When I moved to Sydney for a semester to study back in college, I suddenly found myself fascinated with everything Australian: beer, beetles and fast-food chicken burgers. (Don’t ask.) Understandably I did as I tend to do before a big trip—lots of reading. I devoured Bill Bryson’s book in just a few days (still one of the greatest travelogues of all time), I started reading the Sydney Morning Herald online and I did a fair amount of Google research. Before I’d even left for my semester abroad, I had a list of the things I wanted to do, eat and see. And not just in Sydney, but also the rest of Australia.
As a student and on a student budget, I pretty much set my Australia bucket list to stay along the east coast. Flights in Australia aren’t known to be cheap, so getting around was going to be my biggest challenge. Keeping to my budget, I spent my four months in Australia exclusively on the east coast—with just one trip into the outback. Perth wasn’t even on my “places to visit” list at that time.
Since leaving Australia, though, I’ve met a handful of Aussies around the world. And, importantly…honorary Aussies. Other travelers who’d lived in Australia for months or years at a time. Backpacking in Southeast Asia I ran into more than the odd backpacker who’d just come off a year or more of work in Australia. And more often than not, these travelers had spent a good amount of time in Perth. You see, from the backpacking perspective, Perth seems to offer more opportunities than the more populated cities along the east coast.
Nowadays I’ve got a handful of friends who either already live in Australia or are planning a move. (Big thanks to the offer for a work-holiday visa which makes the country even more attractive to international expats.) While Perth isn’t necessarily the destination, thanks to a few backpacker friends who have talked it up, Perth is now at the top of my Australia bucket list.
While I love a big city (just take a look at all my city destination guides), I also tend to be attracted to cities with a bit of history, some sort of unusual appeal, or just something completely random and out of the way. Perth seems to hit all of the above. With a population of nearly 2 million (that’s not much more than some of Europe’s coolest cities), a warm climate, beach and a history that only Australia can have: swamp battles between European settlers and Aboriginals, talk of secession and a gold rush.
It also helps that it’s got this “out of the way, hard to get to” attraction. So just maybe on my next visit to the island country (cross your fingers it’s sooner rather than later!), I’ll finally jet over to Perth. I’ve also heard it’s possible to visit cheaply when flying from parts of Asia or India—so it just might be a good gateway on a bigger trip.
I’ve lived for the past two months near Perth, to be more exact, Fremantle on the coast. So my advice is: skip Perth and just go to Fremantle straight away. Perth is absolutely boring and packed with boring and average people. You seem pretty excited about Perth, but I assume you will be disappointed like I was. Fremantle however is a historical small but interesting town on the coast. It has loads of alternative cafes, beautiful beaches and many students. GO THERE! One of my favorite places in Australia.
Hey Caroline – thanks for the suggestiona bout Fremantle. I have a friend based in Perth so it’s likely I’ll visit at some point, but I’ll definitely look into Fremantle some more. Sounds pretty cool – so long as their are students, it’s likely to be my kind of destination!
Having lived in Perth for the best part of 23 years, I would like to stand in defence of the city, against what Caroline wrote above.
Whilst, for a two day, or two week, or maybe even an exceptionally lazy two month visit, one might find Perth lacking the numbers or history or cultural wow-factor to put it alongside any other metropolis (read: the east coast), the charm of Perth lies in that it’s thousands of subcultural delights are not thrown into your face, but rather, you are made to actually go for a bit of a search for them every now and again.
Perth has a swathe of amazing small bars, that, while (like everything in Perth) can be a bit more expensive than you might be used to Adam, are filled with great people, art, and vibes. To get you started here would be VENN, Mechanics Institute, Helvetica, The Bird, Ezra Pound, Frisk Bar, and Clarence’s, and any of the staff at these joints would be happy to provide you with many more, i’m sure.
For food to end all cravings and still keeping it low-key, it’s hard to walk past the aromas of Jus Burgers, The Toastface Grillah, Flipside Burgers, Good Fortune Duck House, Billy Lee’s, Gordon Street Garage, Lawley’s Bakery, Tong 86, Cantina’s, …I could go on.
As far as Perth coffee goes, yeah, it’s expensive, but if you pick your spot, you’ll still get change from a fiver and be left wondering why Europe is still drinking the way it does.
Aside from food and drink, Perth is actually stacked with great things to do, most of which are perfectly capped with an evening on the beach and some friends, so whether you’re dying of heat exhaustion in The Bakery to the best local and original international music going around, or catching a film with the flamingos at rooftop movies, Perth really does have you covered.
Fremantle is a great place, no doubt, there are as many incredible spots to visit there as anywhere else, but any accusation of Perth being boring I just cannot let go that easily. Adam if you are short on recommendations when you head to Perth, drop me an email and I can be a bit more specific; can’t wait to see what you write up about my pretty little city.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Written from Paris, still calling Australia home.
Matt – thank you so much for the detailed tips! Really appreciate your point of view here :)