Our World When Visiting Friends & Relatives Stay: Part 1

In the first instalment of our When Friends & Family Come to Visit guide, Penny Thomas shares useful travel tips and offers practical suggestions for spending days in and around Perth.

Now that travel is back, so too are house guests.

So brace yourself, because a soon-to-be guest could call you up at any moment, announcing they have plans to travel to Perth.

Whether it’s your relatives, old friends, former co-workers, or a long-forgotten roommate from university coming to visit, this two-part travel guide is designed to show visiting family members and friends a good time while in Western Australia, with you by their side.

In part one, we take a look at Perth and surrounding towns, providing you with firm suggestions and itineraries for spending the day in and around Perth.

In part two, we’ve got longer stays on our minds. As such, we’ll offer suggestions for taking visitors to great spots around the State. We’ll concentrate on drive, fly and touring regions, suggesting options for hosts and guests travelling together, and for sending visitors off on their own.

PERTH & SURROUNDS

Under a near-permanent canopy of blue sky, Perth is a beautiful part of the world. With its superb beaches, a diverse selection of food and beverage venues and a colourful events calendar, it’s easy for outsiders to see why you’ve chosen to call this place home. But those still unsure of what to do and where to go, here’s how to make the most of their (and your) time in Perth.

BEFORE THEY ARRIVE

Hosting visiting friends and relatives is a lot like running a marathon: The more work you do up front, the less exhausted you’ll feel by the end. So without further ado, here are some things to consider before your guest(s) arrive:

What time of year are they coming? And how long will they be staying for?

Is this their first time to Perth?

Do they have their heart set on visiting a certain place?

What type of travel experiences are they drawn towards — adventure, family friendly, arts and culture, food and wine, sport, shopping, nature etc.?

Have they discussed a budget? As this depends on personal circumstances, I recommend you and your guest figure out how much you’re prepared to spend each day (or thereabouts). Once you have a daily limit in mind, you should be able to plan accordingly.

From there, start to build your trip by putting together a plan. Just remember, be flexible and open to moving things around.

GETTING AROUND

Perth is an easy city to get around. And due to its favourable weather conditions, walking, riding or catching public transport is a viable option year-round.

Firstly, I recommend you get your guests to download a map of the Perth area to their smartphone or tablet. Not only will this give them a sense of where they are, but it will also prove to be a helpful resource when they don’t have any phone reception or wi-fi connectivity. Alternatively, you can print off a physical map from Google Maps, pick one up from the local Visitor Centre in town, or purchase one online or in-store from a speciality map shop like The Chart & Map Shop.

While public transport is an affordable and easy way to travel around Perth, many of us get around by driving from A to B. And when family and friends come to visit, everyone usually piles into one car. For that reason, hiring a big comfortable vehicle for you and your guests is worthwhile — especially if there are multiple sights on your to-do list. Airport Rentals is a handy website to use to compare car hire options.

Tell your guests about how our public transport system works in Perth, and make it well known where the closest train station and/or bus stop is to your home. TransPerth’s Journey Planner is a convenient tool that you can use to plan ahead. Available on TransPerth’s website and via its app, the Journey Planner gives you useful details like what service is best for you, and how much it will cost.

When travelling on a TransPerth service, you have the option to buy a cash ticket or use a SmartRider card.

Cash tickets — these can be purchased from ticket machines at train stations and ferry jetties, and from bus drivers. In addition to single-trip tickets, there are also cost-saving Day Rider (a ticket that gives you unlimited travel on the day you buy it) or Family Rider tickets available for groups that allow a full day of travel.

SmartRiders — these reusable cards are the cheapest and most convenient way to travel with TransPerth, giving you a 10 per cent discount off the cash fare. You can buy a SmartRider at Transperth InfoCentre or from one of the many retail sales outlets across Perth. A standard SmartRider costs $20 and includes $10 of travel.

