Guide to Australia

Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!


On the northern bank of the Swan River, Perth is the fourth biggest city in Australia. It has a population of over 1.2 million and is arguably Australia's most modern city -the mining boom of the 1970s and 1980s transformed its skyline, and everything on the streets beneath it.


The city and its greater metropolitan area sprawls over more than 5700 sq. km of undulating sand plain, from Rockingham on the south coast, north for 55 km to the coastal suburbs of Burns Beach and Mindarie. Inland the metro area stretches to the rolling hills of the Darling Ranges and the city of Armadale, and along the Swan River north and east to Upper Swan and Brigadoon.


Perth foreshore from Kings Park in Western Australia


Vast areas within this region have been kept as open land, and much of the Swan River frontage is open to the public. The beaches and the surf are thought by the locals to be the best of any Australian capital. The southern beaches in the lee of Garden Island offer calmer waters, and the Swan River has many bays and areas to swim in. Offshore there are a number of islands, including Rottnest Island. If you stay in hostels Perth backpackers organise tours, trips and activities for guests around the city.


Mount Eliza, which blocked the city's expansion to the west, is today Kings Park, one of the jewels in Perth's crown. The 400 ha of park and bushland provide many fine panoramas of the city and the river, and are a showcase for Western Australia's vast floral wealth and colourful bird life. A couple of roads wind through the park, and there are also walking and bike paths, plus some lovely picnic areas and playgrounds.


Perth skyline viewed from the Swan River in Western Australia


Perth's, and Western Australia's, fortunes changed when gold was discovered. First it was far away in The Kimberley and the Pilbara, then the finds grew closer and richer, until almost unbelievable discoveries occurred at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie during the 1890s. The population of the State rocketed, and by the turn of the nineteenth century the city had over 29,000 people. Many of Perth's finer old buildings date from this boom period: the refurbished commercial buildings along King Street, the Central Government Building (18741902), His Majesty's Theatre (1904) and the Perth Mint (1898).


Perth's fortunes waned during the 1920s and 1930s and did not really revive until after World War II: the next mineral boom began in the 1960s and 1970s, when iron ore, oil and natural gas were discovered and developed, and Perth grew into the city it is today -modern, cosmopolitan, egalitarian and friendly.


Southerly view from Perth CBD showing Belltower and Barrack Street Jetty in the foreground. A regular passenger ferry service operates between this jetty and South Perth in Western Australia


Northbridge, on the northern side of the city, has a strong migrant heritage, and comes to life at night -it has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants anywhere in Australia. There are a number of riverside restaurants in South Perth, Crawley and Nedlands, as well as down at Fremantle and if you want to partake in food and a little flutter, there is always the Burswood Casino.


Fremantle, Perth's port, is a part of the Perth experience. It became a city in its own right by 1929, and survived the building demolitions of the 1890s and the 1960s to emerge in 1987, when it was the host city for the America's Cup sailing challenge, as a city rich in heritage and character. 'Freo', as nearly everyone calls it, is home to a 500-strong fishing fleet and a vast number of yachts and pleasure craft.


Aerial view of Fremantle looking east towards Perth, Western Australia


Over 150 buildings in the port, including The Round House (built in 1831 and Western Australia's oldest public building), the Esplanade Hotel (1890s) and the Fremantle Prison (which was built by convict labour and used from 1855 to 1991) are classified by the National Trust. The National Trust Fremantle Markets, established in 1897, are still open every weekend, and have just about everything on offer, from bric-a-brac and fashions to fresh produce. Yet another good spot to visit is the Fremantle Arts Centre and History Museum, housed in a magnificent building constructed by convicts in the 1860s to be the colony's first lunatic asylum. The WA Maritime Museum contains a first-class international exhibit about the many early Dutch wrecks that litter the coastline of Western Australia.


If you enjoy fine food, alfresco cafe's or even quirky beers such as 'Dogbolter' or 'Redback', Freo is definitely the place for you. South Terrace is known as the cappuccino strip, while on Victoria Quay, the E Shed Markets  have an international food court and offer some particularly good seafood restaurants.


Perth Convention Exhibition Centre seen from the air between the Perth CBD and Swan River in Western Australia


As you would expect, there are plenty of good fishing opportunities both in and around Perth and Fremantle, with estuary fishing in the Swan and Canning Rivers, throughout the port area and also off the beaches, where you can catch a variety of different fish such as tailor, garfish, flathead, whiting, mulloway and tommy ruff.


The Perth Royal Show is held each year during September/October, and the Kings Park Wildflower Festival is around the same time. In late October, Perth hosts the Australian round of the FIA World Rally Championships; the Highland Games are held at Armadale in November/December, and there are Australia Day Celebrations in January. Fremantle hosts the Sardine Festival in January, and the Fremantle Festival in November.