Most Singaporean have been there, usually on holiday with parents to visit relatives and retired friends who escaped to greener pastures. The nature of those trips to Perth has left it with a rather unfortunate reputation: That it’s a dull, fly-infested paddock where old hands go to slow down. Rubbish! While it may be a popular retirement destination (inspiring 2004’s Perth, one of the best films Singapore has produced), there’s plenty of excitement to be found. From its nightlife, to its restaurants, music scene, waterways and its location as a base to explore the vast expanses of Western Australia, it’s time to give Perth the credit it deserves.
The problem with visiting people who have emigrated to Perth is that none of them actually live near the city. Sure, Joondalup, Cannington and Whitfords have their K-Marts and Targets but they lack the bustle we’ve come to expect from a city shopping experience.
At the heart of the Perth CBD are two pedestrian malls, Hay Street and Murray Street, and among their many boutiques and specialty stores are the city’s trendiest shopping spots. Carillon City (Between Murray and Hay Sts., +61 (08) 9476-5888) has everything from gems to lollies, and ye olde English-themed London Court is one of the country’s most intriguing arcades. Forrest Chase (200 Murray St., +61 (08) 9476-7676) is fashion central and counts department store MYER among its tenants. If you prefer David Jones (622 Hay St., +61 (08) 9210-4000), it’s here too.
Factory outlet fans won’t be disappointed, as around the corner is the massive Harbour Town (840 Wellington St., West Perth, +61 (08) 9321-2282), home to the likes of Just Jeans, Everlast, Nike, Oakley, Transit, Kate Hill and Typo (along with parent company CottonOn).
Shoppers who can’t stand the crowds of the city needn’t look too far to find their nirvana; the streets of the suburb of Subiaco (Rokeby Road and Hay Street in particular), west of the city, are dotted with indie boutiques, cafés and quirky shops selling, among other things, antiques, homewares and organic products.
The Eat Beat
It’s hard to put a foot wrong in Perth when it comes to food, but there are restaurants which rise above the rest. Jackson’s Restaurant (483 Beaufort St., Highgate, +61 (08) 9328-1177), helmed by Savoy Hotel-trained Neal Jackson, has consistently been ranked among Perth’s best. Try their degustation menu or, as they call it in true Aussie form, the Dego menu.
Another of Perth’s culinary landmarks is Star Anise (225 Onslow Rd., +61 (08) 9381-9811), where chef David Coomer famously gives Australian classics an Asian twist (and vice versa). Suckling pig with fennel, parsnip, celeriac and pear mostarda anyone?
If you’re after more old-school bites, seek out the thin crust pizzas at Delizioso Café (94 Rokeby Rd., Subiaco, +61 (08) 9381-7796) which took the title of world’s best pizza at the 2008 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. Seriously. And if you thought we forgot about the quintessential Australian experience when it comes to food, don’t worry. For a thick-cut steak and everything grilled go to The Old Brewery (173 Mounts Bay Rd., +61 (08) 9211-8999) by the Swan River, housed within the historic former Swan Brewery.
When the sun sets—spectacularly, we might add—the drinks start flowing as the city’s nightspots come alive. There’s no shortage of classic pubs in Perth. You know the kind: Paraphernalia and memorabilia adorning the walls, “footy” on the “telly” and the word “Hotel” in its name despite little evidence that its premises were ever used as a place of temporary residence. The Generous Squire (397 Murray St., +61 (08) 6311-7071), The Moon & Sixpence (300 Murray St., +61 (08) 9338-5000), The Brass Monkey (Cnr James and Williams Sts., Northbridge, +61 (08) 9227-9596) and Bobby Dazzler’s Bar & Restaurant (300 Murray St., +61 (08) 9481-5000) are all great spots. Bobby Dazzler’s in particular is worth a visit, if only for its grilled kangaroo fillets and emu sausages.
If crowded floors and deafening bass are your thing, Perth’s nightclubs deliver just that. Amid the glitz of the Burswood Entertainment Complex, waits Eve (Great Eastern Highway, Burswood, +61 (08) 9362-7699), self-described as “Perth’s hottest club.” Their talented stable of DJs will keep you moving till the early hours. Or else head to Flawless (298 Hay St., Subiaco). Opened in early February, Flawless blends classy architecture with LED lights to create a playground for the young, chic and loaded.
