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Melville Water Riverpark Trail

  • 1-3 hours
  • 16 km

The Swan Canning Riverpark holds significant cultural and natural values for Perth, serving as an important feature of the city’s landscape. The Melville Water Riverpark Trail is a sixteen kilometre urban trail along the Swan River (Derbal Yarrigan), from Fremantle Traffic Bridge to Canning Bridge through some of Perth’s most unique southern foreshore reserves and parks.

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Trail Start

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Fremantle Traffic Bridge or Canning Bridge

Trail End

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Canning Bridge or Fremantle Traffic Bridge

Welcome, you are standing at Fremantle Traffic Bridge. To the Whadjuk Noongar people this area is a culturally significant place, encompassing the natural landmark and ceremonial site Dwerda Weeardinup (place of the dingo spirit), also known as Cantonment Hill. Cantonment Hill contains one of the last remaining stands of pre-European settlement Rottnest Island Pine (Callitris preissii) in the Perth metropolitan area.

Since the early days of European settlement, the Swan and Canning were working Rivers; the first transport and communication corridor between Perth and Fremantle. The proposition of connecting Fremantle to North Fremantle by bridge was a necessary and complex undertaking. As the colony and the harbour expanded from 1863 onwards, four separate bridges were constructed in roughly the same place. The current bridge built in 1939 was predicted to stand for only three years, however it continues to serve as a major traffic bridge, many years later.

Today at low tide, the wooden footings of the original bridge built in 1863 are still visible when looking across the river to North Fremantle.

Photo: State Library of Western Australia 010733d - Fremantle Bridge 1880-1890

In 1896 the majestic Castlemaine Brewery stood on the banks of the Swan River. Throughout the course of its life, the Castlemaine Brewery was acquired and operated by a number of eager hotel owners and businesses; the most notable of these being the Swan Brewery Company in 1927, which purchased the building for $29,065 pounds and 32,500 Swan Brewery shares. The Swan Brewery Company later moved the majority of its workforce upriver to the Brewery at the foot of Mt Eliza in Kings Park, closing the doors of the Castlemaine Brewery forever. The building was later demolished to make way for the construction of Stirling Bridge.

The bridge was constructed in 10 stages and was, at the time, the longest bridge in Western Australia at 415 metres. Opened in 1974 (three months ahead of schedule), the bridge carries the name of Western Australia’s first Governor and founder of the Swan River Colony, Captain James Stirling.

A walk along the path under the Stirling Bridge is a great way to appreciate the sights, sounds and stories of the Swan; particularly for fans of Australian band AC/DC, who can pause under the southern abutment and look at the mural of the late Bon Scott (1946-1980), lead singer and Fremantle local.

Photo: State Library of Western Australia 111732PD - "Castlemaine Brewery 1923"

Those wishing to view the Swan River from higher ground can choose to walk the Niergarup Track. This short track runs parallel to the river along the limestone cliff top above Riverside Drive (just upstream of the Left Bank). It features a number of interpretive signs that provide a perspective on the river from the Whadjuk Noongar people, the early colonists and those who have followed.

“Niergarup” is Noongar for “the place where pelicans meet” and is the name the Whadjuk people gave to the Preston Point area. Look for the limestone plinths that mark the start and end of the trail. The trail is suitable for walking only.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

One of the leading causes to wildlife injuries in the Swan and Canning rivers is fishing line entanglement. This is particularly the case for our river dolphins, as they find it very difficult to see fishing line floating in the water. Consequently, over the years we have had dolphins that have been caught in line, ropes and hooks, resulting in earlier dolphin deaths. Unfortunately many pelicans and other sea birds also have the same fate.

To address and lessen the impact of fishing line entanglements, the Department of Parks and Wildlife have launched the ‘Reel It In’ campaign. Dedicated fishing line bins have been installed at jetties, fishing platforms, traffic bridges and yacht clubs to provide the community with an easy and safe way to dispose of unwanted fishing tackle and line

Photo: Richard Gorham DPaW

‘Bicton Baths’ was developed in 1926, initiated by the local Melville Amateur Swimming Club, which made good use of the existing quarantine station jetty as a swimming platform. In 1946 the Melville Water Polo Club was founded at the baths. The club was instrumental in facilitating the present-day Bicton Pool, built in 1979. Today, Bicton Baths is a significant place for community enjoyment and connections through sport, leisure activities and annual events.

Bicton Baths is situated in a tidal gorge and heavily influenced by ocean water inflow, this location is a haven for biodiversity. A variety of marine creatures make their home here, taking advantage of the mixture of limestone and sandy features. Take a look under water at this location and you will find anemones, starfish, sponges, nudibranchs, seahorses and a wide assortment of algae, shrimp, crabs and fish.

