My trip to Perth and SouthWest Australia

Within the city centre

The Perth city centre itself is not very big. However, there are some not-to-be-missed sights which every traveller should visit. When I was there recently in December 2009, i visited these places:

1. Perth Mint

The Perth Mint has a long history as it was opened way back in 1899. Today, it is still operating at its original premises and has become one of Perth's best tourist attractions. Here, you must catch the gold pour demonstration where a small gold bar (worth about AUD250,000) is created and then re-melted (held hourly). The experience is unforgettable and so interesting that I actually watched it twice in the same day. Besides that, catch the tour of the facility where a guide will explain more about the history of early gold diggers at a replica of the Prospectors' Camp. Other must-trys are the opportunities to lift a 12.5 kg gold bar with just one hand (it is really heavy! I couldn't lift it) and weighing yourself in terms of gold. This could be the only time you feel happy seeing a larger number on the weighing scale. As the place contains lots of precious gold, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the building. The only place where pictures are allowed is the Prospectors' Camp. However, if you want a souvenir for remembrance, there is a wide range of choice from the expensive and exquisite jewellery sold in their shop, to a mid-range $15 to create your own medallion to just $2 to mint your $2 with a picture of the Perth Mint itself.

 

2. King's Park

Someone once told me that if you have never been to King's Park, you cannot really say that you have been to Perth. After walking about King's Park, I understand why. The park itself is really huge Besides that, it provides visitors with an excellent view of the city. As it was early December, I also saw beautiful wildflowers such as the kangaroo's paw. The huge and commanding boab tree was also a sight to behold. Other attractions worth visiting include the DNA Tower, which is named so as its design is similar to the double helix of a DNA, the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, and the Synergy Parkland for a picnic.

Tip: Take bus 37 from St Georges Terrace which brings you close to the entrance.

3. Perth Zoo

To reach Perth Zoo, you can take a ferry from the Barrack Street jetty or just take a bus across to South Perth. The Perth Zoo offers half price admission to adults on Wednesdays (AUD10 per person). At the zoo, we saw various performances and feeding sessions for animals such as the elephants and the little penguins. Other animals include the wombats, numbats and of course the kangaroos and koalas.

4. Northbridge

Northbridge is the central area where there is a wide variety of restaurants, bars and clubs. It is especially busy on Fridays and Saturdays. You can choose to taste Chinese food, Italian, Vietnamese, kebabs or even Malaysian food here. However, on weekend nights, the area may become less pleasant as you may see drunken people on the streets. While I was there, I didn't experience anything too unpleasant, but I did see someone totally passed out sleeping on the pavements.

Pictures taken in Perth

Wildflowers at King's Park
Wildflowers at King's Park
Birds at the Perth Zoo
Birds at the Perth Zoo
Little penguins at the Perth Zoo
Little penguins at the Perth Zoo

5. Western Australian Art Gallery

If you are an art lover do stop by to admire the various art pieces on display. It will also be interesting for people who wish to learn more about the aborigines.

6. Western Australian Museum

The museum is an interesting visit and it easily took us almost 2 hours to carefully explore the entire place. While we were there, there was also a special exhibition on dinosaurs. Its displays are also well-explained and clearly labeled.

7. Smaller and more obscure museums

Within the city, there are other smaller museums with more specialized exhibitions/collections. Examples are the Museum of Performing Arts located downstairs at His Majesty's Theatre on Hay Street. It showcases theatrical costumes, scripts, posters and press clippings. On the other side of the city, you can take photos in a "old" fire engine at the Fire Safety Education Centre and Museum which is located in the Perth Fire Station (take the Yellow CAT and stop at the Royal Perth Hospital).

8. Free didgeridoo class

At Forrest Chase, Creative Native , a shop selling aboriginal items holds free didgeridoo classes at specified times. You can book places online or just head on down to the shop at least 5 minutes before and speak to the person-in-charge. Personally, I felt that instrument was quite hard to play and at the end of my class, I still could not play well. But it was fun and definitely the first time I got to play such an instrument.

9. Churches

Within the city there are several beautiful churches. These include the newly-renovated St Mary's Cathedral (take the Yellow CAT and stop at the Royal Perth Hospital) and the St George's Cathedral.

Shopping in Perth

In Perth, there are a few places to shop. However, the opening hours are different compared to the malls in Asia. Generally, within Perth shops and malls are open from about 9am till 5 or 6pm on weekdays and Saturday, close later at 9pm on Fridays, and open from 11 am to 4 or 5 pm on Sundays.

1. Hay Street Mall

2. Carillon City

3. Murray Street Mall

4. Forrest Place

5. London Court

The London Court is the most special one as it allows you feel as if you are back in Elizabethan England due to its unique design. However, the shopping area is rather small compared to the other malls but worth a visit just for its ambience,

6. Harbor Town

Harbor Town is a factory outlet shopping area. Hence, expect prices to be much lower compared to the other malls. It is located farther away from the city central but still easily reachable by the CAT bus.

