Western Australia: Perth city guide

Perth, located at the mouth of the Swan River on Australia’s less-travelled west coast, is the country’s fourth biggest city and one of the most remote Western capitals in the world – it is closer to Indonesia than it is to Sydney.

It is also Australia’s fastest-growing city, with a laid-back, youthful community, a comfortable Mediterranean climate and a reputation as the business, entertainment, nightlife and culture capital of Western Australia.

If locals aren’t relaxing in a streetside cafe, they will be swimming, surfing, walking or enjoying a glorious sunset from one of the city’s stunning beaches – which are easily reached on Perth’s world-leading free transport system.

Built in 1868 in Victorian Free Gothic style the recently restored Perth Town Hall is the only convict-built town hall in Australia. It’s a prime example of the heritage buildings erected during a period that saw the city flourish.

Other highlights include the high ridge of Kings Park and its wild natural forests; the cafe culture of Subiaco and Leederville; the sands of Scarborough Beach; and the markets and cafes of cosmopolitan Fremantle.


Where to stay

There is a cluster of hotels just off Langley Park, including the Hyatt Regency, Sheraton, Novotel and Saville Park Suites. All are within walking distance of the city’s highlights. The three-star Hotel Grand Chancellor is closer to the happening Northbridge area.

Near the Burswood Entertainment Complex, by the Swan River, there are two options: the InterContinental Hotel, which is set in 100 hectares of landscaped gardens and secluded parklands; and the Holiday Inn, which opened in 2005 with 291 rooms. Both are close to the city and the entertainment centre.

In Fremantle there are a number of options including the award-winning four-star Esplanade Hotel, which has 115 refurbished rooms in the resort building and 112 in the atrium. The four-star heritage-listed Tradewinds on the Swan River is also well situated.


By day

Northbridge is place to go for museums, with the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, the State Library and the Western Australia Museum all here.

Perth’s shopping centres are the Hay Street and Murray Street Malls, located in the business district. Between Hay Street Mall and St George’s Terrace lies the London Court arcade, a shopping centre with a Tudor-style atmosphere.

The Perth Mint, in Hay Street, produces gold, silver and platinum coins and has a museum, while the Gothic Saint George’s Cathedral, Government House and the Perth Concert Hall are all worth a visit.

Old Perth Port and Barrack Street Jetty is the base for Perth’s ferry and river cruises, and scenic points in Kings Park command great panoramic views of the city.

Fremantle, home to the Dockers AFL Australian football team, is a working port and fishing city that was revamped when Australia hosted the America’s Cup in 1997.

It is often a drop-in point for round-the-world yacht races, has an interesting prison and is the gateway to Rottnest Island, whose bicycle-friendly rolling hills are home to the indigenous quokka (a small marsupial).

Swan Valley has boutique hotel accommodation and award-winning wineries. The unusual formation of Wave Rock, the dense forests of the Valley of the Giants and the limestone towers of the Pinnacles are all accessible on long but well-worth-it day trips.


By night

There are plenty of restaurants but don’t expect to find much open after 10pm – Australians tend to eat early and Perth has notoriously quiet nightlife. Northbridge offers South European, Asian and seafood dining and clubs that get busy at the weekends.

A short train ride will take you to the coastal resort of Fremantle, which has some good fish restaurants and clubs.

Scarborough has a couple of clubs, and Subiaco, which is a good spot for late-night eats, is popular with ‘suits’. There are plenty of clubs and DJ cafe bars on Rokeby Road. Pick up Scoop or X-press magazine to discover where to find the best live music.

In the summer visitors can catch live jazz in the parks or head to one of the many outdoor cinemas that spring up around town.

Perth Observatory offers night tours on three weekends a month (except June and August). Gaming fans should visit Burswood Casino, which has nine restaurants, six bars and 88 gaming tables.

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