A flying visit to Perth

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December 8th 2008
Published: December 8th 2008
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We had four days to spare, and enough frequent flyer points, so we decided to take a quick visit to Perth in Western Australia. This was to be our first visit. It was a direct flight from Brisbane, but because of unseasonal westerly winds at 12,000 metres it took 5 hours to fly across the country.

We were met at Terminal 2 by my cousin Bruce, who then took us to their house at Mt Hawthorn. His wife Jude suggested we walk to Gianni’s, the local Balkan restaurant, for dinner. I can’t pronounce or spell what I ate, but it was delicious.

The next day Bruce and Jude had to work so they gave us the keys to their Mitsubishi Pajero, and a Perth street directory. Eileen wanted to meet a lady who worked for the Perth based software company that supplied her accounting software. Ruth from Handisoft had provided invaluable assistance over many years, but we had only previously spoken by phone. The premises are at Scarborough which is a beachside suburb of Perth. We had only a little trouble finding it, and after introductions we went with Ruth to a local café for morning tea.

From Scarborough we drove south along the coast. Because of the mining boom in Western Australia most of the houses along this esplanade were new. It seemed that there was a surf beach about every kilometer, with a surf club. This continued until we reached Fremantle, which is the sea port for Perth.

There are many yacht clubs in Perth, and I thought I would like to thumb a ride on a yacht for the Saturday afternoon fun race. This was Thursday so I was only making enquiries. In the street directory it showed the Royal Perth Yacht Club nearby so we went for a look. The gates were shut, but two members arrived while I was standing there. I was told that this was only an annexe, and that I would have better luck if I tried the Fremantle Sailing Club. I am an ocean sailor, and most of Perth’s yacht clubs are on the Swan River, but Fremantle Sailing Club is by the sea.

We walked into the impressive main club building and I spoke with the receptionist. She didn’t seem to understand what I was asking and directed me to the sailing office in an adjoining building. Inside were two ladies and one was using the telephone. I asked the other lady about the possibility of getting a ride for their next SAGS (Saturday Afternoon General Sailing). She seemed not to understand either so when the other lady finished on the phone I asked her. Yes it was possible to get a sail, but mostly the boat owners were after permanent crew. She suggested I try Royal Freshwater Yacht Club. This was on the river, and I was not keen about it.

We continued sightseeing around the port including a visit to the Maritime Museum, where I was fascinated by the display of the stern quarter of the Batavia, a Dutch ship wrecked off the coast of Western Australia in 1629. It wasn’t so much the wreck that fascinated me, but to realize the construction methods used to build wooden ships with double planking below the waterline for strength, single planking above the waterline to reduce weight, and the system of stern timbers to hold it all together and stop the enormous rudder from falling off.

After lunch at a nearby Dome Coffee Shop we meandered our way through more new housing estates, still heading more or less south, through Rockingham, until we reached Mandurah. Along the way we attempted to cross the bridge and causeway to Garden Island. Unfortunately as this is Australian Navy property we were not allowed. We were still impressed with how beautiful the scenery was all along the coast though, especially at Point Peron.

Friday dawned and we went north from Scarborough. Not far though. The northern beaches are just as pretty as the southern ones, but we wanted to head east to the Swan Valley wineries. Before we did, we stopped at Hillarys Boat Harbour where I had another attempt to get a ride for their SAGS. Their SAGS are on Sundays, and this was cutting it a bit fine for us to catch our Sunday afternoon flight home, so after a look around the many almost market type shops on the quay, we headed east towards Ellenbrook.

Ellenbrook is a brand new suburb/town/city all on its own. It looks like the architecture and town planners came from California. That is not a bad thing. It just seemed odd here. In fact we liked it. Small blocks of land to reduce the cost of utilities, and very well designed houses that were each unique enough so that in 30 years time it won’t look like Slumsville.

Between Ellenbrook and the wineries is Whiteman Park. This is a wildlife park with a museum town, working train and tram for rides, swimming, picnicking, and souvenir shopping.

We only spent time trying wines at Houghton’s Winery. One of us had to drive, so wine tasting is best done with one of the tour operators. We chose Houghton’s because we were familiar with their famous White Burgundy. Because of the enforced non-use of actual place names for wines that don’t come from the region of that name, this wine is now called Houghton White Classic.

On Saturday we were chauffer driven on a scenic tour by Bruce and Jude. We spent a few hours at the famous Fremantle Markets trying not to buy stuff that we would have to take back on the plane. They then dropped me off at South of Perth Yacht Club. I had made arrangements by phone to sail that afternoon even though this was on the river. My luck hadn’t changed however and even though I was there at the appointed time it seemed this time was incorrect and all the boats had started. This turned out to be a blessing as a storm with strong wind and rain swept across Perth, and I had no wet weather gear with me. I had a rum at the bar and waited for the others to drive back and pick me up again.

Sunday’s first venue was The Bell Tower. This is in the centre of Perth on the river bank. The bells are huge. There are about twelve of them inside and about half way up the tower, and the bell ringers are at ground level, each with a rope to pull down on in the correct time sequence. The bells are from various parts of England originally. Many came from the one church building which was starting to collapse from the vibrations of these heavy bells when rung.

Lunch today was at Fraser’s Restaurant, King’s Park, which also overlooks the Swan River. In the park are also many gardens, Perth’s war memorial, and an excellent art gallery.

Luckily with some forethought our luggage was already packed and in the car, as 5 o’clock, be at the airport time, rolled around. Our flight home only took 3 ½ hours with the same wind now a tailwind. It still meant a midnight arrival, and after retrieving our car from the long-term parking section, we didn’t get into bed until 2am with both of us needing to be up for 5am starts. Ah, but our flying visit was worth it!

The last Picasso


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