Famed for its glorious beaches, hot sunny weather, laid back lifestyle and stunning scenery, Australia is overflowing with attributes. As a country it effortlessly manages to cast a magical spell over the many millions of tourists who flock to its far away shores every year. Millions of people who arrive as tourists but who depart with a shared sense of having found a home away from home.
Back in 2009 I was one of those tourists. Like a lot of English people I’d grown up watching Home and Away and Neighbours. To most Brits Australia enjoys enviable all year round sunshine and is home to some of the world’s best sports teams (cricket and rugby union), a big rock (Uluru), a vast remote patch of land (the Outback) and the world’s largest coral reef (the Great Barrier Reef). But it didn’t take me long to discover that there was far more to Australia than what I’d seen depicted in Aussie soaps!
At almost 32 times the size of the UK, and 2,989,000 square miles, there’s a lot of Australia to explore. While Sydney and Melbourne remain the top destinations of choice for first time visitors, there’s heaps of equally amazing places to check out. Which brings me to Perth and the start of my love affair with Australia.
Tucked away on the beautiful west coast of Australia, Perth sits majestically overlooking the stunning Indian Ocean. Like most Australian cities it’s pretty expensive. In fact pricey Perth is the most expensive state capital after Sydney. But don’t let its reputation for being one of the world’s most expensive cities put you off. Perth more than makes up for its expensive price tag.
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. And if like me, you love the ocean, the outdoor lifestyle and plenty of sunshine, Perth will not disappoint.
It’s 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! And being the largest of all the Australian states (we’re talking an area of around 2 500 000 sq. km!) it has a huge 12, 500 km coastline with some of the most beautiful beaches and crystal clear blue waters you’re ever likely to feast your eyes upon.
With a climate that compliments its laid back lifestyle perfectly, as Australian cities go Perth is a rare blend indeed. Not perfection personified by any means. But in my opinion it comes pretty close.
5 things to see and do
Check out King’s Park
I absolutely adore King’s Park. It’s a beautiful place; 4.06 square kilometres of botanical gardens, tranquil parkland and unique bushland. It never ceases to amaze me that there’s this tranquil oasis right in the heart of such a vibrant busy city. And the views of the Perth CBD and the Swan River are stunning, particularly at night. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve taken in that view – it takes my breath away like it was the first time.
Take a trip down south to Margaret River
When the locals want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life they head down south to the picturesque town of Margaret River. About 280 kilometres from the city, it’s a delightful area famed for its food, wine, award-winning chocolate and surfing breaks. Let’s just say Margaret River charmed the socks off me from the moment I arrived in the region. I loved every minute of my time in the South West, from visiting wineries, beaches and caves to sampling the delights of the Berry Farm and the chocolate factory. And even though I’m quite scared of heights, the Valley of the Giants tree top walk in Walpole was an amazing experience.
Swim with wild dolphins
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to swim with dolphins. And that lifelong dream finally came true during my first trip to Australia. During the summer months you can sign up for the dolphin swim at the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury, around a 2-hour drive from Perth. It meant a very early morning start – you have to be there before 7.30am – and at $150 per person it’s certainly not cheap. But it was worth every cent. Being able to see and interact with these amazing creatures in their natural habitat was one of the best days of my life. I don’t think I stopped smiling for days afterwards. Rockingham Wild Encounters, just 45 minutes from Perth, also offers a similar experience.
Hit the beach and learn how to surf
I’m a bit of a beach bum at heart. Nothing makes me happier than a sandy white beach and a crystal clear blue ocean – and there are 19 beaches in the Perth area alone. Rockingham Beach is probably my favourite; it’s where I’ve spent many a happy day swimming and sunbathing. But in terms of aesthetics nothing beats the beaches and bays on Rottnest Island. At times, depending on when you visit, you feel like you’re on your own private island! I also love Brighton Beach, because it’s where I had my first surfing lesson. I can’t wait to go back and have a few more.
Visit the scenic Swan Valley
Around 25 minutes from Perth you’ll find the charming and scenic Swan Valley. Renowned for its mouth-watering food and award-winning wineries and restaurants, the Swan Valley is the go to place to sample a smorgasbord of gastronomic delights guaranteed to tantalise your taste buds. I spent a day in the region, including visiting the Margaret River Chocolate Factory and Whiteman Park. The highlight of my day trip was Caversham Wildlife Park because I got to meet koalas and best of all feed kangaroos. For an Aussie loving Brit it doesn’t get more Australian than that!
Article published in Chung Wah Magazine, volume 19 July 2014