Picking up my excited travel companions from the airport, I enjoyed the anticipation we all had before exploring a new fun and laid-back city; Perth!
The Western area of the Perth was our first point of discovery when we arrived at the Four Points by Sheraton for check in and to inspect the hotel. The hotel was luxurious, with a contemporary style design and very plush bedding. The location was unbeatable! Situated directly across from the new Perth Arena meant the hotel’s trendy Brew Bar always had a bustling atmosphere. The shopping mall on Hay Street and Harbour Town were both just around the corner and it was just a short walk over to Northbridge.
Northbridge, as we found out by accidental, is the chic nightlife area bursting with popular pubs/bars/nightclubs; along with quirky rooftop and basement bars.
The Ibis Perth was our next inspection, and it is everything you associate with the brand. Clean, small and basic but the rooms were more than comfortable and the location was also perfectly central. The Rubix bar downstairs is always playing host to different live acoustic music or local DJs, which is a big drawcard for their customers along with the happy hour prices.
Mantra on Hay, just further along the same street, was again popular for location. The rooms were largely spacious, with simple yet modern designs and included mainly studios with kitchenettes making it great for the longer business stays or families.
Just as we were getting a little weary, the last hotel we visited was Citadines St Georges Terrace and surprisingly revitalised the afternoon with their bright, airy apartments, decorated with colourful abstract paintings and white furnishings.
Adjoining the central piazza in Northbridge was the Northbridge Brewing Company where we sampled the dinner menu of this lively, modern pub. It has all the designs of an old brewing factory with copper pipes winding their way in patterns along the walls and encompasses a large open balcony area on the second level, with an open courtyard on the bottom level.
The drinks menu featured an impressive number of craft beers and wines, both local and from abroad. Their food, while at first seemed like simple pub grub, provided options like the ever-popular sliders and some unique pizza combinations and was all made with quality ingredients and punchy flavours.
The Half-day Perth and Fremantle Tour; As we were directed around Perth with landmarks and interesting facts pointed out to us by our friendly driver, it was the amount of pristine parks located in pockets of the city that captured my interest. The biggest one known as Kings Park spans over 4 km2 and is in prime position to boast spectacular views over the city and Swan River. We had about 45 minutes to wander these gardens and take in the touching ANZAC memorial and the elevated tree top walk; getting us closer to nature.
The timing for us playing the tourist meant there was a lot of construction going on in the CBD as they give the waterfront a “Darling-Harbour-like” facelift called Elizabeth Quay due to finish 2016. A few big brand hotels are also earmarked for development in the city over the coming years as a sign that the leisure market in Perth is growing now that the mining boom is declining, this is slowly bringing the prices of hotels and dining down to a more attractive level.
Driving past the picturesque Cottesloe Beach, we discovered some of the interesting things the council likes to do for their residents including tying thousands of rubber tyres together in the ocean to simulate waves breaking on a reef and in turn making a water playground for the keen surfers.
We then made our way down to lovely Fremantle, which is so much more than a large port town. Its old historic buildings and bohemian vibe instantly draws you into its charm. Lucky for us, the tour guide came around and asked if we wanted to stay and spend more time after the tour and make our own arrangements back to the city via ferry or train, otherwise the alternative was only spending an hour before the coach returned. We all jumped on the idea, knowing an hour would be stolen away far too quickly.
There are markets running every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Fremantle and as it was a Friday, this gave us a chance to check out some local crafts, fashion and culinary treats. The thirsty work led us to sample a delicious mango and apple cider from the trendy Monk Bar.
The Fisherman’s Wharf area holds the recently transported eye/ferris wheel. The seafood restaurants dotted along the waterfront all vie for the best and freshest seafood in the region. This creates a nice atmosphere that any sun-loving tourist or local could enjoy on a beautiful day. We finished off the afternoon on the hour-long ferry journey back to Perth soaking up the weather and playing ‘spot the mansions’ along the river.
Our evening was planned out on the City of Lights Dinner Cruise which left from the Barrack Street Jetty. As the boat started swanning it’s way down the aptly named river, we were given a different perspective of the city at night and all the lovely reflections of colour. Dinner was served as a buffet of hot and cold selection of meats, fresh prawns, salads and vegetables, which were all delicious with local wines to accompany it. Personally, however, the dessert selection was the real winner of this night.
Pinnacles, Koalas, 4WD and Sandboarding tour: It was forecasted to be a beautiful 33 degrees and we weren’t disappointed as we loaded into the bus and headed north towards Cervantes. The landscape opened up to endless flat plains the further we ventured from the city, and we were lucky enough to spot a few wild emus on the drive. It was a day spent mostly on the bus; amplified by the fact our air conditioning stopped working making it not just a long trip but sweaty and long.
Our first stop was at the Caversham Wildlife Park where we were introduced to the sleepy koalas and I was nearly trampled by a stampede of snap-happy Asians. It was then on to feed the kangaroos and have our photograph taken with an adorable, chubby wombat.
Lunchtime was spent at Cervantes, a sleepy, shanty town where the lobster shack resides. For a small factory it produces a large amount of Western Rock Lobsters for export to the Australian and overseas market and gave us a surprisingly in-depth tour. To sample the local lobster lunch, you need to purchase the upgrade prior to travel on the tour which is highly recommended.
Finally arriving at the Pinnacles, I was amazed at the spread in distance of these limestone formations jutting out of the yellow sand. We could do a self-walk around the area of what felt like a stone graveyard, some of them over 4 metres in height, some quite small. Interestingly, these were formed underground and over time the winds removed the surrounding sand leaving what is left of the standing pillars today.
The last part of our tour was the adventurous portion of sandboarding and 4wd-ing. Our tour group was so large that we had to be split into two groups to do both activities. We were set to do the former, so we eagerly grabbed our boards and trekked up the silky white sand to get our adrenaline buzzing. The sand showed some resistance at first but the boards quickly gain speed to whiz us down the hill where we had races and stacks and plenty of cheap thrills.
Unfortunately, the first team got the 4WD vehicle bogged in the sand and we had to miss out on that after all the delays from getting it unstuck. We took it in our stride as that is all part of the travel experience where not everything will always go perfectly to plan!
Perth is a city after my own heart. The beautiful beaches and parks in close proximity to the city. The mild winters and warm summers, and its blossoming nightlife with new bars popping up in the most unique locations. With all of that, it is not hard to see Perth is going to be the newest up-and-coming travel destination in Australia.
Written by Hannah Marsh, Infinity Holidays Consultant