Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published July 13th 2014
Float on by
The 'Lifestyle' moored at Pelican's for breakfast!
Fancy getting out for a relaxing weekend on the water? Like the idea of puttering along at 4 or 5 knots as dolphins swim beside your boat, while you sit out on the deck lighting the barbie and taking in a cold glass of wine from the fridge? Maybe even hanging a line in as you head out across the Peel Estuary to meander up WA's own Murray River?
Taking in the View on the Murray River (c) JP Mundy 2014
If this sounds like your idea of heaven, then houseboating could be just for you. There is something that just makes you relax when the fastest you can go is walking pace. The bonus is that no skippers ticket is required, and after an hour's tuition, learning how to safely moor and turn the houseboat, you are off.
You pick your boat up from Alan and his lovely friendly team at Mandurah Houseboats, a family run business led by Alan and Sue, which operates out of Dolphin Quay Mandurah Ocean Marina, just 1 easy hour's drive south of Perth. From there, you can cruise all the way up to Pinjarra (tides depending, in order to get you under the Old Ravenswood Bridge). Some people prefer to take the boats from Ravenswood and spend most of their time in the quieter upper reaches of the Murray.
Regardless of where you collect the boat, there is plenty to see and do while relaxing. Apart from the obvious fishing, and sitting back and watching the scenery - there are lots of picturesque stops along the way - our first night we moored at Coopers Mill, just inside the Murray River mouth. This tiny little island has a picnic area and a historic restored mill, along with a discrete caretaker's cottage. Dawn on this stretch of river is stunning and you can barely move for the waterbirds! Take care to moor alongside the jetty and not next to the playground though, as it's very shallow at low tide and you might end up temporarily grounded like we did!
Coopers Mill, at the mouth of the Murray River in WA
Further along, you can moor up at Pelican's for a fabulous big breakfast and refuel if needed. The ducks here are very friendly, as are the locals, so it's a nice place for a stop and you can moor overnight at the brown finger jetties. Beyond Pelican's there's the popular Ravenswood Hotel, the Peel Zoo and golf course in Pinjarra, along with bakeries and cafes to wander along. But for us, we just wanted to veg out on the boat and let the world slide by. In the evenings, we cooked up a storm in the well equipped and spacious kitchen and watched DVDs (the TV reception isn't great) and played cards.
The spacious kitchen in the 'Lifestyle', Mandurah Houseboats
The double beds on the 'Lifestyle' were very comfortable, and there was plenty of hot water in the very decent shower. The team had thoughtfully put in extra blankets for us, as we took the boat out in mid-winter - and we needed them! - but as soon as the sun came out in the morning, we were back on deck and enjoying the clear blue skies. In summer, we would have moored for longer so we could swim, but we really enjoyed just motoring up and down, checking out the other boats, the huge pelicans, the masses of cormorants, and - on the way in and out of the marina - the millionaire-row houses and private jetties on either side of the Mandurah canals.
This is a great family holiday - one of the other boats when we were there had an older couple with their two small grandchildren out for 2 weeks - or for a weekend out with the girls (check out the girl's 'party boat', or for a group of friends. The boats take a little bit of getting used to for manouevreing into the moorings, but after one or two gos, it's pretty straight forward and lots of fun, as everyone can take a turn at driving and helping to tie up to the wharf.
Rates for the boats start from $680 for a 4 berth midweek in the low season to $790 in the high season. The luxury Quicksilver boat, which has a spa on its back deck and heating and airconditioning, sleeps up to 10 people and starts from $1080 for 2 nights mid week, making it a very affordable option on a per person basis. The other bonus is that each of the boats is connected via satellite back to the office base, so that they can track you and you can contact them immediately if there are any problems, day or night. We found this very reassuring when a mighty wind blew up as we were crossing the Peel Estuary and Alan talked us through all the excitement!