Forget what you think you know about the planet’s most isolated capital city: today’s Perth is buoyant, ambitious and ready to welcome the world.
You can check any eastern states’ jokes at the airport, thank you very much. Perth is a hotbed of food, art, culture and design – and observers the world over are taking notice. The recent resources boom and a surge in creative energy, courtesy of new settlers and prodigal sons and daughters, has seen the Western Australian capital adopt a thrilling can-do attitude. Neglected old buildings are being restored and returned to the people (Brookfield Place and State Buildings, for instance), while young entrepreneurs are thinking outside the box, opening small bars and restaurants in the CBD and inner city. It makes for a place that’s ready to meet the future head-on but hasn’t morphed into an impersonal megalopolis. In short, there’s never been a better time to check the pulse of this upwardly mobile town.
Sneak in exercise as at sunrise
07:00: Fun fact: Kings Park and Botanic Garden in West Perth is a wildly popular after-dark destination for Pokémon Go players. Better to visit in the morning when you can watch first light illuminate the capital. For those staying in the city, the (uphill) walk-slash-jog is a fine way to sneak some exercise into your day. For the particularly committed, join local fitness enthusiasts and masochists in tackling the steep incline of nearby Mount Street. Still not enough? Jacob’s Ladder, a challenging 242-step ascent, is a match for even the shapeliest calf muscles.
SEE ALSO: Hike at Serpentine Falls
Fill up on a flash toastie
08:30: Flash brekkie spots abound in the CBD – Small Print (125 St Georges Terrace, Perth), a bakery offshoot of Perth restaurant Print Hall, comes to mind. Our pick is a back-alley café named after a member of Wu-Tang Clan. Why? Comfort. As the name suggests, Toastface Grillah (Grand Lane, corner of Barrack and Wellington streets, Perth) celebrates the toasted cheese sandwich, with fillings ranging from basic – cheddar and Vegemite – to brie and prosciutto. While there’s no shortage of swagger, the smiley service and topnotch coffee prove Toastface has substance to match its street-smart style.
Explore the art scene
10:00: Despite growing traffic, the CBD is still easy enough for visitors to navigate on foot and via free public transport so comfortable shoes are a must. From Toastface, it’s a short walk to the Perth Cultural Centre, an arts precinct where you’ll find the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Works range from Heidelberg School originals to edgy, contemporary pieces. For those prone to bouts of elevenses, the gallery’s bistro, Arthouse Dine, serves coffee, creative mod-Oz plates and boutique wines. Alternatively, visit gelateria Chicho Gelato (180 William Street, Northbridge) for terrific all-natural iced treats. For art of the uncommissioned variety, wander the streets and alleys of Northbridge and soak up the city’s vibrant street-art scene.
Walk the white-sand beaches
12:30: A visit to Perth without going to the beach? Don’t you dare. The deep-blue waters and white sands of the Western Australian coastline are stunning any time of the year. Grab a taxi or Uber (unless you’re spending all day on the road, hiring a car is more trouble than it’s worth for a short stay) to Cottesloe. It’s one of the city’s favourite coastal communities, famous for its terraced hillsides, Norfolk pines and, in autumn, Sculpture by the Sea installations (March 3-19, 2017). Seaside canteen Il Lido (88 Marine Parade, Cottesloe) is a year-round drawcard, especially since former Print Hall duo Dan Wegener and Lyndon Waples took over in February last year. Much of the credit for the Italian restaurant’s form has to go to Roberto Zampogna, a chef with a profound ability to coax flavour from his ingredients. Winners include a thickly sliced tuna carpaccio, impossibly juicy polpette (meatballs) and deeply satisfying handmade pasta.
Hunt for boho treasures
15:00: From Cottesloe, it’s a scenic 20-minute car trip to boho Fremantle. Traditionally, much of the action in “Freo” has revolved around its main drag, South Terrace, but head away from the famous Cappuccino Strip for a true taste of life in the port city. High Street, for instance, is one of the main arteries in Freo’s historic West End and is home to institutions such as the musical version of Aladdin’s cave, The Record Finder (87 High Street, Fremantle; (08) 9335 2770). Be sure to stop at Compendium Design Store (49a High Street, Fremantle), a wonderland for admirers of both form and function. Eros Clothing and Jewellery (79 Market Street, Fremantle; (08) 9335 2141) carries designer womenswear and accessories, while dapper gents can stock their wardrobes at Terrace Men (65 Market Street, Fremantle).
Savour a sunset cocktail
18:00: Boasting more hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital, Perth is a city where life is lived outdoors. This is especially true at the end of the day when tourists and locals alike scramble to watch the sun go down. While it’s hard to improve on a west coast sunset, Odyssea Beach Café (187 Challenger Parade, City Beach) manages to make the occasion feel extra-special and is a leisurely 25-minute drive from Fremantle. As notable for its architectural styling as it is for its supreme beachfront location, this all-day venue is perfect for admiring the view and filling your lungs with salty air. The cocktails change with the seasons: in summer, they’re refreshing; in winter they feature comforting ingredients such as hot buttered rum.
Fine-dine on a rooftop
19:30: Not just home to Australia’s first Como hotel, the CBD’s State Buildings (corner of Barrack Street and St Georges Terrace, Perth) has impressive dining options, from great coffee at Telegram Coffee to the country’s first Long Chim, David Thompson’s buzzing ode to the street foods of Bangkok. For a special occasion, however, it’s all about Wildflower, a rooftop fine-diner clad in marble and graced with floor-to-ceiling views of the surrounding area. Jed Gerrard, executive chef of Como The Treasury, which encompasses Wildflower, upholds his end of the bargain with intricate dishes that highlight indigenous flavours and ingredients. Raw scallops are cloaked with a heady native basil cream while clever desserts, such as pumpkin cooked in Western Australian whisky, ensure the meal finishes as strongly as it started.
Enjoy a nightcap
22:00: Late-night drinking hasn’t always been Perth’s forte but, nowadays, revellers have multiple options at the one address, State Buildings. Halford is a tender throwback to the conversation-friendly lounge bars of the ’50s, while Petition includes Beer Corner, with 18 craft beers on tap, and Wine Bar & Merchant, which offers carefully selected drops from boutique producers. Whatever your poison, a nightcap at this urbane inner-city precinct is the perfect way to toast the new Perth. ￼
SEE ALSO: First-Timer's Guide to Perth