Who can believe that someone would think of a small-scale replication of Venice with its waterways and bridges in faraway Australia? Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us. Remember how the London Bridge ended up in Arizona? In 1963, two wealthy promoters of a new city out in the desert thought of the publicity they will receive if they purchased the ancient London Bridge, which was going to be demolished in 1968. They paid a couple of million dollars for it, although it took a few millions more to disassemble the bridge, mark the stones, and assemble them back, but it put them on the map and now Lake Havasu City is a flourishing place with over 52,000 residents.
Even more striking than erecting a monument at a faraway place is copycat architecture. It is seen all over the world but nowhere has it been done as assiduously as in China. Bianca Bosker has written a fascinating book titled Original Copies where she describes the Chinese tradition of architectural mimicry. A one-third-scale Eiffel Tower rises above Champs Elysées Square in Hangzhou. Chengdu has a residential complex in the image of Dorchester, England. Shanghai’s Thames Town has mock Tudor frontages, cobbles, squares, and corner shops. Around Shanghai are other suburbs that replicate Dutch, Italian, Canadian and Scandinavian-style developments.
The Venice on the Indian Ocean mimics the real Venice only in its general idea of houses on canals. It is at Mandurah, 72 kilometers south of Perth, which is Western Australia’s second largest city even though its population is less than 100,000. It came strongly recommended for a weekend visit. We were pressed for time and so we decided to make it a daylong trip. We boarded the Transperth train to Mandurah at the Elizabeth Quay train station at the Swan River.
The indigenous people called this area Mandjoogoodap, “meeting place of the heart.” The British simplified this name to Mandurah. Thomas Peel brought European settlement to the area in 1830 when he was granted 250,000 acres of land. We are told that Mandurah is the least affordable city in Australia.
A bus from the train station took us to the visitor center at the lake-like Peel Inlet where we purchased tickets for the cruise through the canals of Mandurah. The cruise boat left the dock near Cicarello’s Restaurant, famed for its seafood, and rounded Stingray Point to the entrance to the Marina and docked at Dolphin Quay so that we could walk over the Ocean Marina Bridge. As we headed back out to the channel, we passed the little Venice area that comprises of canals surrounded by apartment buildings.
Back in the channel, we saw dolphins frolicking in the waters. Now the boat entered a complex of man-made canals with expensive homes. Many had their own private boats docked at their personal jetties. We were told that the houses are beautifully illuminated during the Christmas holidays.
Leaving the area comprised of homes, we went past Sutton Farm with its still standing limestone buildings. Eleanor and John Sutton, who arrived on the Hindoo in 1839, established Sutton Farms and became prominent settlers in the Mandurah area in the first decades of the colony. The farm operated as a dairy for the town and was one of the few regular places of employment in the late 1800s until the introduction of bottled milk around this time led to the dairy’s decline. In 1924, Joseph Cooper bought the farm although it continued to be managed by the Sutton family. In 1989, Cedar Woods took ownership of the site and it became part of the Port Mandurah development.
After our cruise was over, we walked over the footbridge and by the many shops and restaurants along the way in the Dolphin Quay area. Then we made our way past the marina, through a housing development to the breakwater facing the ocean.