PLACES TO GO
Mandurah is less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of the city, and offers all the attractions of a true holiday town. Pile the kids into the car and head south for
a great weekend deal in one of Mandurah’s hotels, resorts, serviced apartments or bed and breakfasts. Alternatively, take the train and make a day of it. Estuary tour operators will get you up close to the year-round population of dolphins that call Mandurah home, and local boat-hire companies can outfit you with the best on-water craft, from a jet ski to a luxury houseboat. Back on land, grab a meal in one of the many cafes and restaurants that dot the foreshore, or pick up some fresh seafood and enjoy a family barbecue on the water’s edge. Winter is great for huddling up indoors, but as the seasons turn to spring, Mandurah gears up for warm weather and community events. Beach fishing is a local religion, and the
rise in temperature means the famous Mandurah crabs are not far away. The
ever-expanding cultural hub, with the Performing Arts Centre at its heart, is located downtown on the estuary foreshore, and has a rotating list of events, from
full-scale opera productions to bawdy comedy nights, rock ’n’ roll concerts, and children’s pantomimes and activity days. If you prefer the quiet life, rug up and walk the city’s beaches. Any way you look at it, Mandurah is the perfect place to relax and unwind, and it’s all within easy reach.
Nestled on the banks of the Hotham River is Boddington, just 90 minutes’ drive southeast of Mandurah. This town is home to a gold mine that’s predicted to become Australia’s largest, once it reaches full production of more than one million ounces of gold per year. Shiny things aside, the rolling hills that enfold Boddington create lovely, lush scenery and some great camping spots. Drop a line in the river and go fishing in the deep pools for redfin perch and cobbler during autumn. Lions Weir is well worth a visit. It has a fish ladder (allowing fish to swim upstream), and abundant birdlife, and is a popular picnic spot, with facilities including a public barbecue and toilets. Since around half of Boddington Shire is state forest (predominantly jarrah and marri), there’s no shortage of walking trails. Try the Tullis Bridge Walk Trail, which takes you along the river flats, and past the old railway ballast reserve, the historic Federal stone river crossing, wetlands and forest.
The marina in Mandurah (photography Chris Tate).
Looking for serious adventure? Dwellingup has its fair share of activities to enjoy. Along with the Hotham Valley Tourist Railway and numerous campgrounds there are also creeks and rivers for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Many bushwalking trails weave past the Forest Heritage Centre, which sits in Dwellingup’s native jarrah forest. As well as being a creative arts and woodwork school, it’s also an interpretive facility, where you can learn about forest conservation and management. There are numerous short walk trails starting from the centre, and the treetop walk through the canopy – it’s 11m high – is a great way to get above it all.
Situated on the banks of the Murray River is Pinjarra, one of the oldest towns in the state and a fascinating area to explore on foot. Walk the 1.3km Pinjarra Heritage Trail, or visit the historical farmhouse of Old Blythewood, fringed by the expertly manicured grounds of Edenvale. During the school holidays be sure to plan a visit to the Peel Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary where the kids can pat a Tassie devil, emu or ferret, or hold a Stimsons python. The Premier Hotel, built in 1894, is Pinjarra’s oldest hotel and has shady trees and river views.
THINGS TO DO
Off-roading and trails
Drive your own vehicle up Whitehills Beach, 15 minutes from Mandurah and the closest place south of Perth to 4WD along a beach. Keep driving south and stop and to see the thrombolites, living fossils easily viewable from a purpose-built boardwalk: these babies are among the earliest known lifeforms on earth! If you’re headed to Preston Beach, there are miles of beach driving options leading north to Tims Thicket. This stretch of coastline has terrific fishing and beach 4WD tracks. Camp at Martins Tank within the Yalgorup National Park, amidst the peppermint woodland and tuart forest. Dune preservation is important, so check with the City of Mandurah ranger for access. There are inland forest tracks for 4WDing around Dwellingup, Waroona and Lane Poole. The Nanga Heritage Circuit winds through jarrah forest and river valley along a network of timber tramways, steam train tracks and trestle bridges. The Captain Fawcett Commemorative 4x4 Track is an easy to medium-grade track out of the Lane Poole Reserve, showcasing more than 100km of forests, views, historic farmhouses and early settlers’ bridges. There are also mountain-bike and bridle trails.
