Perth day 2: touring Fremantle’s prison tunnels, fish’n’chips, red/blue CATs and central Perth

Friday 6th July

Fremantle prison
Fremantle Prison

We were dropped off in Fremantle at the Prison, where we’d booked for the Tunnels Tour. The Tunnels Tour, perhaps unlike more conventional prison tours, involved getting a safety briefing and an alcohol test, and then we donned gumboots, coveralls, helmets and safety harnesses and headed down a 20 metre shaft to tunnels underneath the prison.

Tristan, our somewhat sardonic tour guide, with a mix of informative history and bad jokes, led us through the tunnels, including wading through a fair bit of water. We were lucky enough to be in a group of just 5, which I think made for a more enjoyable tour.

Shaft inside Fremantle prison (and my very handsome safety gear)
Shaft inside Fremantle prison (and my very handsome safety gear)

Then came the boats. 1-2 to a boat, we paddled around the more water-flooded tunnels of the prison, ducking under supports, hearing more about the history.

Altogether it was an amazing experience, and although we were able to get a photo at the top in our gear, alas no cameras were allowed to be taken down. I can’t recommend this tour enough.

Afterwards we plodded around Fremantle, looking through the market and making a stop at Timezone — an establishment that’s a little hard to find in Melbourne nowadays. Despite it not yet being WA school holidays, central Freo was pretty busy, with plenty of tourists. Every so often a CAT bus (Central Area Transit, the free loop buses, operating two routes, the blue and the red) would come through. Notable on the day was that the “Blue CAT” was very clearly red.

Fremantle "blue" CAT bus
Fremantle “blue” CAT bus

Old Fremantle Tramways building
Old Fremantle Tramways building

View from Cicerrelos restaurant, Fremantle
View from Cicerrelos restaurant, Fremantle

After a stop at the post office for some stamps, we headed down to Cicerello’s on the water for fish and chips. Well, they claim to have the best fish and chips in the state, so we thought we’d better try it. While the restaurant is almost the antithesis of a local fish and chips shop — it quite obviously set up to handle huge crowds — the food was pretty good, though I suspect Flaked Out back home in Bentleigh would give them a run for their money.

We took a turn on the ferris wheel nearby, checking out the views over the ocean and over the town.

View from ferris wheel, Fremantle
View from ferris wheel, Fremantle

A familiar sight from the ferris wheel, Fremantle
A familiar sight from the ferris wheel, Fremantle

Then we caught a CAT bus back to Freo railway station, sorted out train tickets (more about this later) and caught a train into Perth.

The train got quite crowded thanks in part to after-school loads, but we’d got seats since we’d boarded at the start of the line. Perth station was pretty busy — they were obviously doing some major works on and around some of the platforms, and a sign proclaimed it was part of Perth City Link — involving putting the inner section of the Fremantle line underground.

Fremantle railway station
Fremantle railway station

Perth railway station
Perth railway station

It was raining, so we only had a short walk around, mostly undercover in the shopping centres adjoining the station.

We did look inside the Perth ABC Shop, where I found a discounted $5 copy of The Plank (the 1967 version) on DVD — it caught my eye because Eric Sykes had passed-away a couple of days before, and I bought it for us to watch when we got home. (Much of it hasn’t dated very much — the glaring exception being the scene with the girl hitch-hiking with two men in a van.)

Then we headed down into “Perth Underground”, the underground section of the station to catch a Mandurah line train to where we were getting picked-up. Due to the aforementioned station works, it was quite a long way from the main part of the station to the underground bit — in fact we discovered the next day it may have been quicker to go in via the other entrance, in the Murray Street mall.

It was rush hour by this time, and the trains to Mandurah and Joondalup seemed to be departing every few minutes, many of them quite crowded. Great to see a railway line completed only in 2007 so busy. We zoomed past the cars on the freeway and quickly got to Murdoch.

Mandurah line train departs Murdoch station
Mandurah line train departs Murdoch station

Due in part to the multiple car parks at Murdoch station, and thus the multiple pickup areas, there was some confusion about precisely where to meet my aunt, which resulted in a delay getting back — it probably would have been quicker just to catch a bus — if we’d known which one to catch. But no matter — eventually we got there, put our feet up, had dinner, watched Micallef and headed to bed for a good night’s sleep.

