We rolled into Perth stinky and weary after travelling up through Margaret River, Bunbury and Mandurah. Our first stop was Dave’s cousin’s place located in the beautiful suburb of Palmyra. This spot gave us the perfect opportunity to experience and explore Fremantle and the Sunset Coast. After two weeks, we moved over to historic Guildford to spend some time with one of Dave’s old Melbourne mates, and this location put us a short drive away from Armadale, the Perth Hills and the Swan Valley.
During our stay, we found it easy to navigate around town – the traffic wasn’t dense and the roads were well labelled and the Swan River is a great landmark to follow. The one thing we had to be wary about while driving around Perth were the other drivers – everybody seemed a bit lost and unsure about which street to turn down!
- Also known as the City of Lights, Perth is the capital city of Western Australia and the fourth most populous city in Australia. It is also the most isolated capital city in the world!
- It is the sunniest capital city in the world with an average of 8 hours of sunshine every day of the year and the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ is the most consistent wind in the world that blows in from the west between midday and 3pm almost every day of the year.
- There are about 1.74 million people living in the Perth metropolitan area and around 1500 people move to Perth every week
- Perth came 9th in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s August 2012 list of the world’s most liveable cities.
The area was first inhabited by the Noongar people for over 40,000 years and the first documented European sighting was made by Dutch Captain Willem de Vlamingh and his crew in December 1696. While they didn’t stay long, de Vlamingh named the river after the black swans that swam in it.
Over 100 years later, Captain James Stirling established the Swan River Colony and once a camp was settled, convicts were sent over as cheap labour to help with the construction of infrastructure. In 1856, Queen Victoria declared Perth a city and its perpetual growth hasn’t stopped since.
We were in Perth for about 6 weeks and in that whole time, it only rained once, and it was a magnificent thunder storm. The Mediterranean climate sat between 25 and 35 degrees with the occasional cloudy sky, but it was always safe to assume that the day was going to be bright and sunny. It probably explains why Perth residents love outdoor activities.
Points of Interest
Over 300 native plants and 80 bird species within 4.06 square kilometres, Kings Park is the largest inner-city park in the world and is visited by 6 million people each year. There are heaps of walking paths to explore the flora, or you can sit by the State War Memorial and soak in the spectacular view of the city and river below.
After a relaxing picnic, we followed the Lotterywest Federation Walkway over an elevated bridge that overlooked the old Swan Brewery before climbing the DNA Tower. Afterwards, we went over to the Synergy Parkland for a coffee and to watch the kids play on the playground located on an island in the middle of the pond.
The botanic gardens are only a small portion of the park, with the majority being untouched bushland. It is a popular venue for art installations and live concerts, and we while we were there, they were setting up and doing sound checks for the Sarah Blasko concert with WASO by the Pioneer Women’s Memorial that night.
The Swan River
The city was built around this beautiful river and many activities are enjoyed in it, such as sailing, swimming and kayaking. We hung about at Point Walter, a great family location with plenty of lawn for picnics under the Norfolk Pines. The calm waters were perfect for snorkelling and Juz found heaps of hermit crabs as she swam between the black swans.
Western Australia’s Heart of Gold, the Perth Mint is Australia’s oldest operating mint.
It all started in 1892 when two Victorians, Ford and Baily, found a 16kg nugget near Coolgardie. Once the Gold Rush began, the population of the area doubled within a year, and doubled again the next year. So much gold was discovered that they needed somewhere to process it, so construction of the Perth Mint began, using limestone from Cottesloe and Rottnest Island. It was in possession of the British Empire until 1970 when it was handed over to the Government of Western Australia.
We did the Guided Tour so that we could see the Guinness World Book of Records’ largest coin made of 1 tonne of gold and the world’s largest gold bar exhibition, as well as Australia’s biggest nugget collection (LOL!). The tour starts at the ‘Prospectors Campsite’, which is a re-creation of a campsite from the 1890s when thousands of people with gold fever walked the 600km from Perth to Coolgardie to find their fortune.