Fishing for blue swimmer crabs in the Peel Inlet and the channel entrance, Harvey Estuary, Dawesville Cut, Novara and Coodanup is a popular family activity in summer. The best times to catch them are about half an hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. There is no licence required, but check with the Department of Fisheries for new rules. Prawns are likely to be plentiful throughout the estuary early in summer – fish for them around the Old Mandurah Bridge, or off a boat. Steer clear of the mussels if you are unsure about them.
Enjoying the Mandurah foreshore (photography Diane Clare).
Camping and nature
There are many campsites within the Peel region, ranging from beach and estuary sites to those tucked away in the forest. Always go prepared and take mosquito repellent. One top pick is the Lane Poole Reserve, a nature lover’s paradise, where you can enjoy abundant wildlife and ever-changing landscapes. The reserve covers nearly 55,000ha, comprising rock-rimmed pools, rapids and small waterfalls, opening out to steep, forested valley slopes and undulating woodlands. If the wildlife can be tricky to spot at times, Peel Zoo is the ideal spot for youngsters (age 8 to 16) to visit. They can even suss out the life of a zookeeper for a day and learn about animal husbandry, feeding, animal handling, and captive breeding. Get up close and personal with Tassie devils, koalas, quolls, and so much more. For mountain-bikers, there is an extensive network of bushwalking tracks along the Murray River, and the Munda Biddi off-road cycle trail also runs through the reserve, with many campsites on route. There are numerous opportunities for swimming, fishing, canoeing and rafting, with hire equipment and organised tours available from the nearby town of Dwellingup if required. The Bibbulmun Track also cuts through the reserve, and Swamp Oak is the campsite on the track. Baden Powell, Charlies Flat, Chuditch, Tony’s Bend, Yarragil, Stringers, Icy Creek, Nanga and Nanga Mill all offer camping and facilities. There are also farmstays and cottages aplenty in this region. The Bibbulmun Track, Chuditch Walk Trail, King Jarrah Walk Trail, Les Couzens Bridle Trail, Munda Biddi Trail, the Murray Valley Circuit and Nanga Heritage Circuit all criss-cross the reserve and state forest. Swim at Baden Powell (also a good place for kids to paddle), Bobs Crossing, Island Pool, Yarragil and Stringers. Lion’s Weir near Boddington is a popular picnic spot adjacent to a caravan park.
Scoop for crabs in the estuary
4WD along Whitehills Beach
Walk the heritage trail in Pinjarra
Take the steam train from Dwellingup
Taste the local produce in the Hotham Valley
Take the kids to Peel Zoo
Have a meal by the water in Mandurah
Rent a house boat
Visit the Forest
All these events and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo
Mandurah Boardwalk Farmers Market
The markets, on the Mandurah Boardwalk, are held every Sunday from 8am to midday, and are the place to grab your fresh fruit, veg and provisions that are locally grown in the region. Kids will enjoy the animals, kid-friendly activities and live music.
Boddington Lions Rodeo
Recognised as the largest rodeo in Western Australia, this weekend event has something in store for everyone: a shearing competition, fine arts and crafts, carnival rides, entertainment, great bands and, of course, the rodeo itself, including bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding and much more! Nov.
Channel 7 Mandurah Crab Festival
It’s all things seafood again on the Mandurah Foreshore. Revel in live performances, activities, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, market stalls, the children’s stage and an abundance of fine cuisine, with fireworks to close the event. Mar.
Western Australia’s most popular family camping festival. This friendly celebration
of folk, roots, blues, acoustic, Celtic, a cappella and world music takes place on
a self-contained bushland site of Fairbridge Village. Almost 100 acts will entertain you on this amazing magical escape from our everyday lives. Come for the day or camp for the three-day weekend! Apr.
The Boddington Lions Rodeo (photography Shire of Boddington).
Car | Kwinana Freeway to Mandurah takes an hour. The South Western Highway goes to Pinjarra: from there, Pinjarra Williams Road heads to Dwellingup and Boddington. If you’re going to Hotham Valley from Perth, Albany Highway is more direct.
Train | From Perth CBD, trains depart regularly to Mandurah.
A more scenic route can be taken aboard the Australind train, running through Pinjarra and Waroona.