Overnight stays: McNeville Manor, Double View (4 nights); Fremantle Village, South Fremantle (4 nights)
A little done with the drop in day temperature, we arrived in Perth both exhausted, and excited – we were flying to Bali in a few days to take a break from motorhome life for a while.
We were lucky enough that our friends, Sarah and Scott, were more than happy to put us up for as long as we liked, in their beautiful pad in Double View.
Using their house as a base, we didn’t venture far for the first few days, as we ran errands and prepared for our trip. Sarah and Scott took us to some of their favourite haunts when they finished work each day, and then gave up their weekend to ensure we had the best possible time while in town. Legends.
The weather started to turn for the better, so on Saturday we jumped in a cab to get a taste of Fremantle, and to catch up with some other friends, Alex and Shreya.
Our first impression of Freeo was an awesome, vibrant, cool place not dissimilar to St Kilda or Surry Hills. We loved it – great cafes, beautiful old character homes, and the streets bustling with more vibe than Mabo.
We met up with Alex and Shreya for a fantastic sunny lunch at Little Creatures Brewery, one of the best breweries this side of Belgium, and then hit The Locale to watch the mighty Swans come back for a tight win against GWS (we won’t talk about the rematch a few weeks later 😔).
From here we knew we weren’t done with Freeo – we would be back post-Bali.
Our final day before Bali was a cracker, with the sun beaming through a perfect 26’C winter’s day.
Scotty and I hit the beach first thing in the morning for a refreshing dip, only to return home, pickup the rest of the crew, and hit the famed Cottesloe Beach for the remainder of the morning. It was an absolute cracker, and we played more frisbee than a Canadian College, getting enough of a sweat up for another Danny Brown (dip).
Back from Bali
A three week sabbatical from our Wombatical brought us back to Oz refreshed and pumped to get back into life on the road. The WomBatmobile had all her squeaks and rattles rubbed out, getting us back on four wheels, ready to explore more of the south side of Perth.
One of the reasons we took three weeks off was to give the weather a chance to improve. The day before we left for Bali it was 26’C and sunny. On the days after our arrival back into town it was raining and low 20s 🙁. Fail.
On our way through to Freeo, we stopped in at Kings Park, one of the largest city parks in the world. There was a wildflower exhibition on display, which gave us an absolute treat of the abundance of flowers that grow naturally throughout this incredible state. Some, such as our favourite Everlastings we had seen a plethora of already, and others we were given a taste of what was to come south of the capital.
Returning (to) the ‘mantle
Our time away from Oz gave our travel buddies, the Coles’ time to catch us, after last meeting up in the warmth and deliciousness of Turquoise Bay. We both booked into the same caravan park in Freeo, and made a few plans together while we settled back into van life.
While Liv and her best bud Sam played in the sand, we broke bread (and the budget) with James and Brigette at Little Creatures, before one final catch up for dinner with Sarah and Scott.
We arranged a kid-swap day with the Coles, where they babysat Liv for the morning while we explored Freeo Prison, returning the favour in the arvo.
The tunnel tour was fantastic. It was 100% not what we expected, but awesome all the same. Loz and I have a pretty good record of completely under-researching things, instead forming our own assumptions and conclusions based on little fact, more on gut feel. So we went into the tunnel tour expecting to hear stories of how the tunnels were built by escaping convicts, some drowning, other making it to Timbuktu.
Turns out the tunnels were actually build by convicts under orders from the prison, and they weren’t built for escape, but for water. When migrants moved to Perth way back when, they realised how hard it can be to get good fresh water in this part of the world. Until some fresh stuff was found underground…
20 metres under the beautiful Fremantle Prison is where the prisoners dug, under instruction from the prison, to tap into the water supply and provide fresh water, originally for convicts, and over time the remainder of the town.
Just as interesting as the history was the actual climbing down into the narrow tunnels, crouching through muddy water, and finally boating through the underground canals, paddling with our hands. Parts were so tight, that we weren’t allowed to take any foreign objects down with us, including cameras.
