Telling you how to make the most out of the sun, sea and surf, our man on the ground David Harfield guides you around Perth.
When it comes to cities, Australia seems to be divided into two halves, with Perth on the west side and everything else on the east; this may seem a lot for one city to take upon its shoulders, but once you’ve sampled its gorgeous temperatures, stunning scenery and general high quality of life, you’ll understand that this is one city that’s quite happy to remain in comfortable seclusion.
The Main Areas
One thing that will strike any city dweller that is new to Perth is how few people seem to be on the streets when compared with busier metropolises such as New York and London; anyone who enjoys being able to walk down the street without being jostled by bustling shoppers and scurrying commuters will be in their element.
Freo (as it’s known locally) is home to the eponymous Fremantle Market as well as the E Shed market, which are highly useful for shopping for freshly prepared food, knickknacks such as sunglasses and beaded jewellery and the odd curry bratwurst (trust us on this one…yum!). The suburb has a funky, urban vibe to it and there are plenty of ocean-view cafés in which to while away lazy afternoons. For those of you who have a little get-up-and-go, take a historical tour of the Roundhouse Prison, which was the first prison in Perth and listen out for the cannons that are fired at 13:00 every day. Alternatively, take the Fremantle Tram that takes you on a guided tour of the area, with the option of a ‘Ghostly Tour’ of Fremantle’s oldest buildings every Friday night.
Just next door to Fremantle lies Cottesloe, which boasts Perth’s main swimming beach as well as the Indiana tea house which is superb for relaxing in whilst the sun sets; Perth’s sunsets are legendary and the colours and hues that are emblazoned across the sky on a decent evening are simply magical. An affluent suburb, Cottesloe has a wide and varied display of impressive houses that are worth a look-see if you fancy a stroll around the block.
Subiaco and Leederville
These two areas are popular for cafés, restaurants and cinemas; although every main area in the city seems to have a decent smattering of these amenities, crowds tend to flock to these areas as they have good transport links.
The centre of Perth is the best place for high street shopping during the day; most shops shut fairly early at around 17:00, although Thursday is ‘late night shopping’ night. Locals recommend King Street and Shafto Lane for boutique and indie shops and a ‘Jaffle’ (a spaghetti filled toastie; again, trust us…) vendor can be found purveying his indulgent wares around these parts.
The Perth foreshore lies on the edge of the Swan River and is currently undergoing an opulent rejuvenation that will see hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the area, increasing its tourism and commercial appeal. King’s Park borders the centre of the city, and its huge, sprawling botanical gardens sometimes play host to gigs and concerts; from certain vantage points in King’s Park you can see the whole of the CBD, which is beautiful when illuminated at night. Needless to say, there is a strong nightlife scene in the centre, with several hotels, clubs and restaurants lining the strips.
Northbridge has a reputation for being a rougher area of town, yet if you know where to go it can be a great night out; there are plenty of boutique cocktail bars and live music venues such as Ezra Pound and The Bakery and a lot of the movers and shakers on the city’s art scene hang around this cultural hub.
Perth’s café culture is inimitable and it is one city that certainly takes its coffee seriously; baristas earn a good wage and command a certain amount of prestige on the café and bar scene for their proficiency in ‘latte art’. For those that tend to stick to the three classics (Cappuccino, Latte, Americano) when ordering coffee, prepare to encounter unfamiliar nomenclature such as ‘long mac topped up’ and ‘single origin ristretto’…
Freshly squeezed juices are also very popular with chains such as Boost Juice and Java Juice peppering the city with outlets; choose from a wide variety of fresh and exotic ingredients and ingest your ‘five a day’ in one long slurp.
Perth is not a cheap city by anybody’s standards, yet the high cost of living is balanced out by even higher wages across the whole employment spectrum; minimum wage is $16.52 per hour, approximately twice that of the United Kingdom’s. However, tourists may have to keep an eye on their budgets when eating out in the city. For a mid-range meal, you’ll be looking at $20-30 for a main course and a higher end restaurant will be $30-50 per main. A pint of lager will be between $10 and $15, freshly squeezed juices are between $8-9 and coffee is priced at approximately $3.50 per cup.
Perthians do not generally tip on meal bills, so don’t feel obliged unless the service was exceptional; do not feel too bad about this though, waitresses, barpersons and baristas are often on an average wage of $20-30 per hour, approximately 3 times the rate of London’s service industry staff.
The price of petrol is still fairly cheap in Perth (at least when compared with the price of most other commodities), so a lot of people travel by car; however, if you want to get around the city without having to worry about parking, etc., then you can take the TransPerth bus and train system. The train system has four routes going to each point of the compass and many of the main areas are easily accessible via these routes. Trains are not as frequent as, say, the London Tube system, with trains departing at popular stops every 15 minutes or so, so it is a good idea to plan your journey if you are on a tight schedule.
Bus routes are similarly timed, with popular routes running buses to each stop every 15 minutes and the less popular routes getting them every 30 or 60 minutes. Night trains and buses are far less frequent and if you want to get home at night then it is advisable to catch a taxi, as although Perth is very hot in the day, it can get quite nippy when standing around at night; Swan Taxis are a reputable and reliable taxi firm.
Bus and train fares depend on how far you are travelling and which zones you pass through, but a single two-zone ride will be around $3.80. One piece of advice that we can give anyone staying for an extended period of time is to is to link your SmartRider card (a card that you top up with credit and swipe in/out instead of constantly buying tickets) to your bank account; not only does it recharge your credit once you run low, but you also save 25% off the price of each fare.
This small ‘holiday island’ is visible from Perth’s shoreline and is just a short ferry ride away; it boasts gorgeous views, stunning scenery and a wide array of lodgings ranging from camping for around $12 per night right up to the special lodges such as the lighthouse keeper’s house that can set you back $408 per night dependent upon seasons. . You can rent snorkelling equipment and bicycles when you are on the island and the entire setting is just begging to be explored.
The Sun & Climate
During summer, temperatures in Perth can reach up to 45 ºC; even if there are clouds in the sky, it’s best to follow the local’s advice and, “From 12-3, get under a tree; 3-4, get out the door.” Concurrently, the rule of ‘Slip, slop, slap’ (slip on a T-shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat) should be followed, lest you look like a lobster for the first week of your stay…
The Swan River estuary snakes its way from the ocean through the city and provides towns such as Fremantle with gorgeous harbours where the local millionaires can dock their sailing boats. For those who left their nautical vehicles at home, you can book Swan River Cruises that take you along the river in the daytime or the evening, with refreshments and meals available depending on which package you choose; our advice is to take the twilight tours to view one of Perth’s glorious sunsets.