Within the Perth CBD, you can enjoy free and easy transport via the Central Area Transit (CAT) buses. These buses run on four routes providing free transport around Perth City and Leederville. Earlier this year, a new CAT service was launched, linking Perth City to the Children’s Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital), and the University of Western Australia. The CAT bus stops are easily recognisable and provide real-time passenger information. Free CAT bus transport is also available in Fremantle and Joondalup.

For more information on bus fares and CAT timetables visit:

transperth.wa.gov.au/tickets-fares/fares

transperth.wa.gov.au/Timetables/CAT-Timetables

There are five train lines which service the Perth metropolitan area departing from Perth City to Armadale, Fremantle, Midland, Joondalup and Mandurah. Many train stations along these lines provide connecting bus services to access Perth’s tourist destinations and attractions.

A TransPerth ferry service crosses the Swan River from Elizabeth Quay in Perth City to Mends Street Jetty in South Perth — giving you access to the South Perth foreshore, dining options and the Perth Zoo.

Designated taxi ranks are located around Perth City for safe and convenient travel. Taxis can either be hailed on the street or ordered by telephone from anywhere in Perth. The main taxi service providers in Perth are Swan Taxis and Black & White Taxis. Ridesharing service, Uber also operates in Perth.

THE VIEWS

Perth is a very photogenic city, but if you’re looking for a good spot to really WOW your visitors, here’s a mini cheat-sheet with the best views in town.

Offering extensive city and river views, with vistas out to the Darling Range, you really can’t beat the views on offer at Kings Park. Head to Kaarta Gar-up Lookout or the State War Memorial to take photos or simply enjoy the stunning views. The DNA Tower in Kings Park is another great spot offering excellent views, that’s if you’re willing to climb all 101 steps of the spiralling tower.

Visit the 20m high suspension bridge at Elizabeth Quay. Here, you are given a spectacular view of the city that seems to glisten with shiny glass buildings and a waterfront that looks like it opened yesterday.

The Crawley Edge Boatshed is surely Australia’s most photographed boatshed. Commonly referred to as the Blue Boat House, this unbelievably simple yet beautiful Perth icon has a timber boardwalk linked to the banks of Matilda Bay on the Swan River.

Perth’s iconic Cottesloe Beach is renowned for being as pretty as a picture, with its pure white sand and azure waters. Not only is it a popular swimming spot, but people come from far and wide to watch the sunset over the ocean.

If you know your guest takes great pride in uploading the perfect photo to Instagram, then it’s worth stopping by the Swan Valley region. With its rolling green vineyards and rustic cellar doors, you’re bound to take a good snap as you sip and sample some of the tastiest wines from the region.

The beautiful gardens of Araluen are found nestled in a valley in Roleystone in the Perth Hills. Head there in springtime to view their blooming displays of colourful tulips. It’s also a great spot for a little birdwatching, with many different species of native birds living in the trees.

With its pristine beaches, aquamarine bays and the happiest animals on earth, Rottnest Island is another picture-perfect destination worth adding to your itinerary. There are so many photo opportunities on the island, you can even snap your own quokka selfie.

For more, head to the lively port city of Fremantle, where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean. Here, you can watch the sunset from the rooftop bar at the National Hotel while enjoying a tipple. Or get some snaps along the streets below, which are lined with beautiful heritage buildings like the colonial Roundhouse and the Fremantle Prison. You can also take some photos inside the bustling Fremantle Markets or from the top of the ferris wheel in the Esplanade Park.

FREE THINGS TO DO

Take your guests into the heart of Perth’s Cultural Centre and visit the WA Museum Boola Bardip. Since opening in November 2020, the $400 million complex has won a flurry of awards from the Australian Museums and Galleries Association, in addition to taking out architecture’s most esteemed accolade, the George Temple Poole Award, at the Australian Institute of Architects 2021 WA Architecture Awards. Famed for being the State’s crown jewel of culture, history and art, the museum’s name — Boola Bardip — means “many stories” in Noongar language and recognises the significant role of Aboriginal people in WA’s shared cultural heritage. Entry is free to the public museum, which is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm.

