Perth is a lovely city nestled between the picturesque beaches of the Indian Ocean and the languid waters of the Swan River. Named after the birthplace of Sir George Murray, who was British Secretary of State for the Colonies when the city was founded in 1829, Perth is a growing city. It just recently exceeded the 2 million people mark. Though it is a large city, it lacks the claustrophobic, extremely busy feel of many other large cities I have been to. This could partly be because, in the Grand Scheme of things, its not really that big. Sydney and Melbourne both have more than twice the populations of Perth, and in the grand scheme of things, those cities are small and much less dense then cities such as Tokyo, New York, and Mumbai.
Now, we are relatively new to Perth, and we don’t currently have a car so we have not explored a huge amount of the city, but we have had the chance to spend quite a bit of time in and around the CBD. One of the wonderful things about the Perth CBD is it seems to me to be built around a series of parks and gardens.
The famous Kings Park lies on a large hill on the northeastern end of down town. The park itself is huge. It has a wonderful botanic gardens filled with native flora from all over the state. There are multiple sections each highlighting different geographical area’s plant life, and there was a special section dedicated to many of Australia’s threatened species. It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon either wandering the grounds or enjoying a slice of nature and solitude within the urban landscape.
On the very eastern edge of the gardens is another rather unique fixture of the park, the glass bridge. The bridge itself is quite impressive as it arches over the surrounding vegetation; its glass panels clear in the sun. But the best part, in my opinion, is the absolutely stunning view of the city one gets from the bridge. The sun sparkles off the water of the Swan River as it winds its way by the high-rises of the CBD.
Though the botanic gardens take up a sizable portion of the park, there are other attractions as well. Numerous picnic areas dot the park, complete with electric BBQs, tables, and benches. The State War Memorial is a gorgeous white stone statue and sitting area located at the northeastern end of the park, and it also boasts a lovely sitting area and view of the city. For those looking for some exercise there are walking and running paths through out the park complete with strategically located water fountains and work out equipment. There is a wonderfully restored federation home one can visit for a taste of history, and a visitors center and gift shop for those looking for a bit of memorabilia. The park also boasts a family area with a café and a sports oval. The park is easy to reach from the CBD via free bus and there are numerous free parking areas for those driving, which should certainly make it a must stop location for anyone visiting the city.
I also feel I must give Perth City some kudos, for one simple reason. The park is on some land that would be extremely valuable, perhaps one of the most valuable parts of the entire city, in the hands of land developers. The fact that the city has chosen to maintain it as a public space is a true testament to their commitment to a beautiful city.
Running along a large portion of the southern side of the CBD, right on the bank of the Swan River, is a walking path and bike path (they are two separate paths separated by a strip of grass). Between the path and the city lies a large, well-maintained grass field for general recreation. It contains a park for the kids, work out gear, bathrooms, numerous water fountains, and a lovely view of the river. The field is huge, so there is plenty of room for multiple sports games, walkers, picnickers, dogs, and any one else who feels like enjoying the open space. We use it often, as it is essentially right out our back door. There is also the large Supreme Court Gardens located nearly in the middle of the city. We have not actually entered the garden as of yet, but from the outside it looks like a wonderland. Lush grass, beautiful roses, and eucalyptus trees dominate the view from outside. There are numerous benches for sitting and enjoying the lovely surrounds.
Of course down town Perth has more going for it then just the parks. One of the best parts about Perth is the ease of reaching most anything by public transport. Busses within the CBD are all free, and there are a ton of them. It never takes long to catch one, and they run late. The trains and busses that go out side the city are also reasonably priced, run late, and are easy to catch and navigate. The transperth website has an easy to use and accurate trip planner that allows even the greenest of us to make our way around with little difficulty. The bus drivers are friendly and generally knowledgeable about the routes and fares as well.
Perth city offers just about any attraction you may wish to experience while visiting. The Hay and Murray street malls offer easy access shopping of all kinds. Buskers make the scene lively and there are frequent sales to draw the customers in. There are also frequent city sponsored events for the kids. If you don’t get your shopping quota filled at the mall, the watertown outlets are only a few blocks west. The two level outlet mall is a treasure trove for those looking for well-priced clothing of all kinds.
If one is looking for events and concerts, the Perth City Convention and Exhibition center is right next door to the outlets. This unique piece of architecture is the home to events of all sorts, and is easy to find and get to from anywhere in the city. For those with more classical tastes, check out the Perth Concert Hall. For those, such as myself, who are a bit more inclined towards sports, check out NIB stadium on the eastern end of down town. This premier rectangular field host soccer and rugby matches, along with other events. To get a taste for Australian rules, head up the hill to the Subiaco Oval, home of the Western Eagles and Fremantle Dockers. Between all these venues, there is never a lack of entertainment to be had.
Of course, the CBD also offers some wonderful restaurants and night life. There are numerous cafés, bakeries, and small food stands here one can enjoy a coffee, baked goods, noodles, sushi, or any number of other delights from a wide range of cultures. There are a few homey pubs such as, the Public House, where one can have a beer or cocktail, chat with friends, and enjoy a burger or other pub type food. For those with finer tastes, check out places such as The Trustee or Bobeche. Bobeche is also a great place to go for a wonderful atmosphere and good drinks. Its 1920 prohibition theme and style make it a rather unique place to visit. Another unique place to go for some drinks and fun is the Aviary and its roof top bar called the nest. The nest looks out over the hay street mall and frequently features DJs and good dance music. The place is generally quite busy on the weekends, so if you want a table be sure to arrive early.
Just north over the train tracks from the Murray street mall lies the area known a Northbridge. If one is in the mood for food and night life, this is the place to go. Northbridge features food of most every nationality, along with ice cream and other desert shops. There are numerous dedicated “clubs” for drinks and dancing scattered through out the small little neighborhood. There are also numerous bookstores and other shops to peruse. Because it’s a nightlife center, everything is open late.
Northbridge also features some more academic pursuits. The state reference library is located just on the other side of the train station, and easy five minute walk from the Murray street mall. If research of any kind needs to be done this is the place to go. There is a well set up kids section and the library offers free internet and reasonable prices for basic printing needs. We have printed all the resumes we have handed out here. Across the square from the library is the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Also in the same area is the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art or PICA. The small, unassuming building is a great place explore the Perth art scene, and it is usually free to enter. There is a café attached to the gallery so you can grab a coffee or beer after perusing the art. Next door the State Performing Arts Center host the Performing Arts Theater were one can catch a play, or the Blue Room, a quaint theater for independent productions.
With friendly people, free and easy transport, endless shopping, a multitude of events, and no shortage of culture, the Perth CBD is a wonderful place to visit.