Introducing…Perth, Western Australia. City? Or Just a Big Country Town?

Where are all the people?

That was our first question as we left our hotel room and started to explore Perth’s CBD. It was a weekday and during business hours, and yet the streets were virtually empty and the vibe was so relaxed it was almost comatose.

Just perfect for this tourist to wander…

Sculpture at Elizabeth Quay, Perth WA

Perth, Western Australia (WA) is absolutely nothing like Perth, Scotland and I am always dazzled that the old white colonisers could see any similarities between the two, and that it was good and proper to replicate or impose an incongruous name on a new place that already had a distinct personality all of its own. Flying into Perth (WA) the colours are uniformly dusty green-grey and the soils looks pale and sandy. It is only when you glimpse the sea that a bolt of emerald green-blue provides a bright contrast to the fairly drab landscape. Where is even the remotest comparison to the babbling streams and lush greens of the Scottish Highlands? On the ground, Perth is far more attractive, especially along the edges of the Swan River with extensive walkways, gardens and lookout/viewing points to make the most of the river backdrop.

Perth was established in 1829 as the Swan River Colony, ousting the local Wadjuk Noongar people and irrevocably changing their lives. For many years, the colony floundered with new settlers unable or unwilling to put up with the harsh climate and living conditions, and they were leaving almost as fast as they arrived.

I suspect that Covid19 has had a significant impact on the scarcity of modern-day settlers. The WA Premier (the State’s political leader) has taken an extremely (some say excessively) hard line towards domestic travel over the last 18 months. While that may have been helpful in keeping virus numbers low in WA, it has decimated Perth’s retail and tourism sectors.

It is only a small exaggeration to say that every second shop and office has closed, is for lease or closing down. There simply aren’t the customers on the streets and passing shop fronts. This was even more obvious on the CBD’s pedestrian malls – Hay Street Mall and Murray Street Mall. Both had a ‘ghost town’, and slightly wasteland, feel.

Again, this level of quiet made for easy walking and adopting a typical tourist approach – the aimless amble – to exploring the city. And there is a lot to see!

Perth is a fabulous contrast between the old and new. There is a core of stately old heritage buildings and very few don’t have a soaring backdrop of mining-related skyscrapers. Mining is KING in WA with everything else is a poor second.

Even while wandering aimlessly, it is hard not to notice the proliferation of street art and sculpture. This varies from poetic inlays in the footpaths to large, modernist sculpture. As I have said in previous posts, I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but I do enjoy the colour and interest these sorts of installations bring to an urban landscape.

Sculpture on the streets of Perth

If you want to explore the city in greater depth and along a particular theme, join a free walking tour starting from the Perth Visitor’s Centre on the Murray Street Mall (look for the building resembling an alien spacecraft) or download load a self-guided map here. They have a whole range of themed tours including The Big Boom, Convicts and Colonials, Art City, Icons of Influence and more.

Navigating Perth is easy with a very straight-forward grid street pattern. The CBD is bordered by the main railway line to the North and the Swan River to the South, so it is easy to orient yourself in that space. Another bonus are the four free CAT bus lines which quickly and conveniently shuttle you around the CBD and beyond. We only used this service once and it was frequent, clean and super easy to use.

Perth is a very walkable and safe city. It is relatively flat with a few small hills to tackle heading to/from the river and up to King’s Park. Or, if you don’t fancy walking, take one of the free CAT buses. Too easy.

Sculpture on the streets of Perth

Possibly the only downside to our stroll that day, and quite the eye-opener, was seeing the large number of homeless people and people affected by drugs, alcohol or mental health illnesses. I know centres of larger cities can be a magnet for these folk and perhaps Covid19 changed their usual haunts, but for a small city like Perth (not even 2million people), the number felt excessive and out of proportion. This was a stark contrast to the obvious palatial wealth of the ‘big business’ end of town, especially the mining-related buildings. I guess no city is perfect or has all the answers to providing safe and appropriate accommodation for all its residents.

When travel becomes the norm again, consider including Perth in your travel itinerary. It is not Sydney, it’s not Melbourne and it has a personality very much of its own.

Happy travels, everyone.

Have you travelled to a city and found a country town instead?

