A history of escapes

With the risk of loosing Perth and WA to other colonies, the brits saw no other way to keep this side of the world than to do the same as in the rest of Australia: build a city with convicts. Freemantle prison was first known as the Convict Establishment; it was built by convicts for convicts between 1852 and 1859 using limestone quarried on the site. The first prisoners moved into the main cell block in 1855 and the prison continued to be used until 1991.

On its own, Fremantle Prison isn’t World Heritage though it is part of a group of 11 convict sites in Australia which together are on the list.

One of the Prison’s most famous inmates was Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as Moondyne Joe. He became famous for a lifetime of escapes from the prison. A habit that never died, even after finishing his last sentence, Moondyne Joe escaped three times the psychiatric ward he got put in.

Bigger than Central Park

Kings Park is at least 15% bigger than the Central Park in NYC. At 400 hectares it is one of the largest inner city parks, and is visited by more than six million people each year.

The park sits in Mount Eliza and overlooks the beautiful Swan River, the city of Perth and its surrounding suburbs. The park is 2/3 bush and 1/3 is gardens, playgrounds and other areas. Ideal for walks, runs and picnics.

This place is sacred for Aboriginals. They believe that the Wagyl, a mythical serpent, entered the ground near the park and came out at the foot of Mount Eliza and created the Swan River.

Walking in the sky

A good stop to stretch your legs, if you are heading North from Denmark, is the Granite Skywalk. A 4.4 km return hike up 282 meters incline through the Porongurup National Park. During the bushwalk you can enjoy the vegetation or admire the massive granite boulders that nature has created. These rocks are, and have been for millions of years, in an eternal balancing act that started with a crack and rain drops running through them; until eventually they are what we see today.

At the top of the hike you have a choice of two lookouts. The upper lookout perches over the side of Castle Rock and requires scrambling over and under rocks and climbing a rattling ladder. The lower lookout, the Karri Lookout, for those who are not comfortable with the adrenaline pump to go up to the upper lookout. Both offering amazing views of the region and a healthy dose of cold wind blowing in your face.

In WA not Europe

With so much to do around the area, Denmark is a popular tourist destination. It is surrounded by beautiful beaches and tall forests and a small town which is home to 5,000 people. The Denmark region is known to the aboriginal community as ‘Koorabup’ meaning ‘place of the Black Swan’. The Bibbulmum Track, one of the world’s great long distance walking trails, crosses the town. This walk is nearly 1000km. Other walking, or running, tracks are just as spectacular, if not as long.

A natural swimming pool

A secluded cristal clear tranquil beach in Western Australia. Ideal for swimming if you are not too cold as the rocks shelter the pool keeping it calm all year around.

The large boulder granite rocks that surround it make it a stunning and interesting destination. Especially for adventures, but be warned some rocks are slippery and you might fall flat on your back!

Climbing big trees

Before the introduction of spotter planes and drones, a network of fire lookout trees was built across the south-west forests of Australia. The aim: to spot fires that were hidden at ground level by the giant Karri forests during the hot Aussie summers.

The first Karri fire lookout tower, was the Big Tree, constructed in 1938. This lookout was lost years later to a bushfire. After this tree, eight other lookouts followed between 1937 and 1952, including the Gloucester Tree chosen as a fire lookout in 1947. Gloucester Tree is 72 meters in height though the lookout is at 61 meters. Although the Gloucester tree was originally pegged with wooden pegs, now all the trees are pegged with metal pegs which are easier to grip. They are regularly checked for any faults. The Gloucester Tree has 153 pegs.

Nowadays climbing up the giants is an attraction for tourists that rewards them with amazing views at the top. No one has died making their ascent to the three trees lookouts but two people have had heart attacks after climbing the trees.

What water can make

It is said that there are around 350 caves hidden underneath the area of Margaret River.

