Perth seems like a bit of a distant city on the Australian map but don’t let that fool you! The city is upgrading and re-vamping and continues to make it into the top 10 of the World’s Most Livable Cities. Although it can be a bit on the expensive side (compared to other main cities in Aus) Perth is trendy, stylish and starting to become quite a popular tourist spot. Our best friend, Sarah, has been living in Perth for many years so we have picked her brain about the best things to do while in town and now we’re sharing it with you.
What are your top brunch spots?
Moore and Moore, Fremantle – Located in an old limestone building this cafe has a courtyard out the back, funky couches and chairs with flowers. The café also acts as a gallery for local artists to display and sell their work. The menu is simple but very tasty and almost everything on it is suitable for vegetarians as well!
Tuck Shop, Northbridge – This place has a huge variety of breakfast options. It ranges from your standard eggs through to nasi goreng, pork belly and other delicious choices. My favourite is the baked beans. Be prepared to wait quite a while if you get here at peak brunch time, but don’t worry, it is well and truly worth the wait.
Gordon Street Garage, West Perth– This café is a bit on the quirky side. There are a lot more tables here compared to the other brunch places recommended. It is an old auto electrics garage converted into a trendy cafe. If you are wanting just a coffee in the smaller front room, be prepared to hang around. The décor and laziness of the furniture makes everyone sink in and not want to leave.
What are your favourite places to eat?
La Cholita, Northbridge – This is a great Mexican tapas place with the BEST margaritas ever. Head here with a group of friends, sip on a few differently flavoured margaritas and engorge on the delicious guacamole. I’ve only ever managed to get to dessert once here and it was amazing! I definitely recommend trying the Chimichanga! Outrageously good.
Little Creatures, Fremantle – If you like the famous Little Creatures beer then you are on the right track. This is where the beer first started before it became known across Australia. The giant warehouse style restaurant and bar sits right on the harbour and serves up share food like pizza, nachos and chilli mussels. The chicken tenderloins are to die for, as is the lamb pizza. The restaurant features an open kitchen but I recommend trying to sit out the back under the olive trees overlooking the water.
Neighbourhood Pizza, Mt Hawthorn – You wouldn’t know this place existed unless you knew where to look. It is down an alley way, next to an IGA, in an unsuspecting suburb. By day the entry is a garage door underneath the street front shops but by night with no signs directing you, there is only a small light shining out of the front window. Neighbourhood makes the best pizzas and the menu offers a few daily specials. All pizzas made fresh right in front of you. It is a BYO restaurant and tables can only be reserved for larger groups. There’s also a pool table – what more do you need?!
What are the best spots to get sweet treats?
Greens & Co, Leederville – This is a fantastic late night cake shop serving up HUGE slices of heaven. If you don’t feel like a massive slice of cake, the brownies will satisfy all cravings! The walls are covered in music posters making it slightly grungey and a little more hipster.
Uncle Joes Mess Hall, Perth CBD – This is an eclectic military themed café that has such a great selection of sweet treats at the counter – you won’t be disappointed! I’ve had a few breakfasts here too, it is basic but great food (no fancy unnecessary show off breakfasts here). Even though you might want breakfast, the treats here are what will suck you in and keep you coming back for more.
Where are your favourite bars in Perth?
Helveticas, Perth City – This is a great whisky bar down one of Perth’s first alleys, but don’t worry they serve up some great cocktails as well. I love it because it is small, quite dark so it has that intimate feel to it, serves great snack food late into the night (goats cheese and the chorizo – divine!) and it always has great service.
The Garden, Leederville – This place has a great beer garden outside to hang out in and sip on some nice cool drinks. They use really fresh ingredients in both the food and drinks that adds that extra bit of zest and crispness. The evenings entail awesome DJs spinning great new tracks making this place a must for a relaxing, chilled out afternoon listening to so some beats. As there is not a lot of cover we wouldn’t recommend this place if it’s raining outside – but then again, when does it ever really rain in Perth?
Bobs Rooftop Bar, Perth City – This bar is a part of the Print Hall building with a nice setting on top of the old Newspaper House. It is in the perfect location and hosts a beautiful rooftop terrace with plenty of seating. And be sure to check out the old building that has some spectacular interior design aspects. Bob’s may be a bit more pricey but the drink will be well worth it.
Where are the best shopping areas?
If you’re looking to shop for some fantastic antiques and refurbished furniture then take a 20 minute drive out of the city centre to Guildford. Curio Warehouse sells beautifully renovated 50s and 60s one of a kind furniture pieces. They have been refurbished that well you’ll think they’re brand new! I love going out there and rummaging through the shops to see what wonders I can find.
