The capital of western Australia, Perth has made a name for itself as a land of beautiful stretches of beach, year-round sunshine and an astonishingly diverse culture. Polynesian, Asian and European influences abound, making this one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the region. Despite recent modernizations, it retains its old town, community charm, mixing old buildings with newer developments, splitting the skyline between traditional and contemporary styles. Even the name of the river upon which it sits – Swan River- has an undeniable fairy tale allure. Yet somehow, Perth has until a recent tourist marketing push been overlooked in favor of its more urban, exciting counterparts: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra. With cheap flights to Perth now available, it’s time to bring this laid back city to the fore, and show that this old gold rush capital still has a shine, and that now’s a better time than ever to visit.
Perth, along with the whole of western Australia, has a long history with strong Aboriginal ties. Archaeological evidence shows that the area was inhabited by the Noongar tribe for 40,000 years before European settlement. A trip to the Western Australian Museum gives a comprehensive history of the area through the ages, from prehistoric times to contemporary cosmopolitan living, via Aboriginal settlements (the Katta Djinoong exhibition is a highlight) as well as featuring interesting mammal, bird and butterfly galleries. It’s a great introduction to the city, and is suitable for single travelers and families alike. For history buffs, the trip is well supplemented with a visit to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, which continues the focus on Aboriginal art with a stunning collection of works by Indigenous artists.
In Perth, a holiday should be about more than just sightseeing. After all, its founder Captain James Stirling famously declared it to be “as beautiful as anything of this kind I have ever experienced”. So, by all means, take in the sights, hop on the tour bus and visit the hotly tipped spots on the top ten lists in the guide book. But don’t forget to wander down the backs streets, explore the various districts and their distinct cultures, and wander a little off the beaten track to experience the warmth and hospitality of local living. This city doesn’t rush, so take the time to experience its beautiful atmosphere and scenery. It’s what the Australians do best; they take their time. For a little down time to relax and unwind, look no further than Cottesloe Beach. Lined with pines and boasting sandy and grassy shores, this is the perfect spot for swimming, surfing and soaking up the glorious Perth sunshine. Or, get yourself to Fremantle just outside of Perth- well worth a visit in itself – and from there hop on a boat to Rottnest Island for a few blissful hours amongst the dolphins, the small sandy beaches and the sound of the waves crashing gently against the shore.
A trip to Northbridge will drive home just how cosmopolitan a city Perth is. A hotpot of cultures, this is a great place to grab a bite to eat, with the streets teeming with restaurants serving up gastronomical delights from all of Perth’s cultural influences, from Chinese fare to locally farmed lamb, fresh seafood taken straight from the balmy waters around the coast (try some barramundi or snapper fish), and perfectly sweetened fruit from the market stalls. This is also a great place to go in the evening as there are plenty of bars offering open-air drinks as part of a pavement cafe culture (head to Leederville near the city center for all the trendy bars) that makes the city pleasant well into the night.
Have you visited Perth? There is much to see in Australia’s western coast, but distances are long. Where did you make it to? What highlights would you recommend? Share your tips with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you think it can help other travelerss!