I have noticed a bit of trend over the last 35 years or so with major revamps underway in big cities all around the World.
Perhaps it takes a few bureaucrats or planners who can see past the industrial buildings, the rundown and seedy infrastructure, and picture a public space that is both beautiful and functional. Elizabeth Quay is just one small example of this visionary approach.
It’s a beautiful day, let’s go for a stroll down to the water.
Elizabeth Quay is a picture of modernity. It is all sweeping lines and attractive street art and sculpture, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Elizabeth Quay, and its neighbouring Esplanade, is on Wadjuk Country – home of the Wadjuk Noongar people. The original residents called this area ‘Gumap’ – the place that smells like urine! Hardly a description of an ideal tourist attraction and recreation space! In the pre-white-man days, this area would have been a large mudflat adjacent to the Swan River and it was vitally important because of its supply of food sources such as turtles, crabs and fish.
In the 1870’s the settlers started to reclaim the swampy land for sports and recreation. Athletics carnivals, football and cricket matches were all held on the Esplanade. In 1885 a pavilion and grandstand was built for the Metropolitan Cricket Club and Perth’s first public tennis courts were established in 1897. Naturally sailing and rowing were also popular on the Swan River. Unfortunately the only remaining evidence of all this sporting history is the West Australian Rowing Club building, established in 1868, logically located right on the river’s edge.
Today the area is open to all comers rather than just the sporting elite. Popular with residents and visitors alike, it is a pleasant place to walk and dine. ‘The Island’, a manmade island featuring the original tearooms – relocated and reconstructed brick-by-brick, has a café and restaurant with pleasant water and city views. More importantly is has a cracker of a playground where children can climb, swing, and burn off all that excess energy that we all wish we still possessed.
If it is a warm day there is also a water installation that will delight the children. I think it must be operated by movement sensors as children ran through the area and were squirted at random intervals. Much squealing and laughter ensued.
For us more staid individuals, it is a really enjoyable place to simply stroll and admire the views. I guess you could describe it as a place of both reflection and recreation.
Gazing inland, you can admire the wealth and scale of Perth’s skyscrapers – many powered by mining revenues. Waterwards, dolphins cruise by and Western Australia’s iconic black swans paddle around the protected waters.
Ferries work their way up and down the Swan River, shuttling commuters back and forth or taking tourists to see the sites, including the Perth Zoo. And who doesn’t love to see the energy and efforts of graceful rowers sculling their way towards the sunrise or trailer-sailors criss-crossing the water as the sun sets?
Yes, it is a pretty special spot.
One thing that really caught my eye and imagination was the large birdlike sculpture called First Contact. Created by Aboriginal artist Laurel Nannup, it represents the first sighting of ships off the West Australian coastline by the Noongar People. Never having seen a ship before, they thought it was the spirits of their dead ancestors returning from the sea. ‘The turned head and outstretched wings of the bird represent the horizontal spar, mast and sail of the ship’. Source. If only they knew the long-term ramifications of that sighting.
Elizabeth Quay is the place to be to sip a glass of something bubbly and chilled, or dazzle the tastebuds with an oyster or two. Alternatively, it is a good access point for the glorious King’s Park only a short walk to the West, or head East and follow the walkway for endless river views.
With all the concrete and closeness of a city centre, sometimes it is nice to escape to a wide, open space that has been reclaimed for the people.
The good burghers of Perth have got it right.
Have you enjoyed a place like Elizabeth Quay?
What: There is a vast array of accommodation options in the heart of Perth. We found an excellent AirBnB only a few blocks from the CBD hosted by Kylie and we can recommend it highly. Book here. (As an Airbnb Associate, I earn a small commission when you book through this link and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.)
Where: Elizabeth Quay is only a short walk, downhill from the Perth CBD.
When: This would be a lovely inclusion in an early morning jog or walk, or to watch the sunset over the water.
How: Walk or catch the free CAT bus – Blue Line – that circles around the Perth CBD.
Who: People, young and old, who feel they need a little break from city hustle and bustle.
Related Posts: If you don’t mind a wander around a city, have a look at what there is to see in the heart of Hobart.
Related Blogs: For a whole range of information about Perth, from its birdlife to child-friendly activities and accessibility-friendly spaces, check out the blog – Destination Perth.
Read About It: For a fabulous read and fascinating insight into the Aboriginal community, grab a copy of My Place by Sally Morgan. Sally grew up in Perth not knowing about her Aboriginal ancestry. So much is explained for her as she starts to reconnect with her extended family. Go straight to Book Depository.
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