Freshwater Bay Tea Rooms

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In 1904 Andy Johnson, a Swedish sailor, established a business as ‘buyer and seller of all kinds of boats (rowing preferred)’. He lived in a houseboat moored at the foot of Leake Street until 1905 when he built and occupied the boatshed on this site. Once established, he began hiring rowing boats on the shore. He added tea rooms before selling his business in 1919 to James and Nellie McFarlane. Nelly was well known for her fruit cake and tea. Passengers from the boats on the river would stop off for cake and a swim. Nelly would put their false teeth into a paper bag for safe keeping!

Nelly also supported the troops during World War II when the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club was used as HMAS Leeuwin II. She would hold dances and play the piano and the soldiers would have a good sing-a-long.

James and Nellie McFarlane handed the business over to their son and daughter in law in 1949. The business thrived in the 1930s to 1950s but after that time a decline in the popularity of boating saw the facility fall into ‘a derelict state.’

As late as the 1970s there was still no sewerage connection for the living accommodation, and waste waters went directly into the river. A succession of development plans were drawn up in the 1970s. All plans were put on hold when in 1980 the recently renovated boatshed was demolished by fire. Further discussions on larger scale development took place but in 1999 the remaining jetty and landing were demolished.

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Freshwater Bay

CPM01504 Freshwater BayNyoongar people have maintained a close connection with the Swan River – known to them as Derbal Yerrigan – for more than 40,000 years. This connection forms the basis for much of their cultural and spirituality identity. Freshwater Bay was an important camping place, a source of fresh water from springs, a fishing and trading area, and above all a spiritual place. The Nyoongar word for the bay itself Minderup – means place for alleviating sickness.

Since European settlement Freshwater Bay has been regarded as a healthy place, one for recreation and enjoyment. It was once a popular holiday, camping and picnicking spot for the many thousands brought by steamers and other river craft to enjoy its beauty and the safe swimming.

It was these native riverside Peppermint trees which inspired the name Peppermint Grove. The majestic Moreton Bay figs were planted here later – in the early twentieth century – and remain important for shade. At one time destroyed for camp fires, the trees are now appreciated and protected.

The beach at Peppermint Grove is also home to the black swan, Cygnus atratus, the symbol of the Swan River and after which the Swan River Colony was named. Loss of riverine habitat resulted in a significant reduction in the once abundant swans, but their numbers are slowly increasing and you may be lucky and see them there today.