It’s been a while now since Perth held a reputation for being just a big country town. And though perhaps just a few years ago you could have heard a pin drop after 7pm in the CBD, the sunniest capital city in Australia has now, finally, come of age.
After a long-fought battle to liberalise liquor licensing laws, a small bar scene has graduated from emerging to fully-fledged. Street art flanks the walls of inner-city streets like Wolf Lane, and surrounding suburbs like Subiaco, Leederville, Mount Lawley and Northbridge are dotted with small retailers committed to providing visitors and locals with the best West Australian food and wine, and sustainable and ethically sourced products.
Where to stay
Start your weekend in the west by checking in to the Alex Hotel, a stylish independent boutique operation located in the heart of the Northbridge cultural precinct. Its façade is so discreet you could almost miss it, and with a range of rooms from ‘small’ to ‘x large’, it can cater to a variety of budgets.
The hotel also offers a fleet of Lekker Bikes to make getting around the city affordable and environmentally friendly. A five-minute walk from the centre of the CBD and two minutes from train and bus routes, it’s an excellent base for exploring what the capital has to offer.
Where to eat
Sitting on a corner at the top of William Street in Northbridge, Wines of While is the local bar we all we wish we had in our neighbourhood. Its drinks menu is a trip around the world (with a strong bias towards Europe and Australia) with an ever-changing list of organic and natural labels and varieties from all over. The relaxed but excellent homestyle-Mediterranean cooking that goes alongside reflects the attitude of the staff, the pared-back decor, and the venue itself.
The sourdough is a must, as well as any of the salumi, and if you’re lucky enough to hit a night where they are doing cacio e pepe, it’s some of the best you’ll find outside Rome. Be patient: it’s been open less than a year and has been busy since day one. It doesn’t take bookings but staff are happy to offer you a glass of wine if you’re willing to wait a few minutes for a seat. It’s a perfect spot to while away a couple of sunny afternoon hours, or to spend an evening.
If you’re looking at heading into the city, try Hadiqa near the new Westin for middle eastern fare, or explore restaurants at the State Buildings on St Georges Terrace: for coffee you can’t go past Telegraph, while the Petition Beer Corner is a great place to grab a pint before heading to eat at either Petition restaurant, or Long Chim downstairs. For a little wellness splurge, book in at the Como Shambala Spa, which sits on top of the building.
And if pre or post-dinner cocktails are on the agenda, head downstairs at the newly relaunched Brookfield Place where intimate venues Bar Lafayette and Bobeche have, in a few short years, rightly developed reputations for old-school quality drinks and excellent service. W Churchill is a great new addition, offering an Italian-inspired menu with bites through to burgers and big plates.
Hit the beach
Perth is rightly famous for its beaches. Without daylight savings, the sun is up early, and locals love to take advantage by surfing or SUP-ing before brunch. Elemental SUP hire stand up paddle boards and run lessons from Leighton Beach (accessible by train from Perth), or try a Surfing WA class at Trigg Beach. Bookings required for both and can be made online.
A little further up the coast just past Trigg you’ll find Yelo, a cute surf café with a great view across the Indian Ocean. Its focus, alongside consistently pumping out some of the city’s best flat whites, is on selling sustainable and eco-friendly homewares. It also offers up its used coffee grounds free to any takers.
Visit Rottnest Island
Your trip to Perth wouldn’t be compete without a visit to Rottnest. Before you head off, drop by the General Store to pick up water, snacks and supplies for a picnic lunch. Pop into Pedal and Flipper on Bedford Ave and find the perfect bike for your day exploring some of the 63 beaches and 20 bays on the Island.
Choose your route, north or south. Chat with voluntary guides at the Salt Store, or staff at Pedal and Flipper or the Visitor Centre who can tell you which are the best for the day’s weather conditions. Salmon Bay and Parakeet Bay are our top picks for the south and north for their stunning coastal scenery.
At the end of your day drop in at Geordie Bay or head back to the Main Settlement for an afternoon coffee and a sweet treat
Transfers across to Rottnest Island can be booked through one of the three ferry operators. Rottnest Island ferry companies provide transfers to the Island from Perth City, North Fremantle (Rous Head), Fremantle (Victoria Quay) and Hillarys Boat Harbour in Perth’s north. Rottnest ferries take approximately 25 minutes from Fremantle, 45 minutes from Hillarys Boat Harbour, or 90 minutes from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty.
Get around the arts
West Australian ballet runs part of its program from a disused quarry in City Beach, which, paired with a picnic, makes for a beautiful night under the stars. Its regular program – if you prefer a theatre seat – runs from the historic His Majesty’s Theatre in the CBD. The State Theatre Centre is right next to the Alex Hotel. It opened in 2011 and features interactive artwork that is worth a visit even if you can’t make a performance.
When to visit
January to March you’ll find seasonal festivals like Perth Festival, which includes a writers’ festival, rooftop movies in the CBD, and the Fringe World festival. You’re also likely to find excellent weather.
The CAT bus service in Perth is free. It runs four routes in the CBD, including one that passes Kings Park – a must-see. If you can’t get your hands on a bike, navigating the city on foot is easy. If you’re heading to shop or play in Subiaco, Leederville or Mount Lawley you can get there on the train in less than ten minutes.
Bookmark this guide and book a flight: Perth is no longer the sleepy cousin, but a vibrant city with an identity all of its own.