Of all the Australian cities that we have visited, we have spent the most time in Perth. We were there for more than six weeks – Sydney comes in second at about four weeks. Perth possibly has the best climate of any major city in the world, except our home city of Brisbane. I’m not lying, during those six weeks we barely saw a cloud. Even more so, in the three months that we traveled around the southwest of Western Australia, the temperature didn’t drop below 25°C and literally every day was sunny. I do have to add that that was exceptional though. So it’s no surprise that Perth was one of our favorite places in Oz. I think we did and saw pretty much everything a visitor could possibly do and see in and around Perth
The city of Perth is a city made for walking. Add to that the fact that Perth is generally a flat city with wide streets and footpaths, it’s noticeably clean, and it has a laidback pace of life much slower than that of Sydney and Melbourne, and you have a destination begging to be explored on foot. We always love to start a visit to a new destination with a walk. It’s a great way to soak up the local culture, and get a real feel for the atmosphere of a place. You can experience more things just by wandering around a city.
We stayed in Fremantle or “Freo” as the locals call it, which is located just 30 minutes from Perth’s CBD, and the start of our walking trip. It’s a character filled town dotted with cafes, bars, seafood restaurants, vibrant markets, and is known as the ‘world’s best preserved example of a 19th century port streetscape’. It also has Western Australia’s largest collection of heritage buildings and a fascinating convict history. Our walk started off at a cool arty cafe, the Moore and Moore cafe, and from there we headed off and learnt about the focal points of Fremantle. We discovered the modern heart of Freo is its cappacino strip, and it’s historical past was in the trade union movement. Other notable focal points were a visit to the colorful and vibrant markets, the Fremantle Jail (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and learning about the free settlers and role of the convicts in shaping the city.
We headed to the Fremantle Markets, which is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in all of Western Australia. The covered market consists of more than 150 stalls, selling everything from specialty foods to music instruments and toys.
We then jumped on the train and headed to the “Jewel of the City” – that’s how it is billed. Kings Park, covering more than 400 hectares, is the largest inner city park in the southern hemisphere and a major drawcard for locals and visitors. It has a stunning location overlooking the Swan River and the nearby Perth city skyline. Most people will agree when us and say that Kings Park is the absolute highlight of a visit to Perth. Together with the Botanic Garden, the park can easily be added to any list featuring the greatest urban parks in the world. It’s visited by more than six million people every year and the only way to discover it is by foot. We walked amongst the tree tops on the elevated bridge called Federation Walk, and wandered the pathways and open grassy areas enjoying the sunshine and admiring the awesome views over the river to the city centre.
We then walked down to central Perth to a unique and unmistakable tower of glass and copper which rises majestically above the Swan River. This modern landmark is home to the time-honoured tradition of change ringing. At the top of the tower we emerged to a fantastic view over the Swan River on one side and the city of Perth on the other.
After that we headed into the CBD. For shoppers, like Kim that thrive on local boutique shops, the City Centre is where you will find the biggest concentration. You can also go to the area adjacent to Northbridge where you can discover some niche independent stores. A lot of the days were lost in the shops.
The next day we headed to The Swan Valley, which is only a 25 minute drive from Perth CB. We stopped off at the information centre on the way to pick up a local winery map and any other interesting brochures. The Swan Valley food and winery trail goes on for 32km with approx 150 attractions, with such things as wineries, cheese factories, breweries, restaurants, cafes, chocolate factories, fresh food, markets and accommodations. As we were only there for the day we came to the agreement that we would stop at the wineries/establishments that had interesting names. (We couldn’t stop at them all!).
Our first stop was Whistlers Chocolate factory (only one guess as to why we stopped here and it wasn’t because of the name!). As you walk through the doors a very strong aroma of chocolate draws you further and further into the shop. There were rows and rows of different delights wrapped in chocolate, along with some Easter goodies and a large fish tank with everything in the tank made out of chocolate. We continued to drive along, passing wineries and breweries and coming to a stop at “The House of Honey & Sticky Spoon cafe”.
I’m not usually a fan of sweet treats but Kim is, so I thought she might like some honey tasting. We walked in to the shop, which felt like a “honey bomb” had gone off, absolute everything was honey flavoured or honey/bee related. They offered approx 15-20 types of honey’ to try, each with an explanation of what to expect from the honey, if it would be sweet or have more of a “barky taste”. All of the honeys were surprisingly different flavours. There was a lot of information about honey bees and beekeepers and even a glass bee hive in the shop, showing the worker bees making honey and the lazy drone bees eating all the honey! We purchased a few tubs of honey and headed back onto the road.