Leederville – If you’re after one-off gifts, boutique clothing, a great music store and an even better book store then head to Oxford Street. If I need a gift of any sort I go here as I know I’ll find something beautiful, unique and personalised.
Fremantle – Around the centre of Freo there is quite a mixture of shops. Here you will find your usual retail stores (found in most shopping centres) but then there are little “one-off” shops down different side streets. Wandering around these side streets is half the fun as you look at the old architecture and quirkiness that is Fremantle. Make sure you stop at the old Myer Centre, once a vacant 5-storey building it is now something you will want to check out. The plan is for it to be there only temporarily so make sure you get there soon to check out all the awesome innovative stalls!
If we want to be a tourist for the day what would you recommend?
Start the day with a walk around Kings Park admiring the views of Perth city. If you’re interested, jump on a free guided tour for more detail on the park and Perth’s history.
Afterwards, walk down along the Esplanade and get a ferry from the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth to Fremantle for a different view of the city, admiring all the multi-million dollar mansions along the way.
Enjoy a long relaxing lunch at Little Creatures in Fremantle before checking out the free music down at Fremantle Arts Centre (Sundays during summer time) or go for a swim at Cottesloe beach (the train is easy if you don’t have a car and it goes along the coastline so it makes for some good views). Or while you’re in the area go for a bit of a shop.
End the night at the Cottesloe Beach Club (very fancy younger crowd), or by sitting on the beach with fish & chips watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean – bliss!
What are your ‘get out of town’ adventures from Perth?
Rottnest Island – Head over to Rottnest on the Rottnest Express (45min speed boat ride) and hire a bike to cycle around the island stopping off at deserted beaches for a swim or snorkel. Or if you’re looking for a less active day and a more relaxing visit, jump on the hop on-hop off bus that makes it’s around the island. If you go on a Tuesday, tickets are half price (book online Telethon Tuesdays). After a day of swimming in crystal clear waters and enjoying some great snorkeling you will want to end the day at the pub, overlooking the water, with a cider in hand – heaven! On a really clear day you can see across the water to Perth.
Margaret River – Head down to Margaret River from Perth (about a 4 hour drive) and stay in wine country. By day explore the many back roads through beautiful bushland stopping at wineries, the Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory and the Margaret River Chocolate Factory (free samples!). If you don’t want one person in your group to be the designated driver, try one of many winery tour operators – Wine for Dudes is a great one because it’s cheap, tailored to wineries & breweries you want to visit, you enjoy a huge lunch and don’t worry, it’s most definitely not just for dudes! It was one of the best days going around the wineries I’ve ever had! They also do accommodation pick up/drop offs. Margaret River township is close to incredible beaches like Yallingup for a summer escape, or for a winter touch stay in a hotel/B&B/holiday house with a fireplace for a cozy relaxing getaway. If you have a larger group, hire a holiday house. While in town don’t miss Settlers Tavern for some great pub food and live music.
Pemberton – Drive a bit further south from Margaret River to Pemberton and Walpole. In Pemberton, climb the huge Karri trees once used as fire observation look outs (the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is the tallest standing at 75m high). It can get a bit windy up the top and I would suggest wearing good walking shoes for this activity. In Walpole, go on the Valley of the Giants and Tree Top Walk and walk through ancient forests of Karri trees and tingle trees. This area is a biodiversity hotspot and should not be missed!
What is the best ’do before you die’ experience you can have in Perth?
Although not in Perth, you can’t travel to Western Australia without swimming with the Whale Sharks! Just going to Ningaloo Reef (same standard but nowhere near as well known as the Great Barrier Reef) will blow your socks off. Fly to Exmouth and camp/campervan in the national park. Enjoy zero amenities, (or if that’s not your cup of tea there are accommodation options in town), completely secluded beaches, the whitest sand and the most turquoise water you ever did see. Make sure you snorkel at Turquoise Bay and the Oyster Stacks (best at high tide). I recommended speaking to the Tourist Information Centre in Exmouth for the best places to go snorkeling and at what time of the day is best.
There are plenty of tour companies offering whale shark swims but I found Eco Adventures to be fantastic. Included in the package is all your gear you need, an information talk about whale shark behavior before jumping in to swim with them, a personalized DVD, a fabulous lunch and your own spotter plane (a plane overhead in contact with the boat letting you know where the whale sharks are situated). Strict guidelines apply as to how long you can swim with the whale sharks and Eco Adventures does everything in their power to make sure they are well and truly looked after. This might be a little on the pricey side but it is a once in a lifetime experience so why not splurge?!
Photos by Sarah Reid