Perth - WA
Perth is one of the most remote capitals in the world; it isn’t somewhere that tourists think of straight away when they plan to visit Australia. Most think it doesn’t have the history and glamour that surrounds Sydney and the East Coast – but believe me, it has so much history, unspoilt beauty as well as modern, sophisticated facilities and a first class infrastructure. It is actually ranked as one of the Top Ten “Most-Liveable” and attractive cities in the world, averaging over 9 hours of sunshine a day. The city itself has grown along the banks of the Swan River and is only about 20 minutes from the coast in one direction and bush land of Perth hills in the opposite direction. The airport is only 16 kilometres from the city, and you can easily get a taxi to the CBD for about $45, or a shuttle bus for $15 or even the local bus number 380. Visit http://perthairportconnect.com.au
You can see the city of Perth on any one of 4 free buses that run in different directions around the CBD every day from early morning to evening or take a ride on all 4 if you have time – it certainly is a really good way to see a lot of the city without getting too worn out especially when it is a hot day. Timetables are available at http://www.transperth.wa.gov.au.html
You can also get a 24 or 48 hours ticket and explore Perth on the Hop On Hop Off Bus – http://perthexplorer.com.au.html
The city centre is easy to walk around, the main streets run parallel to each other - you can’t get lost. There are the usual high street shops that can be found in every city, there are indoor malls, open malls that join one street to another and the delightful Tudor Style London Court.
This is an old open roofed arcade with a variety of different shops, many touristy, but the best place to buy leather and sheepskin goods – it joins Hay Street with St Georges Terraces – you can’t miss it. It has the most wonderful clock above each of the two entrances, the Great Clock of Rouen on Hay Street and Big Ben of London on St Georges Terrace. Just walking through it is an experience itself, with its window boxes, statues, quaint shops and enticing smells from various cafes.
Perth has a fabulous library (not far from the bus and train station), its staff are so helpful and the information on local history, heritage of WA and genealogy is immense; there is also a café within the building which is very useful when you need a little break from your research.
For those keen to do more research, especially on convicts and the history of WA, the Archives are close to the library. http://www.naa.gov.au/about-us/organisation/locations/perth.html These are both very close to the Northbridge Piazza, where you can often find food stalls, picnic areas, live entertainment, music and films (a free outdoor cinema) especially in the summer months. Northbridge itself is a hub of activity every weekend with its many bars and restaurants. There is also the City of Perth Library and History Centre in the city centre on Hay Street
The tourist information centre is brilliant, not only giving information on the city, and tours that can be taken, but it has extensive guides and information on everywhere else in WA – and believe me – there is a lot of WA! Again, it is in the heart of the city at 55 William Street and open every day of the week. You can book car hire, accommodation, and tours as well as browse through their gift section, even if you did only call in for a local map; or as I always do – collect information ready for my next visit! http://www.wavisitorcentre.com.au.html
Just a few hundred yards from the city centre shops, is the newly refurbished Elizabeth Quay on the edge of the Swan River. This has been transformed into a wonderful communal area with water parks, cafes and picnic areas.
It is a fabulous place to go daytime or evening when you will find families meeting here, enjoying listening to musical events, doing fitness activities and find lots of different types of art features.
The fabulous setting on the bank of the river is an ideal place to spend time especially when activities are happening at weekends and holidays.
From there you can walk, jog or cycle for miles along the waters edge in either direction.
The Supreme Court Gardens joins the city to the waterfront, and as well as being very colourful and picturesque, it contains several old colonial buildings, Government House and the Supreme Court.
Next to this, on Hay Street, is another impressive building - the Perth Mint where you can do a guided tour of the 19th century heritage building, see a demonstration of gold being poured in the vaults and hear tales about gold mining – and have an afternoon tea if you chose that option.
It is open 7 days a week from 9-5pm. http://www.perthmint.com.au
Across from the gardens, you cannot miss The Bell Tower, an 82-metre high glass structure containing 18 bells, including the oldest bell in Australia dating back to 1550. You can go in and have a look around but it I think it looks most impressive from a distance – especially at nighttime when it is lit up.
Barrack Square is not what it sounds like; it is a well-known old quayside with a few tourist shops and eating places, such as the Lucky Shag waterfront restaurant. As well as having a mouth-watering menu, it has live entertainment there at least four evenings every week.
