Eat, play, cy­cle

Perth has come of age and vis­i­tors are spoilt for choice

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LYN­DALL CRISP

THE most iso­lated cap­i­tal city in the world, Perth, with its pop­u­la­tion of just over 1.7 mil­lion, is not only a great step­ping stone to some of the most beau­ti­ful scenic out­back des­ti­na­tions but it’s be­come a hot spot for gourmet cui­sine, qual­ity lo­cal wines, lux­ury shop­ping and night-life.

And with a cli­mate that’s a cross be­tween Cal­i­for­nian and Mediter­ranean (Fe­bru­ary is the hottest month and July the wettest), there’s a wide choice of sport­ing and leisure ac­tiv­i­ties.

Three events have con­trib­uted to chang­ing Perth’s rep­u­ta­tion dur­ing the past few decades: the Bri­tish Em­pire and Com­mon­wealth Games in 1962, the Amer­ica’s Cup in 1987 and, more re­cently and most sig­nif­i­cantly, the rag­ing re­sources boom.

It’s an easy city to nav­i­gate, with few traf­fic jams and lots of park­ing at the pris­tine beaches along the In­dian Ocean coast­line, only 12km away. ‘‘Peo­ple go into rap­tures, Perth’s time has re­ally ar­rived,’’ Lord Mayor Lisa Scaf­fidi says.

‘‘We are blessed with a lot of open space in and around the city. Peo­ple are re­al­is­ing that, be­ing a lit­tle bit younger, we’ve prob­a­bly learned from the mis­takes other cities have made and we’re evolv­ing in an­other way. We’ve got a unique sense of self, we know we’re dif­fer­ent, we’re not try­ing to be sim­i­lar; we will main­tain our unique­ness while grow­ing.’’

One of Scaf­fidi’s favourite Sun­day treats is to cy­cle along the Swan River (it takes about an hour to travel the length of the path), stop­ping en route at one of the many cafes. Ped­alling through 400ha of nat­u­ral bush­land in Kings Park with its stun­ning city views is an­other. In 1872 it be­came Aus­tralia’s first park to be des­ig­nated for pub­lic use and is the largest in­ner-city park in the world. Note the many trees that bear plaques ded­i­cated by lo­cal fam­i­lies of ser­vice­men and women who died in the two world wars.

Perth prides it­self on its ca­sual life­style, and its in­for­mal­ity makes it an at­trac­tive hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. Con­sider a beer at the Crea­tures Loft bar over­look­ing Fish­ing Boat Har­bour or a seat at the Perth In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val ( launched in 1953 and the long­est-run­ning an­nual in­ter­na­tional multi-arts fes­ti­val in the south­ern hemi­sphere). Or how about an af­ter­noon brows­ing some of the 17,000 works at the Art Gallery of West­ern Aus­tralia, bril­liantly di­rected by Ste­fano Car­boni, or some re­tail ther­apy at the brand new, light and breezy Clare­mont Quar­ter, just 10 min­utes’ drive from the CBD? 1. Perth pod­casts: The i-Walk City of Perth Trails are the way to ex­pe­ri­ence his­tory and cul­ture in a for­mat that’s flex­i­ble, fun and free. A se­ries of au­dio tracks pro­vides in­for­ma­tion and sto­ries about sig­nif­i­cant land­marks and di­rec­tions be­tween lo­ca­tions. The i-Walk City of Perth Trails can be down­loaded to any MP3-com­pat­i­ble player. There are three in the se­ries: Boom or Bust Lo­ca­tions Map (the rise of Perth in the 1890s af­ter the dis­cov­ery of gold in the re­gion); Icons of In­flu­ence (fo­cus­ing on sig­nif­i­cant land­marks); and Con­victs and Colo­nials (an in­ter­est­ing look at the legacy of con­victs). More: showmeperth.com.au/pod­casts. 2. Pedes­trian laneways: In 2008, the City of Perth em­barked on a pro­ject to re­ju­ve­nate four of its lit­tle-known pedes­trian laneways that weave through the CBD. Wolf Lane was com­pleted sev­eral years ago and Grand Lane ear­lier this year, with McLean yet to be started. Opened late in 2009, Howard Lane, in the heart of the city’s fi­nan­cial quar­ter, was given an ex­ten­sive facelift, in­clud­ing the restora­tion of the orig­i­nal cob­ble­stone pave­ment.

Where once the area was dead come sun­set, it’s now the cat­a­lyst for re­tail out­lets and a lively al fresco din­ing scene. Two new small bars, An­daluz and Hel­vetica, are per­fect for any ren­dezvous, or just a drink at the end of a busy day. The lane’s dom­i­nated by a large wall mu­ral ti­tled The Con­ver­sa­tion, by in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised ur­ban artist Stormie Mills, and a night-for­est themed work by Yok.

