Twenty reasons to visit Perth

MAL CHENU
Last updated 11:16 08/05/2012
Perth

As Bondi is to Sydney, so Cottesloe is to Perth - the jewel in the crown.

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1 Sunset on the beach

Balmy evenings on the sand with a loved one in one hand and a glass of something chilled (from the Margaret River, of course) in the other is a must for "eastern staters", as everyone from the wrong side of the country is known. Perth's endless pristine beaches offer an uninterrupted view of the solarific ochres with plenty of prime seating. One performance daily, no matinee.

2 Rotto

Named for the indigenous quokkas that Dutch explorer William de Vlamingh mistook for giant rats, Rottnest Island is Perth's summer holiday destination of choice and has a long queue for its limited accommodation. Day-trippers can still have a taste of the archetypal Rotto holiday - hire a bike and head to one of the beaches, snorkel the azure waters and finish the day with a beer at the Quokka Arms hotel. Ferries make the 40-minute run regularly from the city, Fremantle and Hillarys Boat Harbour, but if you'd rather swim the 20-kilometre span you can join 2000 other loonies for the annual Rottnest Channel Swim in February. rottnestisland.com.

3 Kings Park

Overlooking the city and extending all the way to Nedlands, the 400-hectare park is a dream destination for botanists and picnickers, weddings and sightseeing. Wander the botanic gardens and see 3000 of WA's native floral species or the beautifully landscaped parklands and play areas. Lunch or dinner at Fraser's Restaurant will not disappoint. bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park.

4 Indigenous Heritage Tour

And while you're in Kings Park ... join raconteur Greg Nannup for a walkabout down Dreamtime lane on the Kings Park Indigenous Heritage Tour. Nannup's magical retelling of the Nyoongar people's creation Dreamtime story is captivating and his explanations of the medicinal, nutritional and cultural values of the surrounding flora, fauna and landmarks are fascinating. indigenouswa.com/kings.htm.

5 CBD pub crawl

Two Feet and a Heartbeat Walking Tours offers meanders through Perth, Fremantle and Mount Lawley. The city business district pub crawl goes by the more politically correct name of Eat/Drink/Walk Perth and is a lovely light-hearted sojourn lubricated with quirky anecdotes. You buy your own drinks at small, well-concealed watering holes you would never otherwise find. If you prefer just one bar an evening, check out Helvetica and ask for the Bobby Burns cocktail. twofeet.com.au; helveticabar.com.au.

6 Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle

One of Freo's many iconic sites, the working harbour is home to popular restaurants (from fish and chips to fine dining) and bars, including Little Creatures microbrewery, where the pale ale is poured fresh from the conditioning tanks. Build up an appetite or thirst with a jet-boat ride or a sunset sailing tour and check out the Maritime Museum Shipwreck Gallery. This cultural hub hosts the Sardine Festival in January, the Blessing of the Fleet in October and the Fremantle Festival in November. fremantlefishingboatharbour.com.

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7 Swan Valley

The historic and fertile Swan Valley is just a half-hour east of the city. Principally a wine region hosting international brands including Houghton and Sandalford, the 32-kilometre Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail is an epicurean delight. Other attractions include plenty of eclectic arts and crafts, Aboriginal culture, galleries, wildlife encounters, breweries and distilleries. A great day out but if you stay for two days you can enjoy one of the valley's quaint B&Bs. swanvalley.com.au.

8 Scitech Centre

Scitech is an interactive and fun exploration of science and technology. Refreshed with new exhibits every six months or so, it always offers plenty to do, see, touch and bang on for kids of all ages. The planetarium is a permanent fixture and is currently showcasing the wildest weather in the solar system. You can see microscopic images of "the grease factory inside your hair follicles" and for an "all-round" experience, take a ride on the new 360-degree bike. Other kid-friendly venues around Perth include Adventure World for teen adrenalin junkies and Whiteman Park for cuddly-animal-loving littlies. scitech.org.au; adventureworld.net.au; whitemanpark.com.au.

9 Cottesloe Beach

As Bondi is to Sydney, so "Cott" is to Perth. While the entire west coast is, in reality, one long beach, Cottesloe is the jewel in the crown. Pre-dawn walkers and swimmers open proceedings and the action continues throughout the day until sunset, which is best viewed over the rim of a cold beer at the iconic Ocean Beach Hotel or a chenin blanc at the more upmarket Blue Duck cafe. obh.com.au; blueduck.com.au.

10 Cycle around the bridges

Perth boasts the country's best cycle tracks and most of them are entirely off the roads. You can ride along the coast, to the Swan Valley and around Rottnest Island or Fremantle, but the pick is the flat 10-kilometre route in the city around the river between the Narrows and Causeway bridges. On the South Perth side you are not far from the Perth Zoo, where you'll find Twiga, the baby giraffe, and Tricia, the 55-year-old elephant who has been here since 1963.

