Perth’s Playground

Follow us on Facebook!

Back in 1984, Perth businessman Dallas Dempster had a smart idea. Let’s get rid of this dump! Burswood Island, an island in the Swan River just a couple of kilometres from Perth’s city center, was the site of a large landfill. Dempster suggested to the Western Australian government that the site could be better used for a resort casino. The government agreed and Dempster and a Malaysian business partner were granted a casino license in 1985. The plans called for a casino, a 400 room hotel, a golf course, a convention and exhibition centre, an amphitheatre and more.

The casino, of course, was finished first and opened in December 1985. The third largest casino in the world at the time, it was an immediate success, so popular it netted $1 million a day in gross profit in its first two months of operation! The rest of the complex was finished over the next two years. This included the ultra-modern Burswood Island Hotel.

The Crown Metrepol, originally the Burswood Island Hotel, features a covered courtyard with bars and restaurants and a set of external elevators.

The casino was expanded and the theatre renovated in the 1990s. Further expansion in the 2000s saw another hotel added (a Holiday Inn, now the Crown Promenade) as well as some residential apartment complexes nearby. The complex underwent various ownership changes as well, ending up in the hands of Crown Limited in 2007. In 2011 the resort was rebranded as Crown Perth to coincide with the building of the Crown Melbourne resort. $750 million was pumped in to refurbish the resort. And in 2012 a third hotel was announced, the Crown Towers, which opened in December 2016. (The photo heading this article is of the Crown Towers and Crown Metrepol as seen from across the Swan River.)

The lobby that forms a hub connecting Crown Perth’s hotels and various ballrooms, convention centers and the Crown Theatre.

Crown Perth is the jewel in Perth’s entertainment business and Janis and I had the pleasure of staying a couple of nights there recently to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary. The place is world class with over thirty restaurants, several convention centres and ballrooms, a first-class theatre, spas and swimming pools, several upscale shops (including Paspaley Pearls and Rolex Watches), a night club and, of course, the casino. We had dined at three of the restaurants on previous trips, the top-notch Silks Japanese restaurant, the Merrywell and the fabulous Epicurean which serves a buffet on par with the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, maybe even better. During our stay we dined at three more including the Modo Mio Italian Restaurant and a couple of moderately priced restaurants. For an inexpensive but superb meal, I recommend the 88 Noodles oriental restaurant which is inside the casino. We also had drinks a few times at the Lobby Lounge in front of the Crown Metrepol.

Janis and I relaxing at the Lobby Lounge.

We’re not much into gambling but we did spend an hour at the slots coming away ahead by $30. Not bad since we only played two cent slots.

The best part of our stay was the production of Disney’s Aladdin at the Crown Theatre. In its previous incarnation as the Burswood Theatre, it has featured a wide array of entertainers as well as major productions like Cats. Aladdin was a Broadway touring company production and was amazing. The staging and choreography were excellent.

The theatre itself is on par with Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre and similar venues. I liked it a bit better, actually, because each seat has a generous amount of legroom.

Lobby of the Crown Theatre Perth. There are snack and souvenir shops on the second level as well as this one.

Not far from the Crown Perth complex there used to be a domed stadium known as the Dome at Crown Perth, formerly the Burswood Dome. This venue had a long history of performances by such stars as AC/DC, Kiss, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Pink, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Iron Maiden, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, The Black Eyed Peas, Guns N’ Roses, Christina Aguilera,  Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Roger Waters. It also hosted major sporting events. The Dome was demolished in 2013 to make room for a parking lot for the new Optus Stadium which opened on January 21, 2018.

The new Optus Stadium opened in January 2018.

The stadium was built on part of the old golf course. The remaining part of the golf course now forms a park between the stadium and Crown Perth. It is about a twenty minute walk to the stadium.

Part of the stadium project included the building of a pedestrian bridge across the Swan River connecting the Burswood Peninsula to East Perth. The bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture. Three interlacing arches of white and black form the bridge. The Matagarup Bridge, after an indigenous name for the area, was opened to the public on July 14, 2018 so we were fortunate to have arrived back in Australia just after its opening.

The Matagarup Bridge connecting East Perth and Burswood. Perth (Optus) Stadium is at the other end.

