Steve McKenna free-wheels through a city filled with indigenous art, cool jazz and alleyway bars.
Buoyed by waking to one of the city's famously sunny days, I start the day with an alfresco breakfast at Toast, a popular cafe on the new Claisebrook Cove waterfront development in leafy East Perth.
As joggers and dog walkers pass by, I enjoy french toast with ricotta, blueberries and maple syrup ($16.50), with fresh orange juice ($5.50) and a flat white ($3.80). Toast is beneath my serviced weekend apartment, which is part of the cove's sleek Sebel Residence hotel complex.
Sebel Residence, 60 Royal Street. Suites from $205 a night, mirvachotels.com. Toast, open daily from 7am, toasteastperth.com.
Getting around central Perth is easy - and it doesn't cost a cent if you use the regular CAT buses. They run daily on three colour-coded routes along the city's main arteries and stop at most of its major sights. However, an abundance of cycle paths and walking trails makes shedding calories easy, too. After leaving Claisebrook Cove and strolling along the banks of the Swan River for 20 minutes, I reach the Point Fraser recreational reserve, a park with a children's playground and boardwalks peppered with nature-oriented information points.
You can also hire kayaks and mountain bikes. I saddle up on a bike and free-wheel along the river ways before exerting myself a bit and pedalling up to Kings Park (www.bgpa.wa.gov.au).
This serene hilltop expanse was traditionally home to Perth's Noongar indigenous people. With its bushwalks, wildflower-strewn botanic gardens, picnic areas and public barbecue sites, the park is a favourite backyard for locals.
From the park's numerous lookout points, you can appreciate Perth's evolving cityscape and its enviable setting around the lake-like Swan River, a body of water dotted with yachts and, of course, those iconic black swans that so surprised the first Europeans.
CAT buses operate Mon-Fri, 7.50am-6.20pm, Sat-Sun, 10am-6.15pm. Blue CATs run until 1am Fri and Sat, see transperth.wa.gov.au. About Bike Hire, open 8am-6pm daily in summer (9am-6pm other times), $10 an hour, $36 a day, 1-7 Riverside Drive, East Perth, aboutbikehire.com.au.
Perth is one of the world's most isolated cities, a place glorified for its sun, sea and surf. But it also has cultural attractions. Beside the city's railway station is the Perth Cultural Centre, a free Wi-Fi zone with a sprinkling of free (or entry by donation) attractions, including the state museum, the state library and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, which stocks a revolving ensemble of paintings, photographs, sculptures and experimental digital-based art. There's also The Blue Room Theatre, a performing arts venue.
The highlight for me, though, is the Art Gallery of Western Australia, which displays some of the country's finest indigenous art, alongside some excellent temporary exhibitions, such as Peggy Guggenheim: a Collection in Venice, on show until January 31. Usually on display on Venice's Grand Canal, it comprises a clutch of paintings and sculptures by the likes of Pollock, Picasso, Miro, Magritte, Rothko and Ernst. Admission to the exhibition is $20.
Art Gallery of WA, open Wed-Mon, 10am-5pm, artgallery.wa.gov.au; State Library of Western Australia, slwa.wa.gov.au; Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, pica.org.au; The Blue Room Theatre, pacs.org.au; Western Australian Museum, museum.wa.gov.au.
Tucked off the skyscraper and consulate bejewelled stretch of St Georges Terrace is the Greenhouse, a quirky, eco-friendly restaurant created by Melbourne artist Joost Bakker. Almost impossible to miss, the Greenhouse's exterior is decorated in hundreds of strawberry plant pots and has furniture crafted from recycled road signs. Substance matches style, too, with a menu featuring locally sourced seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes complemented by herbs, fruit and vegetables grown in the rooftop garden.
After sharing the $25 Bits and Pieces (meats and cheese platter) with friends, I try the shredded snapper, avocado, coriander and lime flatbread for $19.50, which goes down well with a glass of Swan Valley-reared sauvignon blanc.
The Greenhouse, 100 St Georges Terrace, greenhouseperth.com.
Every day at 10am and 2pm, volunteers from Perth's i-City information kiosk offer free guided walking tours. The morning walk is always a general city orientation tour but the themes of the afternoon tours change daily. Delving into a variety of topics, they might include Perth's convict past or its late 19th-century gold-rush years. For your own self-guided tour, grab an information map from the Murray Street Mall kiosk, or download an audio guide onto your MP3 player (see perth.wa.gov.au).
It would be a shame, however, to come to Perth without making a side trip to the neighbouring port city of Fremantle, just 20 minutes away by train ($3.70 one way; $9 family day rider ticket) or an hour on the bike.
