Perth Traveller’s Guide (Australia)

Reviewer: Simsi
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Western Australia
Western Australia is the largest state of Australia with an area of 2.6 million square kilometres (about the same size as Western Europe). The population of the state is 1.98 million, representing 9.8 per cent of the total population of Australia. The state is so vast that there is a variety of landscapes and climates. With a low population density it sometimes seems as if you have the world to yourself from basking in the mile upon mile of golden beaches to touring the largely empty central and northern most parts of the state to taking in the lush greenery and forests of the southern parts of the state. The lifestyle is casual and easy going. Understandably in view of the unlimited sunshine; a large emphasis is placed on the great outdoors. Like all Australians, all Sandgropers as Western Australians are known are sports mad especially when it comes to Australian Rules football and cricket. The main population centres are Perth, Fremantle. Rockingham, Mandurah, Bunbury and Kalgoorlie.

A brief history
The indigenous Nyoongar people arrived in Western Australia between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago. The first European to land here or indeed anywhere else in Australia was the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog in 1616. In December 1696, three ships in the fleet commanded by Dutch seafarer De Valmingh anchored off Rottnest Island. He mistakenly thought the native quokkas were rats so he named the Island Rottnest (Rat’s nest). It is thought that many early explorers landed in what is now Western Australia unintentionally while trying to find Batavia (now Djakarta). English and French seafarers were exploring the coast by the late 18th Century. Perth (then known as the Swan River Settlement) was founded in 1829. Convicts were brought there to overcome a labour shortage. The colony became a state of Australia at Federation in 1901. The great mineral wealth of the 1980’s brought more people to the state. Today there are many immigrants from New Zealand, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Italy, Yugoslavia Russia and Greece. Aboriginal people make up 1½ percent of the population.

How to get there
Some overseas airlines fly directly to Perth but most flights arrive via the eastern states. There is a daily bus service from Adelaide across the Nullarbor Plain around the coastline of the Great Australian Bight. The Indian-Pacific train runs from Sydney to Perth via Adelaide and Kalgoorlie and is recognised as one of the great train journeys in the world.

Geography
The southwest coastal area is relatively temperate while the rest of the state is semi-arid or desert. Most of the soils in Western Australia are remarkably infertile. Rainfall is erratic except in the northern tropical areas where there are heavy monsoonal downpours although there is a long virtually rainless season from April to November.

The Economy
Western Australia enjoys the highest per capita output of any Australian state. Ten percent of Australia’s population generates 25 percent of the nations export revenue. Mining and agriculture fuel a buoyant economy. Western Australia supplies one fifth of the world’s aluminium and 15 percent of the world’s iron ore. Natural gas, nickel and gold are also extracted here on a large scale. The state has been a large beneficiary of the recent increase in demand for commodities from the booming economy of China.

Perth
Perth is the capital city of Western Australia. With 1.4 million people, almost three quarters of the states population live here. Perth is a beautifully clean city and is easy to get around. The city has a youthful outlook and with its outdoors focus, many people have time to sail, swim, jog or cycle after work and at weekends. Perth is known for its entrepreneurs many of whom made and lost fortunes in the boom times of the 1980’s. The city has a skyscraper skyline but after hours, the CBD nightlife is relatively unexciting so most people head for the suburbs, the beaches or leisure activities on the Swan River.

Swan River Cruises
Swan River day cruises to the popular Swan Valley are an excellent way to sample some of the premium wines from the Houghton and Sandalford estates. You can also take a scenic cruise to Fremantle and back from Perth while sampling some of the local wines and seeing some of the magnificent river front homes along the way.

Kings Park
There are superb views of the surrounding area from 17-hectare Kings Park high on a hill overlooking the CBD. Part of the park is preserved natural bushland, which shows what the local terrain was like before European settlement. Each spring you can see a cultivated display of famed Western Australian wild flowers. You can hire bikes here to explore the bike tracks in the area.

Museum of Western Australia
Located in Northbridge the museum features an excellent display of Aboriginal culture Australia, a gallery of dinosaurs, a blue whale skeleton, meteorites and a preserved Megamouth shark one of only about five known specimens found of these huge benign creatures. The museum also includes the original Perth prison used from 1856 to 1888 and the site of many hangings.

Berndt Museum of Anthropology
You will find of the finest exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art and artifacts from the Northern Territory and Western Australia at this museum. It is located at the University of WA in Nedlands.

Perth Beaches
Perth has some of the finest surf and sheltered beaches in Australia. Scarborough Beach is probably the most famous with its beachside cafes and restaurants and magnificent surfing facilities. There is also a popular nude beach at Swanbourne. Perth beaches are best enjoyed before the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ blows in the afternoons. You also need to be aware of the dangers from shark attacks and confine your swimming to the safe patrolled areas.

Rottnest Island
Rottnest is a sandy island 19 kilometres off the coast from Fremantle. The island is home to small indigenous marsupials known as quokkas which were thought to be rats by Dutch explorer de Vlamingh who named the island ‘Rats nest” in Dutch. The island is a popular playground for Perth locals and tourists with beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and some of the southernmost coral reefs in the world. There is a camping ground and a handful of restaurants. You can access the island by plane or ferry from Perth or Fremantle.

Margaret River
The town of Margaret River is in the far southwest of the state below Bunbury. The region has earned a reputation as one of the finest wine regions in Australia. Here you can sample the wine in gourmet vineyard restaurants in many of the fifty or so wineries in Margaret River. Among the many attractions in the area are caves, sandy white beaches, native forests and bush tracks to explore the rugged Indian Ocean coastline.