With the number of top-level gigs we’ve seen in Singapore in recent months, it’s easy to forget that previous years were headlined by the likes of Yanni and Englebert Humperdinck (who’s a legend in any case). Music lovers in Perth are used to good concerts and you’ll find it as a tour destination for pretty much every band that comes our way, and then some. Most shows are held at the Burswood Dome, but by mid-2012, the new 15,000 seat Perth Arena will be ready to rock.
Beyond big concerts, Perth possesses a thriving live music culture to rival its better known Australian cousins. On stages in bars and clubs throughout the city, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, you can be assured that somewhere in Perth, a gig is waiting for you. Our picks? Black Bettys Nightclub (133 Aberdeen St., Northbridge, +61 (08) 9228-0077) the Civic Hotel (981 Beaufort St., Inglewood, +61 (08) 9272-1011) and Manhattan’s (243 Albany Hwy., Victoria Park, +61 (08) 9361-2237).
Half an hour’s drive from Perth, Fremantle is a city by the sea with a history and culture (not to mention an AFL team) all of its own. Most come here for the famed Fremantle Markets (South Terrace, Fremantle, +61 (08) 9335-2515) which stock everything from actual produce to various pieces of Australiana—authentic antiques and kitschy souvenirs.
The F&B scene here is also out of this world. Three microbreweries-turned-restaurants are within a kilometer’s radius; The Monk Brewery & Kitchen (33 South Terrace, Fremantle, +61 (08) 9336-7666), Sail & Anchor (64 South Terrace, Fremantle, +61 (08) 9431-1666) and a name familiar to beer lovers in Singapore, Little Creatures (40 Mews Rd., Fremantle, +61 (08) 9430-5555).
Fish fans will recognize Fremantle more easily than others—its seafood is legendary. For authentic Freo fish and chips there’s only one place you need to visit, Cicerello’s (Fisherman’s Wharf, 44 Mews Rd., Fremantle, +61 (08) 9335-1911), which is right on the wharf of Fishing Boat Harbour. Just keep an eye out for seagulls that will no doubt be after your battered gummy shark.
The Swan River
If it’s not the world’s most beautiful river, Perth’s main artery, the Swan River, is surely among its bluest. The CBD and its surrounding suburbs are centered on the river and a good place to start your exploration is the Barrack Street Jetty. The Bell Tower (Barrack Square, Riverside Dr., +61 (08) 6210-0444), Perth’s token odd-looking building on the waterfront, houses the Swan Bells and is the city’s icon. At the jetty, you can also book a cruise with Rottnest Express (Pier 2, Barrack St. Jetty, +61 1300-467-688) down the river and out to Rottnest Island, home of the adorable marsupials, quokkas.
A Platform to Explore
Western Australia is so big it actually qualifies as the second largest administrative division in the world. Sure, most of that space consists of uninhabited desert, but that still leaves a lot that’s worth seeing. The most popular trek involves heading south to the legendary wine country of Margaret River.
Anyone who’s spent time in the wine section of their local supermarket has heard of Margaret River. Wineries like Vasse Felix (Cnr Caves Rd. and Harmans Rd. South, Cowaramup, +61 (08) 9756-5000) and Capel Vale (Mallokup Rd., Capel, +61 (08) 9727-1986) have vineyards here. Beyond wine, breweries like Cowaramup (North Treeton Rd., Cowaramup, +61 (08) 9755-5822), Bootleg (Puzey Rd., Wilyabrup, +61 (08) 9755-6300) and Colonial (Osmington Rd., +61 (08) 9758-8177) are fixtures, together with countryside specialty establishments like the Margaret River Chocolate Company (Cnr Harman’s Mill Rd. and Harman’s South Rd., Metricup, +61 (08) 9755-6555), the Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory (135 Puzey Rd., Wilyabrup, +61 (08) 9755-6111) and The Margaret River Dairy Company (Bussell Hwy., Cowaramup, +61 (08) 9755-7588).
Heading inland from Perth instead, there are the nature reserves surrounding Hyden, home of the iconic Wave Rock. Travelling deeper into the heart of the country, there’s the historic mining town of Kalgoorlie; infamous for legal brothels like The Red House (143 Hay St., Kalgoorlie, +61 (08) 9022-8222).