To Noongars this area is known as Kwoppa Kepa, which translates to “beautiful water” in Noongar. To learn about the Whadjuk Noongar cultural significance of this site, download the free ‘Geotourist’ app and search for the trail 'Jenna Biddi Yorga', which will guide you to a series of audio stories shared by Whadjuk Elders.

Also, look out for the wooden interpretation facility to learn more about Bicton Baths.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

Point Walter is situated at the top end of a tidal gorge that stretches down to the ocean, and has a mixture of sandy embayments and eroded limestone habitat. The jetty is a popular location for catching herring, tailor and flathead. The gentle slope of the shoreline, combined with dense sub-tidal seagrass makes this location important for black swans that graze on two different seagrass species that occur here.

In 1830, following the original Swan River colony settlers, a second wave of colonists received land grants; however, only two chose to stay and develop property here. One of these men was Alfred Waylen, whose plans included building a tavern and establishing a ferry service for patrons. Waylen also cut a channel in the spit at Point Walter which was heavily used as a stopping point between Fremantle and Perth, despite constant silting.

Point Walter is known as Djoondalup to the local Whadjuk people, which means “place of white sand” in Noongar. To learn about the Whadjuk Noongar cultural significance of this site, download the free ‘Geotourist’ app and search for the trail 'Jenna Biddi Yorga', which will guide you to a series of audio stories shared by Whadjuk Elders.

Also, look out for the wooden interpretation facility near the jetty to learn more about Point Walter.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

The Attadale foreshore was once used by the Whadjuk people as a summer food source. The relatively small strip of fertile clay and silt flats once yielded a wide variety of crustaceans, turtles, frogs, lizards, birds, mammals and fish.

During the 1960’s, a major land reclamation project was undertaken on the Swan River foreshore between Point Walter and Point Waylen. The river was dredged and hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of sand fill was dumped on the Attadale foreshore. This effectively buried the fertile swamps and mudflats and produced instead a much more sterile area with a view to improving it for recreational usage.

Today, the Friends of Attadale Foreshore Inc. (FOAF) plays a vital role in partnership with other agencies to protect and enhance this significant area of the Swan River for everyone to enjoy.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

The tranquil estuary environment of Alfred Cove is one of three areas in the Swan River protected by the Swan Estuary Marine Park. Complemented by the fringing vegetation of Alfred Cove Nature Reserve, this environment provides an invaluable habitat for migratory wading birds from as far away as northern Asia and Siberia. These birds are protected by international agreements between Australia and Japan, China and Korea.

To learn more about the Swan Estuary Marine Park, look up its EveryTrail guide at: http://www.everytrail.com/guide/swan-estuary-marine-park

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

Here at the foot of Cunningham Street once stood a jetty, known as “German Jetty”. Built by the Public Works Department in 1910, it made river transport much easier and consequently was of great significance to early settlers since the river provided one of the few direct transport routes between Perth and Fremantle. Aptly named after the German company Telefunken Wireless Co., the jetty was utilised to unload materials and equipment used in the construction of the Applecross Wireless Station on nearby Wireless Hill in 1912.

You can retrace historical development of the telecommunications stations by following the Wireless Hill Heritage trail that runs up Cunningham Street. Starting at German Jetty, the trail crosses Canning Highway and heads to the top of Wireless Hill Park to the telecommunications museum. It then sweeps through spectacular natural bushland and features views of the Swan River and the city of Perth. Once you enter Wireless Hill Reserve look for signs bearing the Heritage trails network symbol.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

If you stand facing the river at Point Dundas you may spot a dolphin or even a pod. Point Dundas is a popular feeding ground for dolphins. Dolphins are an integral part of the natural and cultural heritage of the Swan Canning Riverpark found in both the Swan River (Derbarl Yerrigan) and the Canning River (Djarlgarro Beelier).

Excluding regular visitors, the Riverpark is home to over twenty resident dolphins, each uniquely identified and named. These resident dolphins account for nearly all of the dolphin sightings in the Riverpark. They are given resident status because they use the estuary all year-round, forming a single community with frequent interaction and association amongst each other. This Riverpark community is distinct from dolphin communities which also reside in the Cockburn Sound and Owen Anchorage areas. For more information on river dolphins, visit the River Guardians ‘Dolphin Watch’ webpage here: http://www.riverguardians.com/projects/dolphin-watch

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

Heathcote overlooks Waylen Bay, a heavily modified location where material was dredged from offshore and used to fill the embayment. Today the shallow bay is home to an extensive seagrass habitat dominated by the paddleweed. The seagrass habitat provides protection and food resources for an array of species, including school prawns, blue-swimmer crabs, gobbleguts and seahorses.

