Australia. The land Down Under. The lucky country. Or that “really far away place on the other side of the world!” Call it what you like, it’s a place famed for its glorious beaches, hot sunny weather, laid back lifestyle and stunning scenery.
With these attributes the country effortlessly manages to cast a magical spell over the many millions of tourists who flock to its far away shores year after year. Millions of people who arrive as tourists but who leave feeling as though they’ve found a second home.
It’s pretty impossible to sum up Australia in just a few words. Sure it’s famous for a wide variety of things. Like great weather, stunning beaches, and a pretty good cricket team. It’s given the world Kylie Minogue, Mel Gibson and Neighbours. It’s home to a big rock (Uluru), a big bridge that resembles a coat-hanger (the Harbour Bridge), a vast remote patch of land (the Outback) and last but not least, the Great Barrier Reef.
But there’s more to Australia than sport, the weather, tourist attractions and a few famous names. To see it is to believe it. To feel it is to fall in love with it. And fall in love is what I did.
While Sydney and Melbourne remain the top destinations of choice for first time visitors, there’s heaps of equally amazing places to check out. Australia is a vast country – and I mean HUGE. It’s almost 32 times the size of the UK. It’s actually a continent, albeit the world’s smallest, with an area of less than 7.7 million square kilometres. Lying south of the equator, its geographical location is why Australia is affectionately referred to as the land Down Under.
Australia comprises of six states: Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. It also has two mainland territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. And contrary to popular opinion, it’s Canberra that’s the capital city, not Sydney!
Yes, Australia is steeped in misconceptions. For example most ‘locals’ don’t greet each other by saying “G’day mate”. And most Australian men (at least the ones I know!) don’t fit the rugged, outback-dwelling bush-man type as portrayed by the likes of Hugh Jackman (Australia) and Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee). Oh and about the outback: yes it is massive – like 1.2 million square miles or something. But only a small percentage of people actually live there (at the last count it was something like 1%) because most Australians are very, very urbanised.
Which brings me to Perth, the capital city of Western Australia. And the start of my love affair with Australia.
Tucked away on the beautiful west coast, the city sits majestically overlooking the stunning Indian ocean. Perth is, in my humble opinion, Australia’s best kept secret. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s the jewel in Australia’s crown. It’s the most isolated city in Australia – the nearest city, Adelaide, is just short of 2,200 km away. So geographically speaking Perth is pretty isolated indeed. Although it is a misconception that it’s the most isolated city in the world. Perth may “seem” like the most remote city in the world, but in terms of cities with populations in excess of 1 million, Auckland takes that title. Perth is second.
Like most Australian cities it’s also pretty expensive. Pricey Perth is actually the most expensive state capital after Sydney. But the best things in life aren’t always free. Don’t let its reputation for being one of the world’s most expensive cities put you off. In many ways Perth more than makes up for its expensive price tag.
Time for a few more facts about Perth and Western Australia:
- Perth is the sunniest capital city in the world and has on average 8 hours of sunshine per day 365 days per year, of which around 118 are clear days. That’s almost 3,000 hours of sunshine!
- It has the largest inner city park in the world. Yes at 4.06 square kilometres Kings Park is bigger than Central Park in New York.
- Western Australia is the largest of all the Australian States. With an area of more than 2 500 000 sq km, it has a huge 12, 500 km coastline.
- The weather is superb. On average maximum temperatures range from 17ºC in July to 30ºC in February. Minimum temperatures rarely fall below 5ºC on average during the winter.
- Western Australia is famous for its mineral and energy resources including diamonds, iron ore and mineral sands.
- According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are approximately 1.74 million people living in the Perth metropolitan area. The city has a lot of British-born residents too; 142,424 in fact, as of the 2006 Census.
- WA is divided into five regions: the Kimberley, the North West, the South West, the Interior and the Wheat Belt.
- In 2011 The Economist listed Perth as the joint eighth most livable city in the world.
- Some pretty famous people were born in Perth, including model Megan Gale, INXS drummer Jon Farris and actor Heath Ledger.
- West Australians are known colloquially as sandgropers. Yes, really!
So, what’s to love about Perth you may still wonder. I guess to summarise, Perth is kind of unique. Call it a vibe. Call it an atmosphere. There’s something rare, something truly special about Perth. A cosmopolitan city with an abundance of restaurants, bars and cultural activities, Perth might not be the bustling city that Sydney (or even Melbourne) is. But in truth that’s part of its charm. It also has some of the most beautiful beaches and crystal clear blue waters you’re ever likely to feast your eyes upon. And a near perfect all year round climate that compliments its laid back lifestyle perfectly.
Yes as Australian cities go Perth is a rare blend indeed. Not perfection personified by any means. But it comes pretty close.