A taste of Perth (and vicinity)

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Mar 16th, 2009, 12:44 AM
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A taste of Perth (and vicinity)

As a newcomer to Perth, I’m making a concerted effort to get out and see as much of my own backyard as I can. My spouse isn’t quite as motivated, but he’s a good guy and I can usually talk him into humoring me here and there.

I’ve decided to share some of these excursions as they just might help visitors to Perth who aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves while they’re here.

My intent is to add to this thread as I learn more about Perth and the surrounding area, so it’ll be a work in progress.

1) Up first, the Swan Valley

We’ve been to the Swan Valley before, but we just weren’t taken with it, so we decided to give it another try.

So we set out on a Friday in late February. Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center in Guildford, where we collected a map of attractions in the area.

Then we were off to explore. We called in at Fish Tails, a small family operated winery located in Caversham. We had a nice chat, tried the Verdehlo and left with a bottle of their 2004 Merlot, which has already mysteriously vaporized.

Our next stop was Sandalford, which claims to be Australia’s oldest and largest family owned winery. The grounds and cellar door are very nice. I was particularly taken with the outdoor tables which are situated under a canopy of vines dating back to 1890. Sandalford also operates a luxury cruiser, which is used for Swan Valley wine cruises and as a function venue. They also have a restaurant with an enticing menu. In retrospect, we should have had lunch there.

http://www.sandalford.com/Home/exper...andalford.html

We liked several of their wines, but left with a Margaret River Merlot Cabernet blend and a bottle of their Estate Reserve Chardonnay.

Back on the West Swan Road, we next found ourselves at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, where we sampled and purchased some white and milk chocolate pastilles, chatted up a guide from a bus tour and watched chocolates being made. I never tire of visiting this place whether it’s in Margaret River or the Swan Valley. I love their chocolate, but it’s not cheap.

Next up was Little River Winery, whose claim to fame is that it’s situated in Henley Brook on soil believed to be the best of the Swan Valley. I’ll have to take their word for that. We liked their 2002 Cab Merlot and their white port but at $45 and $60 respectively, we decided to go for the more reasonably priced brut. Little River has a restaurant, and we were quite hungry, but nothing on their menu spoke to us. We moved on to the Black Swan right next door, which produced its first vintage in 2001. They also have a restaurant overlooking the vineyard. Their menu sounded good, so we decided to have lunch there.

Bill chose the seared beef tenderloin with garlic cream king prawn and citrus mash ($39). I had the slow confit chicken breast with a creamed leak and pine nut filling, lyonnaise chats potato, grilled asparagus and truffle infused cream sauce ($35). Both sounded wonderful, but the food was a huge let down. Bill requested his steak medium rare, but it was well done. It had taken so long to get served and he was so hungry that he didn’t bother sending it back. My meal was okay, but not near as good as it sounded and certainly nothing to get excited about. We mentioned this to the staff on the way out and called it good. All in all it was a very disappointing and expensive lunch experience - $81 with wine.

Our final stop was at Mondo Nouget, where we sampled the nougat (which reminds me of divinity) and bought a few gifts.

It was at this point that we lost interest. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the Swan Valley doesn’t appeal to us the way other Australian wine regions do. Perhaps it’s because the valley is busy, congested and lacks the tranquility we’ve found in other wine regions. Perhaps it’s because the valley is located so close to a major city. I don’t know why exactly, but once again I left the Swan feeling a bit dejected and sad.

I’m not yet willing to give up on it though. I can’t help but think that perhaps we’ve just missed something (?) I hope to go back again for one last try before I give up on the Swan for good.

Next up: A taste of Baldivis, Jarrahdale, Pinjarra and Mandurah
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Mar 16th, 2009, 03:05 AM
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Despite not being impressed with the upper Swan Mel, it is to me one of the best features of the City area at least, beautiful broad reaches and it does for me tend to give Perth a much more open amd clean image as far as cities on rivers go.

Hobart on the Derwent is in the same boat but the narrower muddier reaches of the Brisbane and Yarra rivers are someway behind though they also have their own interesting areas but not giving that same river perspective.
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Mar 21st, 2009, 01:09 PM
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Melnq8, thanks for the post since I'm going to be spending 5-7 days in Perth in mid April while my husband does some business. I'll be on my own most of the days and was hoping for advice on what to do/and not do. Any other suggestions in Perth proper as well as surrounds are greatly appreciated. Also good restaurants for evenings would be helpful.
Marsha
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Mar 21st, 2009, 04:53 PM
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Hi Marsha -

No shortage of things to do here. I can give you several suggestions, but it would help me to know where you're staying and if you'll have a car, or will be using public transport.
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Mar 21st, 2009, 05:53 PM
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Hi again Marsha,

Figured I'd list some things you can do on foot or via public transport. If you have a car, we can broaden the list later.

