We had been looking forward to the Perth Mint for a long time, ever since our visit to the Canberra Mint back in May. So it became the first tourist attraction we visited in Perth and we decided we’d take the train to get there. We weren’t sure what parking would be available and we have a toddler who really, really wanted to ride the train. In Perth the train track runs down the centre of the freeway and he saw it as soon as we got into town. We only had to go a few stops and then caught one of the free buses in the CBD. It was a very hot day so we thought we were doing well to choose an indoor attraction, but using public transportation still made for a very warm trip into town. Photography isn’t allowed inside the building, so you’re about to be treated to all the pictures I could take outside. :) See the double archway at the entrance? We learned that back when the mint was first built the workers had a separate entrance to the family that lived in the residence upstairs. They offer a tour that included a talk on the history of the gold rush in the area. The first part of the tour was outside where they had replicas of very large gold nuggets that had been found. They were huge! The stories of how they were found and the history of the mint were quite interesting. After the tour the kids wanted pictures of all the nuggets. I was surprised how busy it was, our tour group was quite large even though it was just a few days before Christmas. Now for the numerous pictures of my children holding replicas of giant gold nuggets. After the tour you have access to the displays to look around as much as you want. There’s all kinds of things to look at including numerous gold nuggets and coins. They’ve also got the biggest coin in the world, a 1 tonne gold coin made in 2012. It’s huge at 80cm in diameter and 12cm deep, it really weighs a tonne (which I’ve only recently realised is different from a ton, I thought it was just the spelling!) and though its face value is $1 million it’s worth more like $53 million at current market value. Every night it descends into a vault, if you are there for the last tour of the day you can watch it be put away for the night. Even the wristbands were gold, nice touch. There was a jewelry store on site and we were happy to see some Kimberley pink diamonds like we’d seen in Kununurra. They also sell specialty coins, some of them are so beautiful. The Canberra mint has a better selection of coins and a lot more detail about how they are made. We were happy to see the Han Solo coin, just in time for the new Star Wars movie. The absolute best part of the tour and the part that made it very much worth the visit was the gold-pouring demonstration. It’s done in the original melting house and they give you all the history as you watch. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold had been embedded in the walls and ceiling over the years. We watched as the tour guide carefully pulled the gold out of the oven and poured it into the mold. He’d obviously done it many times and was very comfortable with the process. He talked about the temperatures and whatnot, touching it while the gold bar was still hot and lighting his gloves on fire. At the end he placed the bar back into the oven and it was only seconds before it was fully melted again. He told us they’d been using the same gold bar for this demonstration for the last eighteen years! We also enjoyed the scale where you could find out if you’re worth your weight in gold. We all weighed ourselves and it told us how much we’d be worth at current gold prices. There’s also a gold bar you can lift, it was a bit tricky as they have it secured very well inside a box and you can’t lift it very high. It was pretty heavy and not all of the kids could lift it. And finally, some random pretty flowers on the grounds at the mint. Across the street was a coveniently-located coin shop. It carried many of the coins from the Canberra mint that the Perth mint didn’t have in their shop so we stopped in for a look. I imagine they do good business there.
On the way back from the Pinnacles we stopped into Lake Thetis to have a look at the stromatolites. We saw a few roadsigns, which I keep taking pictures of. The town of Cervantes was named for a Spanish ship that wrecked off the coast once upon a time. I loved the sign on the way into town, it’s spaced very well so that you see a picture of the ship from a distance, then the signs separate as you get closer. There aren’t many places on earth that you can see stromatolites. They look like rocks, but the are really structures built by living micro-organisms and are referred to as ‘living fossils’. The structures make for interesting patterns. We’d seen some in Shark Bay (which hopefully I’ll get to post about one of these days), these were different shapes than the others we’d seen. The view across the lake. I guess all the stromatolites are just on the one side? There is a path to walk all the way around the lake if you wish to. I don’t know if this counts as a Big Thing, but we stopped for a picture with this fish sculpture on our way out of town. After Cervantes we were headed for Perth!
