On the most south-westerly point of Australia, stands a grand and captivating structure – the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse – still fully operational, and one that has reduced the number of shipwrecks from 22 before its time, to only 1 since it was built in 1895. Constructed of limestone, this 176 steps ascent brings us over 31metres above ground, and boasts views of where two oceans meet.
An amazing fact I’d gathered was that the lighthouse ran on a clockwork mechanism and kerosene burner until 1982, when electricity was introduced to its operations. How does it feel to be left in a corner of the world and forgotten despite all that progress?!
Nothing stops a history buff from visiting a Shipwreck Museum. Situated in Fremantle, the Western Australia Museum – Shipwreck Galleries is a must-visit (between the beers and all). The museum houses relics from all kinds of wrecks that occurred along the Western Australia coastline (that explains Hamelin Bay too) and countless artefacts from the various Dutch ships.
Glass fragments, mints and even grenades from various shipwrecks have been documented here. I spent a good bulk of time at the galleries reading up on the archaeology, myths and tales of the past.
If that cannot satisfy your thirst for historical knowledge, just a few stops away, one can find the Western Australian Maritime Museum perched close to the ocean, holding the past and present of Fremantle’s tale within.
I didn’t have enough time to walk through the entire museum, but one attraction you might consider would be the HMAS Ovens tour, where you can take a walking tour inside the submarine parked just behind the building and learn all about its intricacies.
It’s a small town – Fremantle – but I’m sure I’ll be back to finish up my tour of the museum…
I took a hike to Hamelin Bay one afternoon, and took in the fresh breeze by the sea. It wasn’t quite the place you would visit in Autumn, but I did anyway.
The colours were foreboding, as I arrived close to sunset, and that was where I’d learned about the notorious history of wrecks on this bay. The remnants of the original jetty stand against the winds and waves as I approached.
There I met a friend who had the same taste as I did with the sea breeze –
A short break brought me to a set of caves within the Margaret River region. I cannot be sure what fascinates me more, the shadows in the dancing darkness, or the flickering lights that bounce of the stalactites.
The region has several caves, of which I chose to take a walk at the Mammoth Cave – a self-guided trip into the unknown – but still safe, nonetheless.
The beauty of the Mammoth Cave lies in the amount of knowledge you can pick up – from the evolution of geographical spaces, to the extinction of megafauna that were far superior than what we see today.
I took a turn to another cave nearby, the Lake Cave, and was intrigued to learn the impact of human touch on the formations (I won’t spoil the fun for you – head to Perth and find out on your own!)
To get to the bottom of Lake Caves, you’ve got to take a challenging 350 steps in, and as you look up, don’t be surprised by the little white cob webs that cling to the surface of the rocks. I can only rave about the beauty of the lake caves – the sound of water trickling and echoing in the depths, forming new shapes and wonders of the world.
There’s a good other few caves you can visit, such as the Ngilgi Cave set in the bushes, and the highly-promoted (which was perhaps why I chose to skip it) Jewel Cave.
Either ways, the silence in the caves were a great way for me to relax and think about life.
The best part of my trip was up at Portsea, Point Nepean National Park, located at the tip of the Mornington Peninsula. History junkie as I am, exploring Fort Nepean’s history was an unforgettable experience – there was so much to find out about the fort – it’s tunnels, cannons, disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt, and simply to take in the panoramic views of the Rip and Port Philip Bay.
I arrived at the Information Centre just in time to hop on to the bus up to Fort Nepean, where numerous fortifications dating back to 1880s stood. Once I got off the bus and up a flight of steps I some stunning sights.
A strategic location for a fort, indeed. Two Mark VII guns sat at the Parade Grounds – the only two guns that had fired shots at Port Philip’s defences. I made my way towards the ruins of the Engine Room, which held short descriptions of the history of the barracks, embankments and some posters about unique characters that once served at the Fort.
Despite a sudden downpour that made the trip up the slippery steps a little tougher than usual, I found my way to the Battery Observation Post, which held the Depression Range Finder (equipment used to find the range and bearing of enemy ships). Fully absorbed in the little write-ups, the rain soon stopped.
I made my way back towards the underground tunnels and was halted in my tracks when I heard a strange eerie whistling. I didn’t quite dare to enter the dark narrow walkways until I realised that the whistling was none other than a sound recording that tells a tale! Oh my!
There’s so much more to see at the Fort I couldn’t cover all of it here. For the history or the scenic views, I’ll recommend a personal visit when you next go to Melbourne!
Leaving the bustling city life and entering the coastal towns at Mornington Peninsula, I decided to take a horse-ride through the countryside!
So much for exercising, I stopped at Sorrento village right after to indulge in the local culinary delights! Sorrento is lined with limestone buildings that are bursting with art, culture and gourmet food. I stopped by Hotel Sorrento for lunch and I must say it offers a great combination of very tasty food and best sea views around! Sit back and relax to enjoy the wines of the region, then take a short walk off towards the port!
If you’re at Mornington Peninsula on a weekend, I would suggest to drop by Red Hill Cheese, an artisan cheesery that offers home cheese-making workshops – only for the serious cheese-lovers.
That’s not all I did at Mornington … check out the next post! 🙂
I decided to take a drive out of Melbourne City towards Hobsons Bay – Williamstown, a peaceful suburb with vast waters around it.
It first began with an interest in the name Williamstown. A quick chat with the folks at the Visitor Centre gave a better understanding – Governer Bourke and Captain Lonsdale had named the settlement area after the English monarch King William IV with intentions to create a capital city at Williamstown. However, the lack of adequate water supply resulted in the use of Melbourne as government centre instead. Today you’ll find a Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street in the CBD too.
I took a short walk from where I left the car towards Point Gellibrand, the first landing place of Victoria’s white settlers and also a first burial ground of Williamstown. Most iconic was the Timeball Tower; it had a history as a wooden lighthouse, then a bluestone lighthouse in 1849, and finally its current state as a timeball tower from 1861 to 1926. I’ll admit that this was the first time I learnt the use of a Timeball Tower – at 1pm daily the ball would descend down its shaft. This allowed ships to reset their chronometers (the ship’s timepiece).
If you’re lucky like I was and visited on a Sunday some time between 11am – 3pm, you’ll find a hidden treasure somewhere amidst the ship-building sheds – an amazing Maritime Museum at Seaworks! I was pleasantly surprised with my find as I wandered around the city’s nooks and crannies. You wouldn’t be expecting a grand location with lots of beautiful ceilings, but there’s a trove of historical items and ship models for viewing in a small cosy place, and all it takes is a gold coin donation. The nice folks there told me much about the maritime history at Williamstown, including the evolution of boat-repair processes and more!
That’s not all there is to Williamstown – if you’ll like to check out the site of the ‘Shenandoah’ Incident, look at the Armstrong cannons that stand dutifully on The Strand to guard against the Tsar’s warships, or simply take a walk round the city’s pubs and churches, make sure you plan a day or two at the home of the Victorian Navy of Williamstown!