If you are willing and fit, you can descend the 350 steps down to the cavern entrance to a not so hidden limestone cave: Lake Cave. Before entering, look up and admire the seemingly never-ending karri trees. As you enter, watch out for Headache rock and splitting headache rock.

Lake Cave is the deepest tourist cave in the South-West of Australia with a depth of 62 metres; its chamber is only 82 metres long but what it lacks in size it makes up in beauty. Lake Cave is renowned for the Suspended Table: an almost 5 ton column of calcite that hangs from the ceiling “suspended” above the crystal clear lake. The water dissolved the sand bank underneath the structure leaving it as a wonder to all who visit.

Whilst the existence of the cave was known to Australian indigenous, in 1867 it was found by accident by an European sixteen year old while out searching for lost cattle. The woman reported the discovery to her family but it took them 30 years to re-discover the entrance. One of these early explorers searched through the dark using nothing but a candle and later became one of the first guides.

Lake Cave was opened to the public in 1901 and from its beginnings work was done to allow visitors whilst preserving the cave. The cave at this time was called “Queen of the Earth”.

Over and under

The Busselton jetty is the longest wooden pylon jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. The jetty is constructed by massive pylons that are 150 years old. It is 1,841 metres (over a mile!) long and extends off out into Geographe Bay.

Construction of the jetty started in 1864 with an original length of 158m. Back then it was known as Vasse Jetty and it was the result of the boom for the local timber industry. Over the years, it was extended up to its current length in 1960. Commercial boats would load timber using the jetty as the bay is too shallow. The jetty was closed to commercial shipping in July 1972.

The jetty is home to over 300 marine species. In 2003, an observatory that descends to 8 metres (26’) under sea level was opened; without having to enter the water, tourists can enjoy the underwater views, see myriads of fish and divers, and learn about the jetty and the observatory itself. Regardless of the observatory, this is a great diving experience. As our guide described it, cuttle fish galore and swimming colour changing octopus! This site is often considered one of Australia’s top 10 dive sites and not being deep you get to enjoy it for a long time.

Photo taken by our DM from the DiveShed

Just before last orders

In under fifty years, Margaret River has started and grown its reputation as the home of some of the finest wine in Australia. It is no wonder as it is backed up by scientific research and evidence, Professor Olmo in 1955, and later in mid-1960s, Dr. John Gladstones claimed the far south-west corner of Western Australia as prime for growing high quality grapes.

This region, in the end of the world, jarrah and marri forests thrive and give way to vineyards that border some of the most stunning beaches of the world – famous for big surf. In half a century, Margaret River has grown to have more than 200 cellar doors, and to produce around 20% of Australia’s premium wines. It is a must-see area for wine drinkers. We, as a few of the 500,000 visitors to the area each year, tried hard to make a dent in the production of this fine beverage. I think it is unlikely we did.

After a long flight across the country and a few hours drive, it felt like Christmas day walking into a winery where two lovely women were happy to show us all the range of fermented grapes they had to offer. And just before closing! Win!

Sustainable lobsters

Lobsters and rock lobsters are caught in salt water whereas those caught in fresh water are crayfish. We have been lucky to be able to have rock lobsters a couple of times this holiday. Rock lobsters, unlike lobsters, have no claws. But they are just as tasty. 

In the coast of Cervantes, rock lobsters are plentiful and regulations are strict to ensure a sustainable consumption of this delicacy. We walk through the factory and learn that rock lobsters can be put into a sedated state when they are in 5 degree waters. They can survive up to 30 hours in that state and keep the great price people pay to choose their meal live from a tank. They must, however, have no more than 3 legs missing. 

Lobsters quality is in the weight and are classed from A (the smallest size, though there is a minimum size for them to be caught) to H which can be up to 2.5kg. You would think that countries would fight for the big H sized lobsters but it is not the case. Places like Japan prefer the A and B grade crustaceans whereas places like Dubai like the size. 

In any case, any size is tasty so long as it is sustainably fished.