The Pinnacles were definitely on our list of places to visit in Western Australia. They feature in the book Are We There Yet? but the illustration had the kids fooled. From the drawing they had the idea that there were only a few rock formations, they were in for a pleasant surprise. First we stopped into the Discovery Centre at Nambug National Park for a quick look. Then we headed down the short path to see how much we could see before doing the driving circuit. There were plenty of nearby formations to get lost in. There isn’t a specific walking path and though you can’t tell it from these pictures, there were people wandering around everywhere. It was so odd to be in this national park full of people when we’ve been to so many that were nearly empty. But here in the Pinnacles we are only two hours north of Perth and it was the weekend. There’s JitterBug photobombing in the background again. I told the kids to find their favourite rock for a picture so they all went in different directions. We couldn’t get over how yellow the sand is! Some of the pictures in this post I used filters on for different effects, but this one below is what we saw. Such yellow, yellow sand. It was so striking. Let’s play Spot the Toddler! This area was up on a hill, all the formations were shorter (toddler height!), I suppose because the wind must keep them from getting any taller. It was definitely windy here. I got a cute emu bookmark. Aren’t you happy for me? We wandered around for awhile and just when the kids had a good game of hide and seek going we headed back to the car to do the drive through the park. I promise there were other people there. They must all be hiding amongst the rocks. TurboBug was determined to walk the entire length of the wall bordering the footpath. No section was to be missed. I’ll never finish this post if I try to write about each picture…so here we go, picture overload. The evenly-spaced rocks in the foreground mark the edge of the ‘road’. Look at the different colours! That yellow sand, the white sand dune, and the ocean in the distance. We saw many of these white, white sand dunes on the way to Cervantes. At one point we started seeing a layer of pink at the bottom of the formations. This reminded me of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. 🙂
Our last stop before Perth was Cervantes. We had a few nights there before heading to Perth for the holidays. Cervantes is a small town right on the coast, a couple of hours north of Perth. There was a lovely playground just outside the caravan park. Once school was out for the year quite a few families started showing up which was an odd feeling for us. Most of the families we’ve seen in WA have been travelling down the coast like we are. Now we are surrounded by holiday makers which gives everything a different feel. While in Cervantes we visited the Lobster Shack. They have a self-guided factory tour. Well, I suppose it’s not a factory but a processing plant. We watched as they sorted the lobsters and learnt all about the process. There was a quick video at the beginning, then they gave us the audio devices which had a kids setting. There were several stops where you’d have to enter the number which kept them all nicely busy. Even TurboBug had one, though he wouldn’t leave the buttons alone so I’m not sure how much he heard. The artwork on the walls was incredible, all done by the same artist. The lobster cages were sorted into lanes, some awaiting grading and others awaiting shipping. This was the sorting area. The smallest is an A grade lobster, the largest an H. We learned that different countries prefer different sizes, so all are in demand. The water tank contains very cold water, the lobsters are placed in here for a couple of minutes before being placed on the conveyor belt for sorting. The cold water stuns the lobsters. I suppose it’s so they aren’t jumping around as they are sorted, but I’d like to think it’s a little less traumatic for them too. See the lobster on the conveyor belt? Here’s one moving down the belt, they drop automatically into the cages below. When the cage fills up the lobsters collect on the belt until an empty one is in place. There was a video of the process which enabled you to get a closer look. One of the guys brought over an H grade lobster, they can weigh up to 2.5 kilos. That’s a lot of lobster. 🙂 Once they’ve been sorted they sit in a holding area for a few days. They aren’t fed during this time to prepare them for shipping. They get the nutrients they need from the sea water that is pumped through the lanes. Even the flags were gorgeously done. There were more than just these three, but the Aussie one was the only one with its own little lobster. I think the flags represented the countries they export to. We finally had to get TurboBug(2) his own pair of colourful flip-flops. (I mean thongs. I still can’t call them that.) He kept stealing everyone else’s and even lost LadyBug’s last pair. He had a pair of his own but they had the straps on the back so they just wouldn’t do. He chose orange, aren’t they lovely? The shipping area wasn’t being used the day we were there but you could see the boxes they used for transport and the audio tour gave us info on the process. Of course we had to do the lobster pictures once we got back outside. Lovely! There was of course a place to buy lobster but that wasn’t in the cards for us, lobster for a family of six is a bit much! I always loves these signs showing how far away things are. Hobart is 3,101km. Rome? 13,205km. New York? 18,649km. Really worth doing this tour if you ever find yourselves in Cervantes. Since it was self-guided we stayed in there as long as we wanted, watching the sorting process for some time. The walkway was elevated over the factory floor so we had a great view of everything. We’d missed out on some lobster tours further north since the tourist season was over, so this was perfect.
