“There are no shopping places in Perth!”“The city is virtually on deserted after 5pm!”“Oh my Lord above, it has no modern entertainment centers apart from a casino. Dare I even think of its party scene?”“So, why Perth again?”
I usually get stunned faces whenever I tell people that I’m heading to Perth for a holiday. This is usually followed by a general lack of interest. I can only manage a “Why not?” under my breath before the conversation steers off to a different topic altogether.
The general assumption is that Perth is a ‘dead’ place. It’s true that the city is nothing like its cosmopolitan and vibrant Eastern cousins but that doesn’t make Perth any less interesting. In fact, I think being the most isolated state capital on the world’s most isolated continent helped shaped Perth’s strong sense of cheerful indifference towards the activities of the rest of Australia. By itself, Perth is a paradox. It’s a state capital city that still feels like a holiday town! Its special appeal as a city lies in the fact that it’s a place where big-city vibrancy combines with small-town friendliness.
Having lived in Perth before, I know that while many destinations claim to have it all, Perth simply lives it all – kilometers of beautiful white sandy beaches, bright sunny weather, endless blue skies, sumptuous fresh produce and a virtual smorgasbord of fun all year round. Yes, you read right. I had PERTH and FUN in the same sentence.
I also believe that Perth isn’t for everyone. With its superb natural surroundings, the city’s activities are of course centered on the great outdoors. Best of all, everything Perth has to offer is within a short drive from the city centre. Perfect for any monkeys looking for some rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.
I tell my friends often that the real magic of Perth happens away from its city’s walls. So here are 5 fantastic ways to spend your day(s) around Perth.
1. JOIN THE CRUISE
One of the easiest way to escape the city is to hop on a river cruise located at the footsteps of Perth CBD. Whether it’s cruising past the mansions in Millionaire’s Row and into the port of Fremantle or upstream to the tranquil green lands of the Swan Valley wine region, one can enjoy informative Captain’s commentaries while taking in the beautiful sights of the sweeping Swan River. I believe is one of the best ways to see the city and all its inhabitants – both human and animals of the wild.
Lunch, dinner and wine tasting are also available on different cruises.
2. CALL TO THE FABULOUS PORT
Catch a train, join a cruise or drive into the colourful port city of Fremantle. Freo, as the locals call it, has a friendly, confident feel and a Mediterranean flavour. Known as an enclave for the laid-backs, artists have long strived here with generations of writers, actors, painters, musicians and craft workers finding inspiration and low-cost studios in the old port buildings away from the bustling Perth. There’s even a “Writer’s Trail” map you can follow, which you can pick up at the Visitor’s Centre. Either that or you can browse through plenty of quirky shops, grab a coffee and bask in the atmosphere of its main street known as Cappuccino Strip. For lunch, you can feast on delicious local seafood at the boat harbour and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring a string of attractions and historic buildings, which are easily explored on foot and the regular free CAT bus services.
McCutie and I thoroughly enjoyed the Fremantle Prison’s Doing Time Tour. Our guide was experienced and brought back the rich folklore and stories (some eerie while others heartbreaking) of the Prison to life. A must-do in our books.
3. THE SUBLIME SWAN VALLEY
The Swan Valley is just a short drive away from the city. 25 minutes east of Perth. Yet, once there, you feel as if you’re miles away and in some cases, that you’ve stepped back in time. I believe it is one of Perth’s greatest assets as a small enough city to enable easy access to the distinctive Australian landscape around it. The Swan Valley area has wonderful villages with great atmospheres, plentiful bushland and lots of fine food and wine to tempt you away from the big gun.
For instance the nearby historical village of Guildford, with its collection of antique stores, cafés, and pristine European settlement buildings dating back to the 1830s is a well worth visiting. I’ve also been told that it is here that Heath Ledger spent his formative years too. If there is only time for one out-of-town excursion, make it the Valley.
4. BUSH AND THE CITY
The closest place one can flee from the city is just to take a short walk up to the majestic King’s Park. The park is stunningly perched above the blue waters of Swan River and overlooks the city. From high above, you can see the brilliantly coloured sails of boats on the river, the twinkling lights of the city, Perth Hills in a distance and the endless blue skies the city is renowned for. Kings Park is one of the largest inner city parks in the world as it offers a retreat filled with walkways and spectacular views and rare flora for locals and visitors alike.
This is one of my most favourite places in the city and I’ve spent countless of hour rolling around on its well-manicured greens, basking in the sun with textbooks in my face as a student. I also loved the watching the serene city in the night from the Mt. Eliza vantage point on sleepless nights. It was therapeutic to say the least.
The grounds of the University of Western Australia are also worth the visit. Located just at the foot of King’s Park, stop by at the visitors centre near the Winthrop Hall and you’ll be given a little tour booklets of all the prettiest areas. Guided tours are also available periodically. As a bonus, visit the Arts building and watch 10 or more magnificent peacocks stroll around freely. That alone is worth your trip.
5. NOW, DRIVE FAR FAR AWAY FROM THE CITY
Plan your great escape and make your stay worthwhile in Western Australia. Make an excursion out to one of its many regions and see all the state’s natural spleadours. Depending on how many days you have, you may consider renting a car or hop on a tour. Head up north towards its golden outbacks, eerie deserts and sunshine coasts or a shorter drive towards the popular South West region where wine, surfing, the solitude of ancient forest and a captivating coastline awaits for you. It’s no wonder that Lonely Planet named the region one of the top 10 regions in the world to visit in 2010. And no matter how many times I’ve done these roadtrips, I still return in awe of the sights I’ve seen and there’s always something new to discover.
Stay tune for my favourite places to eat in Perth in my next few posts.