Fremantle
Although the port town of Fremantle is only 19 kilometres southwest of Perth’s CBD it has a strong identity and atmosphere of its own. The town was regenerated for the (unsuccessful) defence of the America’s Cup in 1987. It is now an eclectic mix of outdoor cafes, seafood restaurants and street markets. The AFL football club – The Fremantle Dockers – has also helped put the town on the map throughout Australia. Both the town and the team are colloquially known as “Freo”. Fremantle is easily accessed from Perth by road, train and Swan River ferry.

The Swan River
The estuary of the Swan River flows through the city of Perth and is widely used for sailing, boating, windsurfing and other forms of aquatic recreation. Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh named it in 1697 after the famous black swans in the area.

Kalgoorlie
The gold mining town of Kalgoorlie is 600 kilometres east of Perth and is on the route of the trans continental Indian Pacific rail service. It is also linked to Perth by daily services operated by Transwa. The population of 30,000 is around the same as it was in 1903. The concentrated area of large gold mines surrounding the original find is often referred to as the Golden Mile, and is thought to be the richest square mile of earth on the planet. The infamous Hay Street brothels enhance its reputation as a rough and tough male dominated town.

Broome
Broome is a pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley in the far northwest of the state. The 14,000 population grows to 30,000 during the tourist season which extends from April to September. Its beaches on the Indian Ocean are a major attraction. The wet season is subject to tropical downpours and occasional cyclones. Explorer William Dampier first visited the area in 1688. The pearling industry dates back to the 1880s when the harvesting of oysters for mother of pearl commenced. Today there is a cultured pearl farming industry. Many of the early pearl divers were Japanese, several of whom lost their lives in the industry. Broome was bombed twice by the Japanese in World War II killing more than 100 military personnel and civilians. Dinosaur prints from the Cretaceous Age can be seen at very low tide at Gantheaume Point.

Albany
The city of Albany is on the south coast of Western Australia 408 kilometres from Perth. The area is rich in history. The Dutch seafarer Francois Thijssen was the first European explorer to visit this part of the coastline in the ship Gulden Zeepaert in 1626. In 1791, English explorer George Vancouver took possession of New Holland for the British Crown. He entered and named King George Sound. Mathew Flinders entered King George Sound in 1801 as part of the first circumnavigation of Australia. Albany was the only deep-water port in Western Australia until the port of Fremantle was constructed in 1897. Today Albany is a thriving tourism, fishing and agriculture regional centre with beautiful beaches and a spectacular outlook over the Southern Ocean. Whaling was a major industry before the 1950’s but now the whaling station is a museum of whaling with exhibits including a whale chaser used when the industry was active. Albany’s proximity to the southern coastline has made it an ideal location for a large wind farm that generates 75% of the town’s electricity needs.

Esperance
The town of Esperance is around 7½ hours by road from Perth and 4 hours from the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie. The town offers beautiful beaches for swimming, scuba diving and surfing. There are five national parks near the town including Cape Le Grand National Park that offers white sandy beaches, fishing and hiking terrain. The climate is Mediterranean with hot dry summers and cool wet winters influenced by winds from the Southern Ocean. Esperance is also a busy deepwater port handling exports of grain and iron ore.

Daytrips
Perth is the perfect launching point to discover a wide variety of sites and landscapes. Whether you are a wine expert, willing to explore the desert or visit historic towns, Perth will provide you with plenty of thrilling daytrip choices.

Swan Valley is situated along the northern outskirts of Perth, and is loaded with vineyards and outdoor activities. A perfect mix of beautiful countryside and enjoyable culinary activities, the valley also hosts the Caversham Wildlife Park in Whiteman Park.

Perth Hills (east of the city) and Avon Valley (farther northeast) are other excellent choices to spend a delightful day away from Perth. Making your way through stunning scenery, you will enjoy some of the most famous tourist drives of the country. Heading to the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park will ensure you come face to face with splendid limestone formations shaped by erosion and wind.

A trip to the Serpentine National Park will provide you with the opportunity to hike in wonderful landscapes, with the main spot being the Serpentine Falls. The old mill town of Jarrahdale will immerse the tourist in the not-so-long-ago past of the area. Meanwhile, Rotnnest Island (‘Rotto’) off of Fremantle will please bird lovers, snorkelling aficionados and sun bakers alike.

Must-see attractions
Must-see attractions in Perth are numerous. The major one is King’s Park, a perfect mixture of bush land and manmade gardens which offers breathtaking views of the city and its skyscrapers.

Perth Zoo, located in south Perth, will please family visitors and hosts a wide range of animals and a native species breeding programme. The Aquarium of Western Australia allows visitors to discover Western Australia’s coastline and spot their own Nemo. The aquarium is located 20 minutes north of the city at Hillary’s Boat Harbour.

The Scitech Interactive science and technology centre and the Planetarium are great destinations to know more about the sciences that surround us in our daily lives and are suitable for the whole family.

Best time to go
Perth has a Mediterranean type of climate, which means that summers are dry and winters mild but rainy. The best time to go to Perth is from September to November (spring) and from March through May (autumn). The summer months are often too hot to fully enjoy the beauties and activities of Perth.

Rainy day suggestions
The Western Australia Museum exhibits the area’s heritage through permanent and temporary exhibitions and is an ideal rainy day destination. Alternatively, the Art Gallery of Western Australia welcomes those interested in indigenous and contemporary art.

Your search for indoor activities might lead you to Fremantle Prison. The prison was decommissioned in the early 1990s and is now a museum presenting convict life in the 19th century. To meet the most precious stars, visit the Perth Observatory which offers daytime tour with knowledgeable guidance from the museum staff.

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