With a new flight making Perth even easier to reach, it's a great time to visit Western Australia's capital city. Joanna Booth reports
Australians may think Perth is miles from anywhere, separated from the country’s eastern cities by vast deserts.
However, it’s actually closer to the UK than any of Australia’s other gateways. Qatar Airways launched a thrice-weekly service in July that flies there in just under 19 hours.
The airline will fly daily from December, joining Emirates, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways, which already do so.
After they touch down, clients will find an open, expansive city that feels spacious and laid-back, despite its bustle.
It’s the sunniest state capital in Australia, with a whopping 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, and plenty of cracking beaches and parks to enjoy them in.
It’s also a growing city with many employment opportunities, so you’ll find plenty of clients heading out to visit friends and relatives.
WHERE TO STAY
Keep your eyes open for new hotel options over the next year or so – Tourism Western Australia intends to create 1,900 new rooms across the city by 2020.
The Terrace Hotel opened last month offering 15 luxury suites in the city’s West End, within walking distance of many of the city’s attractions. Formerly a bishop’s residence, the 1890s building has a fine dining restaurant and sommelier’s tasting room attached to its 3,000-bottle wine vault.
Upcoming openings include the five-star Fraser Suites, a towering block of apartment accommodation on the foreshore of the Swan River, The Quincy, a 56-room four-star, and there are also plans to build Crown Towers Perth, a 500-room six-star in the Burswood Entertainment Complex, which is undergoing a £475 million redevelopment.
Existing hotel stock includes brands to suit lower budgets – Kuoni and Austravel both offer Ibis and Travelodge – and top of the range, with properties from the Crowne Plaza, Hyatt Regency and Hilton. Anzcro recommends boutique options where leisure clients won’t be lumped in with business guests, including the three-star, family-run Sullivan’s Hotel and a sleek five-star, The Richardson Hotel & Spa.
Mid-range choices include the Mercure, which is in the heart of the city with a rooftop pool, and a couple of self-contained apartment options for those who like a kitchen area, including Esplanade River Suites and Mounts Bay Waters.
WHAT TO DO
Perth is a city centred on the great outdoors, from its Indian Ocean beaches – including famous surf-mecca Cottesloe – and the bushland of Kings Park to the Swan River, which cuts the city in half.
The central business district and the nearby area of Northbridge are shopping and entertainment hubs, with the latter famed for its restaurants and home to the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Western Australia Museum.
Attraction World’s Perth Urban Adventure (£29) is a locally-guided walking tour that will help clients get under the city’s skin with stories from pre-European history, the times of English settlement and beyond.
Kings Park is a must – one of the world’s largest inner city parks, with cultivated gardens and untamed bushland, fascinating Aboriginal history and a treetop walkway. It’s on the banks of the Swan River, where visitors can do everything from windsurf or jet-ski in the city centre to take a cruise out to the nearby Swan Valley wine region for tastings.
Most operators offer day tours that explore Perth and visit the nearby port city of Fremantle where visitors will find boutique breweries and fresh seafood, and the Swan Valley, where there’s often a stop at Caversham Wildlife Park to see kangaroos and koalas. Wine cruises are easily bookable, and day tours to car-free Rottnest Island, home to pristine beaches and unique flora and fauna including the tiny, wallaby-like quokkas.
Rockingham, 45 minutes south of the city, offers the chance to swim with wild dolphins, and see penguins and sea lions at the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. Do Something Different’s dolphin swim costs £145.
More nature and wildlife are available in the Pinnacles Desert (pictured). Day trips – Kuoni’s starts from £129 – include the chance to hand-feed koalas, explore the limestone structures of the Pinnacles and sand-board at Lancelin beach.
Four hours south of Perth is Margaret River, a slow-paced region with a great food and wine scene. Gold Medal introduced a two-day guided coach tour of the region this year (from £945), which includes wine tasting and visits to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse at Australia’s most southwesterly point. Self-drives will give clients time to move at their own pace – Cox & Kings recommends staying at Cape Lodge or Pullman Resort Bunker Bay.
North of Perth will suit more active clientele, with rugged coastline and fantastic marine life. Travel 2 has a six-day Coral Coast and Dolphins self-drive (from £429) that runs through deserts and coastal gorges and stops at Monkey Mia where dolphins swim right into the shore.
Further north lie Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef, where clients will find amazing diving and the chance to swim with giant whale sharks. Anzcro offers whale shark swims with qualified naturalists from £200. For those who don’t want to drive, there are flights between Perth and Exmouth
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