It was the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere in 2015. I was 6 months preggie and was already sweating profusely everytime I stepped out in the sun. We were thinking of a vacation and requirements were: short flight (considering how uncomfortable a mom-to-be can get in those cramped-up flights), cool weather and a place where we can let loose our 1.5 year old monkey do some jumping around and play to his heart’s content!
Perth ticked all our boxes: it’s 4.5 hours away from Singapore, excellent weather in May-June – bright sunshine with cool winds, lots of parks and farms for the kids. So we quickly booked our flights (found some cheap deals on Singapore Airlines) and applied for visas (and lost all that savings on the super-expensive visas).
We weren’t expecting much from Perth – it didn’t enjoy the same glowing reviews as Sydney and Melbourne from our friends. Our itinerary was 3 nights in Perth, 2 nights in Busselton (didn’t find accommodation in Margaret River) and 3 nights in Freemantle.
In the end it was one of the best vacations we have had – loads of fun with our kid who loved running about in the open spaces, petting kangaroos, watching slumbering koalas and colourful birds. Read on for details.
We had rented a car from Avis right from the airport itself. Driving in Australia is a breeze – everyone follows the rules and nobody honks even if you are driving a bit slow which my husband is sometimes prone to do.
The car made moving around, especially between cities and towns, very easy and we could take pit stops every now and then for photo breaks or just to stretch my legs. After an initial struggle and resistance from the kiddo to sit in a car seat, he got used to it and started enjoying having his own special ‘throne’ (as we would call it). I had kept some drawing books, color pencils and videos on the phone handy which kept him busy for the short day trips we made.
It is an enormous and beautiful green space on a hill and impossible to cover in a day. The weather was outstanding the day we went! I finished the book I was reading basking in the sun, with a h-u-g-e milkshake (duh! I was 6 month pregnant) and watching my hubby playing football with my son. I had the best burger in my life that (OMG! Wish I could go back right now). That was the time I decided, this has to be one of the best vacations I have taken!
We spent some time around the shopping malls in and around Murray Street and Hay Street with me picking up some cheap maternity stuff from Target. There was a beautiful square at the end of the blocks of malls which seemed to be a venue for street music and arts.
Caversham Wildlife Park
This animal farm is part of the much larger Whiteman park which also has a motor museum, vintage railway rides and many other attractions. It’s a 35-40 minute drive from Perth city centre. We reached around lunch time and had a hearty meal of burgers and fries before doing anything else (I don’t think I stopped eating in that trip!). We should really have reached there at 8:30am when the park opens but getting a 1.5 year old showered and fed and then getting myself ready and fed takes long in the mornings.
We could only do the wildlife park which was a lot of fun – this must have been the best highlight of our trip.
My son, the pickiest eater in the world, lives on biscuits and milk when on vacations. I try to fret not and let it ruin my holidays, but still, being a mom, it bothers me if he isn’t eating well at all. There though he was more than happy to have those filling milkshakes for snacking and somehow loved the Aussie bananas (he hates bananas in Singapore) and fruits that we picked up from the super-markets. We had booked serviced apartments or self-contained cabins for the trip so I would make French Toast or porridge in the mornings and in the evenings to keep him full. All of the restaurants we went to were child friendly, so a scrumptious bowl of chips or spaghetti, boiled eggs would be available mostly everywhere. Best of all – the waiters and waitresses were so accommodating and friendly to our kid that we always felt welcome.
We wanted to stay in Margaret River which is where everyone goes but sadly we could not find accommodation in a single farmhouse because they were all sold out the days we wanted to stay. We found accommodation in Busselton – a small town in the wine region about 220km from Perth. GPS guided us to take the freeway (the Aussie highway) for as long as available but we took a small detour to hit the very scenic Old Coast Road at it’s very beginning.
We stayed at Mandalay Holiday Resort and Tourist Park and we certainly don’t regret it! It’s a kids’ paradise! It has 4 kids outdoor play area including a giant pillow for jumping (I would jumped on it too but for the baby in the tummy), large fields to play in, heated indoor pools, bicycles for renting and the beach is just few yards away! We loved it so much that we extended our stay here by another day and cut down on Freemantle by a night.
The Busselton Jetty was a 10 minute drive from the resort, so we went there in the late afternoon to catch the setting sun. There was a jetty toy train ride for the kids and an observatory, but unfortunately they were closed by the time we reached.
Margaret River Region
It’s the wine region in South Western Australia and very pretty.
We drove to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in Dunsborough some 30km away – a lovely ride passing through tiny towns. Considering my health, we didn’t climb up the lighthouse but I am sure the view would have been spectacular (something for the next trip!).
On the way back we made a stop at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory! It was such a fun place even for adults, as we could see people making chocolates and there was an array of selection of chocolates to sample and buy. The coffee and food too were delectable. It had a patch of green area at the back for the kids to play while the parents can munch on some goodies. My son joined other kids moving the stumps of logs chopped from the forest and kept in the clearing.
We followed signs to the wineries to see what they looked like – there were so many names on the signs so we picked one named Rivendell (both me and my husband are Hobbit and LOTR fans). It was unfortunately closed by the time we reached which was past 3pm. A person there told us to try the winery just opposite – The Aravina Estate.
It was a lovely place with rows and rows of short grape trees – the foliage was a bit yellow because of the season. There was a small building with a restaurant overlooking the estate and a car museum (!). We splurged a bit in the restaurant and it was totally worth it. The out of the world french dishes and the terrace dining made the experience memorable. Later, we spent a good half hour playing with bubbles in their perfectly manicured lawns and showing the vintage cars to our very excitable kid.
Some more things to do in the region…
Yallingup Maze – we couldn’t finish it!
Country Life Farm – there are some ponies, llamas and kangaroos to feed, an indoor kid’s playground, a pond to paddle boat in and a small cafe.
Since we changed the dates last minute, we changed our serviced apartment and it was a bad choice of acco. The apartment looked quite old in everything it had and worst of all there was a water leak from somewhere in the bathroom – not good especially with the cold. The reception office was closed over the weekend so there was no way to get it repaired.
What was a low point on the acco, was more than made up by the lively atmosphere of this beautiful town. We had a lovely sumptuous dinner in a Mexican restaurant. All of the shops were open until 9pm unlike in Perth where everything seemed to be closing down by 6pm!
A highlight was the Freemantle Markets – I loved the shops selling at a variety of knick-knacks and the vibe here. There was a public piano where a very kind lady pulled up my kid and played a kid’s tune with him!
This was one of the best trips I have had (possibly because of the food! and my happy hormones) with my family. We missed doing a lot of things – and that’s as well because it gives us an excuse to go back.
If you have any suggestions of Things to Do in Western Australia it will be most welcome and would help with making the itinerary of the next trip.