Perth’s vibrant CBD and neighbourhoods are full of varied cuisines and chic boutiques, while its sandy suburbs are a surfer’s paradise.
Perched on the western extremity of a sparsely populated state the size of India, sitting pretty between the desert and the deep blue sea, Perth is at once a tough, self-reliant urban outpost and a sophisticated, modern city.
A completely unique strain of Australian culture has evolved here and, with cheeks flushed from the success of its vines and mines, Perth's young population is raring to show off its many and varied attractions to visitors.
The vibrant CBD and inner neighbourhoods are bursting with colour, culture, quality cuisine and chic boutiques, while the city's sandy suburbs sway to a more relaxed surfy beat. Along the coast, most days start with a dip in the Indian Ocean and each weekend is signed off with the traditional Sunday session, where locals and blow-ins sip craft beers as the heat that's been building all day is suddenly soothed by the cool afternoon breeze known as The Doctor.
In Perth, people surf before breakfast on enormous waves that break straight onto suburban beaches and graze in sun-splashed al fresco markets. Perthites play and watch sport with an unbridled passion and they tuck into some of the very best seafood and finest wines in the world – just some of the attractions that await any visitor to the world's most isolated state capital.
Perth is a pleasant place to visit year-round. Summer (Dec-Feb) delivers beautiful conditions if you don't mind the heat, but the period around Christmas can be a bit crowded. Early spring and late autumn are the optimum times to aim for.
Everyone visiting Australia (except New Zealanders) needs a visa. Nationals of 32 countries (including Singapore, the UK, the US, Japan, Canada and most European countries) can get an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which most travel agents will arrange at the time of booking a trip. If booking independently, you can apply for an ETA online at www.immi.gov.au.
The Australian dollar (AUD$) is used throughout Australia.
From the airport a taxi to the city centre will take around 25 minutes and cost about AUD$40 (taxis are metered). The Perth Airport Shuttle bus is AUD$15 each way. Perth's Central Area Transit (CAT) buses are free and a great way to get around the city.
Beware prolonged exposure to the sun, always use sun protection (factor 30 and above) and wear sunglasses and a hat. Some hazardous snakes and spiders can be present in the city's parks and gardens - avoid touching anything unfamiliar. Shark attacks have occurred on WA's beaches and dangerous rips and large surf conditions can occur - always swim between the flags and listen out for lifeguard warnings. Petty crime does happen, keep an eye on valuables, particularly when eating and drinking at outside cafés, bars and restaurants. Avoid places such as the train station late at night.
|Board shorts (long swimming/surfing shorts)||Boardies|
|Speedo-style men's swimming costume||Budgie smugglers|
|Pub grub||Counter meal|
|Are you serious?||Fair dinkum?|
|Really rather good||Grouse|
|See you later||Hoo roo|
|The answer to everything||No worries|
|Alcohol (typically beer)||Piss|
|Small measure of beer (about half a pint)||Pot|
|Saltwater/estuarine crocodile (the big, bad bitey ones)||Saltie|
|Large measure of beer (about two-thirds of a pint)||Schooner|
|Bottle of beer||Stubbie|
|Can of beer/small boat||Tinny|
|Good result||You beauty!|
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See a game of Australian Rules Football at the Subiaco Stadium (officially called Patersons Stadium), home of both Western Australian's AFL teams, the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle – if you can catch a derby game the atmosphere will be electric. Then explore the fashionable suburb that surrounds this stadium on the western side of town. Visit the Station Street Markets for brunch on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Swan River and the Bell Tower
Head down to the jetty on Riverside Drive and wander the banks of the Swan River between the three bridges to get a feel of the waterway that in many ways defines Perth. The sail-shaped copper wings of the tower containing the Swan Bells (a bicentenary gift from the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London's Trafalgar Square) dominate the cityside banks, and the top of the tower is a good spot to take in the majesty of the river.
Slap on some sun cream and explore Perth's sensational suburban beaches. Around 50km of soft, sandy, uncrowded beaches lie between Fremantle and Hillary’s Boat Harbour. If you have an urge to go surfing, head for Scarborough or Trigg; if you're more into a lively après-beach scene, choose Cottesloe, which offers good food, cocktails and fabulous sunset views. Families will enjoy Sorrento Beach (especially snorkelling in the calm, deep-blue water of Mettams Pool) and Rockingham Beach. The excellent AQWA (Aquarium of Western Australia) at Hillary’s Boat Harbour, where WA’s five coastal environments are brilliantly recreated, is great for kids.
Fremantle by Tram
OK, so technically it's a separate city, but any trip to Perth should involve at least a few hours spent soaking up the scene around the old docks of its seaside neighbour, Fremantle, just 19km downriver. One way to do this is to hop on a Fremantle Tram Tour to check out the convict-built Old Fremantle Prison, the 'Cappuccino Strip' and the lively markets. On Friday nights take a tram-based torchlight tour of Fremantle's oldest and spookiest buildings, including the prison and the Arts Centre and Museum Grounds, originally built as an asylum for the criminally insane.
