As Qantas launches direct Dreamliner flights between Perth and London, we uncover Perth’s best-kept secrets.
Don’t forget your swimmers and sunscreen – Perth is best experienced outdoors. While locals will gladly tell you the city has more hours of sunshine annually than any other Australian capital, they’re a little reluctant to divulge their favourite spots (West Australians are protective of their patch of paradise). Fortunately, the days are long and Perth’s treasures are plenty, from secret stretches of white-sand beaches – perfect for watching impossibly photogenic sunsets – to passionate vignerons living and working in beautiful wine regions just outside the city.
Eat & Drink
Cottesloe’s seaside cantina and wine bar pumps from breakfast until late but to witness it at its best, go at noon and snag an outdoor table. The towering Norfolk Island pines, views of the ocean and red gingham tablecloths equal relaxed lunching of the highest order. Roberto Zampogna’s cooking is as punchy as it is accessible. The clams strewn with shallots and prosciutto lardons is a reliable go-to while the daily arancini comes with (optional) matched wine.
Perched atop the historic State Buildings, Wildflower is a fitting showpiece for one of Australia’s great hotels, Como The Treasury. The restaurant celebrates Western Australia, from the focus on native ingredients – such as blue swimmer crab paired with finger lime and a eucalyptus granita – to a menu inspired by the six seasons of the Indigenous Nyoongar calendar.
BREAD IN COMMON
A noisy, mess-hall-style dining room inside a converted warehouse. Woodfired ovens named Hansel and Gretel. This bakery-restaurant distils Fremantle’s charming boho spirit into a versatile and user-friendly package. Executive chef Scott Brannigan transforms peak ingredients into satisfying share plates, such as sweet corn enlivened with avocado and jalapeño. The dishes partner nicely with the famous house-baked breads and the thoughtful drinks list.
An hour from the CBD by car, this model cellar-door restaurant is far enough away to feel like an escape yet close enough to be in daytrip territory. The picturesque tree line and lake make excellent social media fodder but the focus quickly shifts to what’s on your plate: a reflection of the heirloom produce picked that morning from Millbrook’s sprawling organic kitchen garden.
It’s home to some of the Swan Valley’s oldest vines but this manicured, postcard-perfect property has no intention of living in the past. Comprising a cellar door, fine-dining restaurant, brewpub and new boutique hotel, Mandoon Estate is a modern operation bringing vim to Western Australia’s oldest wine region.
TASTE THE NORTH
There was a time when inner-city Northbridge was strictly the realm of nonnas by day and rowdy clubbers after dark. Today, the vibrant neighbourhood – in particular, its myriad food options – attracts a cosmopolitan mix. The frozen treats at new- wave gelateria Chicho Gelato draw crowds day and night, while Shadow, the Alex Hotel’s wine bar and European restaurant, is equally popular. (Its weekend brunch is at once grown-up and plenty of fun.) For something casual, consider Francoforte Spaghetti Bar (4/189 William Street, Northbridge; 08 9227 9289), a BYO, no-reservations pasta place that’s busy every night of the week.
HIT THE COAST
Cottesloe Beach is one of Western Australia’s prettiest stretches of coast. Maximise your time here by staying in one of the 13 rooms at the Art Deco-style Cottesloe Beach Hotel. It’s an ideal home base from which to embrace – even temporarily – that sun-kissed, beachy lifestyle.
PLATE UP THE STATE
Not all farmers’ markets consist solely of primary producers selling their wares. The buzzing Saturday Farmers Market on Manning gets the balance right between farmers and food stalls, plus it’s only about 15 minutes from the CBD. Stock up on Cambray Cheese and farmer-direct seasonal treats like white asparagus from the Bickley Valley.
STEP IT UP
What’s tough, about 250 steps long and the best way to explore Perth’s green lungs? Jacob’s Ladder, a staircase that connects Kings Park with the Swan River below, attracts local fitness fans, who race up and down its steep incline. It’s one way to go sightseeing and stay on top of your exercise routine.
DRINK IN THE VIEW
Trigg is a seaside community and beach beloved of locals. Here’s a great way to start the day: fill your KeepCup at cult café Yelo then walk across West Coast Drive and take a seat overlooking the Indian Ocean. Voilà! Magic views of the waves rolling in to go with your flat white.
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
Everyone’s heard of the Margaret River wine region. But the Perth Hills? Now that’s a revelation. Just a 45-minute drive east of the CBD, the area is notable for its diversity of wine styles, microclimates and terroirs. At Fairbrossen, Matt Bowness crafts adventurous drops using grapes grown on the estate and elsewhere in Western Australia, while the winemakers at Myattsfield focus on Spanish and Portuguese varieties. A little further north, the Swan Valley is another destination not to be missed. The warm- climate area is the state’s oldest wine region and has a reputation for producing plush, generously flavoured drops. Verdelho, shiraz and fortified wines are regional strengths. The Kosovich family is among the valley’s winemaking pioneers and third-generation winemaker Arch oversees day-to-day operations at John Kosovich Wines. Lamont’s is also a family name synonymous with the region.
JOIN THE ’ROOS
Watch a film with kangaroos... plus a million stars of the celestial, rather than celebrity, kind. Running from November to April, Kookaburra Outdoor Cinema at Mundaring Weir – just over 45 minutes from the CBD – presents movies in a state forest, where the local fauna and flora is as big an attraction as what’s on screen. For the adventurous, overnight camping is available at nearby Perth Hills Discovery Centre.
FLY IN, FLY OUT
The Margaret River wine region is no secret but given it’s some 270 kilometres from Perth, it’s a long drive for a daytrip. Flying, though, means less time on the road and more time tasting vino and enjoying the area’s gorgeous scenery. Swan River Seaplanes offers a daytrip package that includes hotel pick-up, return seaplane flights, winery tours and lunch for $795 per person.
TACKLE A CONTI
Like the muffulettas of New Orleans and the hoagies of Philadelphia, Perth has its own Italian sandwich: the continental roll, or “conti”. Beloved deli The Re Store was pivotal in popularising the roll and its outposts in Northbridge (72 Lake Street; 08 9328 1877) and Leederville (231 Oxford Street; 08 9444 9644) still make benchmark versions for the lunch crowd.
DIVE FOR ABALONE
Abalone fishing has a very short season – your window of opportunity is just an hour long on a handful of Saturdays from December to March – but seafood-lovers and fishers relish the chance to hunt for these pricey delicacies. While we won’t reveal the specific spots where you can find abalone, we will let you know that you need to go online to apply for a fishing licence (and to discover the designated fishing zones) before donning your wetsuit.
Top Image: Bread in Common; Image credits: Sabine Albers, Martin Morrell