Our next stop was “Edgecombe Brothers. I am so glad we stopped here! From the moment we walked into the Cellar door, the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming, one gentleman stopped and had a chat to us about where we were from, when we said we were from Brisbane he was thrilled and went on to tell us his childhood in Brisbane. Needless to say we ended up buying a few bottles of wine but not as many as we would have if we lived in Perth, the wine was really nice but the service was fantastic, this will be a winery we will remember for a long time. We were surprisingly starving after our wine tasting (and snacks) so we decided to head to a restaurant close by to grab some lunch, we stopped off at “Black Swan” (seriously Perth what is your obsession with Swans!) however we left shortly after as we felt like a simple lunch and the Black Swan is more “gourmet”. We headed back to “Duckstein” as I have a terrible obsession with German sausages!
We arrived at Duckstein Brewery, sat outside and ordered a starter to share; 2 x Sausage sandwiches and an order of Bruschetta. We sat in the shade but we sat their sweltering!, it seemed to be the hottest part of the day. Our food came out a short time later and WOW, the word “sandwich” was not quite right, 1 sandwich could have easily fed the both of us! It was a large roll, with maybe 2 or 3 cut up sausages with a lot of sauce, I managed to get ¾ of the way through my “sandwich” before refusing to east anymore, I had the “eating sweats” or maybe I was sweaty because it was SUPER hot! (Not like chili hot, like temperature hot!). We paid and headed back on the road Kim suggested stopping at the “Ugly Duckling” winery which I had gone on about all day (as it had an “interesting name”) but I couldn’t bring myself to think about wine after such a massive meal!
We drove around for a little while longer and ended up stopping at the Sandalford winery. The grounds of Sandalford were stunning! It reminded me of the grounds of European mansions. This wine tasting wasn’t as impressive or comedic as the previous one but the wine was nice enough.
We had a hankering for something sweet but didn’t have room for dessert after lunch so we headed back up the road to the Margaret River Chocolate Co, it blew Whistler’s Chocolate factory out of the water with several table pyramids of chocolate as far as the eye could see! There were also 3 large bowls of different types of chocolates (White, Milk and Dark) to try; we bought a few blocked and headed back to Whistler’s as they were a little more reasonably priced. We purchased a few more chocolaty items from Whistlers and stopped by their café to have an ice cream to cool off a little. By the end of the day we were pretty tuckered out and headed back Fremantle.
The next highlight was a brewery tour, which runs daily between 1pm and 3pm. Our tour guide Sean was great and talked about the beginnings of the brewery, the processes involved in making Little Creatures beer, and we even got a tasting session at the end.
The building was originally built as a boatshed before being turned into a crocodile farm. When Little Creatures took over, they wanted to transform the place into a brewery with a cellar door feel. We think they’ve achieved this quite nicely with beer being served to the public directly out of 4000L fermentation tanks, and the feeding platforms from the old crocodile farm are now being used as platforms by happy diners enjoying a beer and a meal.
Little Creatures have been brewing in Fremantle since 2000 – when they first started, they used small 30L kegs and delivered their beer to local pubs in their Kombi Ute ‘Elsie’.
We were lucky enough to be at Little Creatures during their Thursday Firkin Night, which involves tasting a new beer. We sampled a brew that was a combination of American and Belgion style beers – Small Batch Quiet American and Little Creatures Pale Ale. It was quite sweet with lots of herbs and spices and very easy to drink.
The dining hall of the brewery is set right in the middle of the entire operation. We thought it was really cool that when you approach the bar and ask for a beer, it is served directly from a 4000L fermentation tank that is suspended over the bar.
The walls are lined with booth seating and there were beer gardens at either end of the hall. All food is made from fresh, local produce with the intention to ‘support the small guy’, and there are 55 people working in the kitchen to push out up to 6 tonnes of delicious food each week.
We started off with a big bowl of frites with garlic aioli. Each addictive chip was well seasoned and cut in a rustic fashion. They had a buttery crunch that made us assume that they used a waxy variety of potato to give it a creamy texture, but there was another flavour that we couldn’t quite put our finger on – it must be awesomeness.
Pizzas were next – Italian pork and fennal sausage with bocconcini and Harissa spiced lamb with feta and melanzane. The Italian pork sausage pizza was covered in tomato sauce with a young acidic flavour that overpowered the flavour of the sausage. The bocconcini was mild and added a great texture. The harissa lamb pizza was full of exotic flavours and spice with a generous sprinkle of salty feta. The base of both pizzas was crisp and well cooked without any sogginess.
