The Saturday City: Perth

Perth at NightThe city of Perth, Australia, was founded on June 12, 1829, by Captain James Stirling as the center for the Swan River Colony. Despite a slow start and skirmishes with the native Aborigines, the city prospered and grew. In 1850, an influx of convicts boosted the size of the colony, and their labor helped build the city.

The discovery of gold in the 1890s triggered a mineral boom that has still not subsided. This boom has been the key to Perth’s growth, as well as the growth of the whole of Western Australia.

Over the last few years, the rise of commodity prices and the subsequent mining and oil drilling boom has ballooned Perth’s population. The city is now a hub of activity and growth. (It grows 10% per year.) But despite all that growth, the city still remains a wonderful place to visit. It’s clean, the people are friendly, it’s easy to get around, and it sits right on the ocean.

To me, Perth embodies everything that Australia is about — rugged yet refined, modern but still rustic, relaxed but still moving.

As a young and modern city, there are a few “attractions” here. The Perth Cultural Center contains an art gallery, museum, the State Library, and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. King’s Park is a large and lush park that is full of native flora and fauna. It provides a fantastic view of the city, especially at night. There is a great aquarium in the city, too. Additionally, you can also get tours of the Swan River, which also provides great views of the city. If you are looking to get out of Perth, the city of Fremantle is a quick train ride away.

Perth buildingsIf the heat (and it gets really hot) gets to you, head to Perth’s famous beaches. Perth has a number of good beaches: Cottesloe Beach (one of the most popular), Swanbourne Beach (nude beach), City Beach (also very popular), Scarborough Beach (great for surfing), and Trigg Beach (also popular for surfing), among others. No matter what your tastes are, there is a beach in Perth for you.

On Sundays, Cottesloe fills with young adults engaging in one of Australia’s most time honored traditions — the Sunday Session. The Aussies love to drink on Sundays, and the Sunday Session at the Cottesloe Hotel is famous throughout the country. Even if Australians have never been to Perth, they know about “The Cott.” It’s that good. Don’t miss it!

At night, the action heads down to Northbridge. There, the natives unwind with a good beer and socialize until the early morning hours. One thing that I found really nice about Perth was just how friendly people were. Normally, you go out to the bars, and people are stand-offish when you try to strike up a conversation. But in Perth, everyone talks. The city is a great place to meet people — I found the locals to be very friendly. Northbridge may get crowded and sometimes a little rowdy, but everyone’s always willing to talk.

To many Australians, Perth is a world away. The majority of the country’s population lives on the east coast and rarely venture off it. To them, Perth might as well be another country. Perth always seems to be the end of the world — far removed from the rest of the country.

But any visit to Australia that doesn’t include this city leaves out a truly Australian experience.

  1. Hey Matt, nice to hear your positive thoughts about my hometown :-) Some people say it’s boring, but I just say they’re not looking hard enough, and your list does make it sound like there’s plenty to do (and you didn’t even mention the vineyards and breweries of the Swan Valley). The growth rate of our economy is still huge because of the mining boom in the north (which is mostly because of China’s economic growth) – it won’t last forever but it’s nice while it does.

  2. NomadicMatt

    @quick: get there soon!

    @the dude: great advice!

    @jari: thanks for the compliments. I’ll check out your site.

    @language dude: You need to go. It’s an amazing place! Their growth is tied to China’s growth so I suspect you’ll eventually see it slow.

    @Amanda: I love perth!!! I know I did not include the other stuff but I was simply focusing on the city itself. The growth rate won’t last forever…but neither will your water! :)

    @debo: The new look suits me well!

  3. Cris

    We just left Perth, 2 days ago we were there, and I was expecting more from the city.
    I know a lot of people that have lived there, are living there or are going to live there, so I guess I was expecting to much.
    It is a pretty city, and true, it is very Australian. Kings Park is amazing.
    But I don’t know if I would live there. I new it is isolated, but for a 1,5 million people city, I found it a bit boring, as this 1,5 is very very spread and you feel like your are always in a small town.
    I also thought weird not seeing people walking on the streets, everyone drives, because everything is so far and the public transport to the suburbs is not wide enough. So when I was walking, drivers used to look at me with that face “why is this crazy girl walking?”

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