Visitors from the US during the failed America's Cup yachting defence in Fremantle in 1987 liked to think "WA" really stood for "Wait Awhile", due to the state's sluggish service and insouciant lifestyle. While Western Australia's laidback nature remains, in those, gosh, 35 years, Perth's hospitality industry has tacked rather nicely, as evidenced by the 205-room Ritz-Carlton Perth. It's been waiting quite awhile itself to finally receive international and interstate guests with the West Australian border fully reopening to vaxxed outsiders only last month.
Elizabeth Quay, right on the banks of the broad Swan River and below the CBD, is Perth's bold horseshoe-shaped waterfront precinct. There are the usual range of restaurants, cafes and bars and public art. A striking 20-metre high pedestrian and cyclist suspension bridge, connecting one half of the precinct to an island, has become an architectural feature of Perth. From here you can take a boat to Rottnest Island - quokka central - with the CBD and its attraction a deceptively easy stroll away.
From the pink-coloured external glass representing Western Australia's pink Argyle diamonds to the 10,000 blocks of Kimberley sandstone that form the walls of the dramatic lobby, the hotel exterior and interior successfully strives to reflect this remote and vast state. Works and craftsmanship from West Australian artists and makers adorn the hotel with the earthy tones of the main public area giving way to a coastal influence as evidenced in the Hearth restaurant and the striking Songbird Bar, which was closed during my stay.
With the local staycation market for now still filling the guest list, I've been upgraded to a spacious one-bedroom suite overlooking the waterfront and city skyline. Its size comes as something of a shock after having arrived here following a trip aboard the Indian Pacific from Adelaide, on which I was accommodated in a necessarily petite compartment with a fold-away bed. Even the entry point rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Perth are huge, starting at 50 metres, and all are clad generously in rich polished local timbers. So much wood affords the suite an almost Japanese ambience and the accoutrements found in the luxurious dual hand basin-fitted bathrooms with half egg-shaped bathtubs, include Frette bathrobes and exclusive Asprey of London toiletries.
Perth has evolved from being something of a culinary backwater to a genuine creative food capital. You'll find one of the city's finest eateries right here inside the hotel in the form of waterside Hearth, the Ritz-Carlton's signature restaurant. Don't miss the Taste of Hearth degustation menu with expert pairings of outstanding West Australian drops. It offers a memorable opportunity to sample the state's exceptional produce with the menu helpfully illustrated with a map indicating where the bounty is sourced. Service is efficient, even polished, with the wait staff snazzily decked out in natty uniforms by a top local designer.
Here's one of those hotels that can be hard to leave and we don't mean only at check-out. From the infinity pool and bar overlooking the river and CBD to the outstanding spa with Balinese overtones, there's a lot to keep you in-house. But, if you must head out, Perth is at your doorstep with foodies and barflies alike advised to head directly to the beautifully restored heritage State Buildings on St Georges Terrace, Perth's long main street and a short walk up Barrack Street. Here you'll find some of the city's smartest restaurants and bars. Next to the Ritz-Carlton is the prominent Swan Bells, a set of 18 bells suspended inside a specially built 82.5-metre-high copper and glass campanile. Be sure to pop across to nearby Kings Park, one of Australia's finest public green spaces, and take an excursion to the charming, slightly more distant, port city of Fremantle.
The Ritz-Carlton Perth opened only a few months or so before Mark McGowan's pandemic iron ore curtain was drawn across the Nullarbor. Now near fully operational again, it feels more or less like an exciting brand new hotel, at least to the once unwelcome Eastern Stater. If you need an excuse to go West, this impressive though pricey establishment represents as good a one as you'll get.
Rooms start from $587 per night. Ritz-Carlton Perth, 1 Barrack St, Perth WA. Ph (08) 6559 6888. See ritzcarlton.com
Even if you weren't staying at the hotel, and it certainly warrants a splurge, do splash out on a table for dinner at Hearth for a sophisticated taste of Western Australia.
Elizabeth Quay, as impressive as it is, remains a work in progress with the shells of two under construction towers slightly despoiling the views of the river and park.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of the Ritz-Carlton Perth and travelled courtesy of Journey Beyond. See journeybeyondrail.com.au