Enjoying more hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital, Perth is the place to take advantage of clean air, great beaches and a laid-back lifestyle. The city is located on the Swan River, with the suburbs sprawling out in a north-south direction, and east to the Darling Ranges. Locals refer to locations as being either north or south of the river, or in the Hills.
The Central Business District (CBD)
It is easy to navigate your way through the grid-like streets of Perth's central business district. A walk along St George's Terrace, is a walk on the windy side. Situated at the western-end of the city, with Adelaide Terrace at the eastern-end, the district's high-rise buildings create a notorious wind tunnel effect along this stretch of road. Nearby Barracks Archway, located at the very top end of St George's Terrace, is all that remains of the original military barracks, which were built by convict labor in 1863 and demolished in 1966. The city's shopping district centres on the Hay and Murray Street Malls, and the many arcades that join the two malls together. Forrest Place, is known as the city's “town square”, and is bordered on four sides by the Myer department store, Wellington Street, the Central Post Office Building and the Murray Street Mall. This area is often the site for free public entertainment and street theatre. Buskers are a regular feature, and the overpass from Myer department store to the Carillion Arcade offers a prime viewing spot. Across from Forrest Place is the Wellington Street Rail Station, the main terminal for the metropolitan train system.
Within the Hay Street Mall lies the entrance to London Court, a shopping arcade built in the style of Tudor England. Knights joust every hour as the entrance clock chimes. King Street, at the western end of the city, has seen a revamp that has transformed the once run-down warehouses into funky shops and apartments. His Majesty's Theatre is located here. This Edwardian theatre built in 1904, is now home to the Western Australia Ballet and Opera companies. Heading east along St George's Terrace, you will find the Gothic style Saint George's Cathedral (Anglican) and Government House, the home of the Governor of Western Australia. Next door to Government House is the Perth Concert Hall, which is the main venue for classical music performances.
The Perth Mint in Hay Street is Australia's oldest operating mint. Established in 1899, the Mint now specializes in producing gold, silver and platinum coins, and houses a museum with regularly changing displays. The Old Perth Port and Barrack Street Jetty is the base for Perth's ferry and river cruises, and is also the home to a number of restaurants and cafes. Terrific panoramic views of the city and Swan River can be seen from Kings Park, a 1,000 acre area of native bushland adjacent to the city.
Over the rail line from the city, lies Perth's nightlife centre. Every Friday and Saturday night, the streets of Northbridge overflow with people on their way to nightclubs, after eating out at one of the many nearby restaurants. A combination of Italian, Greek and Asian influences make for a wide variety of food and a cosmopolitan party atmosphere. As well as being the capital of the city's nightlife, Northbridge is also the place to take in some culture. The Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), the State Library and the Western Australia Museum are all located here. On weekends, you can browse through the open-air market held in the square outside the Art Gallery.
Although strictly speaking a suburb of Perth, Fremantle has its own unique style, and the locals consider the suburb separate from the rest of Perth. A major working port and fishing city, the town's history dates back to convict times. The National Trust has classified most of Fremantle's buildings. A major restoration occurred on many of these historical buildings, when Perth hosted the Australian defense of the America's Cup yacht race in 1987. Fremantle's culture has a dynamic multicultural influence. A visit is a gourmet dream, as the cafes and restaurants that line the streets offer an international feast of dining experiences. Sipping a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, as you enjoy a spot of people watching on South Terrace, is practically compulsory.
Do not miss the Fremantle Markets at the corner of South Terrace and Henderson Streets. The original markets opened in 1897, and they still flourish today with more than 150 stalls selling fruit and vegetables, clothing, antiques and other assorted knick-knacks. Fremantle Prison is another must see. Ex-prison guards conduct guided tours of the heritage-listed prison. The eerie night tours take you through the prison and gallows by candlelight, and are a truly fantastic experience. A trip to Fremantle is not complete without a visit to Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and a meal of fish and chips at one of the many venues like Kailis' Fish Market Cafe.
The Swan Valley, 30 minutes drive from the centre of Perth, is home to an excellent selection of wineries, restaurants, galleries and accommodation options. The Valley hosts two festivals each year. Taste of the Valley, held during April, and Spring in the Valley, held annually on the second weekend in October, showcase the region's finest food, wine and art. The region, one of the first areas settled within Western Australia, has a history of producing award-winning wines. Two of the state's largest wineries (Houghton Wines and Sandalford Wines), are located in the Swan Valley, along with many small boutique wineries.
Rottnest Island is Perth's own holiday resort and home to the famous quokka (a small wallaby unique to this area). The island is a great place for a day trip. It is reminiscent of bygone days—playing hide-and-seek in small coves, cycling across rolling hills and stopping for ice cream in a hidden local store.