Perth on Australia’s western coastline is a jewel amongst the country’s capital cities and sometimes unduly overlooked by first time international visitors who are attracted to the better known offerings of Sydney and Melbourne. This city beside the Indian Ocean however has a charm and feel all its own and is worth exploring.
Australians spend a lot of their leisure time outdoors and with its manicured parklands and many festivals; celebrations in the sunshine are year-round. Winding its way through the city is the magnificent Swan River whose foreshore is a hive of activity with picnics and barbeques under the Western Australian sky. Kings Park is made up of 400 hectares of natural bush land and exquisite gardens and an ideal spot to view the city skyline and breathtaking ocean sunsets from Mt Eliza.
Perth people seriously enjoy their festivals and the city is happy to accommodate. Beginning in February with the Festival of Perth a medley of theatre, music and the arts over a full month, and the Western Australian Wildflower Festival at Kings Park in October that finds the gardens filled with live music, and of course spectacular displays of native wildflowers, resident artists, and activities that will amuse the kids.
Much of Perth can be discovered on foot and walking tours are a great way to spend a day exploring this pretty town. Many buildings are historic landmarks built by convicts in the late 18th century. The earliest example is the Old Courthouse and some fascinating early history can be found here in this well kept museum of colonial law. Glimpses of the old city are everywhere as the well preserved architecture from the early days are made use of today as government offices, schools and even a gentleman’s only club.
Public transport is excellent in Perth and it’s easy to get around by train or bus. You can head south to Mandurah by train in less than an hour and enjoy the Ocean Marina. Feast on fresh crab and fish in this lovely seaside village with quaint art galleries, shops and restaurants and have a go at the many water sports such as parasailing, or get your adrenalin pumping and parachute out of a small plane and wave to the family on the way down.
This western city has some of the best beaches in the country and it’s along the Sunset Coast, as it’s referred to, that Australian beach culture really comes alive. Crowds flock to City Beach, Scarborough, Cottesloe and Trigg to surf and swim and soak up the sun or cast a fishing line into the waves at sunset. Southern beaches are a little flatter and an easier, gentle swim for those who aren’t quite up to the challenge of jumping on a surfboard. And when the fresh ocean air stirs your appetite wander up the beach promenade through the grassy parks to the variety of restaurants and café’s, and dine alfresco on fresh seafood and modern fusion cuisine that Australian’s seem to do so well.
An easy 90 minute ferry ride or 30 minute flight by air taxi (great opportunity for a bird’s eye view of the city), sits Rottnest Island just 19 kilometres from Perth’s coast, and is a must to include in your itinerary. Listed by some as having Australia’s most spectacular beaches and protected bays, the transparent emerald green water is a haven for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, or for the kids to just poke around on the soft, white sand. No cars are allowed on the island so hire a bicycle and ride the easy roads to the nearest restaurant and stop for lunch. There are a multitude of private luxury beachfront villas to choose from, some of the nicest in Thomson Bay, and Rottnest is well worth a two night stay and a perhaps a round of golf on the 9 hole island course.
Once you’ve been rejuvenated it will almost certainly be time to shop and Perth doesn’t disappoint. Designer label luggage, shoes, handbags, jewellery and clothing can all be found on what is referred to as the Fashion Walk of Fame, between Hay Street and Murray Street, many in lovely heritage-listed buildings. Kings Street, in the city’s West End is where you’ll find all the world’s fashion icons that make Perth their Western Australian headquarters. One cannot shop in Perth without experiencing the stylish suburb of Subiaco. Art galleries, leading photographers, antiques, and stunning interior design and home ware stores abound along with a tasty selection of fashion, beauty and jewellery.
For something a little different take a stroll through London Court, a charming walkway known for gemstones, hats and other unique items, with English Elizabethan style architecture throughout. Small café’s and intriguing shops meander their way through the heart of the city, taking you back to Tudor England.
For more local and unusual retailers, head to Northbridge’s William Street. Local fashion designers will impress you with their original and creative designs, and gourmet goodies from all origins of the globe are available in one of Perth’s most multicultural gourmet areas.
We can’t forget the children and there are loads to impress little ones of all ages. Begin with a ferry trip from Barracks Street Jetty across the Swan River directly to Perth Zoo. Set in a lovely green setting, the zoo’s mission is to promote education and conservation so the family will not only enjoy meeting a diverse range of very well kept and happy animals, but its quite probable you’ll leave learning a great deal more than when you arrived. Western Australian state government along with some corporate sponsors ensures the zoo is well equipped with enough funds to provide some unique experiences for visitors to get up close and personal with the animals.
Only forty minutes from the city in nearby Rockingham, you can experience a truly unique adventure either in the comfort of a fully guided boat or in the water with wild dolphins. Rockingham Wild Encounters have been guiding visitors around the waters of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park for twenty years and have built a special relationship with these gentle creatures. They will collect you from your hotel and also offer added tour options of visits to the amazing Penguin Island and encounters with wild seal lions.
Overall Perth is full of surprises, a very family friendly coastal city with a relaxed atmosphere that holds its own when compared to its East Coast counterparts. Verdict: a refreshingly unique piece of Australia.