Also part of Perth’s Cultural Centre is the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA). Housed in an internationally renowned Brutalist building, the gallery has an impressive collection of artworks by West Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, alongside historic and contemporary works from well-known and up-and-coming artists from around the world. While entry is free, AGWA does encourage all visitors to make a voluntary donation upon entering.

SEE HOW PERTH’S GROWN

More than 20 years have past since the folks at Lonely Planet unceremoniously named Perth “Dullsville”. And although this frank assessment hurt, it was exactly what Perth needed at the time. Because since then, the city has truly transformed itself, with new and returning visitors constantly amazed by how progressive this place is. And with loads of new restaurants, entertainment options and public spaces opening in recent years, here are some of the trendiest pockets in Perth worth visiting.

Head around the city and the urban villages of Mt Lawley, Leederville, Northbridge and Subiaco for an ever-expanding range of dining, shopping and entertainment options.

Spend a morning or afternoon at Scarborough Beach, where you can relax on the beach, or stroll along the vibrant and bustling pedestrian promenade. As the sun starts to set, treat yourself to a cheeky beverage at one of the many local pubs along the beachfront like El Grotto or Squire’s Fortune.

Grab an early morning breakfast, or enjoy a couple of sunset drinks along South Terrace in South Fremantle. This bustling little part of town is filled with great bars, cafes and shops, while still maintaining that laid-back energy that we all love.

The vibrant inner-city precinct of Victoria Park is another little gem. Affectionately known as “Vic Park” by locals, the area is a cultural melting pot, well reflected in its lively dining and entertainment.

ITINERARY SUGGESTIONS FOR GREAT DAYS IN PERTH & SURROUNDS

Exploring Perth in a day

+ From any suburb, Perth’s CBD has to be the best starting point. So with that in mind, I recommend booking a table at Mount Street Breakfast Bar for brekkie. The coffee here is great and the food is even better — the chilli crab scrambled eggs is my personal favourite dish, but the entire menu is full of delicious options. And there’s a delectable selection of baked goods available too. Open daily from 7am-2pm, the venue can get busy on weekends, so it’s best to book in advance.

+ From there, you can either walk over the Sail Bridge at the bottom of Mount Street and into the heart of the city. Or, walk to the top of Mount Street and stroll through Kings Park and Botanic Garden instead. At 400ha, Kings Park is one of the world’s biggest inner city parks, and is the most popular visitor destination in WA — once your friends see the view on offer, they’ll understand why people come from near and far.

+ The land we know today as Kings Park has been a place of great significance to its traditional custodians, the Whadjuk Noongar people, for at least 40,000 years. The Park’s traditional names include Kaarta Koomba, Kaarta Gar-up or Mooro Kaarta.

+ For those wanting to learn more about the world’s oldest living culture, book a spot on either the Nyungar Tours Kings Park Yorgas Walk or the Karrgatup (Kings Park) Walking Tour. Both tours are run by local Noongar people who have a strong family connection to this country and a deep understanding of their culture and knowledge of the land. For more details about tour times and bookings visit nyungartours.com.au or gocultural.com.au.

+ After spending some time exploring Kings Park, you can either walk, drive or catch the bus into the heart of the CBD. Here, you can visit The Bell Tower or The Perth Mint.

+ For lunch, go to Petition Kitchen in the beautifully restored State Buildings along St George’s Terrace. The venue comprises a beer corner, wine bar and a lively bistro with a contemporary menu.

+ After lunch, head to Perth’s Cultural Centre, where you can spend hours at WA Museum Boola Bardip and the Art Gallery of WA.

Spend a day by the sea

+ Start the day at Cottesloe Beach, a favourite seaside destination for Perth locals for more than 100 years. Go for a morning swim or stroll before grabbing something to eat from Il Lido, Ol’Buoy, Barchetta or John Street Cafe.

+ After enjoying the morning by the beach, walk or drive to Cottesloe Train Station. While it’s free to use the station’s carpark on weekends and public holidays, there is a fee of $2 on weekdays.

