Looking at a map and seeing how far flung from civilisation it lies, you could be forgiven for expecting Perth to be some sort of dusty, broken-down out-post of a town with an archaic population of yocals and weirdos – but that assumption is about as in touch with reality as Tom Cruise’s brain. Beautifully perched on the banks of the mighty Swan River, Perth is a peach of a city with modern architecture, an energetic arts scene, shed-loads of shops and more classy restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars than you can point your beer belly at. The locals are a youthful and diverse bunch from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, all tied together by a common passion for sun, sand, sea and superb living. The CBD, based around St Georges Terrace, stands like a shimmering mirage of contemporary buildings coming virtually out of the river and tickling the blue sky with the high tech aerials which keep the Western Australia capital in contact with the world outside.
There are plenty of jobs in these man-made metro mountains, but the cold corporate culture which pervades the larger Aussie cities of Sydney and Melbourne is completely absent here; if Perth was any more laid back it would be sat on its pretty arse, and even in the city centre it feels as though everyone’s been for a surf before work.
With a population of 1.6 million and a massive variety of venues it is big enough to never allow you to get bored, but small enough to remain intimate and friendly. As we’ve already pointed out, it is bathed in more hours of sultry sunshine than any other Aussie capital and there is a multitude of places to enjoy those rays, from sprawling riverside parks to nearby beautiful beaches.
Things to do Perth Western Australia
When you go exploring, hop on the Central Area Transit bus for a free day of touring the city’s highlights
This handy little mode of transport takes you round all the sites including the Perth Cultural Centre, the Swan Bell Tower and beautiful King’s Park. You don’t even have to get off the bus if you can’t be arsed and you can pretend to tick the box of “Perth sites” even though you spent three hours snoring off your hangover in the corner. Alternatively, you can hop off and on as many times as you like. These buses are state of the art and have computer read-outs telling you when the next bus is due. Catch the bus from Outram St – it runs every five minutes.
Stroll along the city’s Swan River foreshore, through grassy lawns and gardens, to the Barrack Street Jetty where you can grab a drink in the waterside cafes and bars while watching the Rottnest ferries and Swan River cruises depart. Climb the Bell Tower for a panoramic view over the river.
Check out the Perth Mint (www.perthmint.com.au), on the corner of Hay and Hill Streets, which boasts more bling than Mr T and houses the world’s largest collection of gold nuggets.
If those dollars are burning a hole in your bumbag, hit the malls around Murray Street and Hay Street Mall, where the various arcades offer mainstream shopping with a lively, car-free atmosphere. Extended trading hours operate on Sundays after 12pm and Friday nights until 9pm.
Explore the sprawling grounds of Kings Park on foot, or in the saddle of a hired bike, and take in the spectacular views out over the city and Swan River. Come back along Georges Terrace past Parliament House, or catch a bus from Kings Park to the nearby.
University of Western Australia, one of Australia’s oldest and most beautiful university campuses.
Remember, it’s a jungle out there, and no-where more so than in Perth Zoo (www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au), on the south side of the river. Home to over 1500 animals and 200 different species – not counting backpackers – there are daily, and free, keeper presentations and feeding time viewings. As well as gawping at ever-popular international guests such as baboons, check out some local WA faces on the Bushwalk, where kangaroos, koalas, numbats, emus and dingoes hang out.If you’re feeling physical take advantage of the aquatic activities which take place on the broad majestic Swan River, such as sailing, water skiing, kayaking and surf cat hire. Don’t miss a game at the Subiaco Oval in West Perth, and a tour of the WACA in East Perth.
Perth is, on the whole, a fantastically flat city and cycling is an excellent way to see what it has to offer under your own steam. Hire a set of wheels and whiz around riverside paths and through the picturesque parks. Hop on a train from Perth to Fremantle, a 30-minute trip which will take you along the coast and through some of the beautiful older suburbs of Perth, such as Leederville, Subiaco and Claremont.
Instead of going to Fremantle and then getting a boat, jump on one of the Rottnest Island ferries all the way from Perth. It’s a fantastic trip, which takes about two-and-a-half hours, down the river and out through the mouth into the awesome Indian Ocean. You’ll pass through some of the city’s wealthiest suburbs and, to top it off, they serve cold beers on board.
Board one of the scenic river cruises to the Swan Valley Wine Region or the ‘historic’ old township of Guildford.
One suburb epitomises the bohemian side of Perth City, the buzzing area of Northbridge. With a strong student and backpacker influence, the streets here are fringed with great and affordable eateries, pumping pubs and bars, hot hostels, modern internet cafes and trendy shops. Alternative and mainstream art and culture all get a voice here with the area boasting the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Alexander State Library, the Western Australian Museum, Central TAFE (Technical College), and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA).
All tastes and bank balances are catered for, and whether you fancy going to a swanky wine bar, checking out some live comedy, playing some pool over a few quiet beers or going out raving all night, you’ll find what you’re after here.
Once the sun goes down, hit the clubs in Northbridge. Why? Because you are the dancing Queen. At least that’s what you think you are after eleven pints and what better place to show just how well you can shake your booty than on a nightclub podium. If you’re strapped for cash then it is best to head out during the week when most of the nightclubs have free entry and a less strict dress code. On a Friday and Saturday night it all gets a bit serious and the door staff take guard to check out that you’re wearing the right shoes.