|Welcome to Western Australia
This most westerly state of Australia is bigger than most countries, so unless you have many months, it would be difficult to explore all of it. We concetrated on the south-west corner, beginning and ending in Perth, and there was enough down here to keep us occupied for a week. Read about Perth below and then click here to go to Margaret River and surrounds.
If you're looking for a place that has most of everything you would expect from an Australian capital city, but want to be isolated from the rest of the world, then Perth is your place! Situated in the west of Western Australia, Perth is about 3hrs flying time from another capital, that being Adelaide. But it's isolation from the rest of the country (or even the world for that matter) doesn't impact that range of things to see, do and consume there.
Our choice of accommodation was the Hyatt, situated in East Perth, and the last in a long line of brand name hotels stretching from the city along Adelaide Terrace and Hay Street. There's a few backpackers along this way too and, if you can't be bothered walking the 10mins into the CBD, you can catch one of the many public transport buses that run along the streets as they are all free within the 'city limits'. Some of the hotels will offer nice views over the Swan River too as they all face that way, but trust that these rooms come with a premium. Most of the car rental offices are down this area too (we used Avis) so convenient if you're renting a car to explore outside Perth. However, the easiest way to reach your accommodation from either the domestic or international airport teminals will be in a dirty taxi with a stinking driver who won't use the airconditioning (common in Australia) for about $30 AUD. There's a few cafes, pubs and restaurants that are within easy walking distance. One night, we had a good pub feed at the The Grosvenor Hotel, cnr Hill and Hay Sts, that is best on the outdoor terrace.
Bell Tower in Perth
Perth is extremely easy to navigate, basically having the CBD in a grid system. There's two pedestrian malls that offer most of the big Australian stores (David Jones, Myer, Target, etc) with a lot of smaller arcades that you can walk through when rain prevents being outdoors. It's all fairly standard and bland around here, but one of the more different side streets is London Court. This has a selection of small stores (mostly targeted at the tourist) in a street designed in an 'old English' style. Worth a look for something different, but unless you're after a pair of ugg boots, rugby jumper or a boomerang, then not much interest in the merchandise.
London Court, Perth CBD
If you want to see the more exciting areas in Perth, then you have to head to Subiaco, Cottesloe and Fremantle. Each of these suburbs can be reached easily on the great train system from Perth central station for only a few dollars one-way. Note that you can only buy tickets from vending machines and they only accpet coins - we had to ask strangers for money (which they happily provided) so we could get home one day as we didn't have enough change! The most interesting way to make the journey to Fremantle however is on 'day cruise'. These boat trips depart from the area just behind the Bell Tower in central Perth, can be taken as one-way trips (returning on the train), take approx 1hr 15mins, and provide a really neat perspective of Perth from the Swan River. We used Captain Cook Cruises. First seeing the river, it's more like a harbour, a la Sydney, as it's very wide. This narrows as you make your way to 'Freo' enabling great views of the massive houses that face the river that would have great views of the river....
The beautiful Cottesloe Beach
Fremantle itself was for us a little bit disappointing. With quite some history behind it, we found it smaller than expected (particularly along the waterfront that was the "centre of America's Cup activity"), a little dirty and lacking some atmosphere. We were there mid-week however, so perhaps better on a weekend. Like most places in Perth, after 6pm the place is pretty much dead. Worth a visit is Little Creatures Brewery on the waterfront (although you don't go for the views because it's called Fishing Boat Harbour for a reason...) and Madmonk Brewery on South Tce that has casual outdoor area which is good for people watching. Both do pretty good beers. Don't expect to find the world's best fish & chips either at the three outlets on the waterfront that make that claim as they were disappointing. Each of them is also like a larger version of McDonald's, designed to serve the masses, so nothing traditional there.
Paintings of Aussie beach bums
Another of the beach suburbs, Cottesloe, was much nicer as a place to hang out. Although, we found Cottesloe Beach quite limited in terms of cafes, pubs or restaurants to choose from. The one cafe we did visit is not right on the beach, but offers some views. These came a price however as the food was on the upperside. Reading in the local newspapers though, it seems Cottesloe is suffering from too many people hanging out there on weekends, drinking and generally causing some chaos for the police. Perhaps we went to the wrong area of Cottesloe? From the train station, you turn left and walk up the hill to the beach (about 1km), past a number of very nice houses. If you turn right from the station, you go into the suburb of Cottesloe. This was about two streets with a selection of upmarket stores and street cafes that was had nice atmosphere and a good place to spend a couple of hours exploring non-High Street stores and taking in some espresso while enjoying the sun.
Gibbo on the ferry to Fremantle
Subiaco was much the same as Cottesloe, although not near the beach, but very close to Perth CBD. We've heard 'Subi' was a great place to live and visting there certainly reinforced that. New townhouses, many different from the next which added to the character, are close to the one main street that again is loaded with stores and cafes (Australians like their coffee!) and a stones throw from Subiaco Oval where Australian Rules Football is played (Australians like that too!). If we ever lived in Perth (which we never would as it's far too quiet for our liking) then Subiaco would be the place.
Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour
Nicki enjoying a lager at Mad Monk Brewery in Fremantle....on a Wednesday afternoon!
Read more on the Margaret River and the surrounds.
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