Ringing in a new era for WA

Weekend West

14th December 2019.

There’s so much going on in WA travel and tourism next year that’s new and exciting, it’s hard to know where to start! You can, of course, keep abreast of the latest WA travel news in our regular weekly column throughout 2020. In the meantime, here’s a grab-bag of items that caught our attention — just a heads-up, really, as we head into Christmas. Enjoy!

NEW WA MUSEUM OPENING

Opening in 2020 (the exact date is yet to be announced), the new WA Museum is arguably one of the most exciting civic building projects in Perth since Kerry Hill Architect’s smaller but no less impressive Perth City Library.

Brought into being by a consortium comprising Brookfield Multiplex, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ firm OMA and Australian designers Hassell, the dramatic five-level concrete, metal and glass building will knit into the museum’s redeveloped heritage buildings. A spectacular cantilevered top-floor gallery will be suspended above Hackett Hall and span a 2000sqm public courtyard and main entrance on Museum Street opposite the State Library. The “permeable” facility has entrances on all four sides and gives simultaneous views of the collections and the Perth cityscape from inside and outside.

Exhibition space will be more than trebled to almost 7000sqm, with a 1000sqm below-ground gallery for blockbuster touring exhibitions. There will be shops, cafes, education studios and viewing areas to watch scientists and curators at work. Solar panels and a subterranean thermal storage system will feed a Perth Cultural Centre energy grid that will cut the precinct’s carbon dioxide output by 40 per cent.

KINGS SQUARE, FREMANTLE

The first stage of Fremantle’s commercial revival — the $220 million Kings Square project in the heart of the city at the old Myer site and the council’s adjoining $50 million office and library — is due for completion in March 2020. The mixed-use development includes offices, food and beverage outlets and shops. In March, it will open its doors to 1500 government workers from the Department of Communities, the important anchor tenant to help make Fremantle more of a Monday to Friday proposition instead of just a weekend wonder. Project partners Sirona Capital and the City of Fremantle consider it the largest public-private infrastructure project in the port city’s history.

KEEPING OUR WITS ABOUT US

In April 2020, WA plays host to the third World Indigenous Tourism Summit (WITS), after a successful bid by WAITOC, supported by Perth Convention Bureau and Tourism WA. Previously held in Canada and New Zealand, the biennial summit “brings together indigenous tourism operators and world leaders to discuss economic, environmental, social and political advances and challenges in indigenous tourism. It also provides a forum for indigenous people to share collective wisdom, knowledge and traditions handed down through generations.”

AIR TRAVEL

It’s not just the aircraft that will be moving at high speed in 2020. Construction of the new Perth Airport direct rail link from Perth City to the airport continues apace, and will open next year. Perth Airport upgrades also continue to be rolled out, with, for example, International Terminal T1 getting a new premium departures lounge.

Between January 15 and February 17, China Eastern Airlines will trial a 10-hour flight between Perth and Shanghai. There is also a new Perth to Manila flight with Philippine Airlines, starting in March. In May 2020, direct flights between Melbourne and Kununurra will be trialled, running until August.

There will be three weekly return flights, with a flight time of less than five hours each way. Alliance Airlines, in a code-share arrangement with Virgin Australia, will be the service provider. The aircraft will be a Fokker 70, which seats up to 80 passengers. You can book at virginaustralia.com

HOTELS, HOTELS, HOTELS

There’s already been a flurry of new hotels opening up this year, most recently the Ritz-Carlton on Elizabeth Quay and Perth’s first Art Series hotel, the Adnate. But wait, there’s more.

The first phase of the 431-room Novotel Perth Murray Street opening will make 40 rooms available from December 19 for the summer holiday period, with a staged opening for the rest of the rooms and public spaces into 2020. This is the second hotel for Fragrance Group and Accor in Australia after the success of Tasmania’s biggest hotel, the ibis Styles Hobart.

Hotel Rottnest is due to open in September 2020. Designed by architectural firm Christou Design Group, the 80-room sustainability-focused resort will be sympathetic to Rottnest’s natural and built environments.

Hotel group Prendiville Group says it is “committed to using local suppliers throughout the development where possible,” adding it “wants to see Rottnest Island remain competitive with international destinations and ensure Western Australians holiday close to home”.

Also slated for completion in late 2020 is the Hilton Garden Inn Albany. Situated near the Albany Entertainment Centre on the waterfront, the hotel will feature 108 rooms, meeting rooms, a restaurant, bar and fitness centre. Hilton Garden Inn is a “mid-market brand” and will offer an affordable holiday or staycation alternative. After long delays, the 150-room Doubletree Hilton Fremantle will finally be completed in 2020. This will be a mixed-use development, with a hotel, apartments and shops.