After the pizzas, we ordered a plate of refried bean nachos to share. It was piled high like an ugly mountain of red, green and yellow, but despite the amount of toppings, each corn chip was still super crisp. The beans were hot and spicy and generated some great warmth in the chest while the sour cream and guacamole were cool enough to extinguish the flame. The jalapeños were a burst of juicy zing and it wasn’t long before the plate was empty.
With a lot of walking behind us and a busy schedule in front of us, we decided to have a relaxing day at Cottesloe beach. After a quick stop at the boutiques shops for Kim and to buy lunch we jumped aboard the train to the beach. Cottesloe beach is pretty narrow in comparison to some but it stretched for miles. We decided to seek a little peace further up the beach away from the kids on school holidays. We soon settled in with our books in hand and the day flew past only to be interrupted by the occasional snack! With fantastic views across the ocean we decided to hang around for sunset, although the weather was against us and the clouds blocked out the majority of the view.
We thought it was time to hit the pavement with Two Feet and join a small bar tour through Northbridge.
Our first stop was the Northbridge Brewing Company an oasis for beer lovers overlooking the Northbridge Piazza. Although the Spring weather has made evenings a little fresh, the Piazza was brimming with beanbags, many huddling up with homemade popcorn to watch the Ultimate Frisbee Film Fest. The curators of Northbridge Piazza are known for their quirky programming, injecting vibrancy and life into what used to be the shadier part of town.
We detoured through China Town and Nick’s Lane where our wonderful guide Casey shared Northbridge’s dark history of gambling and brothels. The once grim and deserted alleyways are now laced with splashes of colour thanks to Form’s incredible public art campaign. We stopped at the entrance of Sneaky Tony’s and The Standard learning about Perth’s evolving small bar scene. Whilst we were all hoping to sneak in for a cheeky rum or two with Tony, it was lovely to take in the incredible artworks and work up a thirst for our next stop.
It was then on to Lot Twenty where we tucked into sharing boards and cocktails on the deck. Whilst the cocktails were top notch (and brimming with sweet foam), the social aspect of the tour was surprisingly our favorite part. We met the most amazing bunch of women who all live on the same street with over 20 kids between them. Crabbe Place sounds like the kind of place I’d want to raise a brood, where children safely play in forts on the street and neighbors become good friends. We could have stayed and chatted for hours but it was on to our final destination.
Past the Alex Hotel and Joe’s Juice Bar, Casey led the way towards Francis Street sharing the history of the Old Swan Barracks, from army drill hall to bustling backpacker’s hostel. The last stop was Dominion League where we enjoyed a welcomed (and mammoth) feast. Some kicked on with cocktails, whilst we ended the evening snacking on that delicious smoked chicken accompanied by Averna on ice and wonderful conversation with new friends.
We were dropped off in Fremantle at the Prison, where we’d booked for the Tunnels Tour. The Tunnels Tour, perhaps unlike more conventional prison tours, involved getting a safety briefing and an alcohol test, and then we donned gumboots, coveralls, helmets and safety harnesses and headed down a 20 metre shaft to tunnels underneath the prison.
Tristan, our somewhat sardonic tour guide, with a mix of informative history and bad jokes, led us through the tunnels, including wading through a fair bit of water. We were lucky enough to be in a group of just 5, which I think made for a more enjoyable tour.
Then came the boats. 1-2 to a boat, we paddled around the more water-flooded tunnels of the prison, ducking under supports, and hearing more about the history.
Altogether it was an amazing experience, and although we were able to get a photo at the top in our gear, alas no cameras were allowed to be taken down. I can’t recommend this tour enough.
After a stop at the post office for some stamps, we headed down to Cicerello’s on the water for fish and chips. Well, they claim to have the best fish and chips in the state, so we thought we’d better try it. While the restaurant is almost the antithesis of a local fish and chips shop — it quite obviously set up to handle huge crowds — the food was pretty good
We spent the day at one of Perth’s most exciting tourist attractions, showcasing the largest private collection of native wildlife in Western Australia. We got to hand-feed the kangaroos, and Kim got to join in the interactive farm show, touched a possum and lizard, and meet a wombat, catched a keeper talk or two and have photos taken with koalas, all at Caversham Wildlife Park.
Some other highlights we did were;
A day at Belmont Racetrack.
A day at the casino.
A day at the WACA.
LOTS OF SHOPPING IN THE CBD......