Category Archives: places to visit

3 Places you can Visit for Free near Fremantle with Kids

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!!

Another location for one of the War Guns Used to protect the coast

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!

Looking down the barrel of the Big Canon AKA

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.

World War II Tunnel Leighton

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.

Welcome to the Tunnels – one of the entrances to the tunnel

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.

Leighton Battery Guns
One of the big guns

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.

 

St Patrick's Church Fremantle
The irony I found with this setting is that Jesus, in the far corner, is surround by roses (also known for thorns). Jesus wore a crown a thorns to this death. I wonder if this setting was created because of the analogy it presents.

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.

 

St Patrick's Church Fremantle

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

 

St Patrick's Church Fremantle
Fantastic Architecture that can spring a range of conversational topics with the kids.

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 Prison Entrance

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.

The Visitors Center

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.

Fremantle Prison
The Convict Depot

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.

Public Bathrooms

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.

A quick glance at the prices.

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!

 

The Pinnacles – A Walk in the Desert

The Pinnacles can be found north of Perth, just outside of Cervantes.  The best time to visit the park, in my opinion, would be in the months from March to early November. The main reason for this is that temperatures are lower.  The second reason is that the line to the ticket booth is generally shorter.

The long line of tourists…over the December period. Be prepared to wait!

 

Because some friends of the kids have not seen the Pinnacles, I thought it would be a great opportunity to take the break over Christmas to show the some Western Australian Wonderland.

The trip itself, takes over 2 hours of driving.  There are no gas stations along the Indian Ocean Drive from Yanchep to Jurien Bay.  However, there are many ‘picnic’ spots which allows you to see the this part of world from a completely different angle.

Inside the Pinnacles Discovery Center
Find out more about the Pinnacles and view some amazing photos

Personally, I found the trip towards Cervantes entertaining.  I generally take hold of any opportunity to stop for photo opportunity.  However, the trip home is definitely different with the object to get home.   Of course, this is generally late in the day and after a long day of travel, the trip home can be  exhausting.  The home trip can be dangerous because of the belief that the trip is a short one.  However, with a single lane and everyone doing the same thing as you, this is the time where you need to take a couple of breaks.

Entrance fee to the park is $13.00 per vehicle.  December is busy and one can expect to wait in line to purchase a ticket.

The Pinnacles
Drive Through the Pinnacles

According the Australian Coral Coast

These amazing natural limestone structures, some standing as high as five metres, were formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, after the sea receded and left deposits of sea shells. Over time, coastal winds removed the surrounding sand, leaving the pillars exposed to the elements.

Once inside the park, you can see the pinnacles either through walking a trail or completing the drive loop.  We decide the latter would be more appropriate because even though there was a wind to cool the temperature, it was still hot.  Furthermore, we had reached the Pinnacles at 11 am which meant the sun was high making it a bad time for photos.

There are many stop points on the Drive Loop.  Many new visitors stop at the first time they can, however there is a great spot to see the pinnacles at the turn of the loop.  This will place you behind the main field of Pinnacles and give you the perfect position for a range of photos.  Of course you can stop as many times as you want but with many tourist wanting to do the same thing means you may not have the opportunity to park and stop.

The Pinnacles

Pinnacles Desert Discovery Center is the home to the museum and shop.  It is open from 930 am to 430 pm.  They sell light refreshments and range of local products which is not often found at other locations.  I did not see any lunch options so I would suggest that you take along a picnic basket.

Pinnacles Desert Discover Centre
The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Center.

Toilets are situated near the Discovery Center.  And there is a request that you bag and take home your own rubbish.  There are no waste bins, so make sure you take a bag for your rubbish.

Pinnacles
Take your Rubbish Home

One of the questions I asked the staff members was whether the park closed at 430 pm?  I could not find any information about what time they closed, and I thought that take Astro Photography in this area would be amazing.

