Perth lives its life al fresco. If it can be done outdoors here, it most certainly will be, from the daily commute to the weekly shop; the big night out to the lazy Sunday session. This is Australia’s sunniest state capital, replete with white-sand beaches (19 to be exact), café terraces and leafy parks.
What’s more, it’s undergoing a renaissance, growing fast and exploding with new small bars and independent restaurants. This is no mere gateway; there’s more than enough to detain you here for a two-night stay.
With flight times from the UK of four hours fewer than Sydney, you could be diving in to this extraordinary city less than 24 hours from home.
Day one in Perth
Get straight out into native Aussie bushland at Kings Park, Perth’s inncer city park, just west of the CBD. It’s flooded with locals on weekends doing everything from jogging to cycling, picnicking and admiring the view back over the city skyline.
Even better views can be had from the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, an arched glass bridge that undulates through the Botanic Gardens at a height of 16 metres.
You’ll get close-up views of the tree canopy and look down over native marri, karri, tingle and jarrah trees, as well as seeing artworks by local indigenous Nyoongar people.
Some say Perth lacks cultural clout. We say get on over to the Perth Cultural Centre and see for yourself. Here you’ll find the Art Gallery of Western Australia, home to one of the country’s best collections of indigenous artwork, and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (or PICA), which supports local groundbreaking artists.
The highlight is the Western Australian Museum, which introduces the state through a series of engaging interactive displays. You can refuel here, too, with fresh salads or a mushroom tagliatelle at the Art Gallery Café’s pleasant outdoor terrace.
With the food and drink scene changing so quickly in Perth, there’s sure to be another new bar by the time you visit. To ensure you find it, join a walking tour with Two Feet and a Heartbeat, a three-hour exploration of the city’s small bars with a few complimentary drinks and ‘grazing’ foods thrown in too.
You’ll find out why the CBD is now the place to be, rather than a place to leave when the office clears out. Be sure to ask plenty of questions, because tomorrow night you’re on your own.
You’ve just got time for a late dinner at The Trustee, home to Perth’s best chateaubriand, served with a cracking béarnaise sauce. Add half a marron (a local crayfish) for the ultimate WA dinner. All washed down with a WA wine, of course. Staff are knowledgeable, so ask for a recommendation.
Best hotel for an overnight stay
It’s a short walk to your hotel from here. The Terrace Hotel Perth is housed in a heritage-listed building and its luxurious rooms have standalone marble bathtubs, double sinks and more in-room technology than you might expect in a Google boardroom.
Day two in Perth
No visit to Perth is complete without heading out to the port of Fremantle, or Freo to its (many) admirers. You’ll see what all the fuss is about as soon as you hit the Cappuccino Strip, aka South Terrace, a buzzing street lined with cafés and bars with outdoor terraces perfect for people-watching.
The ringside seats are at Gino’s, an Italian-run enduringly popular café that serves a mean breakfast (try the eggs benedict). Visit the Fremantle Markets for cut-above-the-norm local crafts including Fairtrade clothing from Anjel Ms and sweet treats from Fremantle Candy.
A prison tour might not sound like fun, but they do things a little differently here in Freo and a trip to the World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison is more likely to end in a whipping demonstration than museum fatigue. It was built by convicts in 1852 and held the highest security prisoners for decades. It is said to have been so stinky it took more than two years to get rid of the smell when it closed!
Aside from that whipping post demonstration, the highlight is probably Peter Irwin Cameron’s cell, painted entirely in Aboriginal dot art.
From the prison it’s a short walk to the seafront, where the Little Creatures brewery attracts a vibrant crowd with its shiny beer vats and tasty pizzas. You might have seen their IPA in shops back home but there’s plenty more where that came from, plus several seasonal varieties. The outdoor terrace overlooking the water is a real suntrap.
As sunset approaches head to Cottesloe Beach, an unrivalled place for sundowners. Take a ringside seat at the Ocean Beach Hotel or Cottesloe Beach Hotel to toast the most spectacular sunset any capital city can surely offer, as the flaming orb dips into the Indian Ocean lighting up the sky in pink and red.
Back in Perth proper, continue the bar tour you started last night. Perth’s liquor laws loosened a few years back and an explosion of small bars is the result. Most are found down the narrow laneways that run between the CBD’s main streets.
Duck down beside 101 St Georges Terrace to find hip whisky joint Helvetica, home to a dangerously good range of single malts, then head up to Northbridge to dive down an unappealing looking alleyway behind 222 William Street.
You’ll hear The Mechanics Institute before you see it and should jostle for a terrace seat; it’s worth it for the city views. Choose one of the expertly mixed cocktails (the gin mule is a good choice) and raise a glass to the renaissance of Perth. We bet you’ll be back.
Produced in association with Western Australia.
For more information visit the Western Australia website.