Far west, Perth is enjoying its moment in the sun. The city’s mojo is positively alluring, with a sparkling sweep of new temptations and grand triumphs of urban regeneration, redefining the urban plateau. First impressions count and one of the best ways to get your bearings is to join one of Oh Hey WA’s irrepressible walking tours. Under the command of the equally irrepressible Adie Chapman, who has been running these tours for nine years, a walk with Adie and her troupe of dynamic guides is a surefire way to get a dynamic sense of the vibrancy and vibrancy of the town. www.ohheywa.com.au
My thrilling 90-minute walking tour traversed a variety of themes, from captivating street art and historic architecture to exciting new public spaces and hidden alleyways laden with libations. The increased presence of indigenous street art is most noticeable and Adie led me to one of the most uplifting specimens, the spectacular Rainbow Serpent, gliding along the walls of an alley. Other beacons of urban backstreet regeneration include Wolf Lane (with its wondrously large murals), Brookfield Place behind St. George’s Terrace, teeming with fine dining offerings, and the hidden gem of Howard Lane. After ripping up the asphalt, the original cobblestones of the track were deliciously rediscovered.
This is also where you can enjoy the ultimate example of an unsigned saloon, Helvetica Bar, housed in a small brick warehouse, brimming with character and whiskeys. Locals love it because they offer a bottle retention service, where you can pick up your drink from the same bottle on future visits to the bar. Then there is the old school in Perth which has been remarkably revamped. Beneath the soaring arches of the majestic State Buildings, new courtyards cut through the venerable cluster of heritage buildings in Cathedral Square. Reinvigorated as a go-to retail and hospitality hub, the three interconnected properties sat empty for 20 years, before reviving as COMO The Treasury and its enticing list of hospitable destinations like Petition, Long Chim and Wildflower.
The best coffee in Perth? Paying homage to the building’s former life as a post office, you can’t beat a brew to go from Telegram Coffee. Strolling through the commercial thoroughfare of Hay Street Mall, Adie showed me a handful of heritage buildings, like the sublime wrought-iron blockbuster Savoy Hotel, awaiting regeneration. Then there’s the kitschy novelty of the London Court shopping arcade. Built for gold miner and financier Claude de Bernales, London Court was designed as an extravagant homage to Tudor England, modeled after London’s Liberty department store. forms an atmospheric shopping arcade, connected to the Hay St Mall. At the entrance to the mall, admire the clock face which is a replica of the “Grande Horloge” of Rouen, France. The clock strikes every quarter of an hour, freeing four knights to surround the window. Meanwhile, at the St. Georges Terrace end of the arcade, the clock face is a replica of “Big Ben”, and St. George is fighting with a dragon.
The Barflies rejoice. Over the past decade, changes to liquor licensing have spawned a proliferation of small bars, creating businesses and reinvigorating the disheveled alleys. Posh cocktail bars, cozy boltholes, and speakeasies bubble up in their hidden hideouts. Adie led me to Alfred’s Pizzeria, a New York gangster-style pizza bar, tucked away in a basement on Barrack St, this six-year-old establishment has a strong, playful escapist streak – and the pizza is Divine. You can order it by the slice. The drinks menu is suited to pizza consumption, with an extensive list of craft beers, wines, gins, whiskey and rum.
Set in the Globe Bar, which reinvigorated the original iconic hotel, now featuring a vertical garden, heritage brick wall, wooden floors and supreme murals. It’s a hip spot for casual bites and drinks, with 25 beers on tap. On Queen Street, I loved The Flour Factory, merging a New York Deli with a Spanish Bodega cocktail bar on three levels of a century-old former flour mill. With over 150 types of gin on offer, if you’re feeling undecided, just spin the gin wheel to place your order.
The Perth City Link project has reconnected the CBD with the bohemian home of Northbridge for the first time in a century in recent years. Cut off by the strip of railway tracks leading to Perth railway station, the city center area has been re-admitted into the city center grip by sinking the railway tracks and undergrounding the bus station, reclaiming more than four hectares of high-quality public spaces, including the attractively designed, artistic meeting place of Yagan Square.
Northbridge has long been a popular playground for night owls, home to many of Perth’s best nightclubs and ethnic restaurants. The hospital scene constantly resets the table, but some of the local lineup stars include Joe’s Juice Joint. Off the driveway and down the stairs, this rock ‘n roll haunt invites you to become your classic dive bar – fried chicken, cheeseburgers, pinball, a serious bar, a mind-blowing beer selection and a list classic rock playback. Also in Chinatown, Sneaky Tony’s. A tribute to the infamous rum runner Tony “the hat”, Sneaky Tony’s is a Prohibition bar with shelves overflowing with liquid gold. With over 300 bottles of rum from all corners of the globe, take a seat on a stool and let them pour you a drink.
