A Winter Weekend in Perth

With a stylish small-bar scene, wine and foodie day-trip destinations on tap and fabulously arty Fremantle just downstream, a winter weekend in Perth delivers style, substance and sociability. Banish the winter chills in some secret city boltholes, then explore the Perth Hills, Swan Valley and atmospheric Freo.

Winter in Perth is divine, with mild sunny days and the noted absence of the Fremantle Doctor – the onshore sea breeze which can limit glassy ocean conditions to the morning and late evening in summer. Discover snug city hideaways, the atmospheric Perth Hills and the foodie-focused Swan Valley, then watch the winter sun set over Fremantle.

Friday night: The hidden city

On your first night in Perth, venture into downtown dusk to unearth some secret bars and urbane nocturnal haunts.

Down a hidey-hole off St Georges Terrace, Lalla Rookh effortlessly bridges the gap between wine bar and tapas house. Get social with the after-work locals and prime yourself with some Fremantle sardines and chilli olives, then keep the mood subterranean at Halford Bar, which sits inside a former safe below Hay St. Unlock an expertly crafted whisky sour and act moody at the bar – but don’t you dare dress down.

Put a little more fuel in the tank at one of the many eateries in the Print Hall before finishing the night at Helvetica, another of Perth’s sassy cocktail bars. You’ll find it through a secret doorway off Howard Street.

Print Hall, Perth
Photo: Print Hall, Perth

Saturday: Swanning around the valley

As much a foodie destination as it is a wine region, the Swan Valley – just 30 minutes northeast of downtown Perth – makes a compact daytrip. Expect artisan food producers, craft-beer breweries and myriad cellar doors. They’ve been growing grapes here since 1829, so there’s been plenty of time to master the art!

Sidestep the tour-bus hordes and discover some local faves. RiverBank Estate Winery is a small producer, but is arguably one of the valley’s best, bottling up a dozen different reds and half as many whites. Sip some malbec at the cellar door or book a table at the upbeat bistro (try the spiced kangaroo fillet). Fancy some post-lunch fromage? Duck into the Cheese Barrel for a knockout cheese board: soft, hard, blue and fabulously aromatic.

Into craft beer? There are half-a-dozen local brewers here to keep you fizzed. Feral Brewing Company does fruity IPAs and smoky porters, but their straight-up Perth Local lager is unbeatable, even on a cold valley afternoon. Mash Brewing has an Americana vibe, plating up dude food (mac ‘n’ cheese, pork-belly bites) to accompany their punchy New England IPA.

On the way back to Perth, stop into WA’s oldest pub for dinner by an open fire. The Rose & Crown in historic Guildford has been pouring beers since 1841.

The Cheese Barrel, Swan Valley
Photo: The Cheese Barrel, Swan Valley

Sunday morning: Head for the hills

Despite being just 45 minutes east of Perth, the Perth Hills deliver a distinctly different climate to the rest of Perth. It’s chilly here! But that chilliness means a variety-packed wine region, with plenty of cosy cellar doors for sitting and sipping.

The Bickley Valley, near Kalamunda, deserves a good half-day: there are a dozen boutique wineries here, plus some excellent cider houses. Make a beeline for the atmospheric Vineyard Kitchen at Brookside Vineyard for lunch. In winter, the namesake brook babbles, and the house cabernet will warm you from the inside out. Nearby CORE Cider is perfect for a misty winter orchard walk, a truffle-oil risotto in the bistro and a few pints of Peace CORE sparkling pear cider.

Sunday afternoon: On the waterfront

Fremantle, with its precious cache of Victorian port buildings, is Perth’s charismatic harbour town. Container ships come and go, cargo cranes angle skywards, and sailors and students fill the local pubs. Freo has got soul – especially on dusky mid-winter afternoons when the sea-salty atmosphere is downright poetic.

Don’t miss the disquieting Fremantle Prison, a fully functional lock-up until 1991. The ghosts here can seem a little too real in the winter shadows. Not far away is the equally noir WA Shipwrecks Museum, which recounts the grim story of the wreck of the Batavia on the WA coast in 1629.

Need a steadying ale after these murderous tales? Head for Little Creatures on Fishing Boat Harbour. Despite the harbourside chill, the locals will be out on the deck – join them and toast the end of your Perth weekend with a winter stout and a superb seafood pizza.

Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle
Photo: Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle

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