Heath Ledger Theatre
Catch a show in the stunning Heath Ledger Theatre, a 575-seat performance area dedicated to one of Perth's most famous sons, and part of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Located on the corner of Roe and William Streets in chic suburb of Northbridge, the theatre stages performance art from dance to drama.
Grab your swimmers, a set of good goggles and some picnic supplies, and board a boat for a day trip over to Rottnest Island, an idyllic isle just 18km off the Western Australian coast. The trip along the Swan River from Perth to Fremantle and then out into the open Indian Ocean is great in itself. Once on the island, check out the super-cute native quokkas and do some sensational snorkelling on world-class beaches. Hire a bike to explore more of the island.
Begin with a caffeine kickstart at 1905 Coffee on Newcastle Street in trendy Northbridge. Perth now rivals Melbourne in the quality coffee stakes and this joint knows how to grind a mean bean. Its also part of a philanthropic project, training people with various disadvantages, and they serve brilliant breakfasts. Save room for exotic elevenses, though, because Northbridge throws many temptations at your senses. Stroll past tanks of live mud crabs and crayfish, sniff the sharp tang of lemongrass in the air and have a chew on chickens’ feet or dim sum.
For lunch, head to the Swan Valley to explore Perth's lovely larder and earn an appetite. En route check out the extraordinary Chocolate Gallery at Western Australia's oldest confectionary company, Whistler's Chocolate Co, then sample a delightful drop at the cellar door of Talijancich Wines, where they have been producing fine wine for three generations. Continue on to Lamonts for a glass of their 2009 vintage sparkling and a light lunch from the 'small taste' menu.
Pick up some cheese for later at The Cheese Barrel, then head back to the beach in time to catch the sunset at the Indiana on Cottesloe Beach, where you can see the last of the day disappearing into the ocean while munching on a charcuterie plate or some locally caught seafood. Finally, stop off for a nightcap and sample some craft beers at The Old Brewery, on the banks of the Swan River.
1905 Coffee, Whistler's Chocolate Co, Talijancich Wines, Lamonts, The Cheese Barrel, Indiana, The Old Brewery
Pack the plastic and head downtown for some local flair. For the ultimate sartorial souvenir, check out Wheels & Dollbaby on Hay Street, a fashion label founded by local designer Melanie Greensmith and seen adorning Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
From here, head around the corner to the Wesley Quarter, a fashionista's paradise located within William, Hay and Murray Streets, where you'll find all sorts of boutique outlets selling high-end labels, plus plenty of fancy food. Buy yourself a more transient souvenir in the shape of lunch at The Painted Bird Bar & Kitchen, then check out what's on offer in Perth's new high church of retail, art and culture, One40William.
For a change of pace and scenery, hop on a train heading north to Whitfords, where Wanneroo Markets (Fri–Sun) boasts an eclectic selection of delights, from jewellery and footwear to books, homewares, collectables and art. If inspiration strikes, you can even buy a tattoo, a permanent reminder of your time in Perth.
There are markets to explore all across Perth's suburbs, from Mandjar Markets on the lovely Mandurah Foreshore on Sundays (Oct–Apr) to the iconic Fremantle Markets (Fri–Sun). If you're here on a Saturday, sign off at the Bathers Beach Sunset Market in Freo, which offers delectable fresh food and camel rides on the beach.
Wheels & Dollbaby, Wesley Quarter, Wesley Quarter, The Painted Bird Bar & Kitchen, One40William, Wanneroo Markets, Mandjar Markets, Fremantle Markets, Bathers Beach Sunset Market
Start your action-packed day with a gentle run around the beautiful grounds of Kings Park and Botanic Garden. Just 1.5 km from Perth's CBD, the 400-hectare park looks out over the Swan River and the Darling Range and is a wonderful spot to catch the first rays of dawn.
If running isn't your thing, hire a bike from About Bike Hire and see the sun up from the saddle as you pedal along the banks of the Swan River. You can ride 25km to Fremantle along bike paths if you have the time and energy, and then get a train back.
ABH also hire basic kayaks for those who want to explore the river from water level, but for a more adventurous paddling experience, try River Gods who run trips to Shoalwater Bay, where you can paddle double sea kayaks among colonies of Australian sea lions and pods of dolphins and spend a few hours snorkelling in the pristine waters of Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
It wouldn't be a trip to Western Australia without catching a wave, though, so be sure to check out Scarborough Beach Surf School, for a lesson, or hire a board from Surfboard Hire Perth if you already know what you're doing.
Feeling brave? Finish off the adventure with a night dive in one of the many fantastic spots around the Swan River and Freo with Dolphin Dive Fremantle.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden, About Bike Hire, River Gods, Scarborough Beach Surf School, Surfboard Hire Pert, Dolphin Dive Fremantle