Pictures taken at Rottnest Island

Pristine waters and beach of Rottnest Island
Pristine waters and beach of Rottnest Island
The quokka hiding in the shade
The quokka hiding in the shade

Near Perth City

A short trip from the city will bring you to various places such as:

1. Fremantle

Before visiting Fremantle, I heard a lot about the Fremantle Doctor. It is true. The place was really windy when I was there and in fact, it was so windy that my cap was almost blown away several times. At Freo, you can enjoy a cup of coffee at the Cappuccino Strip as you enjoy the atmosphere, take a tour of the heritage sites like the Fremantle Prison, shop at the boutiques there, visit museums such as the Western Australian Museum - Shipwreck Galleries, enjoy the cooling wind or use it as a hub to cross over to Rottnest Island. If you are visiting Freo during the weekends, do stop by the Fremantle Markets and the E Shed Markets.

2. Rottnest Island

You may choose to reach Rottnest Island by taking a ferry from Fremantle, the Barrack Street jetty or from Hillarys Boat Harbour. Whichever way you take, be ready for a variety of adventures on the island. Volunteers are available for guided tours daily at the Salt House. These tours include the history of the island, the famous quokkas (which look like huge rats) and even a view of salt lakes. On your own, you can also choose your favourite stretch of the beach to laze about or dip yourself into the cooling waters. For those who wish to venture deeper into the island, bus tours are available and bicycles are available for hire too.

3. Guildford

Most people stop over in Guildford to get to Swan Valley for the vineyards. However, Guildford has its own charm. Walk along James Street and you will find that its many shops offer many unique antiques which have been preserved well. You may visit the Guildford Village Potters and the Swan Valley Gallery too to admire the beautiful pieces of art and craft.. The Guildford Town Bakery is also worth a stop and you may wish to purchase some pastries for breakfast or for snacks.

4. Burswood

At Burswood, there is a 24 hour casino. At certain times too, the Burswood Dome offers shows such as musicals or concerts.There is also the Burswood Park which offers guided tours.

5. Subiaco

At Subiaco, you may come here to shop, to enjoy the good cafes or just to have a nice dinner with family and friends. It is a good option instead of just staying within the city centre.

6. Hillarys Boat Harbour (HBH)

To reach HBH, take a train to Warwick on the Joondalup line. Then transfer to bus 423 to HBH (during weekdays). Check the timetable as the bus does not run frequently. At HBH, you are guaranteed fun for the whole family as you can visit the AQWA to see underwater sea creatures, shop at the huge shopping area, eat at the many cafes and restaurants, play at the Escape Theme Park, swim at the sheltered waters, go yachting/fishing, and so on.

Pictures taken in the SouthWest

Cute gnomes at Gnomesville.
Cute gnomes at Gnomesville.
The mural at All Saint's Anglican Church.
The mural at All Saint's Anglican Church.
Vineyard at Margaret River
Vineyard at Margaret River
Dolphins swimming about 30cm away at Koombana Bay, Bunbury
Dolphins swimming about 30cm away at Koombana Bay, Bunbury

Farther from Perth: the SouthWest area

To visit the SouthWest area, we took a Australind train from Perth to Bunbury. It was a comfortable 2.5 hours ride and costs AUD28.25 per person each way.

Our first stop was at Bunbury. In Bunbury, the highlight was of course the dolphins. We waited about 1 and a half hours before the dolphins visited Koombana Bay. It was a truly amazing experience as 5 dolphins were swimming less than 30 cm away from us. They also performed some tricks for us and actually stayed at the shallow waters for about half an hour before bidding us goodbye.

Besides dolphins, the Big Swamp Wildlife Park also provides visitors with the chance to feed kangaroos and other birds up close and personal. I grabbed the opportunity to pat a kangaroo as it hungrily ate from my hand.

From Bunbury, we then headed to Margaret River. This region is famous for its many vineyards and for the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. At most vineyards and the chocolate factory, visitors are allowed to sample the goods before any purchases are made. Cape Lavender which serves lavender scones, jam and cream is also located here.

Besides wine and chocolates, many also head to Margaret River for its surf especially at areas such as Gracetown and Prevelly Beach. Other attractions include the Margaret River Fudge Factory and breweries.

Collie is another stop. Collie is a mining town and in the town itself you can view Polly, a retired steam locomotive which is on display near the tourist information centre. The All Saints' Anglican Church also has a beautiful mural and unique stained glass windows. We were very lucky on that day as we were allowed to go up to the church bells area to play Christmas songs using the bells!! A once in a lifetime chance....

Short Stops

In Busselton, most people head to the Busselton Jetty which is the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also home to a state-of-the-art Interpretive Centre, Cultural Heritage Museum and stunning Underwater Observatory. However, as it is currently undergoing renovation we did not spend much time there and only stopped a while to see the view.

Donnybrook is well known for its many orchards and is a good choice for a short stop if you are interested in purchasing the various fruits on sale. The streets also have some interesting street lamps in the shape of apples.

Gnomesville is just extraordinary. The story is that sometime ago, people started decorating and ugly roundabout with some gnomes. Soon, the number of gnomes grew too large that the roundabout wasn't large enough to fit them all. They were then moved to a nearby forest area where they now lie. The gnome population is indeed huge and we saw gnomes which were placed there by people of different nationalities!!! Interesting stop definitely.


Previous Travels in Asia

Before visiting Western Australia, my travels had been limited to the continent of Asia, especially to countries like Singapore and Malaysia. With this visit, I had the chance to see another continent. It was great and I look forward to farther ventures to places like the U.S. and Europe.

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