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Published: February 13th 2019
We left Gnomesville and retraced our steps partway, stopping to have a look at a tiny little church but it was all locked up, which surprised me. We missed the turning we needed and ended up in another National Park forest before eventually getting on the right road and rejoining Route 1, now called Ocean Drive, at Australind. We saw two emus just wandering down the verge but this was a much busier road for them to negotiate and I don’t know what they thought they were doing. We stopped in a layby for a break and it was full of really interesting trees – some dead, some thriving and one slap bang in the middle of the layby but there was enough room to drive round it. I would have explored further but still had that ‘Beware – snakes’ sign in the back of my mind so was cautious.
We drove across a bridge into Mandurah and saw the road we needed to get to our next accommodation but we were still a little early to check in and decided to have a look at the town instead. Mandurah was originally a fishing village and has grown from a
few small holiday communities along its coast to a major regional city in just over ten years. It is surrounded by water with the Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary feeding into the Mandurah Estuary so the water is often on three sides. It has abundant wildlife, including whales and dolphins, and its reputation for boating and fishing has attracted significant numbers of retirees to its magnificent new properties, many of them still being built around the canal developments. A housing affordability study once ranked it the least affordable city in Australia. A railway links it directly to Perth and the town was busy and bustling with all the facilities needed to support the community. I felt sure we would enjoy our stay here.
We were staying in the Marina View Chalets in the Port Bouvard/Wannanup area and we had to check in at the floating marina office. That was a first! I wobbled down the gangplank and almost needed a push to get back up it as the angle became steeper as the tide moved in and out. As an office, Kim the manager said, it would be hard to beat and they were often visited by dolphins swimming
right up to the door. Kim was very pleasant and pointed out the chalets, literally just across the marina. We had been allocated Chalet 1A, another disabled accommodation (why do we keep getting these - are they trying to tell us something?), and he almost apologised that the bathroom was very large! Our room key would also allow us access to the secure parking area right next to the chalets.
Our chalet was stunning, one of four relative new builds at only one year old. It was by far the best equipped accommodation we had had so far, as it came complete with a nautical map of the area and a dishwasher! Could have done with that when we had our Christmas dinner ... It even had a Christmas tree. OK, it was a very small Christmas tree but it came with twinkly lights and I turned it on at every opportunity! A nautical theme ran throughout the decor of the chalet, unsurprisingly, and I really liked it. It had a deck area right over the water, complete with a full-sized outside barbeque, and the deck overlooked the marina itself. To the rear was a ‘cut’ where Kim said
the dolphins often visited. Given that it had taken us so long to see a kangaroo I didn’t get too excited at the thought that we might also be lucky enough to also see dolphins ...
We had a wonderful, relaxing time here. I can’t swim and am not a fan of being on water but I spent hours and hours on our deck which was just above the water and was solid underfoot so that was OK. The marina was a protected area with no fishing allowed. There were some really, really expensive looking houses on the opposite side of the marina, all with their own moorings and boats berthed outside and I watched the Three Dog Family relaxing on their veranda overlooking the marina and playing with the dogs, one of which was hyper-active and zipped around at a great rate of knots. This house was bedecked with sparkly lights and looked lovely at night-time when they were turned on. We watched boats of all shapes and sizes sailing right up to the wonderful fish restaurants literally on our doorstep, selling the best fish and chips in Western Australia - probably! The boats moored there while they
had their meal, then sailed off into the sunset afterwards. One restaurant was licensed and the other was a BYO affair and I wondered if the police in this area were charged with targeting those who were drunk in charge of a sailing vessel. One daughter obviously used her dad as a taxi service as she would ring him up from the bench outside the bait and tackle shop and ten minutes later he would arrive in his boat to collect her and take her home. Some boats were tiny pleasure craft, for one or two people at most, and some looked less than seaworthy, but others were clearly very costly large yachts. A small community of almost barge-type vessels was permanently moored in the marina and people lived on them either full-time or used them just for a short break. They seemed to keep their drinks cool by popping them in a net and dangling them over the side into the cool water! We were amused at the number who struggled with the fuel pumps when the marina office was closed and took to guessing how long it would take them to figure the system out, and how many
people would be involved - 25 minutes and 4 people was the longest! I think some gave up in the end and sailed away into the sunset with almost empty fuel tanks. We were so amused by it all we later went across to see what the problem was and discovered it was a system like the one we had encountered in the closed town of Leinster. Maybe these people didn’t know what a bowser was either!
One morning I sat on our deck watching the marina waking up and the local dog walkers taking a stroll, exchanging pleasantries with them as they went by and agreeing that, yes, I did indeed have a splendid spot to sit on. Steve came out to join me for a coffee and we chatted quietly, enjoying the moment. Suddenly, right in front of our deck – dolphins!! There were four of them, including a mother and calf, and it was just amazing to be so close to them. Wow. We were fortunate enough to see them on other occasions too and it was a wonderful, and unexpected, experience. So unexpected, in fact, that we never had the camera to hand to get
a close-up, though we managed to grab the camera in time to catch them as they swam away. Sometimes it seemed we were the only two people to notice their presence.
We explored the local area on foot. The cut behind our chalet was quite wide and offered stunning views across the blue water. A sign on the path that led down to the end warned ‘Caution – snakes on footpath’. What is it with all these snakes suddenly? There was a lovely bench at the end but I didn’t fancy sitting amongst the shrubbery there in case the snakes came out to investigate. The entries to the permanent moorings were through locked gates which had dog poo bags readily available next to them, together with rubbish bins, and it all looked very clean and organised. A sign at the entrance to marina indicated ‘Visitors welcome’ and I was glad to see that it didn’t try to be exclusive. We had a closer look at the posh houses and noticed that the canals made it all look a little like Venice, but different. Small fishing quays (with anchor points for the anglers!) were available on the cut side and
one of them was reserved for older people, though I couldn’t see what made it any different from the rest. We walked closer to the bridge that we had driven across to enter Mandurah and saw that it was possible to walk across it on a dedicated pedestrian path that ran below the road itself, for safety. The sun shone, the water was blue, the wildlife was abundant and I could quite see why the area was so popular.
On leaving our little chalet at the end of our stay we drove to the opposite side of the marina as I wanted to see the front of the stunning Three Dog Family house. The Little Venice theme continued, as we drove over small bridges across many inlets, allowing easy access to those with boats. It turned out that the Three Dog Family house was somewhat plain and boring on the roadside, with all the emphasis being put, quite understandably, on the waterside aspect. The houses were, once again, cheek by jowl with their neighbours. I went on to a nearby empty plot, just waiting to be built on, to look across to our chalet and decided that, if you
had a boat, oodles of cash and a complete disregard for snakes, then you should buy this plot of land! I loved it.
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