The Shark Net
For an insight into life along these Perth shores, read Robert Drewe's The Shark Net (2000), a haunting recount of adolescence, the beach and disquieting violence. Structured around a macabre series of eight murders which happened here between 1959 and 1963, Drewe's book is as much about Perth society and growing up in these sandy suburbs as it is about Eric Edgar Cooke's rising body count. Cooke was eventually apprehended and became the last person to hang at Fremantle Prison, in 1964.
The Cottesloe Pylon
'Hey – what's that weird stripy spike out in the water off Cottesloe Beach?' Not an uncommon question on this stretch of the coast. Known as the Cottesloe Pylon, it's actually the last remaining piece of a shark-net support structure erected in 1925 after an elderly swimmer was killed here. The rest of the structure succumbed to storm damage and the grinding Indian Ocean surf over the years – and indeed the Pylon itself was smashed to the seabed in 1995 and again in 2009 – but due to its cultural significance it was rebuilt and strengthened each time. About 100m offshore, swimming out to the Pylon is a rite of passage for Cottesloe teens, while its spike is traditionally rebranded with the colours of local football teams and surf-lifesaving clubs after major tournament wins (sometimes by rivals under the cover of darkness, much to the irritation of the good folk at the Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club).
Aside from the drop-dead gorgeous beach, the defining features of Cottesloe are its towering ranks of extremely healthy-looking Norfolk Island pine trees (Araucaria heterophylla) lining the streets. First planted along John St in 1915 when the Cottesloe Roads Board procured 168 pint-sized pines, the 18-inch saplings did so well that the pine-planting scheme soon expanded to incorporate most of the streets behind the beach. John St and Broome St remain the prime exemplars – cast an eye skywards as you wander by.