Although we were exhausted, we were so excited to arrive in Perth, the first stop on our Oz adventure!
It was the most beautiful sunny and hot day and we wandered around in awe of the high rise buildings and shopping centres and actual civilisation! And it was SO good to be somewhere where they speak your language – took me a while to get used to it!
Perth itself, the most isolated major city in the world, is lovely – the buildings are beautiful, traditional and oldy-worldly – you feel like you’ve gone back in time a bit! And I was surprised how big it was! We spent the first couple of days there exploring the city centre, visited the Museum of Western Australia, did a spot of shopping and wandered through some green parks with the amazing cityscape behind us, where people were out jogging in the afternoon sun.
The only downside is how ridiculously expensive it is! We knew WA – and especially Perth – was one of the most expensive cities, but our first stop was for a couple of beers in an outdoor bar and it came to almost $30! We were staying in a hotel though so didn’t have a choice but to eat out for every meal – if you’re doing it on a budget, definitely choose a flat-type accommodation where you have kitchen facilities! All in all, I’m so glad we did Perth and the west, when so many people miss it out and head just to the east coast – they don’t know what they’re missing!
Just a half an hour train ride from busy Perth is Fremantle – or ‘Freo’ as the Aussies call it – a small, arty, boho town which was originally a fishing harbour. You’ll find the famous hippy Fremantle Market, full of handmade arts and crafts, souvenirs, jewellery, as well as an amazing food market selling fresh fruit and veg, ‘roo-dogs’ and ‘croc-dogs’ (which we couldn’t not try!), Indian food, edgy organic juice and food bars and lots more – definitely head here for lunch or a snack at any time throughout the day!
We spent one really lovely afternoon with some family friends – my mum’s Turkish friend Hakan and his Australian wife Kate – who we met for a coffee first along the main strip of cafes and bars, before they took us for a drive around the area, all the way into Perth centre and King’s Park which we hadn’t visited yet, which has amazing views of the city from up on its hills. We drove past all the beautiful beaches, stopped off at lookout points with views of Perth city over the water, through upmarket residential areas in between Freo and the city, and stopped off for a drink at North Cottlesloe beach where we watched the kite surfers above the water in the late afternoon sun. It was really nice to be shown around by locals to all these places which we definitely wouldn’t have known to go to otherwise!
We stayed in a B&B in lovely little South Freo, a really quiet area with just a handful of restaurants and bars and a long stretch of beautiful non-touristy beach at the end of the town (where I went and watched the sunset one evening), and just 10 minutes from the main town centre on the free bus (one of the best things about Perth & Freo – the free buses).
As far as activities go, for a small fishing town, there’s lots to do in Fremantle. The main tourist attraction (the one which attracts the most visitors in the whole of WA according to my Lonely Planet!) is Fremantle Prison. It’s just a short 10 minute walk from town or you can get to it on the free Blue Cat bus route. You can wander around the outside grounds at your own leisure but to get inside the prison itself, you have to book onto a tour. They’re not expensive – we did the main one which was about $20 a ticket and it was a really interesting tour (I do have a weird fascination for prisons though for some reason) which takes you through the different sections of the prison, from minor crimes to high security to death row, to the outdoor communal areas and finally to the execution room with a noose and hanging chair – horrible! What’s interesting is that the prison was actually built by the convicts themselves – which seems silly to me after watching Prison Break – surely they could’ve planned their escape route!? – and the prison was only shut down recently in 1991!
Another activity which is top on the list in all guide books and which everyone had recommended to us was Little Creatures, the famous brewery at Fisherman’s Wharf – a really lovely place with their home brewed local beer and ale and a gorgeous view of the harbour! The whole Fisherman’s Wharf area is worth a visit – walk along the promenade or sit in one of the bars lining it and people watch, then pick up a fresh fish and chips on the way back to the town – so good!
I’m now sitting in a café in Melbourne writing this, catching up on the past month which has flown by, and still to this day one of the best days I’ve spent was on Rottnest Island. Just a short 40 minute ferry ride away from Fremantle (or about an hour and a half from Perth), it’s the most tiny, idyllic little place with clear, turquoise waters and fine white sand beaches the whole way around!
Tickets and ferry there cost around $90-$120, depending if you want bike and snorkel hire for the day. So spend the day at your leisure! There are snorkel routes and beautiful spots around the island for you to stop off at along the way, and three different bike routes you can do, from easy to hard. We did the medium one which took 3-4 hours – the perfect amount of time before we had to return to our late afternoon ferry. There are a few hills (which I ended up walking up) but generally it’s really easy!
But as everyone had warned us before we went, there is literally no escape from the sun, no shade on the paths or the beaches, so stock up on lots of water and suncream at the village shop before you set off! We bought some baguette, ham and cheese for lunch so we could stop off at one of the beaches and eat (as there’s literally nothing around the island once you leave the port). Also, look out for ‘quokkas’, the island’s native animals which look like large rats/beavers –but who are really cute and friendly and don’t mind tourists at all!
Next on our itinerary was Margaret River – which doesn’t look too far south on the map at all, but which is actually a really long day of travelling –which we’re coming to realise in Australia is quite standard! The thing with WA is that the public transport between towns and cities is not great, as it is such a large area and most people have cars and most tourists rent a car. I was still a bit nervous about driving there and we hadn’t really had time to sit down and sort it out, so we booked a coach ride instead which took about 5-6 hours, but which wasn’t too expensive.
Everybody had recommended Margaret River to us as it was meant to be a beautiful area, a surfer’s paradise, and a famous wine region. So we spent the next 2-3 days lazing around in the hostel in the sun, wandering into the tiny country town for a coffee and visiting the nearby wineries on a wine-tasting tour one day, which was a really fun day out and definitely recommended (But I needed a nap when we got back after all the sun and wine…)
On the way back up north, we decided to break up the journey with a 2 night stopover in a tiny village called Singleton (not far from the more well known Mandurah). It was a good couple of days of relaxing on the beach and cooking in for once which was a nice break from eating out all the time, but I probably would go somewhere with a bit more going on (there was literally one tiny food store, a fish and chips shop and a bakery).
After a night’s stopover in Perth, we caught a flight north to Broome (just 2 hours but expensive – or a 2 day drive), which is the most humid place I’ve ever visited! I literally love the heat usually, but it was too hot and sweaty to even spend a day on the beach!
We enjoyed our time there, lazing in the pool and wandering through the ‘town’ which was more an outlet in the middle of nowhere with a couple of tourist shops and a supermarket. We did visit the ‘Camel Store’, a cute little shop dedicated entirely to camels where we booked our sunset camel ride for the following evening. It is a really touristy thing to do, but it was definitely the highlight of our time there – although it started at around 5:30 in the sweltering heat, it was amazing to ride our camels along the beautiful long stretch of Cable Beach while the sun set, and definitely a must-do if you go to Broome!
Our time in WA was now up! After a final sweaty morning and bye to the ‘Wild West’, we flew south-east down to Adelaide…