Perth trip day 1

(Scroll down to skip the words and get to the pics)

Before we left I prepared by cancelling the newspaper (oddly, by phone is actually better than online; the deadlines are more relaxed), pre-purchased a Skybus ticket (you can print it yourself; very handy), and totally failed to even start packing before departure day.

Thursday 5th July

We got out of the house a little later than planned, caught a train into the city, then (thanks to the Skybus pre-purchase) straight onto a bus to the airport. On the way I checked-in with my mobile phone; the concept of checking-in when you’re not actually at the airport is still a concept that I find somewhat intruiging.

When we actually got to the airport, the AirportAutoQantasCheckinMachine wouldn’t let us check-in our suitcase because we were running late; given it’s not too large and we had no sharp objects in it, a Qantas person recommended just taking it through with our hand luggage. A queue at security didn’t help, and the screens indicating “Flight closed” caused me to panic a bit, but we made it the gate with… oh, a minute or two to spare.

One of the runways was being dug up or vacuumed or something, causing a delay taking off. After that the flight when smoothly; entertainment was some news (including a long Higgs Boson Particle story, which caused me to remark “Yay science!”), an episode of Big Bang Theory and some Brit movie starring Harriet Jones MP, Professor McGonagall, and Bill Nighy.

There appeared to be an entire footy team (or at least, some young-uns from some WA AFL training academy) on the flight; they were pretty subdued, some of them watching videos of footy matches on their laptops (that’d be yawn-o-rama for me) though they did perk up/get a little noisier towards the end of the flight.

We landed in Perth pretty much on time, and met my aunt outside.

Into the car for a whirlwind tour of Perth, we headed initially into the Swan Valley, to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory (the branch that’s not actually in Margaret River, but in Perth) to have some hot chocolate and a snack and watch a continuous series of tourist buses rolling in.

Grape vines... and a distinctive suburban Perth bus shelter, Swan Valley
Grape vines… and a distinctive suburban Perth bus shelter, Swan Valley

From there we headed past central Perth to Kings Park, a quite amazing open space overlooking the CBD and had a walk around.

We took a look at the war memorial (smaller than Melbourne’s Shrine, but with a view — at least from ground level — more spectacular), and a walk with views across the Swan River. Peak hour was just getting underway, and we watched the traffic slowly moving along the Kiwana Freeway, overtaken regularly by trains heading out along the new Mandurah railway line. Nice.

Memorial, Kings Park
Memorial, Kings Park

Jeremy gets arty with the camera at Kings Park
Jeremy gets arty with the camera at Kings Park

Kings Park
Kings Park

Kings Park
Kings Park

Saturday: Additional picture added:
Kwinana Freeway, Perth (viewed from Kings Park)
Kwinana Freeway, Perth (viewed from Kings Park)

My aunt pointed out the honour avenues around the park, with trees planted in memory of those fallen on the front line in WW1. Even more sobering was the list of more recently fallen soldiers.

Then we headed south for a bit to look at the ritzy riverside suburb of Mosman Park, and also at Cottesloe beach – where we arrived just in time to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.

On the Swan River at Mosman Beach
On the Swan River at Mosman Beach

Sunset from Cottesloe Beach
Sunset from Cottesloe Beach

Perth skyline, from south of the river
Perth skyline, from south of the river

This was followed by another riverside stop at South Perth, for views of the city. My aunt remarked that there are only half-a-dozen actual skyscrapers in Perth, though it looked like a few more to me.

After that we headed to her house, where she made us very welcome, cranked up the wifi, and cooked a huge meal for us to celebrate our arrival in WA.

What to see in Perth?

Off to Perth for a brief holiday next month. (As usual I won’t be too specific about dates; this slightly hysterical article in Sunday’s Age, and its accompanying graphics, was a reminder that it’s not advisable to advertise when you’re going to be away from home.)

What should we see around Perth and southwest WA?

Suggestions so far, from my aunt (who lives there) and others:

If one wishes to gunzel, I see there’s both a rail and a tram museum.

Naturally I’ll want to look at the PT system and try out their Smartrider card… though it won’t be cheap: $10 for the card, and the topups are a minimum of $10 each (and not as widely available as Melbourne’s Myki), which has the potential to make it pretty expensive if miscalculating how much PT travel we do.

Suggestions? Comments?