Walk along the Swan River -

There's a paved footpath that makes a loop around and over the Swan River. You can walk a portion or walk the entire loop. The entire loop takes about 90 minutes, longer if you stop for coffee or to sightsee along the way.

There are often exhibitions set up along the riverfront. The most recent is the Wheel of Perth (ferris wheel).

http://www.experienceperth.com/en/Ci...er/default.htm

Kings Park (walk or take a bus) - You can spend many hours in Kings Park. It's elevated above the city and offers some spectacular views of Perth and the Swan River. Good during the day or at night (city lights). There are several guided walks of the park, and loads of trails that you can explore on your own. You might want to pack a picnic and enjoy it while watching the ducks in the lake or try out one of the cafes. There's also a Botanic Garden, several mouments, and a few shops selling Aboriginal art and locally made crafts. Beautiful place.

http://www.perthperth.com/kingspark.htm

Explore Hay Street Mall -

This is a pedestrian mall right in the middle of the CBD. You'll find all kinds of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and coffee shops here. There's also a theater, several hotels and interesting array of people.

http://www.lookatwa.com.au/Shopping/index.html

There's a shop called Roc, in Piccadilly Arcade where you can watch them stretch and pound hot toffee which they turn into hard candy.

http://www.roccandy.com.au/

Perth Zoo -

You can either walk or take public transport to the Barrack Street Jetty, then catch a ferry to Mends Street (directly across the river in South Perth). When you arrive at the Mends Street Jetty, you walk straight up Mends Street and follow the signs to the zoo, which is about a 10 minute walk.

From Barrack Street Jetty you can also take a ferry to Fremantle and Rottnest Island. River cruises and wine cruises to the Swan Valley also leave from here.

http://www.lookatwa.com.au/Transport/ferries.html

Perth Mint -

The mint offers hourly guided talks, tours and gold pouring demonstrations. It's located at 310 Hay Street and can be reached on foot or by the red CAT bus (free).

tours.http://www.perthmint.com.au/

Restaurants -

Our favorite CBD restaurant is Nine Marys (Indian), located at 16 Milligan Street.

http://www.ninemarys.com.au/

We also like Royal India, located at 1134 Hay Street in West Perth.

http://www.royalindia.com.au/

There are loads of restaurants, cafes and pubs in the CBD. You'll be spoiled for choice.

I hope this gives you a few ideas. I'll post more as time allows.
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Mar 21st, 2009, 06:55 PM
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I would love a home exchange in Australia again some day. Perth, Tasmanaia, Adelaide, Melbourne, Cairns, Darwin, Alice Springs are all on the list for a second trip. I did Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sydney last year. Lots to see and not a whole lot of time. I had 6 weeks in 2008 and 2 home exchangs on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane.

It's a BIG country.
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Mar 21st, 2009, 08:48 PM
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2) A wander down south

With the help of my friends Google and Google maps, I put together a quick and dirty itinerary for the Mandurah area. Early one Sunday morning in March, we hopped in the car and were off, pointed south.

We took the Mitchell/Kwinana Freeway, exited at Mundijong Road, then picked up Lloyd and Doghill roads, ending at MacNuts WA in Baldivis, some 50 km south of Perth.

MacNuts is the only commercial grower, processor and supplier of macadamia nuts in Western Australia. I associate macadamia nuts with tropical climates like Hawaii, so I was intrigued to visit a plantation in an area as dry as Western Australia. Apparently, the secret is lots and lots of water.

It was an interesting stop and the barbecue flavored nuts were pretty tasty.

We then located the South Western Highway, and set our sights on the rural shire of Jarrahdale, Western Australia’s first timber town and home to Serpentine National Park.

http://www.breakloose.com.au/html/ad...jarrahdale.php

This is my kind of place. A beautiful little town surrounded by Jarrah forests. We were anxious to explore some of the tracks in Jarrahdale, but wisely decided to leave those for another, cooler day (it reached 38c that day).

Our destination was Millbrook Winery, which is located on a gorgeous piece of land known as Chestnut Farm. The winery and restaurant overlook a lake; it’s truly an idyllic setting.

http://www.millbrookwinery.com.au/main.html

We hadn’t planned on eating there, but after tasting their fantastic wines and drooling over their lunch menu, we found ourselves wishing we’d reserved a table. The restaurant was fully booked, but as luck would have it, they’d just received a cancellation, so we grabbed a table for noon!

And a fantastic lunch it was too. Bill had the grilled Atlantic salmon with minted potatoes, wilted spinach and hollandaise ($36) and I had the butternut gnocchi with sage butter and goats curd ($28). Both were excellent, but portions were very small and we could have used a bit more. For dessert we shared a tiny chocolate mocha panna cotta with orange compote and biscotti ($14), also fantastic. Lunch for two with a glass of wine each came to $92.

