Perth is kind of like Vegemite - you either love it or you hate it.
The city is often the receiver of either rave reviews or disappointing memories for travelers and I know I have heard all opinions from friends over the years. Never letting a bad review stand in the way of me making up my own opinion about a place, I refused to make a judgement before seeing it with my own eyes. After a week in Adelaide - read my city guide here - I hopped on a quick flight over to experience my first taste of Western Australia and to finally start my West Coast adventure. I arrived at the airport and caught a bus straight to my new hostel which had come highly recommended by friends all across social media and was clearly the hot favourite.
Billabong Backpackers Resort
Not the easiest hostel to get to, there was a real lack of information at the airport regarding shuttle buses, routes and schedules - eventually I managed to find a helpful bus driver who told me I would need two buses to reach the hostel. It turned into a bit of a mission but I made it finally. I was a bit disappointed by the "friendly" staff who barely acknowledged my presence and seemed very bored by their job - not the best welcome to a new city and hostel. I was sent up to my room which was pretty aged and a bit dirty. I'm definitely not a snob when it comes to hostels but this building felt less like a hostel with atmosphere and vibe, it felt more like an old building used for school trips. You could tell this was a city hostel with many people just passing through for a day or two or others who were working and had no time to meet travelers. I don't want to be totally negative about the hostel - I'm sure it must have been great at points for so many of my friends to rave about it - but I personally found the crowd staying there when I passed through to be quite antisocial and not very friendly to newcomers. It was not my kind of hostel. However, it is in a fantastic location for exploring the city by bus and on foot, Highgate is a great area for nightlife, food and entertainment.
What to do?
Sunset at King's Park
King's Park is a highlight of visiting Perth and one not to be missed, these beautiful gardens are backed by the Botanic Gardens and sit high on a hill overlooking the city. Providing you with a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the park is best at sunset when you can really appreciate the beauty of Perth. You can access the park by bus or road, or you can take the more challenging way - Jacob's Ladder - a set of steep steps leading up to the park often full of fitness fanatics who run up and down for hours. Take a picnic, water and your camera for a lovely afternoon.
Have a drink at Hilary's Boat Harbour
I stumbled across Hilary's Boat Harbour on my wanderings around the city and had the loveliest time down there enjoying a drink overlooking the water while I planned some of my travels. There are lots of places to eat and drink down there and also a range of attractions and entertainment for the whole family, including access to trips on charter/fishing boats or over to Rottnest Island. Fancy keeping it simple - why not take a stroll along the boardwalk in the sunshine?
Eat and drink in Northbridge
Northbridge is just a short walk from Highgate - where I stayed - and the main city. It's a fabulous neighbourhood full of quirky places to eat and drink throughout the day and into the evening. I found a great little vegan restaurant called Flora and Fauna, which served the best range of brunches and juices I have found in a long time. Although I didn't get to go out while in the city - too much work on unfortunately - I've heard the nightlife is very good in this area as well.
Relax in the parks by Elizabeth Quay
Take in the views across the harbour and if the weather is good for you, why not grab a book and relax in the parks near Elizabeth Quay? It's a perfect place to take a time-out or grab some lunch to take down there and sit in the sunshine before going for a stroll among the amusements and across the bridge for great city views.
Explore the suburbs on foot
I like to keep fit and one of my favourite ways to explore a new city is on foot - whether by walking all day long or by heading out for a morning run. I discovered the absolutely beautiful Hyde Park not far from my hostel in just this way, think golden, brown, autumn leaves falling from the trees and benches overlooking a lake - heaven right in the middle of the city.
Step outside the city:
Surf or relax on Perth's famous beaches
Everyone says "you HAVE to go to Cottosloe Beach" and so, I did. But I couldn't help being a little disappointed. Yes it was beautiful and yes it was bathed in sunshine when I went. But in my opinion, it didn't even compare to having the whole of City Beach to yourself, or walking the endless sands of Scarborough watching dogs and surfers frolic in the waves. Definitely get yourself out to the beaches - they are Perth's sparkling gem - but don't always listen to what everyone says.
Spend a day in nearby Fremantle
Fremantle is the place that really stole my heart and I'll be posting in much more detail about life there, but even for those just visiting for a day there is lots to do. There are weekend markets for food and goodies, live music and entertainment in the streets, a brewery for beer and cider tastings, beaches, history and culture to explore. Just watch out - it's easy to get stuck here!
Head to Swan Valley for a wine tasting
While I was staying in Fremantle, my hostel organised a day trip around the wineries and local producers of Swan Valley. It was a fantastic day of free tastings and luxury food and drink and is definitely worth a visit if youre staying in the area. It's a great day on a budget because so many of the tastings are either free or cost just a few dollars - perfect for budget-conscious travelers or backpackers.
My favourite day in Perth by far was the one I spent walking all over the city exploring - it's a good city to explore on foot and especially if you're into fitness like myself. I set myself the challenge of walking as far as possible and took on Jacob's Ladder - one for the fitness fanatics - as well as walking over 15km across the city and King's Park then back to my hostel. It was a lovely day to walk in the sunshine and I would recommend exploring the city this way. I also loved my time at the beaches near the city - these were really very beautiful and a strong reminder that Perth's real charm is outside of the city. Now while Perth may not be my favourite city by far - I really did love my time in Fremantle and traveling up the coast so don't worry if you're not a fan - there is a version of Perth to suit all of us.
Have you been to Perth? What was your favourite part? What else did you do when you visited?