Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Perth, WA
In June 1998 I travelled from Sydney to Western Australia. The primary aim of my trip was to dive the wreck of HMAS Swan. For more information about the trip to Western Australia and down to Dunsborough, see my Dunsborough article. After this successful section of the trip, my friend and I travelled back to Perth for a couple of days to sightsee and dive Rottnest Island.
On our return to the Perth area, we decided that we needed to stay in the Fremantle area, both for its closeness to the dive shop for the next morning and the available facilities. We look for accommodation near the city centre but there is nothing obvious except very expensive hotels. We decide to fall back to an option we had already sounded out, the Fremantle Village Caravan Park and Chalet Centre (08 9430 4899 - cnr Cockburn and Rockingham Roads) which is located three kilometres south of the city centre. This caravan park has 19 on-site chalets which accommodate four. This costs us $133 between us for two nights ($33.25 each per night). The chalets are quite comfortable although a bit cold and without heaters. They have enough room for three singles or a double and two singles. The price is the same.
We decide to eat out and after a bit of searching select an Italian restaurant in South Fremantle (there are Thai, Vietnamese and many Italian although not many Chinese). The one we select is very popular (it is Saturday night) and for under $30 each we have an excellent meal, including a couple of beers. We are a bit tired from the day's diving (we had done two dives on the Swan) and the drive up to Fremantle so we return to our chalet for a quite drink and a couple of episodes of The Bill.
The next morning it is only 10 minutes or so drive to North Fremantle to the Perth Diving Academy for our dive trip to Rottnest Island. More about that in a separate article.
After the full day's diving, we return to the caravan park to attempt to dry our dive gear a bit and clean ourselves up. We are heading into Perth tonight as my friend has a strange "fetish" about each city he visits. This involves having a meal in each city's revolving restaurant. After a great deal of work, we discover the name and address of the restaurant and make a booking. We turn up at this fairly high-class place and despite wearing jeans, we are permitted to dine.
The food is not too bad, the service excellent and the views expansive. However, I do not consider the meal and drink costs to be worth it. However, my friend has satisfied his needs and I suppose that it was not too bad at all.
We are flying out tomorrow afternoon so we spend the morning sightseeing around Fremantle. We first walk around the docks and part of the port area before having an excellent brunch in a very crowded cafe on the main street. Incredibly, on a Monday morning the place is packed to the rafters. We decide to see the Western Australian Maritime Museum and walk the short distance there after eating.
This is an amazing museum, especially for those of us interested in maritime matters. The entry to the museum is free with a suggested $2 donation. The museum concentrates, as one would expect, on the Dutch shipwrecks of the Western Australian coast. The most famous of these is the Bativa. The remains of the ship, the stern section, is on display in a special environmentally controlled room. There are other things to see in this room, including a reconstruction of a cross-section of the hull and the display of a complete stone archway that the ship was carrying from Germany to Bativa (now Jakarta). There is even a full skeleton, one of the persons on the ship when it ran aground in Western Australia. The person died as a result of a bloody and cruel mutiny which occurred after the ship's captain sailed away to Bativa in another boat to get help.
In the other rooms there are thousands of artefacts from the Bativa and other wrecks. These include silverware (plates, cups, candlestick holders etc), clay pipes, cannon,
Truely a great museum, far more interesting than the National Maritime Museum in Sydney.
Outside the museum there is another maritime feature of great interest. Inside a barn-like structure there is a new "old" ship under construction. This is a replica of the Dutch ship Duyfken. The original Duyfken was skippered by Janszoon in early 1606 when it landed at the western side of Cape York in Queensland. As he travelled the Gulf of Carpentaria, he mapped the coastline and this map became the first recorded map of the Australian coast. In July 2000 I saw the ship at Thursday Island when it was on its maiden voyage.
The new ship is being built using traditional methods, shaping the planks over a wood-fired hearth. It is not a big ship, only 24 metres long and 5.6 metres wide. Expected to be launched in 1999, the ship is to sail the world. Entry is $5 per person.
To finish off our trip, we travelled up the northern beaches of Perth before travelling to the city itself. Kings Park is worth seeing for its natural beauty so close to the city (less than 500 metres).
My trip to Western Australia has been a bit of a world-wind tour, but this is all the time we can spare from work at this time of the year. I hope to be able to return in a couple of years to see the Swan and the changes. This time I will stay much longer.
Michael McFadyen travelled to Western Australia using his own funds and dived courtesy of his own money, so he reserves the right to mention the dive operator he actually used and enjoyed.