DESTINATION: MANDURAH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
In the West Australian coastal town of Mandurah, everything revolves around the water.
- Relaxed waterfront lifestyle
- Choice of water environments, activities and scenery
- Primitive life forms at Lake Clifton
Mandurah is located just 75km south of Perth and is connected to the city by a high speed highway and rail line, so Perthites think Mandurah is a great place for a daytrip. But for visitors to WA, it is the other way round – Mandurah makes an ideal base for exploring Perth and the surrounding area.
Everyone will tell you that Perth is "all about lifestyle", but things are even more relaxed in Mandurah. The traffic is light, the scenery is pretty with many different water views, and there is a huge range of eating and accommodation options. Whether you like swimming, boating, discovering rare and unusual waterlife, or simply having a cappuccino or a meal with water views, you will find it in Mandurah.
The heart of Mandurah is the estuary – a wide expanse of calm, sheltered water that connects the Peel Inlet to the Indian Ocean. The town centre lies along the eastern side of the estuary, which has an amazing selection of grassy picnic areas, playgrounds, cafes and restaurants. Standing beside the estuary, you feel like you can see all of Mandurah in one sweeping gaze, but that isn’t quite true – there are many hidden attractions in the town, but the estuary is a good place to start exploring.
Along the waterfront there are two distinct areas: the older town at the southern end near the old traffic bridge; and the newer, glitzier development at the northern end. The southern end feels more settled and secluded, with tall Norfolk Island pines, low rise buildings and quiet coffee shops. At the northern end are large and impressive cafes and restaurants projecting out over the water.
There is a walking path along the water’s edge, so you can wander along and admire the view across the water from different perspectives, boats coming and going, waterbirds galore, and outdoor art. All kinds of water activities are available in Mandurah including boat cruises to see dolphins, as well as canoes and dinghies for hire.
But Mandurah isn’t just a place for scenery; there are some interesting historical and artistic aspects to the town as well. Near the old traffic bridge, the Mandurah Community Museum has interesting displays about the history of the town. And at the northern end of the foreshore is the modern Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, which has sculptures outside, art exhibitions inside, and great views of the estuary.
Just behind the arts centre is another striking building with a spiky roofline and colourful flags flying out front. This is the Australian Sailing Museum, which has displays on the history of sailing, scale models of yachts and the Sailing Hall of Fame.
Across the estuary from the township you will see a series of white pillars in a grassy park. This is the Mandurah War Memorial, a place of peace where visitors can reflect on the sacrifice of war. The design of the memorial is inspired by the rows of white tombstones at war cemeteries.
Across the road from the war memorial is Halls Cottage, built in the early 1830s, just a few years after British settlers first came to WA. The cottage, built with local limestone, is open to visitors on Sundays.
Because waterfront living is so popular in Western Australia, modern development in Mandurah has included the construction of canals. For the best canal views, head for the Venetian Canals development near the sailing museum. It has arched footbridges over the canals and dramatic reflections off the water. The streets further enhance the Venetian connection with names like Marco Polo Drive and Vivaldi Drive.
The nearby Ocean Marina provides moorings for a collection of boats and has more restaurants and cafes. The eateries here are quieter and less crowded than along the main waterfront, even though it is only a few hundred metres away.
Beautiful white sandy beaches stretch for kilometres up and down the coast from Mandurah. Just inland from the beaches along the south coast, a network of salt water lakes surrounded by bush makes up Yalgorup National Park. There are 10 lakes within the park, but the most unique is Lake Clifton where, amazingly, you can see what the first life on earth was like.
A boardwalk at the lake leads out over the water, which appears to be full of round rocks. But they aren’t rocks, they’re living microbial colonies known as thrombolites, or more, colloquially, ‘living rocks’. Thrombolites were among the first creatures on earth to produce oxygen, making all subsequent life possible. Their ancestors predate man, dinosaurs and plants.
There are only a few places in the world where you can see living thrombolites today, making Lake Clifton a very special place. For a closer look at the thrombolites, there is a flat, easy 5km return lakeside walk that leads to a section of the shore where you can examine them up close. Lake Clifton is about 35km south of Mandurah on the Old Coast Road.
Mandurah also has two river environments to explore. The Murray and Serpentine rivers form a delta where they enter the Peel Inlet, a few kilometres south-east of the town centre. Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park, a Top Tourist Park, is only 300m from the Serpentine River where there is a spot to launch canoes.
The Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park is a four-star park with excellent facilities. Reg and Donna Cocking have owned and managed the park for many years. They have now handed over the day-to-day management of the park to their daughter, Laura, but they are still involved in projects to upgrade the park’s facilities.
Since we last visited the park about five years ago, there have been many improvements. This time we were bowled over by the new Bali-style swimming pool and the adjoining covered outdoor seating area. With coffee, cold drinks machines and comfortable cane furniture, it makes a nice place for parents to relax while keeping an eye on their children in the pool. The area surrounding the pool has been beautifully landscaped with palm trees and synthetic grass, and a shady gazebo creates an island resort atmosphere.
There is also a very swish covered barbecue area with a tropical Asian-themed decor and a campers’ kitchen next to a playground. One ablution block has recently been renovated inside with new tiling decorated with sea creatures. There is a second toilet block, a family bathroom and 10 ensuite sites. All the bathrooms and cooking areas are kept spotlessly clean.
The park is spread over 2.4ha (six acres) with bushland on one boundary, so there is plenty of birdlife, including colourful, tame parrots. Most of the sites have a double concrete slab and are surrounded by shady trees. It was good to see that recycling bins were available and that solar panels heat the hot water for the showers.
This friendly park a has calendar of special events throughout the year including a New Year disco for kids, Australia Day duck race, an Easter egg hunt, Hawaiian karaoke night in September, Melbourne Cup lunch and bocce competition in December.
- Mandurah is on the West Australian coast, 75km south of Perth
- Tourist information: Mandurah Visitor Centre, (08) 9550 3999, www.visitmandurah.com
- Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park: 522 Pinjarra Road, Mandurah, (08) 9535 1171, www.mandurahcaravanpark.com.au
Originally published in Caravan World #511, February 2013.