5 experiences I had in Perth to realise my home town has grown up

I have a recent epiphany to share: Perth, Western Australia, is now a really cool city.

I was born in Perth (in the 1970s; population then around 800,000 – now over 2 million), the capital city of Western Australia, and arguably the only real city – nearly 80% of West Aussies live here and the rest are spread over an area the size of all of Western Europe plus some. It’s also thought of as the most isolated city in the world, because it’s a three-day drive to the next city, Adelaide (in fact, Bali is closer!). All of this to say that when I was growing up – especially in the decades before the internet arrived – Perth was kind of a city on the edge of the universe. Everything happened here last. It got a bit of a reputation for being a boring place.

5 experiences in Perth, Western Australia you should not miss

People of my generation (and I’ve been the same at times) still have this mindset, sometimes, and we haven’t exactly noticed that Perth has really changed. But it’s definitely able to now call itself a properly modern city and a place truly worth visiting, not just for our beaches and weather, but for the city itself. When I spent a few days looking around with a group of British bloggers recently, it was so great to see Perth through their eyes, and also to have the chance to experience what 2016 Perth is really like.

Street and laneway art abounds in Perth

A decade ago, I remember visiting Melbourne and being so impressed at how hip it seemed. The city centre was so vibrant – and literally so, with colourful murals popping up everywhere, and trendy laneway cafes surrounded by more street art.

Street art in Perth, Western Australia

Just one example of so much street art to be found in Perth these days!

Whether Perth is paying homage to Melbourne or just doing its own thing is immaterial to me – the fact remains that if you wander the side streets of central Perth and Northbridge these days you will keep coming across amazing art. And that makes me really happy.

Overnight right in Northbridge, but in style

I was lucky to spend a night in the Alex Hotel in James Street, Northbridge, right near the cultural centre area housing the library and art gallery. When you live in a city, of course, you’re less likely to know about its accommodation options because you usually don’t need them, but it was quite a surprise to me that we now have our own boutique hotels, right where you need them, and with so much style.

View over Northbridge and Perth from the Alex Hotel, Perth, Western Australia

View over Northbridge and Perth from the Alex Hotel by night

As someone who would usually prefer an Airbnb or even a campsite over a hotel – I find most hotels feel and sound more like a hospital than anything else – I really loved the Alex. It’s not too large, and most impressively, it has great communal areas and an honour bar where you can go and help yourself to a drink (from a very impressive selection) and just write down what you’ve had – then drink it with whoever else is around. The same space serves as the breakfast area and I ate literally the best muffin of my life there!

Want to try too? Check current prices and availability here:

Off the street: laneway food and more

Speaking of food: there is so much new food in Perth! The rejuvenation of all the sneaky laneways around the Chinatown area (and beyond) means that you can have a wander every day and find something new to eat.

Toastface Grillah in Perth, Western Australia

Toastface Grillah in central Perth’s laneways

Again, it’s typical that someone like me who has lived in Perth for most of their life wouldn’t even stray from the main streets, but now I will be cutting through anywhere I can as I wander Perth to find more. Something as simple as a toasted sandwich can be amazing – who knew? – so my favourite new discovery was Toastface Grillah, slipped in behind the corner of Wellington and Barrack Streets.

Returning to the State Buildings

I’d already enjoyed a super-tasty lunch at Petition Kitchen before, but on this trip got to understand more of how the State Buildings (corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street) have been redeveloped and renovated after just sitting there for twenty years. It wasn’t until later, chatting with my mum, that she told me she took me to these buildings regularly as a kid: the land titles offices used to be there and as a settlement agent she would often need to attend settlements there, dragging my sister and I along before we were old enough to go to school!

Petition Beer in the State Buildings, Perth, Western Australia

Petition Beer in the State Buildings, Perth

These days the buildings are full of drinking and dining options, and I honestly don’t know which part to recommend the most, though for semi-vegetarians like myself, the veg options at Petition Kitchen are pretty mind-blowing. On this trip though our stop in at Petition Beer and the amazing gin and tonics we were served was probably the highlight!

Learning on a Go Cultural tour

The highlight of my new Perth discoveries, though, was a morning spent with Walter of Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours. Sitting on the lawn down at Elizabeth Quay, Walter told us the stories of how his ancestors lived nearby before white settlement, and was open to answering all the tricky questions we came up with, too.

Walter McGuire of Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours

Walter McGuire of Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours at Elizabeth Quay

As a white inhabitant of Perth, it’s so easy to forget that for thousands of years, the Whadjuk people used so many (natural) landmarks in and around Perth as important places for ceremonies or meetings and we’ve just ploughed through with our roads and buildings. I really wanted to know more and the morning with Walter was very enlightening – as well as entertaining, with traditional songs and demonstrations of tools and more.

Come on then – time to visit Perth!

I’ve been totally remiss in the last few years about not sharing much about what Perth has to offer – but my vision has been corrected and I now see there is so much more I need to share! Too many people stay on the eastern side of Australia when they should be heading west. Perth airport has great connections through to Asia and beyond – even direct flights to London so it’s much quicker to get here from Europe than to the east coast. If you land in Perth you can reserve airport transfers using Link Airport Perth and coming soon there’ll even be a rail link to the city.

Watch this space for more, because I definitely need to explore my hometown much more thoroughly.

Just so you know: I completed all these activities as a guest of TourismWA but as always, my opinions (and joy!) are completely my own.

Comments

  1. You’ve really touched on so many reasons to love Perth. And I loved this post because it made me think. You’re right, of course, Perth has grown up. It was the kid sister to every other city in Australia, even when we arrived in 2009, and many people couldn’t understand why we’d chosen to come West. Why Perth? They’d ask us. It’s so remote. They’d say. But we’ve embraced its remoteness, and come to love the fact that it is far removed from the madding world (but yet not too far from exotic islands like Bali 😉 ) We’ve also embraced the way it’s changing to become hip hop and ultra funky with its laneways and murals and super-doopa food, not to mention the excellent wines from the nearby rolling hills and valleys and nearby down south vineyards. Yep, I reckon we’re living in Perth at an interesting time. Just before it tips over the cusp, and into the cup of greatness.

    • We are indeed living here in an interesting time, Jo! And it has changed so quickly in the last decade in particular, as you would have seen much of. I wonder what’s around the corner for us!

  2. Hi Amanda,

    I love this post as now I have some more stuff to look at when I visit again. Hopefully very soon.

    Kerwin.

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