Here are a few fun facts: the city of Perth soaks up 3000 hours of sunshine a year. Amongst the skyscrapers, it’s home to the biggest inner city nature strip in the world – bigger than New York City’s Central Park. Plus, it’s nearing the finish of several billion-dollar redevelopments of the urban waterfront, making Perth’s river-lapped doorstep more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
Perth has always been closely connected to nature, having being positioned on the banks of the Swan River since it was founded, and spreading out to a continuous coastline of soft, sandy beaches with water so clear it looks like it’s been filtered. In response, its residents are keen outdoor folk, loving the clear blue skies and the attractions that make the most of the epic weather. Here are some of the top spots to join in with them.
Perth’s urban patch of green is so big, you’ll have to target which section you want to see. Fraser Avenue, lined with white trunked, sky-scraping native trees grants some of the best views of the city and Swan River. Free buses from the CBD will drop you at its entrance – take anything along St Georges Terrace and ask the driver to let you know when to get off. Join locals picnicking around the war memorial’s manicured lawns and don’t miss the giant boab tree. It was transported nearly 2,000 miles south from its Kimberley home – a massive logistical feat – and is estimated to be 750 years old. This same area comes alive in September, for the annual wildflower festival, celebrating Western Australia’s confetti of bush blooms.
Home-grown fruit and veg has become a must-have commodity for Perth’s clean living inhabitants, driving an explosion of fantastic farmers markets. The Subi Farmers Market is justifiably popular each Saturday, for its snap-fresh produce, still-warm baked breads, excellent coffee and breakfast stalls. Sunday markets in Victoria Park and Beaconsfield are also well worth a fossick.
Fremantle Markets are more touristy, with more than 150 stalls, but they do have a good produce section in The Yard, out the back. Visit just before closing time for heavily discounted fruit and vegetables sold in exuberant fashion.
Summer in Perth equals festival time, when the city comes out to play. Cheeky arts fest, Fringe World attracts dozens of international and Australian artists in January and February each year. Most venues are clustered in parks and gardens, where a party vibe combines with the boundary-pushing comedy, circus, burlesque and theatre shows. Meanwhile, Australia’s longest running cultural festival, the Perth International Arts Festival runs from February to March, when balmy nights set the perfect scene for PIAF’s high calibre local and international shows.
How many capital cities have their own island playground? Rottnest, owned and run by the state of Western Australia as a protected, Class A nature reserve, is an easy 19km ferry-ride from Perth. Once there, you’ll be cycling the car-free roads between its 63 sandy coves, stopping to snorkel or watch the cute, furry island-dwellers, the native quokkas (which look like tiny kangaroos). Yellow t-shirt wearing volunteers give free tours of the island’s natural and historic gems every day. Stay a night (or two) in an historic limestone cottage to properly soak up the relaxed atmosphere and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Newly opened Elizabeth Quay has shifted attention to the city’s doorstep, with its riverside promenades, new cafes and restaurants, liveable open spaces and high profile events. To the east, the in-development Waterbank precinct will shine a similar light on another valuable part of the city. It leads into pretty Claisebrook Cove in East Perth, which flies under the radar for many visitors. It’s a five minute drive from the city, but far nicer is to wander along a gorgeous riverside walking path, timing your arrival for lunch at the excellent pub or little cafes looking onto the inlet.
Another option for optimum river ogling is via a Swan River ferry cruise. They coast past Perth’s mega-mansions, including the abode of Australia’s richest woman, mining magnate Gina Rinehart. You’ll also see gleaming white yachts bobbing in clean-cut marinas and there’s a good chance dolphins will play in the waves by the boat.
About 45 minutes’ drive north of Perth, Yanchep National Park one of the state’s largest populations of koalas huddle in trees, and are easily spotted from an elevated 240m boardwalk. Kangaroos come out early and late in the day. There are also cooling caves which open up to impressive stalactite galleries and clear water pools. The park is open 365 days a year, and tours of Crystal Cave run regularly – a perfect escape from summer’s heat.
As we started our day we talked about there being something in the air at Monkey Mia that makes you feel like you belong. Just offshore we could see a pod of dolphins and some seabirds catching their morning snacks.