Time for a recharge

LISA MARTIN
Last updated 13:39 19/06/2014
perth
PAUL KANE/Getty

BY THE INDIAN OCEAN: Perth's Cottesloe Beach. The rhino is a sculpture.

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There is nothing quite like a blazing red sunset through a cloud haze over the Indian Ocean.

With a picnic blanket under one arm and a bundle of fish and chips under the other, scope out a spot on Perth's Cottesloe Beach before daylight stages its disappearing act.

As the eastern states cool off over the autumn and winter months, smart travellers will be heading to west to thaw out in the balmy low 20 temperatures without that sticky humidity of the tropics.

Perth holds the mantle as Australia's sunniest capital, receiving an estimated 3000 hours of sunshine a year.

And with warmth comes the chance to tap into the city's affinity with water.

Thus we begin with a trek to Rottnest Island.

Jump aboard the Rottnest Express from Perth's Barrack Street Jetty and steam along the mighty Swan River.

The journey takes about 90-minutes and sometimes dolphins can be spotted swimming alongside the ferry.

It's also a chance to see how the mining magnates live and marvel at the waterfront mansions along the river foreshore.

The ferry tour guide helpfully points out the sprawling palace-like home that has its own indoor bowling alley in addition to the usual tennis court, gyms, pools and helicopter pad features.

Rotto, as the locals call it, lies 19km off the coast of Fremantle.

Now is prime time for a snorkelling or dive adventure - a warm seasonal current brings colourful tropical fish galore.

A lap of the island is 24km and a leisurely 2.5-hour bike ride. Along the way you're bound to spot a quokka or two. The furry critters were responsible for Rottnest Island's name, which means 'rats nest' in Dutch.

In 1696, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh mistook the tiny marsupial pint-sized kangaroos for rats.

One of the best swimming spots is the Basin, a short walk from the ferry terminal and main cafe and restaurant strip.

The water is crystal clear and surprisingly warm.

Dry off and bask in the sun with a good book - preferably Tim Winton's latest tome Eyrie - set in the foodie and hipster paradise of Freo, back on the mainland.

I love reading books set in the place where I'm travelling and Winton's poetic depiction gives you a good sense everyday life in Fremantle and its edginess.

Wander the Fremantle Markets and then make sure you check out the cool fashion, homewares and art by local designers in the old abandoned Myer department store that has been converted into a series of pop-up shops.

Just up the road, is the Little Creatures Brewery, which used to be a crocodile farm.

It's the perfect spot to enjoy a pale ale and some mussels right on the water's edge.

The food comas continue over brunch in Kings Park overlooking the ever changing cityscape with towers and developments under construction.

The stunning river vistas from the tree top walk will make you never want to leave.

IF YOU GO

Where to stay in Perth: Fraser Suites Perth offers fully furnished apartment accommodation with stunning views overlooking the Swan River, complete with a pool, gym and restaurant. perth.frasershospitality.com.

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What to do: Rottnest Express has regular ferry services from Perth and Fremantle to Rottnest Island. Departure from Perth's Barrack Street Jetty includes a cruise along the Swan River. Adult tickets cost $80 return.

The company also offers bike and snorkel hire and adventure tours. For more, rottnestexpress.com.au.

Fremantle markets sell produce, gourmet food, clothes, accessories and homewares. The markets are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Where to eat and drink: Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle; Mechanics' Institute roof top bar Northbridge; brunch at Kings Park.

The writer travelled as a guest of Great Southern Rail and Frasers Suites Perth.

- AAP

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