More than just a beach holiday
5 October 2010
We’re sitting in brightly striped deckchairs, looking out to Rottnest Island across the endless Indian Ocean, waiting for an early-morning breakfast of nutty muesli with apple, blueberries and vanilla yoghurt.
Twenty years ago, when we last visited Cottesloe
- the premier beachside suburb in Western Australia, this spot was a changing room meant for swimmers at the beach locally known as ‘Cott’.
These days, Indiana
has replaced the old changing rooms/ice cream shop with a suitably upmarket food establishment, famously seen across the world as the backdrop to the wake of Heath Ledger, a Perth native.
The beach is crowded already as more people arrive and nudge their way into tight corners of the perfect white sand. “Some of those sunworshippers don’t go swimming,” says the friendly waitress, nodding at a perfectly groomed couple sitting on designer towels. Posing is more than just a spectator sport here.
The flat pavement around the beach is perfect entertainment for our five-year-old’s new wheels and he rides the 15-minute trip from Cottesloe to the slightly less crowded North Cottesloe with ease, stopping for a play at the colourful swings along the way before we head ‘home’.
The Cottesloe Beach Chalets
is our destination with its family-friendly accommodation right across the road from the famous beach.
Choose from the old-fashioned wicker furniture of the standard chalets or the beautifully decorated executive apartments a few hundred metres back from the beach along John Street.
Just remember there’s a thriving nightlife scene at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel next door, so it can be a bit noisy on popular nights such as the Sunday Session (a Perth institution running from midday to 9pm on Sundays).
Fit for a King
The next day we head into town to explore a central park. Kookaburras laugh, hidden in tall gum trees, as we come through a clearing to the magical Western Power Parkland in King’s Park
. With water features, stepping stones, giant climbable sculpture dragons and a playhouse worthy of Peter Pan, the kids are in playground heaven.
It’s also worth taking the free walking tour around Perth’s most popular tourist attraction – towering stairs, a whispering wall feature and many other hidden areas await the curious tramper.
To cool off after our walk in 40-degree heat, we head to Beattie Park Leisure Centre
with its shaded children’s swim area. Water features and slides make for a cheap afternoon as our one-year-old learns a new word: “Fun,” she squeals as we take another turn swishing her through the cool water.
Watching the Wildlife
Caversham Wildlife Park
is a bit of a drive from Cottesloe Beach, but it’s a destination certain to delight the kids! The massive body mass of the friendliest, most docile wombat you’ll ever meet greets us. He’s so quiet and still, the kids don’t notice what all the adults are pointing at for quite a while!
We walk through native bushland and get up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos and general farm animals. The scheduled animal shows entertain while the adults relax and enjoy the looks on the kids faces, transfixed.
Time for an Ice Cream
Apres-sun, locals head to Fremantle for their ice cream, coffee and people-watching fix. Gelato shops dot the pavements and we’re spoilt for choice. We choose Il Gelato
, with its award-winning Peach & Mango, Wildberry Yoghurt, Pistachio and Tiramisu made fresh daily.
The kids lick their ice creams without too many drips – they’re on their best behaviour as we mention a possible trip to the historic Fremantle Prison
nearby if they’re naughty!
Instead, a leisurely stroll around the markets and some fish’n’chips at Cicerella
were their good behaviour reward. Don’t be misled by the kitsch interior, there’s nothing shabby about this seafood, it’s known locally as the best in the region. We’re not disappointed.
Life’s Not Just a Beach
Perth locals are known as Sandgropers, and its true that a holiday to Perth needs to make full use of the 19 gorgeous white sand beaches. But with baking hot sun and soaring temperatures in summer, head to the beach early and leave mid-morning.
After midday the Fremantle Doctor (a strong sea breeze) often makes the beach whip up the sand – not nice for kids lower to the ground level. But, with plenty of other affordable family options, you’ll be glad you did explore a beautiful Australian city.