Exploring Perth: Unveiling the Coastal Capital of Western Australia

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Perth Travel Guide

This article is brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

There was a time when Perth was unflatteringly referred to as ‘Dullsville’ back in 2000. However, the past twenty years have witnessed a dramatic transformation of the city.

Embracing the vast expanse of the Swan River, the city’s lanes are a seamless mix of vibrant street art, hidden bars and top-tier restaurants managed by renowned chefs. Perth, with its intriguing mix of ancient and modern architectural styles, is reminiscent of scenes from Harry Potter with its mock-Tudor alley of shops known as London Court, juxtaposed against a skyline punctuated by mirrored skyscrapers.

Let’s not forget, Perth is Australia’s sunniest capital city with an expansive urban green area that surpasses New York’s Central Park. The city’s renaissance began about a decade ago with the development of Elizabeth Quay, which revamped the riverfront into a pedestrian-friendly zone adorned with eateries and hotels.

For the first time in a hundred years, the authorities concealed the railway lines dividing the lively Northbridge area and the Central Business District (CBD), linking them via the newly-established Yagan Square. This place pays tribute to a Nyoongar warrior and acknowledges the Whadjuk Nyoongar, the traditional inhabitants of the region. Now, the area also effortlessly integrates with the adjacent suburb of Fremantle (‘Freo’), renowned for its vibrant art and music scene set amid buildings with gold rush and convict-era roots, making it a favoured weekend hangout spot.

The Rio Tinto building, the tallest skyscraper in Perth at 249 meters, was constructed back in 1922.

Taking inspiration from Melbourne, city officials have revitalised the backstreets, once disregarded spaces, by inviting local artists to animate empty walls with art. You might stumble upon the eerie monochrome characters by iconic graffiti artist Stormie Mills tucked away in hidden spots, or the thought-provoking murals of Indigenous artist Kambarni. Reasonable liquor license fees also encourage ambitious bartenders to open their own establishments, each reflecting their unique flair.

While Perth may be one of the most isolated cities globally, it doesn’t feel that way with 50 miles of pristine Indian Ocean beaches extending on either side and a continual evolution of public spaces and events. Dull is definitely not in its description anymore.

What to explore and engage in:

Oh Hey WA

There’s no better method to explore a city than by walking its streets. Adie and Robyn Chapman, two local sisters brimming with energy, conduct walking tours that reveal the city’s hidden art-filled corners and offer a concise history. The highlight? Their extensive network ensures that you not only visit the hottest bars and eateries but also get to mingle with the proprietors over cocktails. 

WA Museum Boola Bardip

Boola Bardip translates to ‘many stories’ in Whadjuk Nyoongar — the local Aboriginal dialect — and that’s precisely what this must-visit museum delivers. Begin with the ground-floor exhibit of Western Australia’s Aboriginal culture, and don’t miss Otto — the 79ft-long blue whale skeleton discovered on Busselton beach in 1897. 

GoGo Active Tours 

Embark on the ‘Cliffs and Caves’ inflatable kayaking tour on the Swan River for a unique city view. This relaxed two-hour expedition, guided by Matt Baldock and Kevin Lampard, narrates the city’s history with intermittent appearances from cormorants, Australian darters and, if you’re fortunate, grey bottlenose dolphins. The clear waters also harbour a resident seahorse colony.

Ever wondered if it’s a bike or a boat? It’s a Chiliboat, the best way to navigate the Swan at your leisure. 

Salt & Bush Eco Tours 

Put on some mosquito repellent and join naturalist Jamie Van Jones — named 2022 Top Tour Guide of Australia in national tourism awards — and geologist husband Base for a night-time walk in Yalgorup National Park, just over an hour’s drive south of the city. Spot kangaroos, bandicoots, Perth-native Tuart trees and ringtail and brushtail possums. 

Matagarup Zip & Climb

You cannot miss the vibrantly coloured Matagarup Bridge that illuminates Perth’s skyline like a colourful serpent. Scramble, ascend, and explore your way to the top to a sky-view platform, and then descend via a zipline spanning 1,312ft across the Swan River. It’s Perth’s latest thrill-seeker attraction and is suitable for children aged eight and above.