We left Millbrook content and happy to have discovered their restaurant and their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.

After poking around Jarrahdale for a bit, we worked our way towards Pinjarra, which is one of the oldest towns in Western Australia and is situated on the banks of the Murray River. It was getting quite hot and Pinjarra didn’t speak to us the way Jarrahdale had, so we settled for a wine tasting at Raven Wines, scanned the menu of their French Bistro for future reference and continued on.

Our final stop this day was Mandurah, where it took us a few attempts to locate the eastern foreshore, home of the Sunday Mandjar Markets. After much driving around we finally found our way, lucked into a primo parking spot and wandered about for awhile. It was a blistering hot day, but the foreshore was packed with families playing in the sand, lounging on the grass and generally lazing about. We watched the boats troll up and down the bay for awhile, listened to a one man band, and checked out the booths peddling all manner of wares, before calling it a day and heading back to Perth.

Up next, Cottesloe Beach
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Mar 21st, 2009, 10:15 PM
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3) Time for the beach

I’m not generally a beach person, but I just couldn’t help but head to the beach at the first glimmer of autumn.

I’d heard many references to Cottesloe, but had never ventured there, so I hopped into the car and headed south via the Sunset Coast Tourist Drive, which runs alongside a stretch of pretty coastline and beach side suburbs. There are some fabulous looking homes through here and I was immediately jealous.

I missed my turn and ended up in Fremantle, but no worries, a quick U turn later I was headed back in the right direction, where I veered off towards the town of Cottesloe.

I instantly understood the attraction of this pretty sea side town. I found a parking spot and walked down to the beach, where I stumbled upon Sculpture by the Sea, an art exhibit set up on the beach and along the grassy foreshore.

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/351995/index.html

There were lots of people out enjoying the cool day, including various school groups there to study the sculpture and people like myself, just wandering around at will. It was a great introduction to Cottesloe, a place I hope to see more of in the future.

Next up: ???
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Mar 22nd, 2009, 10:10 AM
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Great, thanks so much for the specifics. Didn't think I'd get a car but looking at all of your ideas it sounds like maybe for some outings it would be worthwhile. If we stayed in CBD would husband need a car to get to Belmont or could he leave it with me?
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Mar 22nd, 2009, 04:15 PM
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Marsha - I suspect your husband can reach Belmont by bus, but I'm not sure. Here's the link to Transperth, who operate all buses and trains in Perth.

http://www.transperth.wa.gov.au/

If he does need the car, you can easily get around the city on public transport, and maybe leave the longer excursions for the weekend when he can join you. There are tours to some places, such as the Swan valley and Kings Park if you don't want to go it alone.

Keep in mind that parking is expensive in the city and your hotel will probably charge you $20-25 per day to park your car.

If you plan to use public transport a lot, suggest you look into a Transperth Smartcard - it's a card you load with a certain amount of $, so you don't have to pay for each individual bus or train ride. Very convenient, but some planning will be required so you don't put more $ on the card than you will use.

Unfortunately, we'll be gone in mid-April, otherwise I'd be happy to show you some of the sights.
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Mar 24th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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Hi Mel,
Next time you feel like a drive to Cottesloe try the John Street Cafe, its one of my favourites. It is of course in John St. which runs straight down to the beach carpark. The cafe is in an old building painted blue so you can't miss it with tables and umbrella's set onto a paved area at the front. It is a lovely street with old pine trees and some stunning homes so it is worth a drive or walk around to see some beautiful old houses that have been renovated in the area.
Maybe we could meet up there some time?
Maudie
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Mar 24th, 2009, 03:59 PM
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Oh you also might like to take a drive down to the Rockingham/Shoalwater Bay area. Very pretty and you can walk out to Penguin Island if the sand bar is exposed or take the small ferry. There are also dolphins at Rockingham. Makes for a nice Sunday outing.
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Mar 24th, 2009, 09:29 PM
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Maudie -

I'd love to meet up sometime!

You can walk to Penguin Island? Wow, I'll have to check that out.

We were planning to visit Serpentine National Park on Friday to check out some of those walks, but after hearing it's supposed to get up to 36c, I'll think we'll shoot for Sunday instead. Maybe we can fit in Rockingham too. Thanks.
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Mar 25th, 2009, 02:02 AM
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Great, I shall send you an email which I have been meaning to do for some time.