11 Northbridge

The Kings Cross of Perth, just to the north of the city, is where you'll find restaurants of every imaginable ethnicity, plenty of clubs, bars, sorbet outlets and the occasional X-rated venue. Northbridge is also home to the Perth Cultural Centre, featuring the WA Art Gallery, Museum, State Library and State Theatre, where the renowned Black Swan State Theatre Company is this year hosting plays by Tom Stoppard, David Williamson and local boy Tim Winton. northbridgealive.com.au; perthculturalcentre.com.au.

12 3000+ hours of sunshine a year

Perth is Australia's sunniest capital and compared with Sydney - and especially compared with Sydney this summer - it's hard to argue. Sandgropers do like to brag about their climate and they have the stats to back it up. Perth averages 8.8 hours of sunshine a day (Sydney 6.8), 139 clear days a year (Sydney 109) and summer temperatures of 30 degrees-33 degrees (Sydney 25-28).

13 Hillarys Boat Harbour

A half-hour drive north of the city, Hillarys Boat Harbour has a collection of restaurants, bars, shops and kid-friendly attractions including an enclosed beach, water slides, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, arcade games and rides. Resident pub The Breakwater was named best restaurant and overall hotel of the year at the Australian Hotels Association National Awards in 2010. Hillarys also hosts AQWA, Australia's largest aquarium and underwater tunnel, where you can see turtles, sharks, rays and other denizens of the Indian Ocean. hillarysboatharbour.com.au.

14 Mount Lawley

This well-to-do 'burb 10 minutes north of the city has been getting progressively cooler in recent years and now offers some of the best dining and bars in Perth, as well as the art deco Astor Theatre, which shows mainly cult and independent movies. Check out Defectors and have Australian bartender of the year finalist James Connolly mix you something special. You won't be disappointed at any of the other bars, either. Try Clarences, especially on Mussel Mania Tuesdays, Malt Supper Club, Five Bar, Must and The Queens. For fine dining, it's Jackson's Restaurant every time.

15 Perth Mint

Located in a heritage-listed building in the city's east, the mint is one of WA's premier attractions. Take a guided tour and hear fascinating anecdotes from the gold rush days. Find out your weight's worth in gold, watch a gold pour and see the world's largest gold bar show and Australia's biggest nugget display, including the 25.5-kilogram Normandy Nugget. perthmint.com.au.

16 Shop in King Street

Colourful little King Street, at the western end of the city, has evolved into Perth's upmarket shopping mecca, offering ultra-chic brands such as Bally, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Co. and Wheels & Dollbaby, a creation of WA designer Melanie Greensmith. Many of the surrounding buildings were erected in the 1890s gold rush era and what is possibly Perth's funkiest bar and late-night venue (a rarity in these parts), Wolfe Lane, is just around the corner.

17 Swan Bells

Often lampooned by locals, the Bell Tower at the Barrack Street Jetty on the city river foreshore is home to 12 16th-century bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and other delights. Ringing times vary but you can hear (and see) the full peel every day at eight bells (that's noon to you and me), except Wednesdays and Fridays. The tower's design echoes the sails that are so ubiquitous on the adjacent Swan River. And no, it doesn't look like the Sydney Opera House, which is somewhere in the eastern states. swanbells.com.au.

18 The Greenhouse

Minimise your dining footprint with a meal at The Greenhouse in the CBD. From the construction, including straw bales, plywood and corrugated iron, to the chairs made from old road signs and the rooftop garden and worm farm, this is one eatery that lives up to its name, or try Duende, in the inner-west suburb of Leederville, for an excellent tapas experience. Start with olives and the house sangria, go on to the mushrooms in Pedro Ximenez vinegar with gorgonzola and finish with doughnut balls dulce. greenhouseperth.com; duende.com.au.

19 Three hours

This is not only the daylight saving time difference from Sydney, it is also roughly the travelling time to the Margaret River (by car) and Ningaloo Reef (by air), two of the must-see destinations in this wide brown land. You've come this far, so you may as well go that little bit further and lunch at Leeuwin Estate or Cullen Wines or dive on the majesty of Ningaloo, where the coral is just a few strokes from the shore and you can swim with whale sharks from April to July.

20 Hopman Cup

One of the annual lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open tennis each year, the Hopman Cup is a national teams event featuring men's and women's singles and a mixed doubles match, all played indoors at the Burswood Dome, out of the summer heat. It's held over the first few days of the year, tickets are affordable and the line-up usually includes some of the world's top-ranked players. hopmancup.com.

- The Age

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