Of all the words tossed around during the election campaign, there were four (five if you like to quibble) little nuggets from Mark McGowan that I happily still remember: “I’m a Rockingham dad”.
Good on you, Mr Premier-elect, because I’m a Rockingham girl and it’s lovely that your landslide ascension to the State’s top office has thrown a bright light on our little piece of paradise.
Now, I know when you dropped the R word you weren’t poking our detractors in the eye, more aligning yourself with the common man. You were telling the electorate that you come from a working-class area. You’re a man of the people, not a Cottesloe silvertail. It was all good election fodder.
I also know that you’ve got much more on your plate than being Rockingham’s champion — there’s debt to reduce, Roe 8 to stop, Western Power to save, jobs to create — so allow me to do it for you because it’s time we Rockingham-ites enjoyed our day in the sun. The Rockingham coastal drive runs for 25km from Kwinana Beach Road, but let’s start at the CBH grain terminal jetty.
The long blue structure jutting out into the sea handles millions of tonnes of grain every year. Peep just beyond it and you’ll see the Kwinana heavy industrial area, a powerhouse of the Perth economy — the Rockingham area does more than its fair share of heavy lifting when it comes to jobs and dollars.
Looking right from the grain terminal is a bit like looking left at Cottesloe beach. There you take in all the industry around Fremantle port, another healthy hive of economic muscle.
But let’s look left from the grain terminal and take in that grand sweep of coastline that runs for 2km into Rockingham’s heart. It’s beautifully sandy, it’s not crowded and the water (yes, it’s the Indian Ocean) is crystal clear. The beach is protected and ideal for families.
Drive, or shed the Birkenstocks and walk if you prefer, along the beach towards the centre of Rockingham and notice the parks that start to appear.
Bell Park and Churchill Park were the parks of my childhood — great grassy expanses, deeply shaded with peppermint trees, now with barbecues, a glorious walkway and benches on which to admire the view or watch people explore the dive trail. It’s a hive of activity at the weekend.
New apartment blocks have brought more cafes and restaurants into the heart of the town, but you can still find a place to park.
Wash down a crumbed brie baguette with a Flametree chenin blanc at Latitude Thirty Two or one of the other cafes that have paved over the fish and chip shop and trampoline centre that was my playground in the 1970s.
Walk off lunch along the stretch known as Palm Beach. The sea is a little rougher, but you’ll see yachts moored against the backdrop of Garden Island, more jetties, more walkways, more grassy areas, more benches on which to sit, more options for skinny lattes.
Now you’ll have to jump into your car because you’ve got to turn left and then right into Boundary Road to arrive at Shoalwater Bay, the area’s jewel.
Again the water is not as protected as Rockingham beach, but what’s to complain about when Penguin and Seal islands and other rocky outcrops sit just a few hundred metres offshore bathed in sunlight.
Tourists swarm to take cruises to watch dolphins and sea lions and birds in their natural habitat and kayakers dot the water, taking things at their own pace.
I’d argue it is the most attractive piece of coastal scenery in the greater metropolitan area.
But it’s time to move on because we have to sweep left into the vast expanse of Waikiki beach, a mecca for windsurfers, paragliders and all other sorts of sports with boards and sails and canopies.
There’s plenty of fishermen launching their boats and the old Banyandah deli, now sadly renamed, does a roaring trade in burgers.
If you want to do some serious swimming or surfing keep moving left into Warnbro Beach Road. Here the road sits high above a spectacular beach on which the waves crash and boom.
It’s a steep climb down but take in the beautiful arc as the beach stretches around to Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour. On a clear day you can see all the way to Mandurah.
My family arrived in Rockingham in 1969, like many others as emigrants from Britain. I remember its population climbing through 15,000 during the early 1970s, but mostly I remember the carefree days of growing up on its coast. As with many young people, work pushed me closer to Perth, but it’s still where I choose to swim.
Rockingham’s population is now well above 100,000, it has flat suburbs that sprawl beyond its heart and, like a lot of centres, it has an unemployment problem. In fact, it is like any other regional city.
But I’m not asking you to take a tour of its backblocks. Roll back the top on your Audi convertible and take a drive down one day and see the spectacular coast and enjoy the city’s healthy heart.
There’s plenty of tattoos and utes, but the natives really are friendly and you might even meet the Premier.