Port Coogee's unique coastal characters

Maybe it’s the sense of endless summer, the taste of salt on the skin, the crunch of sand between your toes. We may never know exactly why, but the pace of life definitely moves differently when you’re living in a coastal village like Port Coogee.

14 April 2021

Port Coogee is an exemplar of something people the world over recognise as quintessentially Australian living — laid-back coastal lifestyle with a close-knit community feel. There’s something about the interplay of elements — sand, sea, salty air, and glorious sunsets — that makes seaside living a unique and highly sought-after experience.

Frasers Property General Manager of Development WA, Tod O’Dwyer, says there’s a special alchemy in these natural elements that are irresistibly attractive to humans. “Australia’s an island nation, and the pull of water is something I think we all feel,” says Tod. “Whether it’s the annual beach holiday or a daily ocean swim, we are all drawn to the sea. And that’s at the heart of the enduring appeal of coastal communities; you just feel different when you’re there. More relaxed somehow.”

With its thriving local community and busy marina, you could be forgiven for thinking that Port Coogee, located just 5kms from Fremantle, has been around forever. Into its fifteenth year of development, the project is about to address the most exciting part of its life cycle — the marina village precinct. Though still under design, Tod says the vision for the precinct is to create a hub to the community that’s activated night and day with bars, cafes, and restaurants. “We’ve reached a really pinnacle moment in the creation of Port Coogee,” explains Tod. “The marina has been hugely popular for boat owners, and we’re excited to build on that to create a harbourside hub where you can come down and enjoy a sundowner cocktail with friends or some fresh seafood straight off the boat.”

So, given the unique character of coastal places, is there additional pressure when designing beachside communities versus urban communities? “I think so, yes,” says Tod. “The central design focus has always got to be the water. So, you’re constantly thinking about how to address the water and the viewlines to the water in everything you do. That touches everything from the housing typologies to the choice of street trees. These kinds of sites don’t come along often — they’re unique and very rare. So, you really want to get it right. There’s a huge sense of privilege with not only providing a place for people to make their home but shaping their experience of coastal culture. Getting it right is something we don’t take lightly.”

But careful and considerate design is only one of the ways that Port Coogee has come to life. The other is the people that live, work, play and celebrate life in this part of the world. We caught up with a few of the local characters of Port Coogee to understand what makes living in this part of the world so unique.

Andria Aird, Pharmacist.

As proprietor and pharmacist of Blooms the Chemist Port Coogee, Andria is used to helping people with their health. As a keen open water swimmer and ocean-lover, she says it’s easy to enjoy an active, healthy life when you live somewhere as beautiful as Port Coogee.

“One thing that’s very striking here is that people seem to have a shared love of the ocean and the outdoors. Most days I have customers chatting about their mvorning catch, or whether they have been down for their morning dip, or a dive along the Coogee maritime trail. There seems to be a greater awareness and consideration for the ocean and the environment.

“Blooms the Chemist Port Coogee is a proud sponsor of the Port Coogee Jetty to Jetty Swim each year. Alongside family and friends, I’ve completed the swims, and I just think we’re so lucky to have this beautiful beach which is perfect for open water swimming. We have a marquee on the day and my whole team gets involved. We have a lot of fun and see many of our regular customers at the event. Open water swimming is fun, healthy, and inclusive — much like the Port Coogee community.”

Robert Cramp, Retired.

History and legacy are just as important to Robert Cramp. A sprightly 83 years old and loving his Port Coogee retirement with wife Maureen, Robert’s connection to the place goes back a couple of generations. “The exact spot where I live today was where my grandfather’s business — Anchorage Butchers — was located,” explains Robert. “I worked there from the age of 14 as a stockman. My grandfather, George Atkinson, was well known in the racing industry and we used to swim the thoroughbreds here three times a week in those days. When Maureen and I saw the foundations going down for the units here, we asked about it and grabbed this apartment straight away, off-the-plan. That was seven years ago. Maureen and I love sitting out on the verandah and watching the sunset. It’s the atmosphere and the quietness we love.”

Amber Vost, Hairdresser

Living and working in Port Coogee is a dream come true for Amber Vost and family. Running her thriving hairdressing business from home, Amber says they’ve found their little piece of paradise. “I have met so many friendly locals while living here with my husband and three beautiful boys — it’s just the best place for our children to grow up,” says Amber. “Every day has that quality of living like you’re on a holiday. The fresh air is amazing and makes you feel so relaxed. The other thing is the community. Most people are quite friendly and stop for a chat. Everyone is always helping each other. We have a really friendly street too — we regularly catch up for dinner and drinks. Our kids have so many friends here. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in the world.”

The Paratores, a fishing family.

Maria Paratore and her husband Joe, both migrated to Western Australia from their Italian homeland as children in the 1960s. Meeting in Fremantle, marrying, and creating a family, they moved to Port Coogee in <year>. The family are locally famous for selling freshly caught lobster from their boat, much to the delight of other local residents.

Says Maria, “Port Coogee, for us, is very unique, very special. It has provided us with the opportunity to replicate the things we miss so much about our homeland. Back in Italy, it was common during long, hot summer days and nights for half the village to congregate by the water to get cool. The children would all know each other and spend time playing on the beach. The parents would picnic and swim. At times when we have really missed Italy, we have found Port Coogee to be ideal in providing us with a beach to continue this tradition as a family. Many happy nights have been spent here with some of our Italian friends.” n her eyes, the thing that makes this little coastal community so special is that the water offers both relaxation and recreation in equal measure. “Whether it’s a snorkel on the Omeo wreck, going out on a boat for fishing or pleasure sailing, paddling at Ngarkal Beach, or looking at the marine life.

Samantha Standish, Marina Manager.

For Samantha Standish, the best part of her job is that her office is perched right over the water at Port Coogee Marina. from the boardwalk, Port Coogee offers a unique opportunity for all people to connect with the ocean in some way. You learn to read the elements too. Weather plans are a priority! Learning the best time of day to walk the dog, swim, boat, and fish, so as to beat the Freo Doctor becomes second nature. And of course, watching the sunset every single day; you can’t beat that.”

Tanya Cobban, Tavern Owner.

Love bloomed at Port Coogee for Tanya Cobban, meeting her partner and Port Coogee resident Aaron around three years ago. Since then, Tanya has put down roots in the local community, opening the Australian Brewhouse bar and restaurant overlooking the marina. “The local community is the friendliest I’ve ever seen,” says Tanya. “I love the people, the coast, and the support I’ve received here. The Brewhouse has really grown and become the neighbourhood ‘local’ for residents. For me, the thing I associate most with this region is the fresh coastal air. Even when it’s blowing a gale it makes me feel refreshed and energised. When you’re out in the open air and outdoors you don’t feel claustrophobic, there’s no rush-rush. If you want to feel relaxed, be around friendly people with a carefree atmosphere, this is the place to be.”