Geraldton was the first sizeable city we’d seen since Darwin. While we were there we managed to get to a few things on our list, including a haircut for LadyBug and TurboBug. Isn’t LadyBug’s hair the cutest? She’d been asking to have it cut off for awhile but we wanted her to be sure since for more than a year she’s been saying she wanted to grow it as long as Rapunzel. When it was TurboBug’s turn the hairdresser commented on his baby hair. He’s definitely been the slowest of the kids to grow a full head of hair! We also got LadyBug a new booster seat that could fit in the back and moved TurboBug to her old seat. Which means we finally don’t have any baby car seats in our family! The kids had been looking forward to switching around, here’s SkeeterBug in the middle and LadyBug at the back. After we left Geraldton we spent one night at a free camp called Knobby Head. It had the stickiest whitest sand ever, covering our shoes and mat in white. In the morning we wandered the beach looking for sea urchin skeletons (called tests), since Dad had found one and we were fascinated. We found plenty, even some still covered in spines with creatures inside them. This one I threw back in the water, I couldn’t tell if it was still alive or not. They were all quite small most were filled with sand. The shells are fascinating. I’d seen pieces like these washed up on another beach further north and didn’t know what they were at the time. The colours and patterns are beautiful, like they’ve been sewn together. They are quite delicate, easily smashed with the squeeze of your fingers. We’ve never seen them intact before, I was so glad we stopped here, it could be the only time we’ll see them. We found dozens and had great fun collecting all the ones that weren’t still furry. This was one of our favourites and was the only one we found like this. Purple and spotted, it was gorgeous. We spent just one night here. It was a lovely, quiet spot. There are many stops along this stretch of road, some suitable for 4WD only. It was also a very windy spot! We had to carefully position the van against the bushes so that the gas powering our fridge wouldn’t blow out. We’ve had that happen before and it’s always frustrating to wake up in the morning and discover the fridge has been out most of the night. After Knobby Head we were off to Cervantes, our last stop before Perth.
I found this old post from Darwin that I guess I hadn’t finished…
I can’t remember how we heard about the Fannie Bay Gaol while we were in Darwin, but we decided it would be good to go have a look. Entry is by donation so it’s an affordable family attraction. We thought it would be good for the kids to go inside the prison cells and learn a little about prison life. This is probably one of those places that people who live in Darwin have never visited!
You can see in this cell there were some old beds set up. Some even had old mattresses filled with straw and we wondered what it would have been like to sleep on them. Softer than the floor at least. I caught one child laying on one as soon as my back was turned. Just had to try it out. I won’t say which one, but if you know them then you know who it was!
The infirmary building also held the gallows. Two people were hung on these gallows, there were other hangings at the prison but they had all been done on temporary gallows erected for the occasion. It was a bit spooky seeing the gallows and the trapdoor open beneath. There was an information sign nearby that talked about what a job it had been digging out the ground for that trapdoor. Australia has now abolished capital punishment, with the last execution taking place in 1967.
Next we found the ablution block. Before they had this they would take the prisoners down to the sea for a wash. The prison is very close to the coast. Apparently someone escaped during one of these trips to the ocean, so a separate building on site was built.
Then we found the separate confinement building. Not the same as solitary, there were two cells right next to each other and you could hear anything that went on outside. It was meant for prisoners who might have been a harm to themselves or others. It was hot the day we were there, it would have been unbearable in some of these prison cells. LadyBug (5) enjoyed locking us in the cell, this was the view through the small window in the door.
Then we were off to the maximum security building. See the signs on the wall in the background? Some of the cells had information about the history of the police in the Northern Territory. The signs looked dated, it seems like they are trying to expand their exhibits.
The laundry building was blown away during Cyclone Tracy in 1974. After hearing about some of the other damage during the cyclone, I’m amazed the prison didn’t suffer more damage.