Located just a few streets away from the congested Albany Highway in Cannington, the Canning River Regional Park would definitely have to be one of Perth's best-kept secrets. Consisting of a corridor of remnant native bush along the Canning River, beautiful wetlands teeming with birdlife, and landscaped gardens, the Park is a tranquil natural oasis amidst the chaos of the suburban sprawl. Despite having lived in Perth for over twenty years I had never visited, so last weekend I finally made the journey across the city in order to check it out. On my way home I marvelled at how I'd overlooked this hidden gem for so long, and am now determined to spread the word.
Wetlands, Canning River Regional Park
A tributary of the Swan River, the Canning originates in the Darling Ranges east of Perth. Flowing into the metropolitan area, it passes through several suburban areas before finally joining the Swan at Applecross. Although attractive parklands line much of its banks, the Canning River Regional Park is the largest of these areas, and in addition to preserving the natural environment, also provides excellent facilities so that visitors can interact with and enjoy the natural environment. The park extends several kilometres along the river, and contains several small local parks within its boundaries. Therefore it is easily accessible from a variety of locations. There are also various walking and cycling trails which pass some beautiful scenery and feature information boards describing the area's significance to its Noongar custodians, and the animals, birds and plants which are found here.
For my visit to the Canning River Regional Park, I decided to bring along my bike so I could ride a circuit around it and explore as many of its features as time allowed. I began at what is possibly the best known and most popular park on the Canning River, the Kent Street Weir Park, also known as Wilson Park. As its name indicates, a weir was constructed here in 1928 to stop the movement of salt water further up the river. This structure still remains today, and a narrow bridge has also been built which allows walkers and cyclists to cross to the other side.
Kent Street Weir
This beautiful location comprises of wide open parklands which are perfect for energetic ball-games, as well as many park benches, picnic tables and barbecues. It's therefore a perfect spot to take the family for a picnic. There are also well-maintained public toilets, a lovely little adventure playground for the kids, and plenty of parking.
Another special feature, which both children and adults will love, is the Castledare Miniature Railway
which runs on the third Sunday of each month (except January) from a quaint purpose-built railway station at the far end of the park. Train rides operate from 11.00am until 3.30pm. For more information call 9356 2290, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or have a look at their website.
Castledare Miniature Railway
The Kent Street Weir Park is also a popular place for novice canoeists, especially children, to paddle around, since the river is very still here. Nearer to Nature, an initiative of the Department of Environment and Conservation, run regular canoeing programs for kids here during the warmer months, as well as other nature-based activities. You can find out more about these by calling 08 9295 2244 or checking out their website
. Alternatively, if you have your own canoe or kayak, you can always explore the river independently, and during my visit I noticed a few families doing this. Although I haven't personally tried canoeing here, I can imagine it would be a terrific experience as it would provide a completely different perspective of the river and the eco-systems it supports.
For the environmentally conscious, the park is also the home of the Canning River Eco Education Centre
. Officially opened in 2008, this unique centre runs regular environmental programs for primary and secondary school children, and aims to raise awareness and understanding about the river and the unique ecosystems which it supports. It also runs workshops and provides resources for the wider community, including local conservation and community groups. The Centre is open Monday to Saturday, from 8.30am until 4.30pm. Situated in such a naturally beautiful place, it's a great place to take the kids so that they can learn more about our natural environment, or to bring friends and family from overseas. For more information, give the Centre a call on 08 9461 7160, email them at creec@canning,wa.gov.au or check out their webpage. Right next door to the Centre there is a small cafe serving light refreshments, which also has a few environmental books and attractive locally-produced crafts for sale.
The Canning River Eco Education Centre
From the Kent Street Weir Park, I crossed the aforementioned footbridge and cycled along a path which meandered through wetlands and bush in Ferndale. Here and there were some beautiful secluded picnic spots, surrounded by lovely views of the river, which belied the fact that the city was so close. There were also few small local parks on the way, which would be appealing for young children who are cycling the route with their parents.
After continuing a couple of kilometres along this path, I emerged onto busy Nicholson Street and turned left, crossing the bridge which goes over the river. From here, I continued on until I reached Woodloes Street, and turned left into it.
Situated a short distance along Woodloes Street, on the left-hand side, is the historic Woodloes Homestead, one of the earliest colonial residences in this part of Perth. Built in 1874, it was constructed by Francis Bird, an early timber merchant, and was also the base for the Mason and Bird Timber Company. These days, the homestead serves as a folk museum and features a fascinating collection of vintage household items, furniture and farm equipment. Woodloes Homestead Museum is open on the first and third Sunday of each month, from 2pm to 5pm. If prior arrangement is made, visitors can also visit at other times. For more information, call the museum on 08 9451 8538. If you're walking or cycling past and it's open, be sure to pop in and have a look around, as a visit will be sure to enhance your appreciation of this beautiful and culturally rich area.
Old Woodloe Homestead
From Woodloes Homestead, I continued cycling along Woodloes Street until I reached the park at Mason's Landing, another historically significant location. It was here, during the mid-nineteenth century that the pioneer sawmill owner, Benjamin Mason would load timber cut from the Perth Hills onto barges, to be transported to the port at Fremantle.
Mason's Landing Park, Canning River Regional Park
These days, Mason's Landing is a lovely peaceful park containing pleasantly shaded riverside picnic areas, a playground and public toilets. From here, a dual-purpose path continues to follow the river, and after a couple more kilometres, returns to the Kent Street Weir. Once again, this part of my ride featured a few lovely peaceful picnic spots, as well as some boardwalks and places where ramblers and birdwatchers can get closer to the river and observe the numerous varieties of birdlife which inhabit the area.
The Canning River Regional Park is a bird-watcher's paradise
In conclusion, the Canning River Regional Park is a great spot to while away a few hours, either alone or with friends and family. Whether you're an enthusiastic cyclist, a hiker, a history buff, a nature-lover or a daydreamer, there's something for everyone. Please don't be like me and wait twenty years until you discover all that it has to offer. It's a hidden gem that you'll undoubtedly visit, again and again.