The situation: It’s the first day of 2018, and my budget for travel is at zero dollars. However, I would love to take a little road trip with the kids without it costing me money I don’t have! Where do I go?
Leighton Battery Heritage Site – WWII Tunnels
This is the home to the World War II Tunnels which are only open on Sundays. However, the park is open for viewing on all days and entrance is free. Perfect Budget Saver!!
The walk to the Tunnels is on an incline. My kids (now teens) did not mind and seemed to sprint to the top of the hill before I did.
Just near the summit of the hill are two anti-aircraft guns. All moving parts are sealed for public protection, however it offers a real sense of what it was like back in the 40’s.
While the kids were walking around taking photos of the view, I spent the time contemplating how hard it would have been for Wartime Veterans to man this stations, especially in Perth’s Summer heat. I could feel the heat and I had only just arrived!
Just around the back end of the guns is the entrance to the tunnels. While they were locked up, one can have an outside-in view from just outside the gate. I felt a cool air come from the tunnels, and wondered if they offered the same coolness during the World War II era.
At the base of the Anti-aircraft Guns is another huge Canon. It is the home to the 6 inch BK XI Gun Shield. Notably, the shield took some beating from years of weather abuse, which were restored to its current condition.
At this point, one of the kids stated that she had been down most of the roads and did not see anything else. The feedback at this point was that she was tired and wanting to return to the car. However, just behind a tree was a circular construction that was begging for a little investigation.
I had wondered where the Tunnels lead to, and I found that there was a range of tunnels leading to different areas of the base. I found another tunnel entrance at the base of the canon just adjacent to a huge circular structure.
Inside this circular structure were two iron-like doors which was either a storage site (highly unlikely) or a door leading to the tunnels (likely). The teens whizzed around taking photos of flowers stopping now and then to look at some history. This gave me the time to look around and just put pieces of the puzzle together of what this place would look like in full action.
You can find the Leighton Battery Heritage site along the Stirling Highway. It is on the northern side of Fremantle with clear signage along this route. Parking can be found on both sides of the hill. Expect some walking. If you are visiting in the Summer, take along water, hat and sunscreen.
Kids Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
What would make it a 10? A tour!
The Basilica of St. Patrick’s ~ Fremantle
St. Patrick’s Basilica Fremantle can be found in the heart of Fremantle. It is a Catholic Church hosting Mass everyday.
The church itself was established in the 1890’s mostly for Diocesan Priests. However in 1894, it was entrusted to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. And since the 1940, during the fishing era, many immigrants visited St. Patrick to give thanks for their safe journey.
The question I found myself asking was: What is the Oblates?
According the history of the church:
In 1789 the Church in France suffered greatly as a consequence of the Revolution. Over 34,000 priests were either exiled or executed. More than half of the parishes were without priests to say Mass and administer the sacraments.
It was to answer this desolation of the Church that Eugene de Mazenod was called by Jesus to preach the Gospel. He became a Priest and began working among the poorest villages in the south of France. Soon other zealous priests joined him in his work. In 1816 de Mazenod established the group as a small religious community. In 1826 they were approved by the Pope and given the title Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Architecturally, the church is amazing. It reminds me the 13th century era when they used Gargoyles in many of their designs. Of course, movies such as the Humpback of Notre Dame could make a very interesting conversation piece, especially when talking to kids about the exterior.
We arrived at the church during Mass. Ironically, unlike many churches that are only open on Sunday (some Saturday and Sunday), this church is open everyday. It was refreshing to see despite the couple of glares from the pews as I walked into the side entrance with camera in hand! #awkward
Of course, I happened to make it to the church ‘on time’, and in respect of their mass I stayed on the outer perimeter. I realized it was mass when I entered into the side entrance only to be greeted by a number of ‘unhappy’ glares. Tracking back, and proceeded to the front entrance where I was able to capture a couple of window shots. It was during communion time, and I was asked by one of the patrons if I would like to join the queue. I politely declined as I knew that this honor is for Catholics, which did not include me.
Kids rating: 5 out of 10.
What would make it a 10? Able to go inside the church (not during mass) and appreciate the design without the glares!
The Prison – Fremantle
The Fremantle Prison was built in the 19th century and continued to be used until 1991.
The first convict transport sailed in 1850. Convicts were a means to help build the colony and convicts built the ‘establishment’ between 1852 and 1859 using limestone quarried on site.
According to the Fremantle Prison archives ‘The Prison was a place of hangings, floggings, dramatic convict escapes and prisoner riots’ The prison saw a fluctuation of inmates throughout its time of use, which could also hold 1000 prisoners. However, during the gold rush era, the prison was probably the busiest with many prisoners finding their way to Rottnest Island.
During World War II, the Defense Force used part of the prison to detain ‘enemy aliens’ which mostly comprised of Italians. Later in 1983, due to a number of prison riots, the royal commission recommended its closure. Almost a decade later it was closed and a year later it was leased to a private entity for public viewing. This lasted for about 10 years before the government reclaimed the lease and in 2005, the Prison was listed on the heritage site.
The Prison can be found on the outskirts of the Cappuccino Strip found in Fremantle. There is plenty of parking with the first hour free, which means have a quick look-see can fit the budget.
What you get to see for free?
You can see the Visitors Center (former contact area), Convict Depot (former Superintendents backyard), the Cafe (a newly added feature) and the shop. For all other areas, there is a fee which can be pricey if you are on a shoestring budget.
Kid’s rating 7.5 out of 10
What would make it a 10? One of the tours!
In conclusion, the day was rated average. However, given the limitations of what we could do for the day, it was very successful. The kids learnt about a number of things on this trip, and saw things they have not seen yet. Things I would do differently is to pack a picnic basket and enjoy a meal by the beach. I normally do this, however this was a trip of impulse and we just decided to go with the flow!