Rottnest Island

This sunny, largely car-free island just off Perth’s coast attracts 800,000 visitors every year, keen to meet the world’s ‘happiest animal’ — the quokka. Locals frequent the holiday cottages and enjoy cycling between sandy coves while watching fur seals and migrating whales offshore. The million-dollar renovation of the Wadjemup Museum, opened during lockdown, narrates the island’s history, including its 19th-century prison. You can catch a Sealink ferry from the city.

Left: Guided by Perth Natives, you will discover parts of the city that are not featured in typical tourist guides.
PHOTOGRAPH BY OH HEY WA
Right: Fremantle Market has something to appeal to everyone.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOURISM WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Where to lodge in Perth:

Hostel G Perth

Located in central Perth, this upscale, design-centric hostel provides a variety of shared and private rooms. The lively social areas, including a café/bar offering toasties and craft beer, and a cinema room with layered cushion zones, are major attractions.  

Warders Hotel

Formerly the residence of warders for the now UNESCO-protected Fremantle Prison, this row of historical limestone cottages has been repurposed as a hotel. The boutique rooms boast charming features and include vouchers for a breakfast pastry and coffee from the adjoining bar, Gimlet.

The Ritz-Carlton Perth

The Ritz, a glimmering copper landmark ideally positioned on Elizabeth Quay, is sheer perfection. Among the different room styles — all outfitted with Frette linens and Asprey toiletries — the Swan River King Studios with panoramic floor-to-ceiling views are highly recommended. Watch the sunset from the Songbird rooftop bar, rejuvenate in the open-air vitality pools, and dine at the Hearth’s open grill.

This acclaimed hotel’s amenities offer a microcosmic experience of Perth.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOURISM WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Shopping spots in Perth:

FOUND

Nestled within the grounds of the Fremantle Arts Centre, FOUND showcases the works of local artists, offering ceramics, woodworks, books, and art. If you visit on a Sunday between October and March, enjoy free concerts by touring and local bands performing in the centre’s magnificent front garden.

Fi & Co

For vintage aficionados, this tiny shop in Northbridge is a local favourite. It offers a refined selection of vintage and pre-loved clothes, crates of vinyl records, soy candles, and cold-pressed soaps. 

Japingka Aboriginal Art

If you’re considering investing in Aboriginal Australian art, start here. This gallery displays the works of Indigenous artists from across

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Perth Travel Guide

What has changed about Perth, Western Australia over the past two decades?

Perth, once known as ‘Dullsville’ back in 2000, has dramatically transformed over the last two decades. It has become a lively coastal capital, featuring a blend of street art, excellent restaurants, and a mixture of old and new architecture. The city also hosts Australia’s sunniest state capital and an urban green space larger than New York’s Central Park.

What are some of the notable attractions in Perth?

Perth offers a range of attractions such as Elizabeth Quay, Yagan Square, the vibrant suburb of Fremantle, and the Rio Tinto building. Additionally, one can explore a range of city tours, visit the WA Museum Boola Bardip, go on GoGo Active Tours, and enjoy adrenaline-filled activities at Matagarup Zip & Climb.

What are the recommended places to stay in Perth?

There are multiple options to suit different budgets, from the high-end, design-led Hostel G Perth to the historical Warders Hotel and the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Perth.

Where can one shop in Perth?

Places like FOUND, Fi & Co, and Japingka Aboriginal Art offer a wide array of local artists’ works, vintage and pre-loved items, and Aboriginal Australian art.

What is the nightlife like in Perth?

Perth’s nightlife is quite vibrant with numerous spots like Terrarium, Republic of Fremantle, and Foxtrot Unicorn offering unique experiences, from plant-filled interiors to gin distilleries and cocktail bars in bank vaults.

What are some unique local experiences in Perth?

Local experiences include the Nyoongar Dance performances every Saturday, summer open-air movie nights at Mooonlight Cinema, and weekend shopping and dining at Fremantle Markets.

More about Perth Travel Guide

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2 comments

LucyTraveller August 3, 2023 - 6:46 am

oh wow, had no idea about the underground art scene in Perth! All that street art and the revitalised lanes.. amazing! Need to add it to my travel list!

Reply
BackpackerJoe August 3, 2023 - 7:57 am

stayin at Hostel G Perth, can vouch for this place. Chill vibe and great people, and its in the heart of the city. recommend!

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