After a leisurely stroll through the exhibition, we found a seat in the original melting house and watched the traditional Gold Pour demonstration in the original melting house. The gold pourers have to pile on the protective gear – layers of wool, aluminium and Kevlar with an apron and shoulder length gloves – as you do when you’re dealing with glowing hot molten gold that’s 1300 degrees Celsius! We were fascinated to find out that the 6kg gold bar he was playing with was worth $300,000 and that same piece of gold has been melted and poured seven times a day for over the last 20 years! Since the melting house began operation in 1899, gold dust has accumulated in the brick walls and ceilings over the years.
Western Australian Museum
Museums are one of the best places to go to when you’re in a capital city. Entry to the ongoing exhibitions is usually free and is a great way to learn about natural and social history, geology, the story of the local aboriginals, meteorites, megafauna, dinosaurs, native plants and animals.
The museum building is heritage listed and actually used to be the old Perth Gaol until the museums establishment in 1891.
The Bell Tower
A design that blends the old with the new, the Bell Tower was a Millennium Project built to house the Swan Bells. Twelve of the 18 bells come from St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London and date back to the 14th century. They were given to the State of Western Australia during the 1988 bicentenary celebrations, and since then, another six bells have been added to the collection, coming from London, Westminster and one commissioned by the WA government. The tower is 82.5 metres high and since it’s opening in December 2000, over 1 million people have visited.
Engraved padlocks are attached to the chain barriers around the Bell Tower. They’re known as Love Locks that are engraved with names, fixed to public structures and represent eternal love. This custom started near the Great Wall of China and has spread throughout the world.
Appropriately located just north of the city, Northbridge is a hip and vibrant part of Perth with heaps of bars, clubs, and pubs – perfect for a pub crawl! There are also lots of cafes and specialty shops, as well as a Vietnamese strip with a few restaurants. Nearby are the WA School of Art, Design and Media, the State Library of Western Australia and the Museum.
We were lucky enough to be invited to a night out in Northbridge and went to the Brisbane Hotel on Beaufort Street. The venue was pretty wanky and the drink prices were out of control but the atmosphere was electric so we had a great time anyway.
We also checked out Brass Monkey Hotel, one of the iconic pubs in Northbridge, before having a stroll around the block to check out the nightlife on James Street.
With so many eateries and cafes packed into such a small area, the centre of Leederville bustles with energy, especially during lunchtime and when the sun goes down.
Juz went there for a quick work lunch and thought it was a really funky little space. Zambrero was the food of choice – a Subway-style outlet that dishes out Mexican food with heaps of flavour. As you move along the assembly line, you pick your ‘style’ which is either a burrito, taco, quesadilla or in Juz’s case – a bowl. Then you pick you filling of slow cooked, tender meat, salsa and sauce and before you know it, you’re eating a tasty meal that is relatively fresh and healthy.
Afterwards, we went to a popular coffee shop called Greens & Co. Bright, colourful and breezy, this cute little café is filled with colourful couches, laminated paper globes and artsy types who probably spend most of their time here reading the paper and playing board games. There is a cabinet filled with enormous cakes and they know how to pump out the coffee, even though they’re a little confused about what a long macchiato is…
Information & Accommodation
Western Australian Visitor Centre – 55 William Street – 9483 1111
Fremantle Visitor Centre – Fremantle Town Hall, William Street – 08 431 7878
Perth City YHA – 300 Wellington Street, 08 9287 3333. Check out our post on the Perth City YHA.
Transperth provides public transport to the Perth metropolitan area and includes buses, trains and ferries. As with most public transport systems, you are going to need a ticket to ride, and a valid Transperth ticket can be used on all modes of transport.
The public transport is divided into 9 zones and your fare is calculated by how many zones you travel through. Also, depending on how many zones you travel through, your single ticket can be valid for two or three hours. 2-Section Tickets are also available for short trips of up to 3.2km but you can’t transfer between services with these tickets.
There are two types of ticketing systems in Perth:
- SmartRider is the electronic ticketing system. The SmartRider cards can be purchased for $10 from any Transperth InfoCentre or at various newsagencies around the city. Once you have the card, you need to add a minimum of $10 before you can use it to travel.
- Cash Tickets can be purchased from the driver of buses and ferries or at Ticket Vending Machines at train stations. A DayRider ticket costs $11.
There is also a Free Transit Zone for CAT buses and a SmartRider Free Transit Zone for trains within the Perth city boundaries. We found the CAT busses to be extra useful for travelling into the city from the outskirts of town.
For more information, visit the Transperth website.