While most visitors head to Sydney and the East Coast, more isolated Western Australia can get overlooked. Quieter and arguably with just as much to offer –possibly even more – Australia’s Western state is home to gorgeous coastline, ruggedly beautiful national parks and some vibrant, cosmopolitan cities. Its capital, Perth, also ranked very highly in a survey of the world’s most liveable cities. Our friend and guest writer Dave Beavis flew his family from a cold grey winter in London to experience the best of what Perth’s summer had to offer…
Before we landed in Perth I had the feeling that to a sun-starved Brit, Perth mid summer was going to be unbearably hot. It wasn’t, at least when we first arrived. We were welcomed by a pleasantly warm breeze amidst a steady 24C heat – actually quite a bearable temperature for us.
We were staying in Claremont, a half-hour drive from Perth airport and a place with a small town friendly vibe, where shopkeepers would actully greet you with apparent genuine sincerity (sadly not something we’re used to in London).
The first thing you’ll notice about Perth itself is how relaxed it is and if you’re used to a city like London, the streets are noticeably much wider and much quieter. It has a similar vibe to Vancouver, just a lot less people. Perth is a sophisticated city filled with an excellent choice of bars, restaurants and cultural activities and – yes – it’s extremely liveable. Among the tall shiny office towers and large shopping malls there’s also the odd family friendly area (like the sleek pedestrianised square Forrest Place).
We could hardly travel 9,000 miles without sampling the undeniably beautiful Australian beaches. Cottesloe Beach presents a vast, serene shoreline of white sands and despite recent shark warnings and the occasional “shark-watch” helicopter fly-by, we really enjoyed our visits. The cool breeze being very welcome on the hotter days. During peak summer as we found, it’s a good idea to go to the beach as early as possible in the morning (suitably sun- creamed up, of course) then retreat to the shade before the intense midday sun beams hit you.
Also try taking 30- minute ferry ride to Rottnest Island and spending the day on one of its beaches – the Basin. Not as bland as its name might suggest, it’s actually a truly idyllic paradise of a beach and very Caribbean-esque.
Also watch out for the extremely tame Quokkas (and not Wallabies as we first thought) who would be happy to stand in front of you for your observation whilst lazily munching away on some greenery.
If you want to experience some breathtaking views, well Perth has plenty. Try stopping at Mossman Park for a picnic and enjoying the views of Swan River, before heading to King’s Park and Botanic Garden. Our 2-year old daughter loved the geyser-like water fountains in King’s Park – a big hit with children who have great fun trying to second guess when they will next be soaked!
If you take a short walk up hill you’ll be rewarded with some increasingly spectacular views – a unique coastline-cityscape combo. The Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit. Here children can enjoy more water jet fun in a playground island situated in the middle of a peaceful lake, itself surrounded by a picnic area complete with ducks, parrots and the odd tame dragonfly or two.
Cinema by moonlight
They might not be on everyone’s travel itinerary but the cinemas here deserve a special mention – they are quite unlike any other cinema I’ve visited. The first cinematic experience (aptly named Gold Class) involved us being waited on hand-and-foot while lying in a supremely comfortable reclining armchair. Probably the only time I’ve stayed awake watching a film while indulging in both mojitos and ice-cream.
The second experience was a ticket to the Moonlight Cinema on the grounds of King’s Park. This experience had a festival feel to it with people pitching up wherever they fancied and bean beds available for hire. Just make sure you pack a blanket for the evening and don’t be surprised if a family of ducks stop by to watch the film with you.
Fremantle is Perth’s famous neighbouring city and is even more laid back and with a distinct retro feel. The shops and office buildings feel like something out of the Wild West and a classic saloon would probably not look out of place here. There’s an impressive market centre open on Fridays and weekends and a spacious green park near a beautiful waterfront. We stopped for a coffee at ‘Little Creatures’, a unique combination of bar, restaurant and brewery all rolled into one with a random pirate ship thrown in for good measure (obviously it’s what I always look for when I fancy a hot beverage…)
Overall our trip left us feeling sun-kissed, refreshed and wanting a reclining armchair cinema experience more often. Perth also makes a superb family destination with a great combination of beautiful surroundings with plenty of things to keep you busy. It was especially hard for us returning to a comparatively desaturated and dank Old Blighty, but maybe one day we will go back down under, as spending three amazing weeks there left us wanting a whole lot more, mate.
All words and photos by our friend, guest writer and now Aussie fan Dave Beavis.