Perth is often described as one of the world’s most isolated cities, but don’t let this seclusion deter you. Though Perth is closer to Singapore and Jakarta than Sydney or Melbourne, the city still retains the uniquely laidback Australian vibe which makes the country such an attractive destination.
Perth was first noticed by Dutch settlers in 1697, but the area was deemed unsuitable for agriculture. It was not until 1829 when Captain James Stirling sailed in to Perth, commenting that it was "as beautiful as anything of this kind I had ever witnessed", that a settlement was finally founded in the area which was originally known as Swan River Colony. The Dutch had not explored the fertile banks of the Swan River, and it is here, 20km inland, that Australia’s fourth largest city is now located.
Today, Perth continues its evolution into one of Australia's most distinctive and welcoming cities, thanks to its friendly, multicultural population. Its position at the far west of the world’s smallest continent makes it a perfect place to start an Australasian adventure, or act as a stepping stone to Asia.
Perth has plenty of things to see and do, many of which centre around the Swan River. A relaxing way to view the city is on one of the many river boat cruises; popular with tourists, the flotilla of boats wind their way along the river before dropping guests off in Fremantle in time for lunch and some shopping.
Perth is also easily navigated by bicycle, and many rental companies will hire you a bike, helmet and map for the day. Wind along the Swan River foreshore or head up into the Kings Park and Botanic Gardens area for a picnic accompanied by great views.
Alternatively, visit Perth Mint in East Perth. Australia’s oldest operating mint was established in 1899 to make gold sovereigns for the British Empire. These days the mint produces precious metal coins for collectors, and you can even create your own personalised medallion from gold or silver.
The Swan River was the first landfall for many of the 1950s European migrant ships, and this diverse and multicultural influx has ensured that diners in Perth have a wide range of global cuisines to choose from. The Italian influence has been substantial, evident in places such as Fremantle’s Cappuccino Strip which features many Italian coffee shops and restaurants, and recently an unassuming family-run pizzeria in the Perth suburb of Subiaco was awarded the ‘world’s greatest pizza’ title.
A large number of South Africans and Zimbabweans packed for Perth in the 1980s and 1990s, and as a result Anglo-African cuisines are also well represented in the city. Other ethnic cuisines widely available in Perth include Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Malaysian, Korean, Turkish and Polish.
Perth perks up considerably at the weekends, and the city is home to plenty of clubs and busy bars. Just outside of the city centre is Northbridge, a district which features a range of nightclubs, pubs, cafés and restaurants, with an eclectic mix of cultures and cuisines. Subiaco is also a popular destination for top-end entertainment, while Fremantle, 30 minutes south of Perth, has great nightlife and is a regular destination for Perthites.
Just an hour’s ferry ride south from Perth is the holiday playground of Rottnest Island; a popular weekend escape which is free of private cars or taxis. In addition to its unspoiled beauty, stunning beaches and rare flora, many people visit Rottnest hoping to catch a glimpse of a quokka. This tiny marsupial – which looks like a cross between a rat and a kangaroo - is indigenous to the island and just a handful of other Australian areas. The colourful waters of Rottnest are also spectacular for reef snorkelling and diving, with dolphins, sea lions and whales occasionally seen from the shore.
A short drive north of Perth is the Sunset Coast. Famed for its mesmerising sunsets – which reflect off the turquoise sea to create the most incredible effect – this place has to be seen. Swim or surf during the day, alongside alfresco cafés where you can watch the world go by as the sun goes down.