- Discover Perth
Perth is the capital of Western Australia. It's famous for being the most isolated capital city in the world, as well as the sunniest capital in the world. Perth is clean, warm, and friendly, as well as loads of fun. Although nowhere near the size of Sydney, herein lies its charm. It's a city, but with the personality of a country town. It has everything you need, all within a small area. Perth is surprisiingly cosmopoliton with a huge diversity of people.
Perth is situated on the Swan River. Hay Street and Murray Street are the two main streets in the CBD, running from east to west. Northbridge is where most backpackers will base themselves, and for good reason. This is where most of the good restaurants and bars are.
Head up to Kings Park for the views of the city and have a walk around, or try the treetop walk. Another great place for a stroll is along the Swan River.
Check out an AFL game at the Subiaco Oval, where the two AFL teams play, the West Coast Eagles, and the Fremantle Dockers. Aussie Rules football is a rough, tough and exciting game with plenty of scores to keep your interest. Originating from Gaelic Football, it's now an authentic Aussie game and you should try to see a game when you're down there. Get your tickets from Cloisters Newsagency, 863 Hay Street.
Northbridge is a very popular part of Perth for going out. There a huge amount of pubs, clubs and restaurants in a small area. Make sure you get on a Sunday Session, a very popular activity in Perth. Many people like to enjoy a drink in one of the many beer gardens around Northbridge. There are happy hours on as well. Drinks can be expensive but if you go out on Backpacker nights early on in the week rather than at the weekends you can save some money.
There are some beautiful beaches within a short drive or bus trip from Perth. City Beach is only 20 minutes from the central station of Perth. There's a boardwalk connecting City Beach to Floreat beach which makes for a nice stroll. Nearby Scarborough beach is excellent for swimming and surfing. It's also a great spot for a night out in one of the many bars and clubs near the shore. There is plenty of accommodation here as well if you decide to stay the night. Cottesloe Beach is a just a short train trip on the Fremantle line. The crystal clear water here is great for snorkelling, and the consistent swell makes it popular with bodyboarders. Dine in one of the eateries along the shore in the evening to enjoy a world class sunset.
You can swim with wild dolphins in Rockingham, around 45 minutes south of Perth. You will be brought out into the ocean on a boat in search of pods of dolphins. Once they are spotted everybody jumps in with their snorkelling gear. The dolphins will usually come around for a look. The dolphins are very large and this can be quite unnerving at first to see them swim up at you out of the depths, but it is a great experience.
Fremantle (or Freo to the locals) may seem like a suburb of Perth but it is most certainly its own town. Get the Fremantle train from platform 7 at Perth train station. Fremantle train station is right near the town centre, as is the ferry terminal. Fremantle is situated at the mouth of the Swan River. Get a shuttle from the Airport for roughly $20.
Drink coffee along the Cappuccino strip in South Terrace. There’s also plenty of pubs such as Rosie O' Grady’s (23 William Street), Little Creatures Brewery (40 Mews Road), check this place out as they brew their own beer, Sail and Anchor (64 South Terrace), Norfolk Hotel (47 South Terrace), National Hotel (Market and High Streets), La Bog Inn has backpacker nights on Thursday nights. Newport on South Terrace has some good live bands.
If eating out check out these places. The Dome Cafe, the Mexican Kitchen, Bellas, on South Terrace. Clancys Fish Pub on Cantonment Street, which has backpacker deals. Ciccerelos, down at the fishing boat harbour has great fish and chips.
There are markets on the corner of South Terrace and Henderson Street. Just behind the markets is Fremantle Prison. It was only closed in 1991 as a maximum security prison and is well worth a look. Try to do a night tour if you can, it adds to the eerie feeling you get as you walk around the prison looking in the tiny cells and even the gallows where they hung the death-row prisoners. Also, during the day there may be small children on the tour and the tour guide will hold back on the ghastly stories. The tour really gives you an idea of what prison would be like.
There's also the WA Maritime Museum, the Shipwrecks Museum, the Fremantle History Museum, and the Fremantle Motor Museum.
