by Fleur Bainger, The Telegraph, July 7, 2017
An insider's guide to Perth and Western Australia, featuring the best hotels, restaurants, bars, attractions, beaches, wildlife spotting and things to do, including how to travel there and around. By Fleur Bainger, Telegraph Travel's Perth expert. Click on the tabs below for the best places to stay, eat, and drink, including the best things to do and what to do on a short break.
Being one of the most geographically isolated cities in the world has worked in Perth’s favour. It has a distinct personality, shaped by its outdoor-loving residents that not only adore the glittering coastline (and plenty of Australia’s best beaches), but also the fabulous little eateries and slick wine bars that have been popping up over the past few years. The latter are a product of an unprecedented population boom – more than 1,000 people were moving to Perth each week, drawn to the wealth generated by the state's golden era in mining and resources.
The new blood has inspired a hipper, more cosmopolitan city style that's stuck, despite a downturn in mining fortunes in 2015. The dive has led to a drop in hotel, restaurant and consumables prices, making Perth the most affordable it's ever been for travellers. Perth’s history as a frontier town obsessed with the riches delivered by a series of mining booms is still evident – it’s home to the highest number of self-made millionaires in the world, per capita - but hard graft has taken a backseat to the new good living vibe. And what’s not to love about a city that soaks up 3,000 hours of sunshine a year – more than any other Australian city.
When to go
Given the size of Western Australia, it’s always warm and sunny somewhere. While most people visit during summer and stick to the south, if you’re there in winter, then travelling northward during its dry season is a good idea.
Perth is home to the highest number of self-made millionaires in the world, per capita
Summer: a certain fervour strikes as December 1 approaches. West Australians live for summer: it spells lazy days at the beach, balmy nights, cold beers, holidays and Christmas. It’s also when a whirlwind of festivals tear through town, with the quirky Fringe World colouring Perth in January, and the Perth International Arts Festival keeping the party going in February and March. Weekends allow escapes to Margaret River and Sunday afternoons are traditionally spent at the pub. Sure, it gets hot - temperatures can rise to 40C and sunburn is an ever-present risk – but the mood is joyful. Head south to escape the worst of the heat
Autumn: March through May is a magical time in Perth. While the summer party is over and work has resumed its regular hum, the weather is still gorgeous enough for beach-going, yet the crowds have departed the holiday hotspots of Margaret River and Denmark. That said, Cottesloe’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition packs out the beach in March. From April, temperatures become more pleasant as you head to northern parts of the state, such as Pinnacles Desert and Exmouth, where whale sharks visit until July.
Winter: the atmosphere in Perth can slump in the colder months – locals panic when the mercury dips below 22C and tend to hibernate (it can drop to 0C overnight). Like migrating birds, many people flock north to blue skies and warm climes. You should do the same: it's the best time to explore the miraculous Kimberley region, land of billions of years old rock formations, waterfalls and Aboriginal rock art
Spring: come September, thousands of wildflower species bloom across the state, a perfect time for road trips and hikes. The valid ‘cheats option’ is the Wildflower Festival in Kings Park, which showcases WA’s floral diversity. Whale migration also draws visitors back to the cool south, and by November, when the Margaret River Gourmet Escape festival is held, days are warm again
Know before you go
British Consulate-General (00 61 8 9224 4700; british-consulate.net), Level 26, Allendale Square, 77 St Georges Terrace, 6000
Emergency services: dial 000. From a mobile phone the number is 112
Tourist information: The Western Australian Visitor Centre is at 55 William Street, on the corner of Hay Street Mall, Perth (00 61 8 9483 1111; wavisitorcentre.com). It’s open Mon-Fri, 9am-5.30pm; Sat, 9.30am-4.30pm; Sun 11am-4.30pm. For more information, see: westernaustralia.com.
Currency: Australian dollar. Prices are rounded off to the nearest 5c (1c and 2c coins are not used in Australia). ATMs are commonplace and accept Cirrus, Plus, Visa, and MasterCard. Money exchange booths with competitive rates can be found in Perth’s two city malls, in London Court and on St Georges Terrace.
Time: +8 hours
Travel times: flying time from London to Perth is around 18 hours. Flying time from Sydney to Perth is around 4 hours
Tipping: not necessary, but always appreciated. Locals tend to reward good service by rounding up the bill – be it at a restaurant or in a cab – to the nearest A$5 or A$10 mark
Local laws and etiquette: be aware that there is no mobile phone or Internet service throughout many parts of country WA. Telstra has the widest coverage
Perth has 3,000 hours of sunshine a year – more than any other Australian city
When you’re heading out bush, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and bring plenty of water, food and spare fuel. At dawn and dusk, keep a lookout for wildlife crossing the road. If you’re travelling through remote parts or during the north’s wet season, check route conditions with the Main Roads Department (1800 013 314).
In the north, crocodiles are a very real threat: always obey warning signs and check with locals before swimming.