Western Australia’s easy-going capital often gets spoken about as the most isolated city in the world. This might carry some truth geographically, but the place has a bright, big-city feel that makes it seem anything but secluded – and with Qantas beginning direct flights from Heathrow in March, it’s about to become simpler to reach.
What to do
Explore on foot
Central Perth has two obvious focal points: the high-rise CBD, with its busy shopping streets and mural-splashed laneways, and low-slung Northbridge – a diverse neighbourhood lined with independent bars. They’re within easy walking distance of each other. For local insight, join Two Feet & A Heartbeat’s (twofeet.com.au) on-foot tours; from A$35 (£20).
Hit the river
The Swan River runs in a handsome arc through the city. Various operators have tours upriver to take in the wineries and mellow scenery of the surrounding region. Swan Valley Tours (svtours.com.au) runs cruises with wine and cheese tastings from A$105 (£60).
A new heart for the city
There’s change afoot in the centre. Yagan Square is being unveiled in early 2018, occupying a prime swathe of land between the CBD and Northbridge. The mammoth project draws design inspiration from the area’s aboriginal heritage, and the square will host events, food stalls and more.
Go to the beach
The city’s top coastal hang-out is Cottesloe beach, a kilometre-long ribbon of white sand backed by dunes and Norfolk pines. It’s around 20 minutes from the centre by rail or bus, and features a striking art deco teahouse above the beach.
“Freo” is Perth’s free-spirited little sibling, reachable via a half-hour, A$4.70 (about £2.70) train journey along the coast. It’s an integral part of the Perth experience, with streets of warm, stuck-in-time facades and a devilishly good choice of food and drink establishments.
Kings Park and Botanic Gardens
Overlooking the city, Kings Park (bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park) is one of the world’s largest inner-city green spaces. It’s a must-visit – partly for the views and partly for the walking trails that thread through its botanic gardens.
The city’s artistic pulse comes courtesy of the Perth Cultural Centre, a pedestrianised zone full of galleries and gardens. There’s an excellent Institute of Contemporary Arts, but the highlight is the multi-level Art Gallery of Western Australia (artgallery.wa.gov.au), where the far-reaching collection includes some poignant works.
Where to stay
Developed by the team behind the hugely successful Little Creatures microbrewery, The Alex (alexhotel.com.au) is a funky, informal boutique hotel located right next to the Perth Cultural Centre. Highlights include a roof terrace, wine bar and espresso lounge. Doubles from A$190 (£110), B&B.
The InterContinental Perth City Centre (ihg.com) is a smart new chain hotel with a plum location in the heart of the CBD. It’s set across 16 floors – the rooms are spacious, and those on higher floors have fine city views. The street-level, tapas-focused Heno & Rey is also a great place to grab a bite. Doubles from A$320 (£185), room only.
The on-trend Fremantle option is the Hougoumont Hotel (hougoumonthotel.com), which has rooms made from old shipping containers and a free cheese and wine hour every evening. Expect exposed brickwork and industrial design in the public areas, and Nespresso machines and designer toiletries in-room. Doubles from A$160 (£92), B&B.
Having opened in West Perth in mid-2017, Tribe Perth (tribehotels.com.au) is a youthful, carefully styled option that bills itself as “affordable boutique luxury”. Gets a thumbs-up for its fresh interior design and colourful communal dining area. Doubles from A$149 (£86), room only.
Where to eat
Mary Street Bakery (marystreetbakery.com.au), whose three sites are popular with locals, boasts the most indulgent (and calorific) breakfast in the city, in the form of fried chicken on thick buttermilk pancakes, topped with a fried egg and drenched in chili maple syrup.
Il Lido Italian Canteen (illido.com.au) is a consistently busy Italian just off Cottesloe beach, with accomplished dishes and an enjoyably laidback vibe. Standouts from the menu include Shark Bay clams and the potato gnocchi.
At Stable Hands (stablehandsfremantle.com.au) in Fremantle you’ll find inventive, clued-up modern Australian cuisine. The restaurant occupies one of the oldest buildings in town and serves up sharing dishes made with Western Australian (WA) produce, including octopus carpaccio and sticky date dessert. There are also 28 gins and 11 tonics to choose from.
The Standard (thestandardperth.com.au) is a relaxed but high-quality Northbridge restaurant with a bubbling weekend atmosphere and a large outdoor area. The food is creative, ranging from caramelised kangaroo to butterfish and cauliflower curry.
Where to drink
A busy basement bar in Perth’s CBD, Varnish on King (varnishonking.com) is best known for its 140-strong whisky list. For peckish patrons it also offers whisky bacon flights – four different styles of grilled pork paired with different whiskies.
Moore & Moore (mooreandmoorecafe.com) is a hip breakfast spot in Fremantle with its own artisan coffee blend. The coffee’s superb, and there’s also a good range of cold-pressed juices, teas and fresh chai.
In Perth for the cricket? Lucky Shag (luckyshagbar.com.au) is the waterfront drinking hole usually adopted by the Barmy Army, and gives broad views out across the Swan River and city skyline. There’s often live music.
The state’s craft beer scene has long been an active one, and Petition Beer Corner (petitionperth.com/beer) is a fine place to familiarise yourself with a local drop or three. The bar has 18 independent taps, around half of which usually serve WA beers, plus an extensive bottled selection.
Where to shop
Many 2.0 (facebook.com/many6160) is a quirky, semi-permanent indoor store in a disused building in Fremantle. Independent designers and vintage fashions make up most of the stalls.
Fremantle’s century-old market hall comes to life every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Fremantle Markets (fremantlemarkets.com.au), which have top-notch food, local souvenirs and fresh produce. Make a beeline for the Original Fremantle Fudge stall.
Perth’s King Street is mainly home to luxury outlets – Chanel, Tiffany etc – but King Street Collective (kingstcollective.com.au) is geared around WA artists and designers, selling everything from T-shirts to pottery.
The brand new Perth Stadium, a bronze-wrapped 60,000-seat sports arena.
Perth nuts and bolts
What currency do I need?
What language do they speak?
Should I tip?
Tipping protocol is essentially the same as in the UK – add on 10 to 12 per cent unless service is particularly good (or bad).
What’s the time difference?
They’re eight hours ahead.
When’s best to go?
September to November or March to May.
Get around on foot, or by using the affordable regional rail service.
What’s the flight time from the UK?
Direct Qantas (qantas.com) flights take 16 hours and 45 minutes.
Looking out across the river from Kings Park.
Grant yourself a full day on Rottnest Island (rottnestisland.com). A 25-minute ferry ride from Fremantle takes you 18 kilometres offshore to what was once a penal reserve and is now a pleasure spot. Quiet roads and bays make it ideal for biking and snorkelling – and look out for quokkas, tiny marsupials that crank up the cuteness factor to 11. Ferry costs $67 (£38) return.