50/52: Discovering the good medicine out West
After a few days of R&R in Perth, I hired a bike and decided to head down to Fremantle for a long but leisurely ride. While I was able to see so much of Perth, surrounding suburbs, mega-rich mansions, beautiful beaches, and historic towns, the day was really defined by getting up close and personal with the Fremantle Doctor.
Having never been to WA, I'd only heard of this windy phenomenon on TV while watching Test Matches being played at the WACA. It turns out that because of a major difference between the sea and land temperatures, a cool South Westerley breeze begins around 10am almost every day of summer...and it can really blow! For Perth residents, this cool breeze brings relief and appears to be coming straight from Fremantle, hence, the Fremantle Doctor.
Perth to Fremantle:
Heading South West out of the Perth CBD, my journey started on the Swan river with Kings Park and the old Swan Brewery on my right. The weather was glorious, except for that ever-present wind. I started at 11am, so the South-Westerly breeze was already quite strong and created a significant headwind for the first half of the day. For some, this could be a game-changer with the potential to ruin the day!
Sticking close to the river's edge, the bike path gave me an up-close view of some very nice real estate, the river, parks and beaches along the Western shoreline of the Swan River. I passed through Matilda Bay, Crawley, Dalkeith (incl Jutland Parade) and Claremont. I was keen for a swim but I had a decision to make - venture to the very cute sandy outcrop known as Chidley Beach Park (via Peppermint Grove) for a swim amongst the mansions or head West to Cottesloe Beach, for a dip in the ocean? I chose the latter, and whilst the Freo Doctor was blowing hard, the beach is beautifully protected from the prevailing wind by a large rock wall (see above). This is a sensational beach for swimming with an old pavillion, change rooms, tea rooms, close-by shops and a pub. I could easily see myself spending a day here with the family.
After a quick dip and a coffee, I headed directly south along the coastal path towards Fremantle, fighting hard against the wind. This is, by comparison to the suburbs on the Swan, a fairly sparsely populated coastline. I witnessed a fantastic display by some kite surfers making great use of the South Wester by launching themselves a good 10 to 15 metres into the air! A few stops to admire the beaches, views and incredibly fine sand before I reached Fremantle.
A quick self-guided tour of the town revealed some seriously cute and impressive colonial architecture. It seems that Fremantle is quite compact with everything only moments away from each other, including the Little Creatures brewery. A must-stop 'attraction' for my lunch!
...the ride back:
Back on the road after an hour's break and everything seemed very different. That consistent wind was now lapping at my heels and pushing me steadily back through the South Eastern Suburbs towards the city. I barely had to turn the peddles!
The return leg passed through East Fremantle, Bicton (check out the baths), Blackwall (check out the cliffs), Attadale, Alfred Cove, Adross (huge numbers of kite and wind surfers) and Applecross where I just had to stop at Raffles for a late afternoon waterfront bevvie within a very well-dressed crowd. Then on again through Como and finally the South Perth foreshore. All the way the paths are really well-signed, easy to ride and the Fremantle Doctor does a wonderful job of pushing you along with very little effort.
To cap off the day, on the final few kilometres riding along the South Perth foreshore, the CBD turned on all her glow and charm bathed in late-afternoon sun. It really is a beautiful city.
Whether you live in Perth or plan to visit, I'd recommend the Perth-Fremantle ride. If the Freo Doctor has you worried though, get the train out with your bike and coast back with the wind lapping at your heels. That's medicine any good Doctor would happily prescribe.