Loz’s former Claustrophobia was tested a few times, in almost complete blackness, deep underground with no easy escape. But for a girl who once couldn’t put her head under the shower, you wouldn’t have known this was her.
The tour was absolutely not what we had expected, but everything we could’ve hoped for, bar a few prison stories. I reckon they could’ve made up a few about escaping prisoners, just to spice it up a little.
Just as I did with Kakadu, I remember doing an assignment on Rottnest Island when I was in primary school. Since then I’ve always wanted to visit, for no other reason than to meet a quokka.
With the Coles alongside, we picked the day with the most promising weather to ride down to the Freeo ferry terminal and board, bound for Rotty.
As the rain started on arrival we retreated for milkshake-sized coffees at the nearest cafe, before getting on our way as the clouds partly parted.
All six of us were most excited to see a quokka or two, but we had little idea how common they are on the island. I had optimistically assumed they were everywhere, almost offering to take your bags from the jetty on arrival, but sadly this didn’t eventuate.
Given we were all there to see quokkas, Loz decided we needed a call for when a quokka was spotted. So as soon as anyone spotted a quokka they must yell, “quokka-doodle-do” at the top of their lungs.
It didn’t take long before the first quokka-doodle-do came in from Liv on the back of my bike. Only half believing her I turned the bike around to the bushes she claimed the sighting, only to see movement and hear another quokka-doodle-do from the other side of the bushes. We were on like Quokka Kong!
One, two, three, more quokkas than we ever dreamed of emerged from the bushes as we threw our bikes down and sprawled along the ground, trying to get within selfie distance of these micro-wallaby type dudes, with a smile on their face bigger than Australia’s household debt level.
All of us were amazed at how inquisitive and friendly these legends were. Well at least they were friendly to some… There was another dude floating around this quokka posse trying to get into the friend-zone, only to be rejected every time he got close, like a young me trying to get out of the friend-zone with my now wife.
But throughout the day there was one punter who just seemed at one with the quokkas – Liv. Our little Baby Wombat would do this weird little finger and tongue click and the quokkas would come from everywhere, like kids on a busted piñata. It was incredible, she had a talent. So we aptly named her Quokkadile Dundee 🤠.
It’s fair to say we were at Rotty on a day where the weather was pretty ordinary. It was overcast and drizzly in patches, seemingly only when we were on an incline on our bikes, with Loz’s infinitely stuck in fourth gear. So we were seeing the island at far from its best.
But some of the beaches along the way were mesmerising, simply beautiful. The water was calm, and clear, and the sand, a toothpaste white. In fact we have friends who have been to the Cook Islands and reckon the beaches there don’t hold a candle to those on Rotty. We would have to agree that these were some of the prettiest beaches we’ve seen, but because of the weather we didn’t pack our togs.
You can’t have it all, and I guess the beaches are enough reason to come back in summer; as if the quokkas aren’t enough reason to visit all the time 🤗.
What a quok
As the day went on we realised just how common are on the island; they’re everywhere. You might think you would tire of seeing them, but these are seriously the coolest animals, right up there with monkeys, turtles, whale sharks, wombats and sloths. So every time we heard ‘quokka-doodle-do’, it was bikes down, and time to look like idiots trying to get selfies again. So much fun!
Quokka of a day
A 30-odd km bike ride over hills in trying conditions couldn’t have soured one of the best days of our trip. We had smiles on our faces the entire day, thanks obviously the quokkas and scenery, but also thanks to the amazing company we had all day in the Coles.
Wrapping up Perth
Perth is a cracker of a city. Perfectly located on stunning beaches, it has a great vibe, coffee and access to Asia. We aren’t looking for a new place to live on this trip, but Freeo is the only place we have seriously considered as a potential option should we ever tire of Sydney. One to keep up our sleeve…