Historic, artistic, funky Freo is great for a wander. Admire its spruced-up heritage buildings, browse its nautical-themed museums, poke around its little boutiques and bookshops and, between Fridays and Sundays at least, fossick for antiques, jewellery, souvenirs and much more at Fremantle Markets, which have been drawing crowds for more than a century. Meanwhile, at old Fremantle Prison, a former maximum-security jail, there are Doing Time tours led by former guards.
Liquid refreshment is never far away in Freo. South Terrace is known as the ''cappuccino strip'' for its proliferation of mainly Italian-run cafes, although Moore & Moore, a chic cafe and art gallery, and San Churro, a cafe-cum-chocolatier, are other excellent choices.
For award-winning boutique ales, make a beeline for the waterfront Little Creatures microbrewery and try fish and chips ($12.95) next door at Cicerello's, which is another long-standing harbourside icon.
Fremantle Markets, corner of Henderson Street and South Terrace, fremantlemarkets.com.au; Fremantle Prison, 1 The Terrace, Doing Time tours, $18.50, every 30 minutes, 10am-5pm daily, fremantleprison.com.au; Moore & Moore,
46 Henry Street, (08) 9335 8825; San Churro,
91 Market Street, 9336 7557; Little Creatures,
40 Mews Road, littlecreatures.com.au; Cicerello's, 44 Mews Road, cicerellos.com.au.
While it's easy to while away the night in Fremantle - enjoying live music at the likes of Fly by Night, Mojo's Bar or Metropolis - I catch a train to Cottesloe. This desirable beachside suburb is a wonderful place to watch the sun sink into the Indian Ocean. Cottesloe is a hot spot for Perth's popular Sunday sessions, where mates gather to wind down with an icy refreshment. The Ocean Beach Hotel and the Cottesloe Beach Hotel - two minutes' walk from each other - draw the crowds.
Fly by Night, 1 Holdsworth Street, flybynight.org; Mojo's Bar, 237 Queen Victoria Street, mojosbar.com.au; Metropolis, 58 South Terrace, metropolisfremantle.com.au; The Ocean Beach Hotel, corner of Marine Parade and Eric Street, Cottesloe, obh.com.au; the Cottesloe Beach Hotel, 104 Marine Parade, cottesloebeachhotel.com.au.
Closer to Singapore than Sydney, Perth is packed with Asian-inspired dining options, with Northbridge teeming with well-priced Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Indian eateries.
A little more upmarket, Lido is regarded by many as the city's best Vietnamese restaurant, particularly for its beef pho and, rather bizarrely, fried chicken with Coca-Cola. Dinner for two can cost less than $50.
A 10-minute taxi ride away, Shenton Park's swanky Star Anise has a sophisticated pan-Asian roster, including seared scallops and caramelised duck with peanuts and pineapple.
Carnivores should consider the riverfront Old Brewery, where you can tuck into a raft of meaty treats, including the restaurant's famed wagyu ''tomahawk'' steak. You can feast on one that's up to 2.7 kilograms; at $14.85 for 100 grams, it'll cost you $400.
For great cocktails and stunning views of Perth and the Swan River, try the revolving C Restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Lido, 416 William Street, 9227 5545; Star Anise, 225 Onslow Road, staraniserestaurant.com.au; Old Brewery, 173 Mounts Bay Road, oldbrewery.com.au; C Restaurant, Level 33, 44 St Georges Terrace, crestaurant.com.au.
Intimate alley bars are in vogue in Perth. In the city, Wolfe Lane and Andaluz are two of the most talked-about spots right now and they're busy most nights. Northbridge's Ezra Pound is another hot spot. With more than 500 tipples on its list, Must Wine Bar and Champagne Lounge is worth considering, while jazz, funk and soul fans should head to the smart New York-style Ellington Jazz Club, which is open until about 3am on weekends.
For me, however, after a busy day and with a full stomach, an early night beckons - especially since I'm taking a day trip tomorrow to Rottnest Island, Perth's car-free getaway.
Wolfe Lane, behind Murray Street, wolfelane.com.au; Andaluz, 21 Howard Street, andaluzbar.com.au; Ezra Pound, 189 William Street, 9328 9005; Must Wine Bar and Champagne Lounge, 519 Beaufort Street, must.com.au; Ellington Jazz Club, 191 Beaufort Street, ellingtonjazz.com.au.
For Rottnest Island, boats leave Perth's Barrack Street Jetty 8.45am and 9.45am daily, $80 return, including island admission fee; rottnestexpress.com.au.
Steve McKenna travelled courtesy of Tourism Western Australia.
Jetstar has a fare for $229 to Perth from Melbourne (4hr) and $129 from Sydney (5hr). Virgin Blue flies from $158 from Melbourne and Sydney. Qantas flies from $264 from both cities. Fares are one-way, including tax.