Boasting more days of sunshine than any other Australian state capital, a laidback atmosphere, great beaches and plenty of jobs, itís not a huge surprise that Perth is the city the majority of people moving to Australia choose as their new home. And itís a pretty good starting point for a holiday as well.
Perhaps because it is one of the worldís most isolated cities (and is in a time zone two hours behind much of Australia), Perth seems to lack the hectic bustle associated with most cities. Indeed, despite having a population of about 1.5m, it always feels slightly like a Sunday when walking the Western Australian capitalís streets.
As a result, the city feels very relaxed, although also often as if thereís not much going on and everyone is out of town.
Perthís rambling suburbs sprawl out from the Swan River, but the city centre itself is fairly compact. A good place to get your bearings is by heading to Kings Park, 400 hectares of parkland with great views over the city. There are several interesting museums, notably the Perth Mint and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.
A popular option is to book a river boat cruise, either up the Swan River or down to Fremantle. Tours depart from Barrack Street Jetty, a quick walk from many of the cityís main hotels.
Most of the nightlife action can be found in Northbridge, which is packed full of bars, clubs and restaurants. Also lively are Subiaco and Leederville. Indeed, true or not, itís been stated that Perth has more restaurants per head than anywhere else in Australia (a title that Adelaide also seems to claim!).
The historic port of Fremantle is a 30-minute train ride south of Perth (look out for dolphins on the way), but boasts much more character than the capitalís centre and is definitely worth the trip. Indeed, there are also plenty of hotels, so many people find it a more interesting place to stay. Itís famed for its weekend markets, people watching from the cafes and restaurants of South Terrace, plus Fremantle Prison. The prison is a top tourist destination nowadays and, after Port Arthur in Tasmania, is one of the best places in Australia to learn about convict history. There are loads of tours on offer, including after-dark ghost tours and eerie underground tunnel tours, in which you travel by canoes to explore the labyrinth of tunnels below the prison.
Just an 18km ferry ride from Perth or Fremantle, Rottnest Island makes a great daytrip, although there are a few resorts, hostels and campsites on the 11km-long island. There are basically no cars on Rottnest, so the best option is to hire a bike and spend the day cycling between the quiet and unspoilt beaches. Itís also renowned for excellent scuba diving and very cute quokkas, which are like miniature wallabies that come out after dark.
Perthís geographical position means it enjoys more days of sunshine than any other Australian capital, has warm Indian Ocean waters (compared to the colder Pacific Ocean) and stunning sunsets dropping into the sea (unlike the east coast), so itís no surprise itís a town obsessed with the beach. The pick of the bunch are Scarborough, Cottesloe and City, which are all very quick and easy to reach from the centre.
Just 50km south of Perth, Rockingham is a nice, little seaside town which most tourists visit for the plentiful wildlife opportunities. Itís a great place to go swimming with dolphins, plus go on tours to see fairy penguins and sea lions.
Arriving in Perth
Perthís international airport is 12km north-east of the city centre. Internal flights are available from all across Australia, but many holiday-makers choose to start their Australia vacation in Perth, with its proximity to Asia meaning flights are cheaper, plus its time zone results in less jetlag. Cheap airport shuttles are available, as are buses. Itís easy to arrange car or campervan hire at the airport. If youíre already in Australia, however, the best way to arrive in Perth is aboard the Indian Pacific train, a fantastic trip that travels across the whole of Australia, departing from Sydney almost four days earlier.