Coogee Maritime Trail | Omeo Wreck
Start - Socrates Parade, Port Coogee
Length - 600m (Loop)
Rating - Blue
Max Depth - 10m
Time - 1-2 hours
Date Snorkelled - 10th December 2017
Best Time - Late Spring to Autumn
Directions - Located south of Fremantle in the new Port Coogee development, get yourself to Cockburn Rd until you reach the entry road into Port Coogee that is Pantheon Ave. Follow this down to the shopping centre and take a left at the roundabout on Orsino Blvd and then a right on Napoleon Ave. Socrates Parade comes off Napoleon Ave and there is parking right on the beach front. The trail head is unmissable as there is a giant staircase leading over the rocks and into the water.
2020 Update - Some new installations have gone in along the sea wall to expand the trail and encourage more marine life to the area. It will be a couple of years before they are fully part of the environment but already there are fish using them as habitat. Please note that this place is becoming very popular and parking can be an issue. Also, do not stand or sit on the wreck as it is very old and won't last much longer if people do not show their respect. Don't be afraid to tell people off who are not doing the right thing.
The Snorkel - So what do you do in Perth when the temperatures increase (along with the bushfire risk), the snakes slither out and the ticks and flies make a nuisance of themselves? Well you head into the water and enjoy some of the great snorkelling spots that are dotted up and down the Perth coastline. This will be the first of many new water-based trails on the website as I swap the hiking boots for snorkelling fins so look for the fish symbol on the Perth Day Hikes page as the summers roll on.
The Coogee Maritime Trail was meant to be up on the website earlier in 2017 after I planned a visit not long after the official launch event. Unfortunately the trail had not been completed in full by then with the feature stainless steel staircase still taped off due to it not being finished yet. To be fair to the trail and wanting a complete experience, I held off doing a write-up until it was finished and now is that time. A joint project between the City of Cockburn, the Western Australian Museum and Murdoch University, the trail was built to expand on the existing Omeo Wreck, highlight the maritime history of the area and provide more habitat for a variety of marine life. With a warm Sunday morning in December forecast I made plans to visit once again to experience the full trail and report back on how it was. Joining me on the day was Junior Deputy Assistant of Trail Experiences, Aron, resident Life of Py grumpy old man Jeff, and Xavier the undersized power forward of my basketball team. I arrived earlier so I could walk around the edge of the water and take some photos before it got too busy as there is a walk trail that goes around the breakwater wall.
The area is still being developed but once there are more buildings around it will have a much nicer feel than the building site vibe that is there now. From this vantage point you could see the full length of the Omeo Wreck and the artificial reef blocks that appear in the shallower sections. On my way back to the stairs I came across a man walking his dog and he pointed into the water after spotting a ray moving in the shallows. Keen to get into the water and see what other aquatic locals I could find, I headed back to the car and grabbed my things. Aron arrived at that point and we were soon climbing the impressive stainless steel staircase that leads you over the rocks and straight into the ocean. Last time I was here this wasn't finish yet so it was cool to see it finally completed and be able to walk straight into the ocean. While Aron was going back and forth waiting for the others to arrive, I had no such patience and was straight into the water.
A shag had setup camp on top of the Omeo Wreck so I swam out to get a closer picture and explore the bow of the old ship while the others were still arriving. I got my shot of the shag but it then didn't like the look of me and flew off for a quieter spot. In the shallows around the wreck I spotted a few fish including a stripy black and yellow one I assume is a Microcanthus strigatus from my googling (didn't get a very clear photo of it). Eventually Jeff and Xav rocked up and we all stood in the shallows while everyone got their gear ready. With the already warm morning heating up we swam the short distance to the Omeo Wreck and started exploring. The Omeo was a very important ship in its time and has great importance for the communications history of Australia. Built in 1858 in England, it was used to lay cables in the Bass Straight and the Overland Telegraph that linked Australia to Britain via Singapore. Later on in life it was converted to transport people around the southern cities of Australia and then as a coal hulk before being wrecked in 1905 in its current location. At about 20m in length, it is teeming with life as the sea has taken over and provided habitat for all kinds of sea creatures and plant life. Be careful if you are on the ocean side of the wreck as you can get the odd current push you towards the ship without much notice.
