Perth’s wild, western beauty is fun and super-relaxed, yet the city is always ready for adventure.
Perth is the free spirit of Australia. Standing on its own, away from the crowds, living its best life. Few other destinations possess all of Perth’s best features: a long coastline wrapped in white-sand beaches, one of the biggest city parks in the world, a strong focus on Aboriginal culture, diverse dining and friendly bars, and a wine region 30 minutes’ drive out of town.
Perth’s entrepreneurs find new avenues to entertain us, while modern venues strive to impress. And with endless sunny days, the city is perfect for year-round exploring.
A good introduction to the state is the WA Museum Boola Bardip, with eight galleries celebrating local achievements in art, music, fashion and science. Entry is free to most exhibitions. The Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route exhibition depicts the story of this epic cattle track established to support the mining and pastoral industries, told from the perspectives of local Aboriginal peoples.
Another great way to kick off a visit to Perth is to head to the beach. Cottesloe, halfway between Perth and Fremantle, is popular, with plenty of seaside spots to enjoy fresh seafood, such as Cott & Co Fish Bar. Witness a glorious sunset over the water, preferably from the Verandah Bar at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel. Or jump on a ferry to visit Rottnest Island, the home of the quokkas.
The food scene in nearby Fremantle is tantalising, with weekend farmers markets offering fabulous local produce.
The Fremantle Market first opened in 1897 and is today awash in unique food offerings from around the world as well as Indigenous arts and crafts.
For an insight into the innovative drinking dens popping up everywhere, Republic of Fremantle is a new urban distillery that makes its own grape-based spirit using verdelho grapes from nearby Swan Valley vineyards. The massive custom-built copper still at the back of this sprawling warehouse is a sight to behold. A 100-seat bar and kitchen serves tasting flights and superb cocktails, some of which are sold in bottles for four to six people to share, complemented by small snack plates of tasty local produce. Classes are also offered to learn how to distil your own gin and take home a bottle.
Brace yourself for an adrenaline-pumping addition to the city, Matagarup Zip+Climb. The bridge climb takes 314 steps at a 45-degree angle to reach the viewing platform and its spectacular vista. The zip-line, scheduled to open mid-2021, is set to whisk people from the bridge across the Swan River – travelling 400 metres at up to 75 kilometres per hour.
Optus Stadium has also launched a sky-high tour, Halo Rooftop Climb. This shorter experience is 78 steps up to the roof of the stadium. Sit in the highest seats, 42 metres above the ground, or let go of the rails and lean out over the edge for a daring photo (included in the ticket price). Guides are full of behind-the-scenes information about game-day operations.
Where to stay
Accommodation doesn’t get much more charming than the new Warders Hotel in a row of heritage-listed limestone cottages originally built in 1851. Formerly the housing for warders of the nearby Fremantle Prison, the restored rooms retain the original timber and stonework, enhanced with luxury features such as handcrafted furniture, complimentary minibar and filtered water dispensers. Guests receive a free drink at the adjacent Emily Taylor courtyard bar and restaurant, which serves excellent Asian food, and breakfast at the cosy Gimlet Cafe.
Next-level luxury can be found at Como The Treasury in Perth’s CBD. This jaw-dropping gem has built on its reputation for impeccable service, super-sized rooms and brilliant bars and restaurants. Three historic government buildings were transformed into this all-in-one lifestyle precinct, where guests can dine in a different venue for every meal, sip martinis in the jazz bar or indulge in spa treatments at the Como Shambhala Urban Escape.
Eat and drink
Sample Aboriginal ingredients in a fine-dining setting at Wildflower, which specialises in forager-driven menus that follow the six seasons of the Indigenous Noongar calendar. Head chef Matthew Sartori’s creative dishes present native ingredients in a minimalist style, but the views of the skyline and Swan River are maximum magnificent.
The all-day dining at Bib & Tucker is one of the highlights of the Fremantle dining scene. The beachside restaurant has sweeping views of Leighton Beach and marries cooking techniques such as smoking, pickling and wood-firing with the best Western Australian produce.
Winter sees a new program brought to life by the West Australian Ballet. The new season, State, presents dynamic performances of contemporary dance in the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre (24 June-3 July).
At Crown Theatre (19-24 August), be spooked by Dracula with its gothic sets and intricate costumes. Krzysztof Pastor’s neo-classical work is sure to captivate as the lonely Dracula begins a reign of terror in a bid to reunite with his lost love, Mina.
Western Australia’s wildflower flurry begins in June in the northern outback plains of the Pilbara and Coral Coast before spreading south to Perth by September. The Botanic Garden, in the heart of the huge Kings Park, is home to many of the state’s endangered plants that few people get to see.