You can also get a boat trip from Barrack Square, and go on a Swan River Scenic Cruise, an Evening River Cruise, http://captaincookcruises.com.au.html , a Swan Valley Wine Cruise, a Lunch or Dinner Cruise, A Cruise to Fremantle, catch a ferry to Rottness Island or just go across the river to the zoo where you will find over 1500 animals and wander around beautiful kept gardens. It is hard to believe that the zoo is only 5 minutes from the CBD; it is open every day and described as “The Ultimate Day Out”. You can feed a quokka, touch a lizard, get close to a giraffe as well as see animals’ native of Australia, and listen to informative talks. http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au
Perth Arena is always having an exciting line up of world class acts, musical concerts as well as sporting events – so make sure you have a look who is going to be on there when you are going. I was very lucky that when I went, one of my favourite pop stars just happened to be there performing at the same time…………and it was magical walking back to my hotel that night surrounded by about ten thousand people all singing “I’m loving angels instead……….”! Have you guessed who it was?
The casino is not far out of town at the Crown Plaza precinct. There is a fabulous hotel complex with luxurious accommodation, a rooftop pool, fitness centre and spa – overlooking the spectacular city skyline especially at nighttime. It is a brilliant place to go for an evening, so look out for shows that are going to be on there, book a table for exquisite dining, or head there on special high days and holidays to enjoy their firework displays.
Everyone would enjoy visiting Perth Trots, horse racing with a difference, since 1929 top class harness racing has been run here. Every Friday night there are 10 races, it is a real family night out – even better that the children go free. http://www.gloucesterpark.com.au.html
For cricket enthusiasts, a visit to the WACA is a must – and the free bus stops there too, so if you just want a photo outside the grounds – its really easy. Look out for who is playing when you visit, you may be able to watch an international Test Match or just a One Day match whilst in Perth.
One of my favourite places to visit, and I always go every time I visit Perth, is Kings Park and Botanical Gardens, which overlook the city. Although it is perched high up on Mount Eliza, it really is the heart and soul of Perth.
No matter what time of the day you go, there are always people enjoying the gardens, admiring the Aboriginal Art Gallery and shop, having lunch at the café – or just picnicking with family and friends. It is an expanse of bush land and manicured parkland that was first opened in 1895, said to be the largest City Park in the world with its 400 hectares.
The park is open 24 hours a day, so it is the perfect place to take photographs at sunrise or sunset. If you don’t have your own car, (parking is free), one of the free buses stops to the entrance.
If you like walking, there are several lakes to walk around in the suburbs such as Lake Monger, Jackadder and Herdsman Lake reserve; they offer great views of the city skyline over the water as well as many different birds. Be careful though as there are snakes about!
It is so easy to venture further a field, if you head west towards the coast, the train service to Fremantle is excellent - I will talk about Fremantle in my next blog.
Head east into the Swan Valley, which is only 30 minutes from CBD, you will discover Western Australia’s oldest wine region, well known for its award winning wines. Captain James Stirling found the area in 1827 and he soon realised what rich, fertile soil there was further up the Swan River. Many wineries started up, and those that are left today offer tours, exquisite meals, wine sampling, food and wine trails and even do weddings on their vineyards. I visited Sittella’s, and had a wonderful 2-course lunch with wine for a very reasonable price – overlooking delightful surroundings.
They won an award for the Best Small Producer of Wine in 2016 and offer tours by arrangement - I can highly recommend it. There are many shops and factories in the region selling chocolate, honey and other preserves, and all offer free tastings – you will definitely want to spend more that one day in this area.
Guildford is a quaint little town to stop at, with cafes, bars, restaurants and a newly refurbished 19th century gaol – where you can experience what life was like for the colonials back in those days. The entire area has been built on such a unique history and heritage, not only with the pioneering emigrants and convicts that settled there, but the indigenous people too.
There are several art and craft galleries dotted about. If you fancy getting about in a different mode of transport, try the Swan Valley Wagon Tour.
Going on further from the Swan Valley you can head into Perth Hills for a spot of serious hiking, further east to the historic Avon Valley or south to Armadale in the foothills – a picturesque town with beautiful gardens.
Head north from Fremantle along the coast road and what a coast it is - with some of the best beaches in WA. Perth is the only Australian capital city where you can watch an ocean sunset from any of its 19 beautiful sandy beaches.
Then there is the world-famous Cottesloe Beach. Although Cottesloe only has a few hotels, restaurants, bars and shops – it attracts thousands of visitors every weekend and every car park fills up very quickly. It is a picturesque beach, protected on one side by a rocky breakwater. The wind (aka The Fremantle Doctor) picks up every afternoon and you often see windsurfers and kite surfers on the other side of the breakwater - so if you like a calm sea you need to get there early in the morning.