Another must-stop is Ezra Pound Bar, on Williams Lane in Northbridge. This intimate haunt with exposed brick walls and a 1920s aesthetic serves up splendid cocktails and craft beers. Born out of a desire to recreate Melbourne’s little bars, tucked away in dark alleyways, there’s a very strong nod to Prohibition-era speakeasy to complement its secluded setting. Open since 2009, this is one of Perth’s oldest small bars and a favorite with locals. Whistle a Negroni at this cultural institution – it should be the best I’ve ever had. Nestled beneath the leafy oasis of King’s Park, make a date for lunch with Cooee Perth, a chic riverside venue housed in the former Swan Brewery. After enjoying a delicious chicken terrine, I succumbed to the most wonderful Toffee Pudding.
Some surprisingly ambitious regeneration projects have defined the heart of Perth. Nothing more than the waterfront development of Elizabeth Quay, waking up and sharpening the city’s focus on the iconic Swan River. Think of Sydney’s Darling Harbor and you’ll get an idea of the transformation of this project. Spanning nearly 10 acres of riverside land, the multi-billion dollar project includes a two-level boardwalk wrapped around a creek, vibrant new public spaces including the water playground, walking trails, retail and hospitality offerings and exciting new entertainment venues.
The Ritz-Carlton Perth occupies a prime position, perched above the glittering new waterfront district of horseshoe-shaped Elizabeth Quay. From the pink-hued exterior glass symbolizing Western Australia’s Argyle pink diamonds, to the 10,000 blocks of Kimberley sandstone that define the walls of the radiant lobby, in addition to the rich polished wood interiors, this splendid new upscale hotel is a triumph of craftsmanship. My spacious king bedroom, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, offered panoramic views of the Swan River and the city’s newest landmark, Swan Bells, a set of 18 bells suspended inside a copper and glass campanile from 82 meters high specially built. My oversized bathroom was brimming with luxurious fixtures, from the half-egg tub to Frette bathrobes and signature Asprey of London toiletries. Perth’s credentials as a culinary capital are on full display at the on-site signature restaurant, Hearth. For the five-star experience, dive into the Taste of Hearth tasting menu with expert pairings of exemplary Western Australian wines to complement the state’s magnificent produce. From the gorgeous infinity pool and bar overlooking Elizabeth Quay to the sumptuous spa with Balinese accents, the Ritz-Carlton Perth is the complete five-star package, underpinned by service from polite, outgoing, and welcoming staff. www.ritzcarlton.com/perth
I crossed the Swan River to Birdswood to meet Nick Abraham from Warrang-Bridil, who offers a fascinating indigenous walking tour that seeks to ‘bridge the gap’ in knowledge and understanding of the vast heritage of the Nyoongar people. Translated from the Nyoongar language, Warrang-Bridil means “light to recognize”. Gently, deeply charismatic, Nick was eager to disarm my other guests that his tour “isn’t about blame and shame.” On the contrary, over the next hour, we gleaned so many indelible insights into the Nyoongar, their relationship to the land and the river, the immense challenges they faced, and the rebirth of culture and native understanding, in these regions.
As we strolled the banks of the brilliant Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River), Nick’s easygoing patter spilled out with so many enlightening anecdotes. I was struck by his insights into the revered Rainbow Serpent and how a shocked family member would have seen one, just days before their grandfather lost his life in the exact same spot. from the river. Against the backdrop of the striking beauty of the Optus Stadium, Nick imparted his knowledge of how the cultural influence of Nyoongar has been deeply embedded in the design of the stadium (which resembles a giant swan’s nest) and the Matagarup Bridge equally catchy. Opened just four years ago and connecting the stadium to East Perth, the striking design of flowing steel arches depicts a pair of black and white swans, bringing together diverse cultures, while resembling the deified rainbow serpent, imbued with Nyoongar culture.
You can climb to the top of the bridge, admire the sparkling view 72 meters above the water, before ziplining down! Nick’s tour ended with a spiritual smoking ceremony, during which your negative energy is banished by burning fire, allowing the positive energy to fly away. The aromatic experience of these burning eucalyptus leaves is quite profound. Nick joked that he was often asked to smoke visiting sports teams, and after smoking Collingwood recently, they had a winning blitz in the AFL! There’s no better way to enrich a trip to Perth than to take a tour with Nick. https://www.warrang-bridil.com.au/
Air New Zealand offers daily direct flights between Auckland and Perth. If you want to lay flat and rest in economy class, the Skycouch is the way to go, especially if you’re traveling with the family. Sit down, lie down or lie down and take a nap. Share the space with a partner or kids, or keep it all to yourself. Book a fare and seat at your convenience at www.airnewzealand.co.nz
To maximize the magic of a WA getaway, the official tourism website is packed with constantly updated tips and inspiration. Have a golden time out west. www.westernaustralia.com
Mike Yardley is our resident traveler on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.