Perth things to do: Travel guide for a Perth stopover

What do you think of Perth? The world's most remote capital brings to mind a few things: great weather, beautiful beaches, quokka selfies.

But excitement? Culture? Great dining and drinking? These are not things that spring to mind when east coast sophisticates think of our western cousin.

That's all starting to change. With the mining boom over, Western Australia is placing a new focus on tourism, with Perth at the centre of its efforts.

That's helped by Perth potentially becoming Australia's first true stopover city. New, non-stop flights between Perth and London mean that Australians may start opting for a stopover on the west coast rather than in Asia or the Middle East. Melburnians, in particular, may opt for this as the Qantas 787 Dreamliner that flies to London from Perth starts the route in Melbourne.

In the other direction, there's likely to be an influx of Brits entering the country via Perth for the first time, rather than the east coast. With its climate and coastline, Perth represents every sodden Pom's dream of what Australia is like.

See also: Airline review: Qantas Dreamliner Perth to London non-stop

But to be a great stopover city, you need more than just sunshine and sand. Fortunately, things are changing for the better. On my first visit, 10 years ago, I stayed in a city hotel and wandered the streets on a Sunday morning desperately trying to find a cafe that was open so I could eat breakfast.

That's no longer a problem. While Perth isn't yet the 24/7 city that Melbourne or Sydney is, it's quickly catching up, with pop-up bars, arts festivals and hot new restaurants.

It's a change that will continue over the next two years, with a new plan by Tourism WA announced to increase tourism in the wake of news that the state was the only one in Australia to not experience a spike in visitors last year.

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Part of this has been the viral success of those loveable marsupials, quokkas that live on Rottnest Island. Selfie shots with the smiling animals have proven huge hits on Instagram, helped by the occasional celebrity pic from the likes of Roger Federer. The campaign seems to be working, with a 30 per cent increase in visitors to the island in the last seven months (be warned, though: getting that perfect selfie is not as easy as it might seem, as I discovered on my visit. Quokkas aren't particularly interested in humans and they move damn quickly).

On the accommodation front, a spate of new hotel openings have raised the standard, with the just-opened, 368-room Westin the latest in a series of major brands coming to town.

Last year, the Intercontinental Perth opened in the city centre, while the Marriott-owned, funky Aloft brand opened its first Australian hotel in the riverside suburb of Riverdale.

The boutique Como The Treasury, set in a building that is home to some of the city's best restaurants, was named the best city hotel in the country by Traveller's reviewer, and the second-best hotel in the world by America's Conde Nast Traveler. 

Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Optus Stadium, opened over summer, is looking to take the mantle from the east coast as the best sports venue in the country.

Of course, if you live in Australia, Perth is a destination in itself and not merely a stopover city. Here are five are the best things to do in the city during a short visit.

Five things to do on a Perth stopover

1. Hit the beach

Australia's other capitals may claim they've got great beaches, but nothing compares to the seemingly endless stretch of sand that runs along Perth's western edge. While Cottesloe gets most of the press, there are dozens of spots offering fine sand and clear waters within a 20-minute drive of the city centre. And because there are so many spots to choose from, you'll rarely have to fight for your own patch to stretch out on.

2. Rottnest Island

Home to one of the world's cutest animals, the quokka, along with a fascinating history and beautiful white-sand beaches offering excellent swimming and snorkelling, Rottnest is a must-do for visitors to Perth. The ferry takes about 90 minutes from the city, 45 minutes from the beachside suburb of Hillarys or 25 minutes if you head out to Fremantle (see below), but you can now get to the island in just 15 minutes via seaplane from South Perth just outside the CBD. Aside from the speed and ease of getting there, the flight offers spectacular views of the island as well as the Perth skyline and coast. See swanriverseaplanes.com.au/

3. Fremantle

Although it's only a short distance from Perth by train or car, Fremantle feels completely different. The home of the first European settlement on the west coast, the historic maritime town offers boutique shopping, classic gold rush-era architecture, excellent seafood and cafes along with great pubs (including the famous and popular Little Creatures brewery). Keep an eye out for one of the city's more recent attractions – the statue of AC/DC's legendary singer Bon Scott, who spent his formative years here after emigrating Britain as a child. The city's compact size and flat geography make it a great city to explore by bicycle, which you can do with Fremantle Tours, cruising the streets at a relaxed pace. See fremantletours.com.au

4. Swan Valley

Margaret River gets all the hype, and not without reason, but much closer to Perth is Swan Valley – another region that offers great food, wine and other produce but is just 30 minutes from central Perth (one key advantage Perth still has over east coast cities: there is very little traffic). Stop off at local producers like the House of Honey, (houseofhoney.com.au) offering a wide variety of honeys and honey-based products created using sustainable, traditional methods; The Cheese Barrel (thecheesebarrel.com.au) and neighbour Olive Farm Wines, who offer perfectly complementary tastings of both; Mandoon Estate winery (mandoonestate.com.au), a popular lunch location; or the Great Northern Distillery, creators of Canefire Rum (with a decent gin business on the side). See canefire.net

5. Fine dining

Perth has upped its game on the dining front in recent years, with several new eateries from hot chefs opening in and around the city. Some of the best can be found in the aforementioned Treasury building, including the outstanding Petition Kitchen, the hotel's own rooftop restaurant Wildflower and David Thompson's Long Chim, an offshoot of the chef's highly regarded Thai restaurant in Singapore. Nearby there's waterfront dining at the Reveley (therevelybar.com.au). In addition, you can find hipster cafes and bars equal to anything you might find in Melbourne's Fitzroy or Brunswick, particularly around Northbridge.

Trip notes

More

traveller.com.au/perth

westernaustralia.com/perth

experienceperth.com

Stay

There is an abundance of new hotels to choose from in Perth. Options include

Intercontinental Perth, city centre, https://www.perth.intercontinental.com 

Read Traveller's review

Aloft Perth, Rivervale, aloftperth.com

Read Traveller's review

COMO The Treasury, city centre, comohotels.com/thetreasury/

Read Traveller's review

Peppers Kings Square, city centre, peppers.com.au/kings-square/

Read Traveller's review

Craig Platt travelled to Perth as a guest of Tourism Western Australia.

See also: 20 reasons to visit Perth

See also: Inside Perth's new state-of-the-art giant stadium

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