The best day of your life is waiting… at Port Coogee

Ask the residents of Port Coogee and they’ll tell you they’d never live anywhere else. With its laid-back coastal charm and picturesque location, it’s not hard to see why. But a great place to live is only part of Port Coogee’s story. As the project embarks on the second half of its development program, the neighbourhood is all set to evolve into a world-class oceanfront destination and drawcard.

12 May 2022

Just 25 metres offshore at Western Australia’s idyllic Port Coogee community, lies an underwater playground for divers and snorkelers. It’s the Coogee Maritime Trail, featuring a remarkable underwater art gallery and artificial reef, anchored by the hulking sunken presence of the Omeo shipwreck.

With a fascinating history as a cargo steamer and passenger liner, plying the waters between Australia, New Zealand, and England during the mid-to-late 1800s, the notoriously accident-prone Omeo had seen its fair share of scrapes. In 1881 it collided with and demolished the Swan Spit lighthouse in Port Phillip Bay. A few years later, laden with 500 tonnes of timber, it crashed into a Perth jetty leaving serious damage in its wake. Miraculously, it also survived being hit by another steamer in Sydney Harbour and almost sunk.

Then one squally day in 1905, the Omeo’s luck ran out. Slipping free of its moorings in Fremantle it drifted south on the tides, running aground at Coogee Beach. After a century of lying prone in the sand a few metres below the water’s surface, known only to a small cohort of divers as well as many thousands of fish, the Omeo shipwreck and Coogee Maritime Trail is today one of Western Australia’s premier drawcards, popular with novice divers, snorkelers, and day trippers from Perth and Fremantle.

It’s the kind of discovery story that deeply appeals to Tod O’Dwyer, Frasers Property Australia’s General Manager Development in Western Australia.

“The Maritime Trail is an underwater wonderland that’s being discovered by more and more people each year”, says Tod. “It’s been a bit of a well-kept secret for the longest time, but I think that’s also the essence of its charm. You see it on the faces of people as they emerge from the water, they’re just exhilarated by what they’ve seen and explored; they can’t wait to come back and do it again.”

That desire to return over and over to a beloved destination is one that underpins Frasers Property’s approach to Port Coogee, the $2 billion coastal neighbourhood that will one day be home to more than 4,000 residents. Located 23kms south-west of Perth and just 5kms south of Fremantle, the charm of Port Coogee – like the Omeo wreck it shares its beach with – is about to be discovered by the wider world.

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A coming-of-age story

Port Coogee is a little over halfway through its completion. Drive into the picturesque residential enclave today and you’re struck by the sense of laid-back coastal charm that permeates its neat streets and local shops. A feast for the senses, the sound of flip-flops on the footpath and children’s laughter in the waterfront park combine with the smell of seaspray and the sight of the glittering Indian Ocean stretching away to the horizon. It’s easy to see why residents at Port Coogee wouldn’t live anywhere else.

But a great place to live is only part of Port Coogee’s story. As the project embarks on the second half of its development program, the neighbourhood will evolve into a world-class oceanfront destination and drawcard.

“This is where it gets exciting”, explains Tod. “Much of what we’ve delivered over the last 15 years has been about laying down the building blocks of this really well-loved community, delivering the infrastructure that makes it work for residents. The next phase is about bringing in the fine grain that elevates it to something truly special and unique.”

The ‘fine grain’ Tod refers to includes the completion of Port Coogee’s 300-berth marina; creation of a waterfront tavern and dining precinct; delivery of a vibrant new Main Street and waterside plaza; a new mix of townhomes, apartments, and short-stay accommodation with contemporary coastal character; all connected by pedestrian-friendly corsos and laneways.

In essence, says Tod, Port Coogee is on the cusp of its maturation, and as it comes into its own it will transform from a great place to live into a great place to be.

“I liken it to taking a trip on the Amalfi Coast and discovering some romantic little hamlet where you decide to stop for an hour or two, but end up staying the day”, explains Tod.

“You find yourself immersed in the character of the place – strolling the streets, chatting with locals at a cafe, lingering to watch the sun go down over the water… you didn’t know it when you drove in, but you were about to have one of the best days of your life. That’s what we want Port Coogee to be.”

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Coogee proud

Michelle Mrzyglocki has been the Community Development Manager at Port Coogee since 2015, helping residents build the social ties that create the colour and character of the neighbourhood. She says the locals are some of the most engaged and generous resident communities she’s worked with.

“It’s the nature of my job to always be thinking about how to bring people together”, Michelle explains, “and in some new communities it takes quite a lot of work. But at Port Coogee, the community has tended to bond and organise in this really organic way. I think some of that is that they’re incredibly proud of where they live. They think it’s beautiful and they really care about keeping it that way.”

That sense of motivation is part of the “magic of Port Coogee”, says Michelle.

“A few years ago, the local council asked for budget submissions by local community groups for work they wanted done in their area. The Port Coogee Community Association put forward five plans for various upgrades and improvements and got all five approved. Not everyone could have done that, and it just demonstrates how energised and organised they are.”

Importantly, the efforts of Port Coogee residents extend well beyond writing budget proposals. In fact, a lot of it is centred around the social vibrancy of the community. Michelle says there’s a First Friday group who organise a social event on the first Friday of every month, regular street parties, clean up days, competitive ocean swims, Christmas festivals, choir singing, and food truck nights on the foreshore. 

And that’s not to mention the general sense of camaraderie and activity to be found in the main street.

“It felt like something clicked this year and there’s just this real kind of buzz in Port Coogee”, says Michelle. “The hairdresser’s booked up, the cafe is pumping, and the shopping centre is really busy. Despite all the stuff that’s going on in the world right now, there’s just this feeling that Port Coogee people are in the right spot at the exact right time.”

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An icon in the making

As the project moves into development of the much-anticipated marina village precinct, a huge amount of civil work has been undertaken to prepare the southern peninsula for its transformation. The masterplan includes provision for a range of new apartment buildings and terrace homes linked by view corridors to the ocean and connection to sustainably landscaped public open space.

A key consideration, says Tod, is walkability.

“Well, maybe it’s actually ‘strollability”, laughs Tod. “The goal is to create this classic Australian coastal destination that feels exciting and relaxing in equal measure. The completion of the marina, the future tavern, and public plaza will really cement Port Coogee as the country’s best new beachside village.”

For more information on Port Coogee, call Frasers Property on 13 38 38.