The famous Indiana Teahouse Building is Cottesloe’s most famous and impressive landmark; this is where you will find toilets, changing facilities, a shower and an Ice Cream shop. Along Marine Parade you will find a few hotels, bars, a fish and chip shop and a few other shops - it is very compact seaside resort. There are grassed terraces all along the Parade and it is lined with striking Norfolk Island Pine Trees – an absolute picture against the sea and sky – I do love Norfolk Pines. Further inland you will find a few more shops and eating places – but blink and you will miss them. You can walk from Cottesloe to the train station (although there is a local bus laid on for the summer months), it is about a 20-30-minute walk; and by the railway station you will find a few more places to eat or drink. I can highly recommend Typikas for a great coffee and a spot of lunch - http://www.typika.com.au.html http://www.aqwa.com.au.html
The next beach along, and a lot quieter is North Cottesloe Beach and then you come to City Beach with Clancy’s Fish Bar – excellent for a tasty salmon dinner watching the sun go down. There have been some huge improvements made at City Beach in the last year or so, there are new bars and restaurants, new changing facilities, and the Life Saving Building is a marvellous structure in the shape of the bow of a ship – that you can stand on and admire the view of the ocean.
There are so many picnic tables and barbeques, it is always buzzing with families at the weekend and on an evening taking in the sunset. A walk along the 200 metre long boardwalk above the dunes reserve and you come to Floreat Beach with its children’s play area, a café and ice-cream stall and a Surf Life Saving Club with its own beach volleyball court.
Be careful to swim where the lifeguards are on duty.
This Eco Shark Barrier allows swimmers to enjoy the ocean with LESS risk of a shark encounter. It was installed in 2016 and is in place all year round, offering a safer place to swim - whilst being a marine-friendly barrier to sharks and large marine animals.
Sorrento is home to Hillary’s harbour, Western Australia’s aquarium. This place is dedicated to generating respect and wonder for the marine life off the coast of WA, and it is situated in a wonderful setting next to the yacht club overlooking the ocean.
You can learn to snorkel, have an underwater scavenger hunt, have a diving lesson and get in the water with sharks. Then you can have a spot of lunch (their banana bread is especially good) in their café.
From Hillary’s Harbour, it is also possible to book whale watching trips – in season, (September to December) and trips to Rottness Island – that beautiful island just a few miles off the coast is full of heritage, the most perfect beaches, a real peaceful haven – and of course the quokkas. I will tell you more about this magical island at a later date .http://www.rottnestisland.com.html
Hillary’s itself is a real surprise; you could easily spend the whole day there. I could not believe the change there in the last few years – it really is the place to take the family at the weekend.
Not only are there more shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, and ice cream shops, all overlooking the water; the water has been made into a play area for adults and children. With its changing facilities, grassed picnic areas, safe bathing area and a mini golf park, it is one of the highlights of Perth’s coastline.
If animals are what you want to see, you can head up the coast to Yanchep National Park where you can see them in their natural habitat. Kangaroos and wallabies wander through the park, and a walkway has been created where you can watch koalas above happily munching on eucalyptus leaves.
But my favourite place is Caversham Wildlife Park, where you can meet a wombat, have a photo taken with koala, get a selfie with a kangaroo (if you are very patient and prepared to get into the most compromising positions) and see many of Australia’s other amazing creatures.
It is not far from the city and is open every day from 9am - you do need at least half a day there, although it would be easy to spend the whole day marvelling at the wildlife, and feeding the kangaroos and wallaby’s.
You can watch penguins being fed, see what conservation measures are in place to help the Quokkas and Tasmanian devils, admire many native birds and enjoy walking through the different enclosures.
The park is home to approximately 200 different species, having more than 2000 different animals, birds and reptiles.
To be able to interact with native animals in their natural habitat is very special and I can highly recommend a visit.
For something completely different, you can go down the coast to Penguin Island, and take a boat trip over to spend the day amongst the penguins.
As well as basking on the whitest sand, paddling in clear turquoise waters and walking across to the windward side of the island, you can watch the delightful tiny penguins being fed and putting on a show that will melt anyone’s heart.
You can buy an inclusive ticket that offers you the chance to go in a boat “seal spotting” around the neighbouring islands and if you are really lucky you may spot a dolphin or two. It is a brilliant day out for old and young alike.
Neighbouring Mandurah offers opportunities to go fishing, if that’s what you fancy, as well as see its beautiful beaches, shops and bars.
But now we are starting to go either up or down the coast of WA, there is so much more to see and do here, but and I will leave those for another time. There are countless amazing beaches, quaint country towns with so much colonial history, national parks, gardens and friendly wildlife encounters. Perth is the starting point to many a great adventure on the remote, largely unspoilt coast of Western Australia – make sure it goes on your bucket list.
Thanks for reading my Perth blog
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