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Aug 05

Exploring Perth

My mum and my sister and her family live in sunny Perth, so whenever we get back to Australia, we’ll spend some time in the laidback Western Australian capital. Its clear blue skies, temperate climate, and spectacular setting on the Swan River’s sprawling lake-like expanse, make exploring Perth a delight.

The city’s handsome historic buildings and beautiful parks and gardens, teeming with birdlife, also make it a photographer’s dream. It’s easy to explore too, due to its compact city centre and grid plan. The pace is also slower and the people friendlier than in the bustling central business districts (CBDs) of Sydney and Melbourne, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll.

Here’s a Perth walk we like to do, cameras in hand, whenever we get to the west coast city…

Begin your amble in the Perth CBD’s administrative area on the corner of Barrack and Hay streets. It’s easy to take a step back in time here and imagine what the city must have looked like during colonial times, as you take in the splendid heritage architecture of this historic quarter. Dating to 1867, Perth Town Hall has a striking clock tower.

Beside it, the imposing Central Government Offices, dating back to 1874, are very grand, while across the road are three very elegant 1890s façades. Zip around the corner and you can pop into the quaint St Georges Cathedral (1879-88) for a quick look, then cross the road to admire the imposing Jacobean Revival-style Government House (1859).

Nearby, on the corner of Barrack Street and St Georges Terrace, which marks the location of the founding of Perth in 1829, the lovely Stirling Gardens are part of Western Australia’s first botanical park. The bronze statue you will see on the corner is that of Alexander Forrest (1849-1901), a surveyor, explorer, politician and mayor of Perth.

Sprawl out on the lawns and soak up the sunshine for a bit or instead check out the life-sized bronze sculpture of a mob of kangaroos in motion, just as you’d see them in the bush, before continuing.

The classical, columned building is the Supreme Court, built in 1902, while the diminutive edifice beside it is that of the Old Court House, dating back to 1836, making it Perth’s oldest building. Behind these handsome structures are the leafy Supreme Court Gardens, and beyond that The Esplanade, Riverside Drive, Barrack Square, and Barrack Street Jetty on the Swan River waterfront.

Barrack Square is dominated by the attention-grabbing, post-modern, 80-metre high Bell Tower that is home to the Swan Bells – 18 historic bells from St Martin-in-the-Fields that were a gift from the City of London on Australia’s 1988 Bicentenary. There are stunning Swan River views from the top of the tower.

Hop on a ferry – they leave every 15 minutes – from Barrack Street Jetty for the seven-minute journey to Mends Street Wharf where South Perth’s Sir James Mitchell Park provides even more magnificent panoramic vistas of Perth’s Manhattan-like skyline. This is a great spot to watch fireworks.

Back at Barrack Street Jetty, you can sip a cold beer in the sunshine on the timber deck at The Lucky Shag Waterfront Bar before crossing The Esplanade and hiking up William Street to Perth’s commercial centre.

Note that there is also a free Blue CAT bus from the jetty, every five minutes. The bus takes a scenic detour along the riverfront beneath Kings Park, before looping back along leafy Mounts Bay Road, and heading up William Street. Alight at Murray Street or Hay Street, both of which have traffic-free ‘malls’, as they call the pedestrian-only thoroughfares.

Wander through the various historic shopping arcades connecting the two malls. The quirky Tudor-themed London Court is a nod to Perth’s large British community. Cross Forrest Place, passing the colossal General Post Office building, and zip over the railway station to lively Northbridge.

Northbridge is Perth’s boisterous entertainment district and it boasts a number of large corner pubs with wide balconies and wrought iron ‘lacework’ synonymous with post-colonial era architecture. The Deen is a popular live music venue, while Universal Wine Bar is a hip, laidback spot.

A vibrant arts precinct is centred on and around James Street Mall and is home to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, which houses the world’s finest Aboriginal art collection. It really is special so consider it a must-see and allocate an hour or two to wander around. I can spend half a day here. The Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Western Australian Museum and the State Library of Western Australia are all here too.

Where to eat
Bustling William Street is Perth’s Chinatown or Asia-town, lined with Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese noodle-houses and Korean BBQ restaurants, as well as Asian supermarkets and specialty grocery shops, butcher-shops, and bakeries. Glistening roast ducks hang in a dozen restaurant windows, but the tastiest Peking duck is at Good Fortune Roast Duck House.

When to go
Perth has one of Australia’s most temperate climates, so is a wonderful year-round destination. Even though winter nights can get very chilly, days are generally mild with clear skies and sunshine making it very pleasant. Spring, summer and autumn are all gorgeous times to visit.

How to get there
In the old days it was necessary to fly into Australia via Sydney or Melbourne, but now many airlines fly directly to Perth from the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia. We like Travelbag.co.uk for flights and holidays to Australia including Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and other cities.

Flights to Perth to gather content for stories were provided by Tourism Western Australia.

2 comments

  1. Carmen

    I love this post. Perth is our hometown and it never used to get much press but over the years it’s becoming more and more popular with tourists (they used to just go to the east coast). Although stupidly expensive, I do love Perth for its laid back vibe and beautiful beaches.

    1. Lara Dunston

      Sorry, guys, I somehow overlooked this comment. Despite coming from the east coast originally, my family took me to Perth to live for a while as a kid, so I have some very lovely, hazy, impressionist images from way back then, and have always had an attachment to the city. Terry and I have spent a lot of time there over the years, both working on guidebooks, as well as spending time with family, and we love it – especially its beaches and laidback vibe. We spent 6 weeks there last year but we didn’t find it any more expensive than Sydney and Melbourne to be honest. Australia is expensive in general – which is why we live overseas!

      Thanks for dropping by!

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