+ Jump on the next available train from Cottesloe to Fremantle, which come every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday. And every 15 minutes between 8am and 7pm on Saturdays. The journey to Fremantle Railway Station will take about 10 minutes and is a one-zone trip, for those purchasing a Cash Fare ticket.

+ Once you arrive, take note of the station’s heritage-listed building, which was classified by the National Trust in 1974.

+ In Freo (as the locals call it) there are plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, rest, dance, shop, socialise, tour, adventure, plus much more. I recommend checking out how Gage Roads has transformed Victoria Quay’s A Shed into a brewpub on the port. Open every day from 11am to late, the team at Gage Roads have done an incredible job with the space, which has an undeniable “beach shack” feel.

+ Other repurposed buildings in Freo that are worth visiting include the grand Old Courthouse, which is now a bar and eatery with an enclosed pavilion and garden. And The Old Synagogue, which has four distinct venues inside the one property. These include, Tonic & Ginger, which does South-East Asian fusion in a larger than life way; The Arbor, a hip beer and wine garden; Mr Chapple, a bar with delicious bites and a rooftop terrace that looks down at Freo’s cappuccino strip; and L’Chaim, an intimate cocktail bar hidden deep below the synagogue.

+ If it’s a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, head to the iconic Fremantle Markets on the main strip and discover stalls filled with fresh produce and handmade crafts.

+ Later in the afternoon, meet up with the people from Two Feet & a Heartbeat outside the train station in Fremantle, for a two-hour Crimes of Fremantle Walking Tour. Departing at 4pm, this tour explores the dark events that have taken place since colonial times, from riots and theft to murders and mutinies, before concluding at 6pm outside The National Hotel. It costs $50 per person and because of the horrific details shared, it’s suitable for adults only. To book a spot on the tour, or find out more about Two Feet & a Heartbeat’s offerings, visit twofeet.com.au or call 1800 459 388 (bookings are essential).

+ Make your way up to the rooftop bar at The National Hotel, where you can enjoy a tipple as you watch the sun go down. With views of Rottnest Island off in the distance and the incredible streets of Fremantle below, this is a sure-fire way to impress someone from not around here.

+ If you’re still peckish after all of this, there are a plethora of places to grab a meal in this lively city, with a full range of global cuisine including Indian, Italian, Thai, French, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Greek, Turkish, tapas, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Malaysian, fresh seafood, modern Australian and more.

+ After dinner, you can either head home to get some rest, or dance the night away at one of the many bars and entertainment venues in Fremantle, such as Freo Social, Benny’s Bar or Ronnie Nights.

Family fun in Rotto

Hot tip: You can explore Rottnest Island in a day, but my tip is to take a few days or more, and set your watch to island time.

+ Just a short ferry ride from Fremantle, Rottnest Island is a much-loved holiday destination that holds a special place in the minds and imaginations of many West Aussies.

+ To make the most of your time, take one of the early morning ferries over to the island.

+ When you first arrive, make sure you check out the new sculpture at the end of the main jetty. The 9m-tall piece by Sharyn Egan and Jahne Rees is titled Koora-Yeye-Boordawan-Kalyakoorl (Past-Present-Future-Forever), and celebrates the island’s Noongar heritage, whilst acknowledging its dark past.

+ From there, head straight to Pedal & Flipper. They’ll sort you out with a bike for the day, plus any snorkelling gear you might want to use.

+ Riding your bikes, make your way to Little Salmon Bay, one of the most popular bays on Rottnest Island. The sheltered bay has calm waters and is great for families. There’s also a snorkel trail you can follow and learn more about the different types of fish found in the crystal clear waters off Rottnest.

+ Head back to the main settlement for lunch and grab a sausage roll or meat pie from the Rottnest Bakery. Alternatively, enjoy lunch with a view at Hotel Rottnest.

+ For some family fun on the water, go to Thomson Bay and join Aquaplay’s Guided Water Bike Tour. Throughout the one-hour adventure, you’ll get to glide effortlessly over turquoise waters and explore the island’s hidden treasures, from a new and totally unique perspective.

