Think you know Perth? Think again. While the West Australian capital is famous for its beaches, sunsets and cloud-free skies, its below-the-radar attractions paint a clearer picture of a cosmopolitan, confident metropolis where life is best experienced outdoors. Here are nine tips to help you live like a Perthite.
Swim at the quieter beaches
You’ve done – and fallen for – Cottesloe, Scarborough and City Beach: now it’s time to lay your towel at one of Perth’s less-frequented stretches of coast. Locals escape the crowds at quiet swimming spots such as Mosman Beach and the unnamed patches of sand north of Cottesloe, past Grant Street (keep travelling north along Marine Parade until the parking congestion eases up). Once famous for its nudist beach, Swanbourne is another under-the-radar spot, where a dip in the ocean is the ideal way to build up an appetite for lunch at nearby diner The Shorehouse.
Take a bushwalk right by the city centre
Bold Park by name, bold park by nature. Spread across 437 hectares, just 15 minutes by car from the city centre, this pristine urban bushland is home to more than 1000 different species of flora, fauna and fungi. Discover all that biodiversity on the park’s abundant variety of walking trails. The most notable is Reabold Hill Boardwalk, an elevated lookout blessed with social media-perfect vistas of the city, sea and the Swan River. While free volunteer-led tours are held seasonally, the best way to explore this sanctuary is to set out on your own with a self-guided map, provided by the park.
Shop at the city’s weekly farmers’ market
A sustainably minded community centre and nursery during the week, on Saturday mornings Perth City Farm hosts a thriving farmers market in its courtyard. In addition to selling produce and plants grown on-site, the market also features vendors and farmers that share City Farm’s local-first values. Pointing and cooing at pristine produce aside, food vendors, as well as the farm’s own café, are on-hand with excellent brunching options. This East Perth hub is a 15-minute walk from the city centre but can also be reached via the free inner-city CAT bus service and is also within the train system’s free transit zone (Transperth SmartRider required).
Visit the nearby wine regions
The state’s most beautiful wine regions are all within striking distance of the city centre. The closest – and oldest – of these is the Swan Valley, a warm-climate appellation half an hour from the CBD that specialises in ripe, generously flavoured reds and whites (shiraz and verdelho are its regional signatures). The first cellar doors of the Perth Hills are just as close. This is a sprawling, diverse region full of boutique, family-run operations. Then there’s the state’s treasury of south-west appellations including the world-famous Margaret River region. Typically, getting to Margaret River – or Margies in local parlance – involves a three-hour drive but recently launched seaplane tours make it possible to fly down in the morning, drop in at a variety of cellar doors, have lunch and be back in the city in time for pre-dinner drinks.
Find the west coast’s most scenic coffee spot
It requires a tiny amount of work on your part, but the return on investment is high. First: punch the coordinates for Yelo into your phone. Since opening in 2009, this community-minded café and corner store has been caffeinating and feeding the people in the coastal hamlet of Trigg. Order your coffee – you can buy a reusable cup if you’ve left yours at home – and browse Yelo’s range of surf- and summer-gear before heading outside with your drink. Almost directly across West Coast Drive is a bench facing the water. Sit. Sip. Soak up the widescreen panorama of one of Australia’s great coastlines.
Fight food waste
There’s eating leftovers and then there’s eating leftovers Millbrook-style. Monday may be the start of most people’s weeks, but for this Thursday-to-Monday winery restaurant, it’s the final shift. Which has given rise to No Waste Mondays: an initiative as delicious as it is resourceful. For $50, guests can tuck into a four-course family-style lunch utilising food that would otherwise go uncooked. The Jarrahdale winery is set in the picturesque Perth Hills wine region, and the deal also includes a pre-lunch group tour of Millbrook’s verdant garden where all of the kitchen’s organic heirloom fruit, vegetables and herbs are grown.
Get a modern-art fix beyond gallery walls
As you’d expect from the precinct which houses Australia’s only COMO Hotel, the State Buildings is a masterclass in getting the little things right. The meticulously restored $110m development links three of the city centre’s oldest, most historic sites. While staying the night is the best way to appreciate this attention to detail, many of the buildings’ attractions are open to all, chief among these collection of contemporary, largely West Australian art. Order a cocktail in the hotel’s elegant lounge bar, and take in watercolours from Phillipa Nikulinsky while you sip it. These pieces are another way the State Buildings champion WA.
Explore the Perth Hills on a mountain bike
Western Australia’s beaches might enjoy the plaudits but the state’s inland areas deserve attention too. Exploring the Perth Hills by bike is a great way to reconnect with nature while simultaneously maintaining a rigorous fitness regime. Start your discovery at Rock ‘n’ Roll Mountain Biking, a hire company based at the head of Kalamunda’s biking trails. If you’d like hands-on service, they also offer guided tours of the area. Back down the mountain, a cold one at the Heritage-listed Kalamunda Hotel is an apt reward for your hard work.
Score a table at the city’s most unlikely river-view restaurant
Of all of the city’s restaurants-with-a-view, Annalakshmi is arguably the category’s most surprising contender. Located in Barrack Square next to the Elizabeth Quay, this Indian vegetarian restaurant invites guests to “eat as you like, pay as your heart feels”. Some come for the nourishing meat-free cooking – moong dhal, paratha and vegetable curries, for instance – others come to admire the scenery and positive karma boost.