What I found out is that the Discovery Center closes at 430 pm but the park is still open.  This meant that one could stay longer and capture a moment when the light is just right.  As a result, I made a point to return back after the mad Christmas rush for taking photos when the light is absolutely perfect.

Overall, I never tire of visiting the Pinnacles.  Plus, with an all day ticket means you can see more of this area which includes the Stromalites in Cervantes.  If you are thinking ‘Should I?’ ~ then I suggest – YOU SHOULD! 😉

The Disappearing Surfer

The thing about Cottoesloe and the coastal area around it, is the expanse of sculptures that present themselves in true ‘Perthonian’  form.  From experience, I have seen a range of sculptures decorate the coastline and most often, seem to change on an annual schedule. As a result, I hope that by the time you read this article, this sculpture will still be there.

It’s original name is called ‘Pause’ created by April Pine.  I initially saw a Surfing Silhouette standing looking at the sea.  Instinctively I thought ‘Cool, a surfer’.  But as we drove past, I noticed the figure disappear.  Notably – I had to stop.

Sculpture by the Sea surfer disappers scuplture

What stood before me was a very well designed sculpture made from metal sheets, that were places cleverly in perfect size and form, to give any visitor the impression it is a surfer looking at the sea.

It is only when you drive past that you will see the sculpture blend into the sea and horizon, as if the surfer disappears before your eyes.

Pause sculpture by the Sea

A sculpture like this is a must to ‘sea’. (pun intended)  To find this ‘Pause’ it is located on the Fremantle side of Cottoesloe.

If you missed it, then I hope these photos suffice!  However, on a final note – the artist, April Pine,  sells smaller versions of this sculpture.

The Most Random Place for a Piano

Random Pianos

Quick:  Where is the most random place you have seen a piano?

My thoughts exactly!  I never imagined to see a piano perfectly positioned for an artistic impression.  Of course, my imagination went wild with images of weddings, music videos etc.  And to think, that this gem is hidden from the everyday traveler.  It is only when you stop to look at something completely different that will you see this lonely piano sitting despairingly on flatten red dirt.

Random Piano Photo

I could not help but think of the music video ‘November Rain by Guns ‘n Roses‘.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if a band like this ventured north of Perth to this very spot and created the next best music video?

Notably, it would give this little place a boost of much needed traffic.  What a difference one little despairing little piano can make to this world!

random piano photos guns 'n roses

How do you find this Gem?

If you travel north of Northam and pass Wongan Hills turn off, you will see a sign on the right hand side that says ‘Historic Slater Homestead’.  Turn into the driveway and you will see this Golden Gem at the bottom part of the field….standing…isolated and probably feeling just a little unloved!  Hopefully, it will still be there when you visit.  So please comment below to let us know!

Mount O'Brien LookOut

Just 10 km outside of Wongan Hills, you will find Mount O’Briend Lookout.  It was opened in 2001 offering tourist the opportunity to see a 360 degree view of the Australian Golden Outback.

Mount OBrien Lookout

Mount O’Brien Lookout is the 2nd highest point in the Wongan Hills measuring 424 meters.  The spiral walkway offers guest the opportunity to see a view from a different perspective.

Mt OBrien Lookout

At the pinnacle of the Lookout, there are different plaques showing a variety of landmarks. This includes a direct line of sight to Wongan Hills Town, Mt. Matilda Hill, Lake Ninan and Lake Hinds Neakaling.

 

 

Mount OBrien

Barbecue and picnic tables translate in to a perfect lunch or sunset dinner.  However, there are no rubbish bins which means you must take all your trash back with you.  There is also no toilets on site, so I can only suspect these stops would be short.

Mount OBrien

Another thing to factor in, if you plan to take this journey, is that no trailers, campers or motor-homes are allowed on the tracks.  It is not the fact they are not allowed but more so that fact that the narrow gravel road has sharp turns which will cause blockage.  There is signage outside of the lookout area explaining the types of vehicles allowed.  However, it would probably be best to check with the Wongan Hills Tourism office before making your way to this experience.