Some have said the arches resemble swans. In any event, each arch has a staircase going up it and plans call for the stairs to be open to the public. The center span soars 72 metres (256 feet) high and is about half a kilometre in length. Scaling bridges must be an Aussie thing as the Sydney Harbor Bridge is famous for its accessibility by visitors. (See my earlier article on Sydney for pics) There will likely be a charge to scale the bridge but I’d certainly do it. Maybe on my next visit it will be open for climbing! Oh…I should mention that they are also considering adding a zipline from the top of the bridge to the ground! Wouldn’t that be cool!

Stairs to the top of the center span may be accessible to the public in the near future.

Perth’s downtown business district is served by several free bus services known as CAT (Central Area Transit). There are two lines that run along Waterloo Crescent just up Nile Street on the other side of Gloucester Trotting Park. About a ten minute walk from the stadium, a half hour from Crown Perth. Crown Perth and the Stadium are both also accessible by train on the Perth-Townslie line though the Stadium Station is only open when events are on at the stadium. If the weather is nice, it is a great walk and free. The train will set you back $3.20.

Here are a few more photos of Crown Perth and the bridge.

The Crown Metrepol has a sloping glass window covering the courtyard.
The other side of the Metrepol. There is a large parking lot there and last Christmas they had huge tents set up for a children’s Christmas festival.
One of the lobbies at the Crown Towers. The place reeks luxury.
The stairs going from the lobby to the outdoor swimming pools.
The elevators at the Crown Metrepol
One of the ballrooms
The front of the Matagarup Bridge. There is still some work going on as of this writing but the bridge is open to the public.


The Gloucester Trotting Park, home of harness racing in Perth and just across the river from the Perth Optus Stadium. Nearby is Perth’s cricket pitch.

Crown Perth

Here are some links of interest.

Follow us on Facebook!

Great Scot! It’s the Great Gatsby!

Follow us on Facebook!

Rowena’s Inn on the River is a delightful trip back in time. It’s an old homestead built by a pioneer logger in the area for his family.

Charles Nelson Pretty was a businessman and entrepreneur. In the 1920s he had an opportunity to buy a 160 acre parcel of land in Harrison Mills. That land became, among other things, a dairy farm, a silvertip fox farm and a logging operation. At one time, Pretty’s operation was the largest privately owned logging company in all of British Columbia.

The Pretty Estate overlooks the Harrison River #HarrisonMills

When the home was built, there was no road. The Pretty family took the train to Harrison Mills and paddled by canoe to their estate. Later he had a yacht built and sailed up the river, mooring in front of his home.

While Charles and his wife Rowena spent much of their time in Vancouver, they also spent time in Harrison Mills. Betty-Anne, the youngest of their four children was actually born at the home.

The Pretty family home at Harrison Mills

There was no electricity, so Pretty built a dam and produced his own electricity. The home still runs off the power from this generator.

In 1968, two of the children died tragically within six months of each other. Charles Pretty passed away in 1992 at the ripe old age of 102. The two surviving siblings, Ivan and Betty-Anne decided to convert the old manor into a Bed and Breakfast in 1995. They named the inn Rowena’s after their mother and late sister. There are five bedrooms available.

Four cozy cabins were added and the gatehouse which has two bedrooms is also available.

Two of the four cabins available for rent
Two of the four cabins available for rent #Luxurycottage

Ivan thought the location was ideal for a gold course and the 18 hole Sandpiper Golf Course soon became a reality. A restaurant was built adjacent to the old homestead. It was called the River’s Edge Restaurant but was renamed as the Clubhouse Restaurant to tie it in with the golf course. (I like the old name better!)

After Ivan passed away, Betty-Anne bought out his share and became sole owner of the property. Though Betty-Anne sold the estate in 2016, she and her husband Doug still live in the house, though Doug is currently in a convalescent home.

One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint!
One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint! #RowenasInn

The house is filled with antique furniture and old photos of the family’s history. As a home from the 1920s,  it seemed an ideal place to hold an annual themed party costume party. And so the annual Great Gatsby Party came about.

Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014
Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014 #RowenasInn

We attended the party in 2014, dressed up in costume, and stayed overnight with our friends Chris and Sheila. The Pretty family and their staff do it up in grand style. They bring in several old period cars and park them on the lawn of the estate. They bring in a few large tents in case it rains (which it occasionally does) and they brought in a swing band, the Jen Hodge All Stars, to provide some atmospheric music. They rocked the place. Band leader Hodge is the bass player in the video below.

There were also professional dancers to get people into the swing of things.

Professional dancers got people's toes tapping.
Professional dancers got people’s toes tapping. #RowenasInn

It did rain for a while during the day and the party was moved under the tents and indoors. Tea and refreshments were served, including 1920s era drinks like mint juleps.

Janis and Sheila enjoy a cup of tea while chatting with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty.
Janis, Sheila  and Chris chat with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty. #HistoricalInn

Of course, one of the main attractions is the attendees. Some go all out to create the 1920s look. Flapper dresses, vests, suspenders and pocket watches. My wife sewed her own dress for the occasion.

Three gals in flapper dresses
Three gals in flapper dresses #RowenasInn

We thought that the party might just attract older folks like ourselves but we were surprised by how many young people got into the spirit of the occasion.

Outside under a tent, the Baz Luhman version of The Great Gatsby was playing on a screen, but not many people were watching. It was backdrop.

The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound
The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound #RowenasInn

The Gatsby Party skipped a year in 2016 but is back for 2017. A limited number of rooms and cabins are also available if you want to stay overnight.

Below is a short promotional video the estate produced for the Great Gatsby Party. My wife and I just happen to have a cameo appearance.

And while the Gatsby Party is a fun reason to visit Rowena’s, there are other reasons and seasons to visit. The inn is at the base of the road that leads to the Hemlock Ski Resort. The same road leads to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel where you can watch salmon spawn. It’s open for visits from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1 every year.

And the Harrison River attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America every year in November. November 18-19 this year kicks off the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. Pretty Estates is a great place for eagle watching.

And this year the estate is having a special Valentine’s dinner in both the Clubhouse Restaurant and in the dining room at the inn. My wife and I have booked a two day stay and are looking forward to it.

Rowena’s is a thoroughly charming trip back in time with many activities to choose from. It’s only 21.9 kilometres from Harrison Hot Springs and 108 kilometres from Vancouver, about an hour and a half drive.

Below are two photo galleries and some links of interest. If you’re on the front page of this blog, just scroll on down, otherwise click on the links. I will be taking more photos and adding them after Valentine’s Day.


Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Great Gatsby Party

Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some more photos from the Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s Inn on the River in 2014. The party is being held again on June 11, 2017.

The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena's
The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Professional dancers added to the mood.
Professional dancers added to the mood.
A number of people mingled at poolside
A number of people mingled at poolside
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she's wearing
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she’s wearing
Janis and Sheila have tea
Janis and Sheila have tea
Betty-Anne's husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
Betty-Anne’s husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
This classic Rolls was also on display
This classic Rolls was also on display
The guy on the right won best male costume
The guy on the right won best male costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Janis and I near the restaurant
Janis and I near the restaurant

Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Rowena’s Inn on the River

Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some additional photos of the inn and surrounding area. I will be adding some more after Valentine’s Day when I will be taking some interior shots. The view at the top of the page is of the Harrison River as seen from beside the swimming pool.

The inn in the winter - it's prettier in the summer with the sunshine and the shrubs in bloom
The inn in the winter – it’s prettier in the summer with the sunshine and the shrubs in bloom
There'as a little brook near by
There’as a little brook near by
One of the four cabins
One of the four cabins

More photos to follow after Feb. 14th.


Follow us on Facebook!

Our Cabo Adventure

Follow us on Facebook!

The iconic image of Cabo San Lucas is the famous arch, El Arco, a rocky outcrop on the tip of the peninsula not far from the town of Cabo San Lucas. But Cabo is more than just the town and the rock formations. A plethora of large resort hotels dot the coastline between that town and the town of San José del Cabo. And, of course, there are lots of golf courses and a national park near by.

Our first visit to Cabo was to the town. It was the first port of call on a cruise we took in 2007. Although there were excursions available, we opted to wander around on our own. We were surprised to see heavily armed soldiers on duty on the docks.

Along the waterfront in Cabo.
Along the waterfront in Cabo.