The Omeo sticks out in places but there are spots where you can cross over the top without scraping your body and this allows better access to the hidden areas that the shy fish like to hide in. With the Omeo Wreck explored we moved on to the new part of the trail that really makes it a trail rather than a short loop around an old wreck. Work started on the trail a couple of years ago with the installation of several of the new concrete artificial reef modules along the breakwater wall. There are 33 pieces going in ranging from small concrete blocks to the piece de la resistance, the 5m tall "Reef Temple". Starting in the shallows, the first object is one of the art pieces to be found with a life-like metal seal that depending on the sea level may or may not have its head poking above the water. Jeff posed for a photo with the seal and we hilariously suggested that it was hard to tell the difference because humour. Heading along the breakwater wall to the west are more features to dive down and look at including a series of concrete blocks that now have signs of life growing off them and hopefully will attract some fish species closer to the shore.
One cool feature that I wasn't expecting comes up next, an old anchor that isn't related to the Omeo. The plaque placed near it says that it was found during the excavation of the Elizabeth Quay site and is of unknown origin so it's a cool little feature they've added. Along with the anchor there is a railway wheel that was also found at Elizabeth Quay and I think it looks like an old ship's wheel so if you think of it that way then it's fitting with the nautical trend. We took a little break near the buoy where Aron noticed a couple of fish just hanging around in the shade of the buoy. Two Western Talma's were about 1m below the surface just chilling out and posing for photos. After a good game of chasey around the metal chain attached to the buoy we moved on and headed to the starfish structure. Designed to be a giant starfish, this big piece of concrete is a very cool bit of reef that is starting to look better with more life attaching itself to the surface. It kind of looks like a miniature under the seas volcano with hollow cones dotted around it that will provide a safe space for many a fish species.
From here the water gets a bit deeper and on the day we visited it was becoming a lot murkier towards the ocean floor. I really wanted to see the Reef Temple and have a good dive down to get some pictures looking upwards. With murky water and not being able to see too far in the distance, it is very handy to have reflective markers on the breakwater to let you know roughly where the features are. Turns out Jeff and I were right near the temple and had some fun exploring what we could see. The premise of the temple is that you can dive down and swim right through it but with visibility a bit poor and my body not being in great snorkelling condition (ears weren't popping as expected and not being able to hold my breath for as long as I would like) I skirted around the top and photographed it from above. The temple marks the end of the trail and you can either return via the same way you came or make a beeline for the southern end of the Omeo Wreck like we did, trying to spot different fish that weren't blowfish. A couple of hours in the water with friends wasn't a bad way to spend a lazy Sunday morning in summer and made better with a visit to the Grumpy Sailor in Fremantle for breakfast and coffee.
Final Thoughts - While I do enjoy my hiking, as the summer months creep up I tend to spend more time at the beach than in the forest. So to combine a trail experience with my love of the beach and the water is a great way to diversify my outdoor adventures without feeling burnt out by it all. My apologies for the quality of the underwater pictures as the housing for my camera costs more than the camera itself so I was using a cheapish digital camera that is 10m waterproof.
Thank you to the City of Cockburn for investing in this trail and providing a bit more to the area than the Omeo Wreck. Being so accessible (more so with stairs straight into the ocean) it is a perfect spot to take the family and given the amount of people enjoying it when we finished, it's very popular. You don't have to have all the snorkelling gear to enjoy the area as the wreck is just off where you can stand and the seal is easily reached on foot.
The addition of the artificial reefs and art installations really adds a lot to this area with time it will only attract more and more fish as the plant life attaches itself to the formations and ecosystems develop.
Being located so close to Fremantle and the suburbs around Cockburn, this is a perfect summer escape for people of all ages. I will certainly be visiting a lot more over the warmer months and you should too.
Get out there and experience it!
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