Heathcote was one of the original places considered as an ideal location to site the capital city before the site at the foot of Mount Eliza was chosen as the location of Perth. This site was named by Captain James Stirling after Midshipman G.C. Heathcote, a member of the 1827 Swan River expedition. However Heathcote's traditional name is Kooyagarup - "place of the big nose frog", in Noongar.

Kooyagarup has great significance to Whadjuk people, as this area was once a Whadjuk men’s ceremonial site. To learn more about the Whadjuk Noongar cultural significance of this area, visit the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s ‘Explore Parks WA’ website, which will guide you to a series of audio stories shared by Whadjuk Elders.

Also, look out for the wooden interpretation facility which holds more historic information about the site, found at the lower cliff side overlooking Waylen Bay. While you are here, also take a walk around the upper lands of Heathcote to learn about the history of the Heathcote Mental Reception Home, which operated from 1929 to 1994.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW

Welcome, you have arrived at Canning Bridge. Similar to the Fremantle Traffic Bridge, four different bridges were constructed over this site where the Canning River meets the Swan River. The first bridge was constructed in 1849, while the current bridge standing today was constructed in 1939. In March 2012 this bridge attained status on the Western Australian State Heritage list.

This area is known as Wagoorjup, or “the place of the Waagal” in Noongar. The Waagal is a powerful serpent-like dreamtime spirit that created the rivers, waterholes, lakes, valleys and landforms on its journey from inland West Australia to the ocean. Noongars believe the Waagal to be the giver of life.

Photo: Ben Ansell DPaW
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Learn more

Melville Water Riverpark Trail aims to take you on a journey from Fremantle Traffic Bridge to Canning Bridge, showcasing the many different perspectives that exist in the Riverpark. These perspectives aim to enrich our knowledge and understanding of the natural and cultural values of the Riverpark.

This sixteen kilometre trail stretches along some of Perth's most precious foreshore, boasting impressive views of Perth's city skyline. The trail is both walker and cycle friendly, and can be enjoyed anytime of the year.

While the trail is not marked by directional signage, the trail does have a number of points of interest, which can be accessed on your mobile smart phone. Also, look out for the wooden interpretation facilities at Bicton Baths, Point Walter and Heathcote. These interpretation facilities serve as an information portal, which provides invaluable information about the Riverpark's ecological, historical, and Noongar cultural & heritage values.

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    Comprehensive information on the Perth region including destinations, things to see and do, accommodation and tours.


Be trail ready for Melville Water Riverpark Trail

Here is everything you need to know before visiting this trail.

Time / Duration

Time depends on mode of transport

Length

32km return

What To Pack

Group A (Urban trails or short trails near facilities) required.

Trail Start

Fremantle Traffic Bridge or Canning Bridge

Get directions

Trail End

Canning Bridge or Fremantle Traffic Bridge

Get directions

Facilities

In most reserves surrounding the Swan Canning Riverpark, dogs are permitted but must be on a leash. However there are a number of locations where dogs are not allowed. Please note, dog exercise guidelines are administered by each local council and can vary, so please ensure you check each local council’s guidelines before bringing your dog. For a general guide, online lists of dog friendly parks in the Perth metropolitan area, please click here: http://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/dog-friendly-parks-and-beaches-in-the-perth-metropolitan-area
  • Access with assistance for the Disabled
  • BBQ Facilities
  • Bicycle Locker
  • Bicycle Path
  • Cafe
  • Car Park
  • Child Activities
  • Coach Parking
  • Kiosk
  • Lookouts
  • Picnic Area
  • Public Toilet
  • Shaded Area
  • Sheltered Area
  • Toilet Facilities for Disabled
  • View Platform
  • Water Access Points

Best time of year

All year round

Trail Access

Walk, cycle, or catch public transport from either Fremantle or Canning Bridge

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Complete Melville Water Riverpark Trail to earn badges and points!

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Earn 1 Point

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Mountain Biker

Earn the Mountain Biker badge when you complete this trail

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2 trail goers have rated Melville Water Riverpark Trail as 5 out of 5!

We love to hear from people who've been on our Western Australian trails, so it would be most appreciated it if you wanted to leave a review.

David O'Connor

Reviewed 9 Sep 2018, 8:50pm

This is a solid walk but gives you some amazing views of the river, Perth and all the huge homes along the southern loop. You can catch the 910 bus back to Fremantle for $4.80. It's a lovely walk with not too many hills just give yourself lots of time.
Michelle Forgette

Reviewed 7 Aug 2018, 8:38am

My new favorite adventure! Amazing scenery and lovely bike path. The views along the path are incredible. You can see the Perth city skyline, the lovely flowing Swan River, and tons of people out enjoying the day along the path. If youre taking the train up from the south, you can get off at the Bull Creek station with your bike and its an easy 10 minute ride to the start of the trail on the river.

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