Grand Lane, off Mur­ray Street, fea­tures a 99m-long mu­ral by Vic­to­rian artist Scott Neoh and Ja­panese artist Hiroy­asu Tsuri (known as Bon­sai and Two-One). Art lovers will en­joy both lanes, but lo­cal artists are un­der­stand­ably miffed that their tal­ent wasn’t har­nessed. More: perth.wa.gov.au/grand­lane­mu­ral. 3. Down­Stairs at the Maj: His Majesty’s Theatre, built in 1904, is one of Perth’s most loved his­toric build­ings. Great names have per­formed here over the years, in­clud­ing John Giel­gud, Rex Har­ri­son, Katharine Hep­burn, Vivien Leigh, Lau­rence Olivier, Nel­lie Melba, Anna Pavlova and Mar­got Fonteyn, and its Mu­seum of Per­form­ing Arts houses more than 30,000 items of mem­o­ra­bilia.

But the theatre has an­other at­trac­tion. Tucked un­der the Ed­war­dian struc­ture is the cosy li­censed cabaret venue aptly called Down­Stairs at the Maj, which hosts a range of com­edy and mu­si­cal acts by Perth-based artists as well as top in­ter­na­tional per­form­ers. Beware: au­di­ence mem­bers are of­ten in­vited to take part. More: his­majestysthe­atre.com.au. 4. An­gove Street, North Perth: This street has its own free fes­ti­val (in April), and with so many at­trac­tions on of­fer its rep­u­ta­tion is on the up. The east end of An­gove Street is home to an eclec­tic group of shops and cafes, in­clud­ing Milkd, which of­fers Wi-Fi and award-win­ning cof­fee com­bi­na­tions such as Maria’s spe­cial­ity (a dou­ble espresso over ice with a dash of sugar syrup). Nearby Rose­mount Ho­tel is said to be one of the best pubs in the city, and gain­ing solid lo­cal sup­port is rel­a­tive new­comer Il Cir­colo, which of­fers friendly ser­vice and au­then­tic Ital­ian cook­ing. Up the road, de­sign house and re­tailer Fu­ture Shel­ter is worth vis­it­ing and around the cor­ner in View Street is Ray Costarella’s stu­dio and shop- front lo­cated in North Perth’s old post of­fice build­ing; his de­signs are ex­quis­ite and his sales are a must. More: fu­tureshel­ter.com; milkd. com.au; au­re­lio­costarella.com.au. 5. The Bak­ery, James Street, North­bridge: Perth’s lead­ing con­tem­po­rary arts per­for­mance venue has been re­fur­bished and has a large court­yard and bar made al­most en­tirely from dis­used ship­ping con­tain­ers. There’s a large live mu­sic space where you can catch acts such as Unkle, Dar­win Deez, The Go! Team, Fresh Faced Fol­lies, Sex Po­ems, Ikonika, Steve Ig­no­rant and Ru­ins Alone. More: now­bak­ing.com.au. 6. Mid­land Ate­lier, Mid­land: In the old Foundry Build­ing and Pat­tern Shop of the his­toric Gov­ern­ment Rail­way Work­shop site, the de­vel­op­ment isn’t com­plete yet but some de­signer stu­dios are al­ready up and run­ning, with vis­its by ap­point­ment.

A cen­tre for ex­cel­lence, Mid­land Ate­lier com­bines creativ­ity and in­no­va­tion with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers work­ing across medi­ums from photo- gra­phy and fash­ion to jew­ellery and fur­ni­ture de­sign. Each artist has their own stu­dio, the idea be­ing to share their skills and cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for learn­ing and ex­chang­ing ideas. More: mid­lan­date­lier.com. 7. Mt Clare­mont Farm­ers Mar­ket: Held ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing since 2007 at the Mt Clare­mont Pri­mary School, the mar­ket has grown from eight to 45 stalls and at­tracts more than 2000 vis­i­tors a week.

The mar­ket is a school com­mu­nity-based pro­ject that al­lows farm­ers, food pro­duc­ers and chefs to sell fresh fruit and veg and associated gourmet prod­ucts di­rectly to cus­tomers. It is man­aged by vol­un­teers, with 100 per cent of net op­er­at­ing pro­ceeds go­ing to the school and lo­cal com­mu­nity projects. It’s the per­fect place to buy fab­u­lous good­ies for a pic­nic in any of Perth’s many stun­ning parks. More: mount­clare.schooljot­ter.com.

west­er­naus­tralia.com Next week in our Se­cret Seven se­ries: Queens­land’s Gold Coast

TOURISM WEST­ERN AUS­TRALIA

The old Swan Brew­ery and Perth city sky­line are some of the sights to take in while cy­cling be­side the Swan River

TOURISM WEST­ERN AUS­TRALIA

The Crea­tures Loft bar at the Lit­tle Crea­tures brew­ery is a pop­u­lar hang­out

Kings Park in­cor­po­rates 400ha of nat­u­ral bush­land

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