Mount OBrien

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here.  As it was mid-August, the wildflowers were just starting to show their colors.  The temperature was cool and tolerable.  And the air was crystal clear offering perfect photo opportunities.  Of course, choose the right time of the day would be a bonus, however in our case – we were grateful for the opportunity to see this area.

Mount OBrien

3 Most Unforgettable National Parks you can See Just North of Perth

Perth is known to be one of the most isolated cities in the world.  It takes roughly 5 hours to fly to the Eastern Side and most West Australians tend to take the Bali vacation than a vacation on native soil.

Western Australia Beaches

Although it is isolated, Western Australia, is by far one of the most beautiful, native and wild environments you can visit.  Many beaches have pure white sand with shallow turquoise waters that make swimming extremely enjoyable.  Some beaches also allow 4×4 vehicles, which is generally one of the more common modes of transport used in this area.

But for the purpose of this article, we are going to limit ‘North Of Perth’ to the Cervantes Region.  Notably, going north of Cervantes means you will embark and a true ‘Outback’ Adventure and it is a trip that will require a little planning.  (call it personal experience)

Yanchep National Park

 

Yanchep can be found about 45 minutes north of Perth.  It is one of the most under estimated locations within the northern suburbs.  Apart from a $12.00 entrance fee (car visit fee), one can basically see some amazing places for next to nothing.

Things that you can expect to experience for free is the walkway by the lake, Koala Park, Hiking Trails and Picnic area.  Other things that will cost is experiences such as the Crystal Cave, the Yanchep Golf Course and other forms of entertainment held in the park area.

The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park

The Pinnacles
Drive Through the Pinnacles

This would fall on the opposite side of the spectrum in regards to visitation.  The Nambung National Park is a huge tourist attraction offering guest the opportunity to see yellow stone formations that are placed sporadically around the park area.

It is believed that these formations were the result of the sea receding about 25,000 year ago leaving behind shell formations.  Over time, wind and elements eroded the exterior, leaving behind these stone line formations.

Whiteman Park

WA Birds of Prey

Whiteman Park can be found near Ellenbrook suburbs.  It consist of 4000 hectares of natural landscape with a range of free to fee-based activities.

The last time I visited Whiteman Park was to watch the Western Australia Birds of Prey Flight Display.  It was, by far, one of the most amazing experiences I have had with the opportunity to hold a Wedge Tail Eagle.

While the WA Birds of Prey do not offer frequent flight displays, one can enjoy a range of similar wildlife encounters at the Caversham Wildlife Center.

Apart from this, there are a range of hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas and other amenities to make a trip to this park ‘outstanding’.

 

The Cheetah Outreach – Somerset West

A couple of years ago, we had the amazing opportunity to see some Cheetahs while touring the Garden Route Area in South Africa.  The kids, at the time, were 10 and 12 years of age – which is a great age to learn about wildlife, environment and conservation.

Cheetah Outreach, South Africa

Getting to the facility can be challenging, as security in this area is particular strong.  However, once inside the main gates, the rest is fairly easy to navigate through.

Cheetah Outreach, South Africa
Time for a little play – maybe?

Having a “close up and personal’ experience with a cheetah is a lifetime dream for many people.  We were lucky to have this opportunity.  For safety reason, the Cheetah is on a lead and rightfully so.  We had a quick glimpse of a cheetah in a ‘play mode’ before decided it was time for a little TLC!

Cheetah Outreach, South Africa

A Cheetah Encounter will cost roughly R120 (adult) R80 (child) – based on 2017 prices.  There is tea/coffee facilities which means you could quite easily spend the day there.  I recommend you also take some pocket money for souveniers.  The girls each ‘adopted’ their own ‘faux cheetah’ to take home for show and tell events at school.

READ MORE about this venue on Weekendnotes