If you're looking for a bit of adventure you can go diving with All Water Adventures, E-Shed, Victoria Quay. They also do deep-sea fishing and other water activities. Go sailing in the Leeuwin, a tall ship, with Leeuwin Ocean Adventures, also on Victoria Quay.
Hop on a ferry at Barrack Street Jetty in Perth (oceanic cruises $60) or Fremantle ($46) and head over to the beautiful Rottnest Island. Rottnest literally means rats' nest, but the rats are actually quokkas, small marsupials. Rent a bicycle ($22.50 + $20 deposit), and some snorkelling gear ($16.50) and tour the island, stopping off at one of the many beaches when the fancy takes you. The beaches here are fantastic, some of the best in Australia. There are barely any cars on the island so it's perfect for cycling. Make sure you go there outside of school holidays time as it will be packed.
If you fancy doing more than just swimming there are a few things to do. Check out the Oliver Hill Gun Placement. There's also a museum detailing the islands' brutal past. There's Vlaminghs' Lookout on Lookout Hill. There's diving and snorkelling (contact the visitors centre), as well as glass bottom boats. Climb to the top of the lighthouse (wadjemub) for around $10 for the best views of the island.
Thompson bay is the main settlement and this is where you will get off the ferry. There is an information centre right in front of the jetty and shops, cafes, restaurants, and ATMs in the area. You can hire the bikes here and the snorkel sets.
Head south from here in the morning as the wind should be with you. Check out the shipwreck at Henrietta Rocks, it's just off the shore. Jeannies Lookout has a nice beach, and is a good place to snorkel. The beaches on the north-west side i.e. from shark bay to Parakeet bay are very nice. You might see some eagle rays in Geordie Bay. They come into the shallows to feed. They are gentle, placid creatures. Rays will rarely use the venomous barbs on their tails unless they feel threatened.
The last ferry to leave Rottnest will be at 6pm in the summer, until around mid-April when the last one will be at 4.30pm. The earliest ferry leaving Perth is at 8.30 a.m., meaning you won't get to the island until 11 a.m. There's a ferry leaving Fremantle at around the same time, meaning it will arrive there much earlier, giving you a longer day on the island. The cruise from Perth is quite enjoyable however.
The diving on Rottnest is first class and it's well worth doing a few dives here. In the settlement of Thompson Bay alone there are six old shipwrecks right off shore, home to an incredible diversity of marine life. There are some big fish here, bigger than you would find in much deeper water in other places around Rotto. These wrecks include the popular Denton Home, a cargo ship, and the Macedon, a steamer. There is also the Janet, a small schooner. Most of the wrecks happened in the late 19th century before the current lighthouse was built. Rottnests' reefs and rocks were a deadly obstacle for ships delivering supplies to the fledgling colony.
The caves in Porpoise Bay are a must; they are underwater caves full of spectacular marine life. Also check out Jackson Rock, a huge monolith rising from the seabed. Its' summit is just three metres below the surface and is home to a massive amount of fish. You can only dive here on calm days as there can be big swells here.
Swirl reef also has a spectacular tunnel, it opens up into a magnificent grotto. It's off the North West coast of the island. Also there's north point reef with a canyon cutting through its' centre.
One of the islands most famous wrecks is the City of York, which is just off the bay that shares its' name. It's around 400 metres from shore.
All in all Rottnest Island is a must do when in Western Ausralia. It's a great day out, cruise over on the ferry, cycle around, swimming and snorkelling on the beautiful beaches, have something to eat and drink in the pub and cruise back to Perth or Freo on the ferry. Or even better; stay there a few days.
The train station and bus station sit side by side on Wellington Street in the centre, where you can get trains and buses all over Perth and Fremantle.
There are also free buses that will get you anywhere in the city centre and Northbridge. The Central Area Transit (CAT) buses are an excellent and reliable way to get around.
There are two main taxi companies in Perth, Black and White (ph:9333 3333), and Swan Taxis (ph:131330).
All the big car rental companies are here such as Avis, Hertz, Budget, Apollo, Travellers Autobarn, etc.
You can get the ferry from Barrack Street Jetty for a cruise on the swan river or if you want to head down to Fremantle or out to Rottnest.
Perth has very good bike paths throughout the city as well as fantastic weather all year round so it's an ideal place to get on your bike.