Cabo is a pretty little town and we stopped at a place called Margarita Villa for the largest Margaritas we had ever seen.

Janis and I knock back a couple of giant Margaritas.

Our second trip to Cabo was in 2013 when we spent a week at an all-inclusive resort about half-way between the two towns. The Dreams Resort, like many resorts along the strip, has fabulous amenities – a large swimming pool with a swim-up bar, several fine restaurants, and entertainment.

The Dreams Resort at Cabo San Lucas

Sandy beaches spanned the front of the resort and off in either direction past many other resorts. Every morning we would start our day with a walk along the beach for an hour or so. The ocean here is a deep blue and the surf is quite fierce. There are warnings to be careful of undertows and riptides. Swimming is at your own risk.

At one end of the long beach along the Cabo peninsula are these rocky outcrops. You can see the ferocity of the waves as they crash.

One time we were walking along talking and maybe closer than we thought because a large wave crashed and pounded up to where we were. The water swirled around our feet and Janis lost her footing. As she fell, her new hat flew off. I quickly grabbed the hat and was surprised to see her sliding down the sand flat on her back away from me into the sea.

I followed her out and as the wave settled she struggled to her feet and I grabbed her hand and we raced back up the sand out of reach of the next wave. It was a bit of a scare and she lost her glasses in the process. But hey, I saved the hat!

The picture of me that serves as the header for this blog was shot on our Cabo vacation in 2013.

One day we took the bus into the town of San José del Cabo. It’s a picturesque village with a large church and a central plaza. We wandered around and visited a few shops but there is not a lot to do there.

San José del Cabo, a pretty little town but not really a lot to do here.

The resort often had entertainment and one evening show featured acrobats twirling batons of fire as well as a lot of dancers on the beach.

Of course, a lot of time was spent just lounging by the pool reading, or going for a swim. Who wouldn’t want to take a dip when the pool has a swim-up bar!

Sipping Margaritas at the swim-up bar. Life is good!

Later in the week we booked a sunset sailing excursion in town. We took the bus to the city and boarded the boat, a large sailboat. This was a terrific adventure, the surf, the wind, the sail flapping in the breeze.

Heading out on the sailboat.

The ship took us past the famous El Arco and along the way we saw a narrow strip of sand between two imposing cliffs. The beach, we were told, led to another beach on the other side. The beach on this side was called Lover’s Beach. It is safe to swim here as this is the sheltered side.

The gap leads to the Pacific side of the Land’s End and Divorce Beach. Swimming there is dangerous. This side, on the Sea of Cortes, is quite safe.

The other side is called Divorce Beach. Here you are exposed to the open sea and the surf is unpredictable and dangerous. Rogue waves, strong undertows and riptides have claimed lives here. Swimming is not recommended. When we returned home I found a few stories on the Internet of drownings and narrow escapes.

We were served a tasty meal aboard and then we sailed into the sunset. A gorgeous sight. We enjoyed this sailing adventure a lot.

Sunset at sea.

And while we had a great week what with the sea and surf, the swim-up bar at the pool, the fabulous restaurants, and the sailing adventure, we had an unexpected surprise on our last day there.

Dreams Resort is part of a sea turtle rehabilitation program. Five species of sea turtles lay eggs on the beaches of Cabo every June. Some are protected and sheltered until they hatch and return to the sea, but many of the eggs are gathered and taken to safe hatching grounds. When the hatchlings are large enough, they are returned to the sea.

bin of sea turtles-e
A large bin full of baby sea turtles.

On our last day there, the resort announce that they would be having a turtle release in the evening just before sunset. Everyone eagerly gathered on the beach to watch.

Hundreds of little sea turtles were placed on the sand and they crawled eagerly out to the sea. As they got closer, the surf pulled some in, and also washed some back up onto the beach. People were eager to help the little critters make it back to their home. It was quite a sight to see.

After a week in Cabo we flew back home and had another adventure, an emergency landing in San Francisco as one of the engines on the plane failed. So we got home a day late, but very happy to have spent a week in fabulous Cabo San Lucas.

Be sure to check out the additional photo gallery for more pics and vids. Either click on the link or if you are in the main page, scroll on through.


Follow us on Facebook!