Every so often the universe does you a favor. Mine came three days ago when, sitting on the very pleasant Old Dunsborough Beach 200 km or so south of Perth, I saw a sailboat going by.
That may sound unremarkable. And the point is it should be, given the amount of wind we experienced during two weeks in West Australia.
Perth and Fremantle were both nicely windy, which has the effect of making 30 degree days comfortable and humidity-free.
Pemberton, a small timber ‘m’ tourism town we visited, has a breeze through the forests that keeps things lovely and cool and brings steady rain.
Dunsborough and the Margaret River coasts seem to have more or less permanent wind.
Yet in the two weeks we spent in WA this was the first and only sailboat I had seen – at least under sail. We saw plenty at anchor. But the ones in motion were large gleaming power boats that leave you in no doubt there’s money being made over there.
A lot of that money comes from valuable dirt. Whether the dirt that dirt seems to be so valuable that the prevailing attitude is to roar about in a power boat rather than hoisting a sail I do not know. The luck of the blogger may not quite let me extend the sighting of a sail that far!
Locals did talk about “the mines” a bit, usually in the context of the high wages there. Apparently tea ladies working in mine canteens can expect to take home astounding pay packets if they are willing to put up with some privations.
Because those privations are real, mine workers are getting lots of R&R … often in places like Dunsborough where there are signs of affluence as the usual tourist town stuff mixes with clothes shops selling $120 polo shirts or gorgeous kitchenware. McMansion prices a couple of kms from the beach were about the same as inner-Sydney four bedroom house prices. Big posh houses topped three or four million.
We also saw an enormous amount of land on sale, all of it with grand gates at the front of the estates. These developments get signposts on the highway of a size and prestige one associates with major landmarks. Instead of ‘Opera House’ or ‘Bondi Beach’ you get ‘Land Sale’ and then a name that mixes Dolphin/Sunshine/Gardens/Port/LakesBeach. There’s one of these every ten minutes or so on the coast road from Dunsborough to Perth.
So it’s full steam ahead over there and you can see why. The climate is grand. The wine industry leavens things nicely – it’s not all new money bogans in boats. And the scale is nice. We visited a couple of restaurant/winery/breweries in Pemberton and they were charming, personal, family-run 60-seat affairs. Anywhere in NSW there would have been tourists by, literally, the busload. Most of the places we visited had also taken a tiny bit of time to consider kids: there was nearly always a pile of paper and pencils, often something better.
Overall impressions? I will not be at all surprised if the south west of West Australia becomes a major growth area. There are a few tens of thousands of people there now, with Bunbury the last large town. There’s plenty of potential for infill along the coast. Whether it can be done sustainably I have no idea. But there sure seems to be enough wind to help out, if people think about using it!