One of the hottest, sunniest cities in Australia, third most windy city and touted as one of the most isolated cities in the world, Perth is often overlooked by visitors. Perhaps its isolation has kept its secrets in the west, but those who brave the distances enjoy the uncrowded beaches, the relaxed pace and the endless blue skies that stretch over the Indian Ocean. Perth is situated around the Swan River, which is its lifeline. On weekends it is full of sailboats and windsurfers, while ferries cross from north to south and various vessels offer river cruises. A jaunt up-river takes you to the Swan Valley wine region, while north of the water is home to the city centre with skyscrapers clearly visible. This area is the central business district as well as a major shopping area and the nearby suburb called Northbridge is densely packed with cafes, restaurants and nightclubs. In short, Perth has it all.
Heading west out of the city just 10 minutes up a hill is King’s Park. This is a beloved spot for Perthites and tourists alike to get great views over the city and river while relaxing under the shady gum trees which line the entryway to the park. This is a huge area with natural bushland as well as grassed picnic areas, children’s playgrounds and cafes dotted throughout. September is a great time to visit as they have a spectacular display of wildflowers where you can see examples of the unique flora from all over the state. However, the botanical gardens are well kept all year round and there is a short tree-top walk that also has excellent views. Throughout summer there is an outdoor cinema, various outdoor concerts and on January 26th it is a prime viewing location for the Australia Day fireworks. There is a visitors centre at the main entrance which can supply you with maps and other information about events.
Once you have seen the city centre, it’s time to head to the coast. Perth beaches are very accessible and continue almost uninterrupted along the whole stretch of coast. With so much space, they aren’t too crowded so you’ll have your own patch of white sand to lie out on. Perth summers are also long and uninterrupted. The warm sunny weather starts around October and continues without rain until around April. Even winter can see some sunny days that depending on where you’re from, might seem like beach weather. February is the hottest month, with temperatures consistently over 30°C and can reach as high as 40°C, so don’t forget your sunscreen. The most popular beaches for swimming are Cottesloe, Scarborough, Trigg, Floreat and City beach. Some are also suitable for surfing and kite-boarding or windsurfing. The afternoons are often windy, which is perfect for water sports and these are highly popular. Cafes and bars are also never far away, particularly at Scarborough and Cottesloe, the bars on which are very popular on weekends. Cottesloe beach also has a 'Sculptures by the Sea' exhibition in March, which turns the beach into an outdoor art-gallery.
Another main highlight of Perth is the port city of Fremantle. Many buildings are heritage listed and the area captures the history of the beginnings of this settlement in the west. The Fremantle Prison, an impressive sandstone building, has interesting historical tours which are particularly scary at night. A few disgruntled prisoners supposedly still hang around there in ghostly form. The Fremantle markets are also a must-see, with various hand-made and local products on sale. The main street is full of cafes and restaurants as coffee drinking is a major pastime for the locals. There are also many pubs that serve cold local beer and good food, the most popular being the Little Creatures Brewery, which is in a large warehouse by the harbour, and you can watch the beer being brewed next to you.
Eighteen kilometres off the coast, accessible by regular services from Fremantle, is Rottnest Island. This is a favourite holiday spot for locals but can be enjoyed as a daytrip as well. The island is car free, so the only way around is to hire a bike, or take the bus - but that’s cheating! Surrounded by stunning beaches with white sand and clear blue water that is perfect for snorkelling, Rottnest is a mini-paradise. There isn’t much to do except enjoy the beaches and once you leave the main town you will need to have your own water and food with you. There are a few cafes in town as well as a supermarket so you can buy supplies there. Development has been restricted to protect the natural environment and this island is home to a special marsupial called the Quokka. A bit like a small kangaroo, at only 20cm high, these cuties are very popular with visitors. Formerly found on the mainland too, this island is their last refuge.
So a visit to the west will be a unique experience. Don’t try to rush; the idea is to enjoy the sunshine and outdoor areas while you take life easy with a cappuccino. Perth is just the beginning. There is also a whole region to the south full of wineries, tall forests and wild coast. To the north are deserts, more beaches and plenty of quiet isolated places just waiting for you to discover them. It might be a long journey to get here, but it will be worth it.