Renewing my acquaintance with Western Australia made me aware of how much the place has changed in twenty years. The mining boom that brought years of rapid growth to Perth has levelled off but it has transformed the city, bringing a level of sophistication and vibrancy that now makes it a great tourism destination. I have no hesitation in referring to Perth as one of my favourite cities and I can see why it is often named one of the top places in which to live.
Perth’s superb location on the banks of the Swan River is complemented by its lively mix of modern architecture and restored heritage and Art Deco-era buildings. From bustling inner-city laneways to the relaxed ambience of Fremantle Harbour, you can sense the positive energy. Hospitality standards are high, as they are in much of Australia, and we indulged in fine dining, enjoyed high tea at the Duxton Hotel, had a tasting at Little Creatures Brewery at Fremantle, sampled divine chocolate at an outlet of the Margaret River Chocolate Company and had an idyllic wine tasting and lunch at Mandoon Estate in the Swan Valley.
Perth city is easy to get around and on our first morning we woke early for a walk along the river; the city felt alive and we felt safe walking before daylight. The river is used for a number of morning activities with dragon boating and rowing while the river bank is utilised by runners and fitness enthusiasts.
THINGS TO DO IN PERTH
I recommend a tour of the award-winning Perth Mint, which offers an understanding of Western Australia’s considerable mineral riches and the mesmerising opportunity to watch molten gold being made into gold bars, and coins being struck. I also found out how much I weighed in gold: I’d be worth a bit!
The city has events and festivals throughout the year but the Wildflower Festival in September is a highlight. It is held in historic Kings Park overlooking Perth and there are displays and workshops and guided walks. You can also see the famous boab tree and enjoy a picnic or lunch at the park café.
Perth has a number of attractions right on its doorstep such as the iconic beaches at Scarborough, or you can take the city train to Fremantle for a Convicts and Colonials tour that includes a look underground at the World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison.
Nineteen kilometres offshore is Rottnest Island with its famous population of quokkas, a cute small marsupial about the size of a cat. A Bike and Ferry Combo package is a great way to explore the island. Further afield are the world-famous Margaret River wine region, the towering tingle trees in Valley of the Giants near the southern coast of WA and whale-watching and winery visits (of course). Again, a good way to combine fitness and indulgence is with mountain bike or kayak tours that stop at boutique microbreweries and cellar doors.
BROOME - FOR YOUR BUCKET LIST
After seeing Perth we took a two-and-a-half-hour flight north to Broome, which should be on your bucket list as it is one of the most unforgettable destinations. Words can’t describe the beauty of its contrasting blue sea and deep red earth. From April to October you enjoy clear sunny days with average temperatures of around 30 degrees C.
Our visit to Broome coincided with the Shinju Matsuri Festival of the Pearl featuring free events, performances by local bands and the Australian Short Film Festival. You should also definitely time your visit to experience the renowned Broome Staircase to the Moon, a natural phenomenon which occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay. It’s one of the most picturesque natural wonders, along with the local sunsets.
If you like pearls, Broome is the place for you and there is much to see about the rich local history of pearl fishing. You can also experience the famous outdoor cinema and enjoy a refreshing drink and lunch at the famous Matso’s Broome Brewery. My favourite tipple was the famous Mango Beer; I sipped the Chilli Beer slowly. Five minutes from Broome is breathtaking Cable Beach with its pure white sand and turquoise water. Here we experienced camel riding along the beach at sunset and enjoyed dinner on the beachfront.
Although I thought the trip had reached its peak, we then drove for three hours (by 4WD) to remote Cape Leveque at the northernmost tip of the Dampier Peninsula. Here we visited Cygnet Bay Pearls, Australia’s oldest pearl farm, where we enjoyed a swim in its infinity pool and opened a pearl. This property offers a variety of camping styles for all budgets and in the afternoon we travelled by boat to a remote camp for a glamping experience that included roasting marshmallows over an open fire under the stars. Never fear, the camp is fully equipped with clean kitchens and bathroom facilities and sleeping with the sound of the waves on the shore was unforgettable. I will definitely go back. In fact, I sent my four-year-old a postcard promising that one day I will take her back to this magical place.
Travelling to Western Australia has never been so easy. Take your pick and arrive by rail, cruise, car, coach or flight. I recommend Air New Zealand’s daily direct flight from Auckland to Perth, only 7.5 hours one-way and with larger windows, cleaner air and the increased humidity onboard the new 787-Dreamliner aircraft, you will arrive refreshed more than ever before off a long-haul flight.
Air NZ has also introduced its famed Skycouch seats to this route – a first for trans-Tasman travel. I was very fortunate to experience the Skycouch on the night flight from Perth to Auckland and I slept from after dinner until breakfast – the extra space is definitely worth its weight in WA Gold!
Have you ever experienced Western Australia? Tell us your highlights in the comment section below.