You must only walk IF the sand bar is exposed, usually in the morning before the tide comes in but you must be very careful and only do it if you can swim. I think they discourage it these days but we used to do it as kids in the good old days.
www.penguinisland.com.au/

Yes, I think Sunday would be a much better day to walk though I think it is going to be windy so not a good day for Rockingham but you never know. There is a good map shop in Freo that has some good books with walks in it. More on that when we meet up!
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Mar 28th, 2009, 05:57 AM
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Hi Mel
If you get the chance, head north to Kalbarrie.
it's a 6 hour trip on the Brand hwy out of perth.
Definately a w/end stint, the scenery isn't as good as heading south but once you see Kalbarrie, you will fall in love with the place.
It's a quiet little fishing town except when it's holiday season.
It has lots of nice units to rent or caravan parks, which are very nice as well.
Many lovely little resteraunts and a couple of pubs in town as well.
They have gift shops clothing stores a decent supermarket also.
And a very laid back atmosphere that makes one just relax.
The beaches are beautiful and the fishing great, and they have some wonderful scenic drives along the coast.
Then there are the gorges just out of town that are a must see.
Hope you get there?
Jiggy.
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Apr 3rd, 2009, 01:44 AM
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On a nice cool Sunday in late March we decided to head back to Jarrahdale to explore some of those aforementioned walks. Once again we headed south on the Kwinana Freeway and worked our way towards Serpentine National Park, via Mundijong Road and the South Western Highway.

We first stopped at Serpentine Dam, which is located on Kingsbury Drive in Jarrahdale. There’s a café overlooking the dam, barbecue and picnic facilities in a nicely treed area, and a huge car park, which we found completely devoid of cars. We were baffled as to the need for so much parking, as there’s really not much there.

We continued on Kingsbury Road in search of the entrance to Serpentine National Park, but our Google map failed us miserably, and we ended up, well, nowhere.

We remembered seeing a trailhead near the entrance to Millbrook Winery during our previous visit, so we set off in that direction. We eventually located the trailhead to Kitty’s Gorge, which is directly across the street from the Jarrahdale cemetery.

And who, pray tell, was Kitty? Apparently, she was a cow who wandered away from her home and was found months later down by the gorge. Sounds like a good trivia question for the next local pub quiz…

We were armed with several walking maps that I’d found online at www.mymandurah.com, so we began our hike. We soon discovered that Kitty’s Gorge isn’t a single trail, but rather a network of intersecting trails that meander through the gorge, one of which ends at Serpentine Falls. It was a bit confusing, but a passing cyclist was kind enough to point us in the right direction and we soon found ourselves walking toward Serpentine Falls, via a vast serene picnic area surrounded by Jarrah trees. We continued walking along the dry Gooralong Brook and past the gauging station. The trail soon became narrow and overgrown and at one point I was badly tripped up by a vine that tried to lasso me. We decided to turn back and try another route, as we really weren’t interested in walking the 11km return trail to Serpentine Falls anyway.

We backtracked to the gauging station and embarked on the ridge top walk. We found this section a bit difficult. It was a steep and rocky single file track that was absolutely swarmed with big black ants. Seriously, we’d never seen so many ants. We had to stop frequently to brush them from our clothing, and one even managed to crawl up my pants leg and bite me on my thigh. We trudged on, not liking this trail much, even less so when I lost my footing and fell.

We finally made it back to the seemingly ant-free serenity of the picnic area, where we plopped our tired selves down for a rest and some lunch. Our 6.25 mile trek had taken three hours and left us a bit zapped.

We drove to Millbrook Winery thinking we’d pop in for a cold glass of their fabulous 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, but the parking lot was completely packed with the Sunday lunch crowd, so we had a change of heart.

Still curious as to what Serpentine Falls was all about, we got back on the South Western Highway and headed a wee bit further south, finally finding the turnoff. We paid the $10 admission, parked the car and walked to the falls overlook. There were a lot of people milling about and the falls seemed to be a big draw. So, imagine our surprise when the walkway ended at a pond fed by a trickle of water running over a few large rocks. We looked at each other and shook our heads and walked back to the car park. Our visit to the ‘falls’ lasted all of three minutes.

We found it interesting that so many people had paid an admission fee to picnic at these ‘falls’, and yet there was a much prettier, more inviting and completely free picnic area at the mouth of Kitty’s Gorge about 10 minutes away.

Next up???
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Apr 3rd, 2009, 01:45 AM
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Thanks jiggy - Kalbarri is on my short list.
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Apr 3rd, 2009, 07:50 PM
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I always enjoy reading your adventures Melnq8. It sounds like you are having a great time exploring the area. Do you know how long you will be living there?
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Apr 3rd, 2009, 10:49 PM
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Toucan2 - thanks for that...the plan is to stay for about four years.
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Apr 3rd, 2009, 11:44 PM
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Have you seen this one yet Mel? Haven't forgotten you - will email shortly, have a lot on at the moment and I know you are going away this month.

http://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/
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