+ Before returning your bikes and boarding the ferry back to the mainland, channel your inner Roger Federer and snap a selfie with a quokka.

Find rural magic close to the city

Hot tip: As part of this trip, you’ll be heading to the oldest wine region in WA. Therefore, you might want to organise a driver for the day, so you can sip and sample high-end wines without having to worry. Perth Luxury Tours is a local company I’ve used before with friendly drivers. Call 0419956073 for more information on their Swan Valley tour packages.

+ With rolling green vineyards and wildlife encounters, only a half-hour from Perth, the quiet paradise of the Swan Valley is truly where the country meets the city. Hot

+ Start your day with a visit to one of the oldest privately owned galleries in WA at Gomboc Gallery, which has more than 100 works from a diverse range of materials by established local, national and international sculptors.

+ Drop in for some award-winning Swan Valley wines at Windy Creek Estate. Opt for a tasting of the Wicked Stepmother’s range of homemade jams, marmalades and relishes to enjoy over the relaxing view of the vineyards and Darling Ranges.

+ Head over to the beautifully manicured grounds of Mandoon Estate and settle in for lunch at the contemporary fine-dining restaurant, Wild Swan. Enjoy the modern and innovative a la carte and tasting menus using the finest local and seasonal produce. Pair lunch with one of their award-winning wines or craft beers.

+ Alternatively, you can enjoy a scrumptious lunch overlooking the lake and vineyards at Oakover Grounds. Make some time to browse the Swan Valley Market Place, a sensory feast for lovers of all things gourmet.

48 Hours in Avon Valley

+ Start your day with a walk around the Avon River, checking out the white swans and the suspension bridge.

+ Grab breakfast at Riversedge Cafe, within the Northam Visitor Centre. Then journey next door to the Bilya Koort Boodja Centre for Nyoongar Culture and Environmental Knowledge.

+ Jump in the car and head to the giant artworks on the CBH Grain Silos on Northam-Toodyay Road, part of the famous FORM Public Silo Trail. Stop into Goomalling for a coffee and homemade cake at homewares store Lot 39.

+ Pop into the Jennacubbine Tavern and enjoy one of their famous steaks, or a drink in a beautiful building constructed in 1902.

+ Stay the night at the Farmers’ Home Hotel, which captures the simplistic beauty of country living with all the touches you’d expect of a boutique luxury hotel. Just make sure you get an early night because the first activity on your to-do list tomorrow involves getting up early.

+ This morning’s adventure begins just before sunrise at the Northam Airfield. Here, you will be joining Windward Balloon Adventures on a hot air balloon flight over the picturesque Avon Valley. The tour runs for up to an hour and offers panoramic views of the rural landscape below which is comprised of rolling hills, lush green fields and meandering streams. As you drift along, your pilot will provide an informative commentary on the region and the activities it hosts, as well as the history of ballooning and the science behind flying. Afterwards, everyone will enjoy a breakfast together at Riversedge Cafe.

+ From there, go and soak up some history at the Old Railway Station, followed by a cold beverage and bite to eat in the garden at Dukes Inn.

A day trip to the Perth Hills

+ Depart Perth and travel 45 minutes east to Mundaring in the Perth Hills. Here, you can stop at the local visitor centre for information and maps of the area.

+ Browse the latest exhibition at the Mundaring Arts Centre near the centre of town before picking up a coffee from a local cafe — Cafe Mojo — it’s one of the best.

+ Hop back in the car and drive ten minutes to the Mundaring Weir; it’s one of the world’s greatest engineering projects.

+ Continue south through magnificent State Forest to Pickering Brook and enjoy a scenic journey along the Perth Hills Cider and Brew Trail. The trail offers an incredible array of hand-crafted flavours from apple and pear ciders to European-style boutique beer. A highlight of the trail is CORE Cider House, it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch.

+ After lunch, follow the trail south to the beautiful Araluen Botanic Gardens where you can immerse yourself in seasonal displays of colour and natural beauty, walking trails, terraced gardens and water features. During spring, the gardens are filled with a colourful tulip display.

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