Post 2 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.
We had heard that Perth city was boring… and maybe there is some truth in that. But wander outside of the CBD and you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
We emerged from Perth underground train station onto almost empty streets, shops only just beginning to open. The cultural part where all the museums are seemed a good place to start, so we found our way to it over the top of the train station using the various city maps dotted around. There were some pretty interesting things to see: giant abstract sculptures, colourfully illustrated steps and a wetland area centred around a giant silver orb. We took some photos but didn’t bother with any of the museums as we wanted to get to King’s Park.
It was quite a walk to King’s Park, up a steep hill too, but it was totally worth it. We knew we’d reached it when we spotted the crowded trees, all of them shaped in ways quite weird and wonderful to me: some spreading out luxuriantly into giant swathes of fat, twisting roots, others extremely tall and spindly. The first of the park’s many war memorials too. Unfortunately this is also where the flies seemed to discover how tasty my face was, thus beginning a constant routine of swatting at my nose and shaking my head in vain attempts to dissuade what seemed to be one very persistent fly. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable walk up the hill through the many and various trees, the warm white sunlight making everything shine.
We found several lookouts on the way up offering glorious views across verdant parkland to the city, its glass sky-scrapers reflecting the cloudy blue sky. The best of all was the one near the war memorial at the top of the hill, close to the gift shop and café – a perfect spot for photos. From these we collected much-needed ice creams and a map of the park, which we used to find the Botanic Gardens.
Here we found all kinds of plants I’d never seen before, from bushes haloed in white fluff to brightly coloured succulents. The best part of all was an elevated walkway through the trees that culminated in a great arching bridge of glass and metal, its floor a grid through which you could see the forest floor. The lakes and streams on the other side were really pretty too.
Having had our fill of scorching sun and unusual plants, we returned back down the hill (spotting a few vintage cars on the way down) in search of lunch. We first tried a few places listed in our Lonely Planet guide book (always a mistake) before finding a place (Bar Balthazar) on my TripAdvisor app and failing to find it where TripAdvisor placed it.
Never mind. Opposite where it was supposed to be was a Vietnamese café called Urban Bowl that we’re pretty sure offered the cheapest lunch in the city! I bought a delicate rice paper roll stuffed with noodles, salad and pork belly with a hoisin dip for $3, while Steve chose a giant Banh-mi baguette filled with pork, pickled vegetables and homemade mayonnaise for $8. Both were delicious!
Cruise to Fremantle
We next continued our walk to Barrack Square, location of the port an bell tower: a very tall, bizarrely spaceship-like structure that rang out bell chimes like those of a church. There we bought tickets for the Captain Cook Cruise down the river to Fremantle, a small fishing harbour town just down the river from Perth.
The cruise gave us some time indoors out of the sun – helpful, because we were both feeling the burn by now – unlimited tea and coffee, and what turned out to be a celebrity house tour of sorts. The boat’s captain pointed out the huge riverside mansions of Gina Rinehart and a number of other mining magnates, which was particularly interesting for me given I knew so much about them! I was also reminded of my job as Editor of Resource Global Network by the random sightings of many businesses around both Perth and Fremantle that I’ve interviewed before – it was really weird seeing them in real life!
We arrived in Fremantle at around 3.30pm and set a course to the town centre. The streets were almost empty and the buildings wonderfully old-fashioned, in a Georgian style I think. Whatever architectural style it was, Steve and I both shared the distinct, slightly spooky feeling that we were walking into an abandoned town of the American Deep South of the late 19th Century. I’ve never been anywhere like it before.
Walking along entranced by the charming buildings, we were tempted off our course to the town centre by the sight of a giant Ferris wheel down a side street. This was one of the attractions at the harbour, which was too beautiful not to explore right there and then – all sparkling water, rustic boardwalks and bobbing yachts. Statues of fishermen and seagulls provided good photo subjects, while Steve was quite excited to find the statue of Bon Scott from AC/DC!
Beer by the harbour
Following the pier round, we discovered the Little Creatures bar we’d read about and decided to go in for some craft beers. I had the pilsner, Steve the IPA and we sipped them leisurely on a shaded wooden table outside, overlooking the sea as a great soundtrack drifted on the breeze (I was chuffed to hear a Gotye song!) The inside of Little Creatures was very cool. The giant warehouse’s walls were illustrated by beer descriptions, its rafters hung with fairylights and its large bar backed by towering silver silos. We could happily have hung around for more beer and perhaps one of their pizzas but had much more still to see.
The Cappuccino Strip
We resumed our walk to the town centre, but unfortunately by this time all the shops were shut! A shame, because there were loads of really interesting bohemian-looking shops with great window displays. Spooked a little by the silence of the shopping streets, we found our way to the so-called Cappuccino Strip and were pleased to find more people there, milling around a multitude of trendy cafes, bars and restaurants, seemingly all competing to have either the wittiest coffee chalk board (“Before coffee = 😦 After coffee = :)”) or widest range of craft beers.
Fish and chips
I thought it looked like a fantastic place to do a pub crawl, but we had to go and find dinner before it got too late to get the train back to Perth. So we headed back to the harbour to the fish and chips restaurant called Sweet Lips, for which we’d received a voucher on the boat here. To my great disappointment, construction works underway had blocked off the ‘beachside views’ advertised on the voucher. The remedy to this, I thought, would be to get our fish and chips to take away and then eat them on the beach.
For a few seconds it was glorious – fresh battered fish and chips and a perfect view of the sun setting behind the sea. But then the seagulls began to gather. Within minutes, three seagulls had swelled to a crowd of 50 surrounding us on every side, squawking threateningly and even hovering directly over our heads as if to dive and swipe the food right from our hands! We held out as long as we could but it soon became too much, forcing us away from the view and back to the safety of the restaurant. Booo!
Fish and chips finished, we returned to the now almost dark beachside to take some final twilight photos before heading to the train station, exhausted but delighted with managing to see so much in one day.
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2014. All rights reserved.