As reported in The West Australian back in 2016, “the seven-storey hotel overlooking Princess May Park — plans for which were announced in 2014 — was to have been completed by (2017)”.

SKYWALKING KALBARRI STYLE

Work is in progress for an exciting new tourism attraction at Kalbarri. Two 100m-high skywalks with a connecting boardwalk will jut 25m and 17m beyond the rim of the Murchison River Gorge. The Kalbarri Skywalk will reward visitors with breathtaking views of the Murchison River gorge’s rust-red cliffs and is set to become a major tourism drawcard. The universally accessible site will also include an environmentally friendly kiosk that will operate on low to nil emissions with an off-the-grid energy/power system. There will also be toilets, shade shelters, and improved road and tourism infrastructure. Kalbarri already has about 450,000 visitors annually to the national park alone. It is hoped that this project will encourage more tourists to explore the town and wider Coral Coast region’s natural heritage. The Kalbarri Skywalk is due to open May/June 2020. Mogens Johansen

COLLIE THE ULTIMATE TRAIL TOWN

Beyond the Bibbulmun Track (walking) and Munda Biddi (cycling) Trail, there are a number of other attractive trails, for different modes of transport, which meander within and beyond the Collie River Valley. Think the Mt Leonard, Sika, Arklow and Collie-Darkan rail trails, for starters. Not one to rest on its laurels, Collie has implemented a number of initiatives in keeping with its Collie River Valley Trails Strategy 2018-2021. These already have improved facilities, infrastructure, transport and accommodation options ensuring a quality experience for locals and visitors alike. Through 2020 there will be more trails, improvements to existing trails and further ways to make Collie the Trails Town of choice. collierivervalley.com.au

WALK, TALK, TASTE IN MARGS

Kellie Tannock and the other excellent folk at Walk Talk Taste Margaret River launched their new Evening Tour last month, and it promises to be one of the must-dos in Margs in 2020. “Essentially this is a high quality four-hour cocktail and tapas trail through downtown Margaret River, starting at 5.20pm with Giniversity,” Ms Tannock says: “As with the Brunch Tour, it focuses on premium regional produce, including the cocktails themselves. We’ve partnered closely with venues The Distillery, Swings Taphouse, Mikis Open Kitchen and Morries to curate a truly special experience with lots of local secrets and generous hospitality”. The Saturday evening tours will run over the summer months and places are strictly limited to 10 people per tour. For bookings and details see walktalktaste.com.

SURF, HIKE, GLAMP

In another new Margaret River initiative, between February 18-23, 2020 Cape to Cape Explorer Tours will offer a six-day, five-night Surf, Hike and Glamping Experience. The package will include professional surfing lessons at Redgate Beach, guided hiking on the Cape to Cape track, a yoga session, winery visits and tastings, healthy meals and accommodation, the latter in fully catered glamping tents. Prices are from $1275 per person. For more information, see capetocapetours.com.au.

NEW(ISH) REGIONAL WRITERS’ FESTIVALS

Staying with Margaret River just a little longer, the popular Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival returns to the refurbished Margaret River HEART venue from May 15-17 next year, after being forced to slum it the past couple of years (yes, that’s a joke) at Voyager Estate winery. Themed Future Tense the 2020 MRRWF “will look at both possible and highly imagined futures through a literary lens to explore and share visions for the future from some of Australia’s most renowned writers, speakers and thinkers.

A not-to-be-missed event for book lovers, with the chance to hear from your favourite authors while enjoying some of the region’s best food and wine experiences”.

Program, tickets and travel packages will be available from February 2020. mrrwfestival.com. Another one to keep on your radar is the resurrected Avon Valley Writers Festival, scheduled for September 28 as part of the annual York Festival.

A FORTUNATE LIFE WITH A DIFFERENCE

Staying with things literary just a little longer, WA theatre company THEATRE 180 and entertainment platform Cinema Stage are performing AB Facey’s classic memoir A Fortunate Life live in cinemas, touring Midland, Albany, Busselton and Geraldton from February 2020. Adapted and written for the stage by Jenny Davis and Stuart Halusz and using the large screens in cinemas as the backdrop to re-create significant landscape scenes filmed by Green Man Media, the live performance from THEATRE 180 will take place within the cinema as a cast of three bring to life the story of AB Facey’s much-loved book. For dates and bookings, see afortunatelife.com.au.