The Basics

What: There is a vast array of accommodation options in the heart of Perth. We found an excellent AirBnB only a few blocks from the CBD hosted by Kylie and can recommend it highly. Book here. (As an Airbnb Associate, I earn a small commission when you book through this link and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.)

Where: Perth, on Australia’s West coast is an easy 4.5-5hr flight from Sydney (on the East coast) with a two-hour time difference. Yes, a completely different time zone in the one country.

When: Perth has a hot dry climate. I would recommend a visit at any time of year as long as you are prepared for some serious heat in Summer. They do have some lovely beaches to escape to though!

Old vs New buildings in Perth
Old vs New

Why: With our international borders closed, domestic travel has become a priority. Perth is a fascinating city and a great jump-off point to many different destinations within the 2.646 million km² of Western Australia.

How: Grab a public bus from the airport into the city. Uber, Ola, and all other forms of transport are readily available.

Who: It’s an old cliché, but Perth has something for everyone. It is rich in history, museums, the arts and an amazing number of boutique breweries!

Related Posts: If you don’t mind a wander around a city, have a look at what there is to see in the heart of Hobart.

Related Blogs: For a whole range of information about Perth, from its birdlife to child-friendly activities and accessibility-friendly spaces, check out the blog – Destination Perth.

Read About It: For an interesting memoir about growing up in the sleepy suburbs of Perth, grab a copy of The Shark Net by Robert Drewe. Robert describes the simplicity of life when he was a young boy and how this was turned upside down by a serial killer. Go straight to Book Depository.

Architectural bridge with the Swan River in the background, Perth

#perth #travelinspo #westernaustralia #swanriver #shortwalks #streetart  #urbanlandscape #oldandnew #architecture #colonialhistory

33 thoughts on “Introducing…Perth, Western Australia. City? Or Just a Big Country Town?

  1. Lookoom May 19, 2021 / 11:19 am

    It looks like a very attractive modern city. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The Travel Architect May 19, 2021 / 11:21 am

    I’m glad you’re able to travel around your vast country. Perth looks like a nice city. I wonder how much it gets overlooked by international travelers who set their sights on Sydney and Melbourne and shudder at the distance to Perth… Love the statues of the kangaroos mid-hop!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 20, 2021 / 2:57 pm

      I think it gets its fair share of international tourism, particularly those who fly direct, rather than land on the East coast first. They certainly felt the Covid lockdown as it turned off the tap of international tourists. Everyday we were there, someone thanked us for visiting and said how good it was to see tourists again. My heartbreaks for all the hardworking small business people.

      Like

  3. margaret21 May 19, 2021 / 5:17 pm

    I suspect that some of what you say about Perth applies the City of London in these times of Covid. I wonder what the longer-term changes will be?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 20, 2021 / 2:59 pm

      Perhaps we will travel more consciously and be more appreciative when we do get to travel internationally again?? AS far as businesses and retail is concerned, it will be survival of the fittest and only the nimble will be around long-term.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wetanddustyroads May 19, 2021 / 9:02 pm

    When I saw your pictures of ‘old vs new’, I understand why I always love the old buildings – it’s maybe not as slick as the modern ones, but there is just so much character in these old structures!
    Thanks for showing us the beauty of Perth – it’s sad to read about the closed-down shops (unfortunately a reality here in our country now as well) … I do hope things will recover to some extent later – whenever that might be 😔.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 20, 2021 / 3:01 pm

      I’m with you. I am old fashioned gal and, to me, the old buildings are the things that give a place character and interest. They provide the backstory to a place, not just show-off how modern they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. travelling_han May 20, 2021 / 5:36 am

    It looks like a lovely city, I feel like its largely un-visited by overseas tourists who focus on the East Coast, but I think I’m adding Perth to the list 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 20, 2021 / 3:05 pm

      I think Perth would have looked very different pre-Covid as so many people used to head to Western Australia for excellent wines and surfing, plus the wide open spaces. One day, fingers crossed, their tourism sector will flourish again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Heyjude May 20, 2021 / 8:10 am

    We have been to Perth, or rather Fremantle which is/was a little more picturesque and we had a fabulous brunch at the Swan Brewery before flying out, but we used it mainly as the starting point for a drive around the southern tip of the country. I would have liked to have seen more and my son was living there for a couple of years recently, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take advantage of that. King’s Park looks lovely.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 20, 2021 / 3:06 pm

