Australia: A Perth City Guide

Welcome to my Perth city guide, with all the information you need to plan your visit to this very attractive state capital on the far west coast of Australia.

Situated between the desert and the sea, Perth is one of the world’s most isolated cities. It is 2,104 kilometres (1,307 miles) away from the next population centre with more than 100,000 people (being the South Australian capital of Adelaide).

The city was founded in 1829 and has seen constant change since then, which is reflected in both the architecture and the personality of the city. In recent decades Perth has benefited from a significant natural resources boom, as the mining, petroleum, and agricultural export industries of Western Australia have brought prosperity, development and a fast-growing population despite the geographical isolation.

The bustling city centre is very smart, with many modern office buildings. Perth is increasingly cosmopolitan but still retains a hint of its frontier town roots. Good living is the focus, with outdoors eating and some of Australia’s best beaches creating the perfect environment for an outdoors lifestyle.

Tourist information is available on the westernaustralia.com website and the Western Australian Visitor Centre is at 55 William Street, on the corner of Hay Street Mall, Perth. It is open Mon-Fri, 9am-5.30pm; Sat, 9.30am-4.30pm; Sun 11am-4.30pm.

Things to do in Perth

A Swan River Scenic Cruise is a great way to explore Perth as the river flows right through the city and widens it reaches the sea at Fremantle. Glamorous yacht clubs and expensive residential suburbs line the shoreline of green hills, including some of the most expensive real estate in Australia.  Captain Cook Cruises depart regularly from Pier 3/Barrack Street.

You can join a walking tour of both Perth and Fremantle with Two Feet and a Heartbeat tours, who fill visitors in on the history and culture of the city, as well as recommending the latest trendy bars.

On the cliffs overlooking Perth is the beautiful Kings Park, a 1,000-acre parkland with magnificent views over the city and river from the miles of walkways. Kings Park is particularly well known for its garden displays of Australian wildflowers.

Spending time in the pretty portside suburb of Fremantle is a must-do while in Perth. Visit the Fremantle Prison, which started out as a notorious convict settlement in 1850 and then a tough prison from 1886 to 1991. The museum tour offers a fascinating insight into prison life.

A more upbeat way to spend time here is at the Fremantle Market, which has been operating since 1897 and celebrates Fremantle’s bohemian vibe in the colonial-era covered market building. You’ll find quality arts and crafts, as well as seriously good food at this colourful market.

Fremantle markets in Perth, Australia

Hotels in Perth

Luxury

In the swanky Cathedral Square precinct the elegant COMO The Treasury hotel (32 Richardson Street) is an excellent luxury hotel option in Perth with amazing views, particularly from the top floor Wildflower restaurant.

Another luxury option is The Richardson Hotel & Spa, usually named as the top hotel in Perth thanks to its exquisite rooms and good location. You can easily walk to both the central business district and Kings Park from The Richardson.

Midrange

The Alex Hotel (50 James Street ) is owned by the people behind the Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle and has a similar designer-boutique atmosphere. It is located at the heart of the city beside the Perth Cultural Centre and within easy walking distance of many attractions.

The Adina Apartment Hotel Perth at 128 Barrack Plaza is within easy striking distance of both Northbridge and central Perth. The rooms are modern and functional.

Kings Park War Memorial, Perth Australia

Budget

The New Esplanade Hotel is a 3-star budget pick which overlooks the Swan River and is near public transport. 18 The Esplanade, +61 8 9325 2000

There are a number of hostels in both Perth itself and Fremantle, including the City Perth Backpackers Hostel with simple dormitories and rooms and free breakfast. 5 Fitzgerald Street, Australia +61 8 9227 9146

Eating and Drinking in Perth

For a great breakfast head for Sayers (224 Carr Place) in the suburb of Leederville where organic, locally-sourced, seasonal food is the order of the day. Don’t miss the chocolate-banana bread.

Later in the day, West End Deli (95 Carr Street, West Perth) is a little gem of a suburban restaurant with amazing value food that is really original and of the best quality.

Head for the Cathedral Square precinct (corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street) where there are a range of delightful eateries, from the ‘Post’ restaurant where top class European food reigns to Long Chim Perth where the aroma of street food from Thailand fills the air.

Some of the best ramen noodles (and bao buns) in Perth can be found at Lucky Chan’s Laundry + Noodle Bar ( 11 William Street). This crowd-funded restaurant sees queues every night. Yes there are washing machines in the window and the views from the rooftop are lovely.

For a drink, Petition Beer Corner in the Cathedral Square precinct offers a great way to discover Perth’s burgeoning craft beer scene (there are 18 different beers on tap at any one time).

Little Creatures bar, Fremantle, Australia

At the back of St Georges Terrace in Perth, Brookfield Place on Lower Georges Lane is gaining a reputation as a nightlife hub. Bar Lafayette is one star of this area and the “artisanal” cocktails will impress. They have live music on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Spending an hour or two at a rooftop bar is a must in sunny Perth and the best by far is the Mechanics Institute (222 William Street, Northbridge). The hipster vibe is ubiquitous and the craft beer range interesting. There’s a gourmet burger place downstairs and you can order up.

A favourite place to eat and drink in Fremantle is the Little Creatures Brewery on the waterfront, which has a tasting room and bar food as well as the popular wooden deck stretching over the water.

Fremantle - The Monk brewery, Australia

Another place to taste the locally-brewed beers is the Monk Brewery in Fremantle. A typical Australian thing to do is to have fish and chips at one of the seafood ‘shacks’ along Fremantle’s waterfront park, including the popular Cicerellos.

Also in Fremantle, Bread in Common (43 Pakenham Street) is a funky café with amazing Australian fare and of course, home-baked bread from the volcanic rock oven. Think industrial brickwork and communal tables.

A day trip from Perth

A popular day trip from Perth is the lovely Rottnest Island, just a short  ferry ride away. Rottnest Island has a land area of only 19 square kilometres but it packs in no fewer than 63 beaches where crystal clear turquoise water invites swimmers, divers and snorkelers.

You’ll also love the adorable Quokkas, a small marsupial animal that is native to just this island and indeed are the basis of its name. Dutch seamen visiting in the 16th century described them as “Rotte” or giant rats. There are 10,000 quokkas on Rottnest so you won’t be able to miss them.

Cycling is a great way to get around the quiet roads of Rottnest Island and the easiest way to enjoy the beautiful pink coral reefs, picturesque lighthouses and fascinating bird life in the salt lakes area. Rottnest is well set up with cycle hire in the village of Thomson Bay (there are also cafes and food shops here, as well as a museum).

The Basin snorkelling - Rottnest Island

You can catch the ferry to Rottnest Island from Perth (Barrack Street jetty in the city centre and combine your trip with the scenic cruise of the Swan River, Fremantle (from B Shed near the train station) or from Rous Head port (only recommended if you need to park your car).

Another popular short trip from Perth is out to The Pinnacles, the bizarre limestone formations in the Nambung National Park, only two-and-a-half hours drive from the city. This unusual landscape is thought to be around 200,000 years old and is best viewed in the hours leading up to sunset. Visit the Pinnacles Dessert Discovery Centre to find out all about the unique geology of this region. Indian Ocean Drive, Cervantes 0061 8 9652 7913;

When to visit Perth

The blue skies and aquamarine seas of Perth are very beguiling all year round and the city has more sunshine hours than any other Australian city – an amazing 3,000 hours per year. In summer temperatures regularly top 40 degrees Celsius so remember to pack your sun screen and a sunhat.

By Natasha von Geldern

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