myself it’s OK. With good travel and good travel companions the adventure never really ends. You pull out all the books and stories that got you there and read them all over again. And write your own.