      It sounds like you have seen more of WA than moi, but maybe what we have seen is different. I am going to be sharing some posts over the next month or so about AMAZING places in central WA. Absolute paradise. Stay tuned. 😉

      Like

      • Heyjude May 20, 2021 / 7:10 pm

        Only went south to August, then Albany and across to Hyden to see Wave rock. Biggest disappointment yet! I would have loved to have gone north, especially in spring to see the wild flowers.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Katie Askegaard May 20, 2021 / 1:35 pm

    I’m certainly intrigued by Pert! Haven’t made it to WA, but man does it look beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 20, 2021 / 3:07 pm

      We are all going to have VERY long travel Bucket Lists by the time we get to travel again! In the meantime, I am practicing patience! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. restlessjo May 21, 2021 / 4:15 pm

    I love your sensible but sympathetic approach, Mel. It does look a lovely city, and I’ve seen a fair bit of it via Rosemay, who lives there. 🙂 🙂 Scale is hard to comprehend for someone of my background. I suspect those mining businessmen won’t be going hungry any time soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 22, 2021 / 8:24 am

      Well, that’s a first! I am not sure I, in my entire life, have ever been called sensible! 😉 And Yes, mining is THE thing in WA. It is hard to drive 200km without coming across yet another large hole in the ground or a sign of mining. Oh well, each to their own…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. 100 Country Trek May 23, 2021 / 7:53 pm

    My hubby’s live there. We haven’t been to that city but would love to visit. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 24, 2021 / 8:52 am

      One day we will all be able to start chipping away at our travel Bucket Lists. Unfortunately, despite lots of chatter and promises by our Government, our vaccination rates are so slow that they are now saying our borders won’t open until mid-2022! If nothing else, we are learning patience…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. rkrontheroad May 24, 2021 / 9:07 am

    Glad to see the highlights of a city I may never visit. The old and new architecture is striking and tells a story. Loved the bounding roo sculptures!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Fran May 24, 2021 / 8:19 pm

    Oh congrats on spreading those travel wings. Sad to read about the economic impacts. Hopefully the concord that flys direct to Perth will be able to fill its seats! One wonders how fast the bounce back will be? How tepid people will be to travel great distances for international to in such droves?!? Or maybe the International tourism industry will be like the Aussie housing market – ravenous.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 25, 2021 / 11:08 am

      I was speaking with someone the other day and they said that Melbourne was in a similar state to Perth, and now they have another 5 cases which is going to subdue them even more. I think there will be a small percentage of people who will be very Gung Ho about international travel and will travel regardless of risk or cost, another small percentage who will never travel ever again, and the rest of us will be in the middle there somewhere… In the meantime, we keep dreaming…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fran May 25, 2021 / 3:28 pm

        Oh poor Melbs. The long term impacts are scary. I guess the only way to open the doors for Aus now is a vaccinated population where they can tolerate some infections. It’s just so surreal. We will travel during summer here. Many europeans will, there are conditions of neg test or vax. Like you we have many different corners of the continent to explore. I see many southern countries are also opening to US citizens with a vax passport also. Where will you go next in Aus? Have you been to the Daintree, Broome? Lol or saving pennies for your long haul dreams. We’re on the count down to summer …

        Liked by 1 person

        • Life...One Big Adventure May 26, 2021 / 2:58 pm

          I envy you your exotic destinations. Although perhaps we always think everywhere else is exotic except where we live?! No more major travels for this black duck this year. What a shame we have to work to travel…

          Like

  12. Julie Mundy June 1, 2021 / 11:14 am

    I always remember the first time I went to Perth, jumped in a taxi from the airport, and he spent the whole trip bemoaning the traffic jams in peak hour (it was 6pm). I honestly turned my head 360 degrees and as far as the eye could see there were only 5 cars! It’s a world unto itself Perth – so sorry to read about the numbers of closed shops and homelessness in the inner city though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 2, 2021 / 9:07 am

      It is interesting that when I think of the word ‘city’, I automatically picture the crazy busyness of Sydney. Perth, as a city, is a bit like Brisbane with a completely different vibe and that is a good thing!

      Like

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 6, 2021 / 8:03 am

      Thank you for reading and for giving me such positive feedback. It is sincerely appreciated. Have a good day.

      Like

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