Perth, Australia

Too few visitors to Australia bypass Perth due to its distance from the east coast. I can hardly blame them: despite being Australian I didn’t make it over until my 27th year. But for a relatively warm winter break, Perth was an ideal destination, and I can only imagine how lovely, hot and great for nightlife it would be in summer.

The combination of events that caused me to book my flights over to the west was the need for a holiday after a busy university trimester, the presence of a couple of friends over there, and the flights being cheaper than I thought at only a few hundred dollars (at least until I changed the dates a couple of times – I really should stop doing that).

I arrived in Perth on Friday night, checked into my hostel to immediately find that it was lovely, clean and homely; but not at all partyish or social. My Perth friend was not responding so I was forced to head out by myself, and head I did. I had passed by a bar that played retro – 80s, 90s music – on a Friday, so in there I went. The music was indeed great, but I ended up leaving to try out a few other bars and have a wander around. There were quite a few open air venues that would have been wonderful during warm weather – which Perth experiences for probably 80% of the year, but I happened to be there in the middle of winter – but were cold, windy and empty at that time. I was feeling a little concerned at this point that I was a bit crazy to be in Perth by myself, and that I might run out of things to do. But after heading back to the 80s, 90s bar I met some friendly people from Canberra in the line and we all danced to the music inside, and I also met some others, resulting in an unexpectedly fun night.

The next day I rose and had a very delicious chai latte over a local newspaper in a cafe near the hostel. I then walked around the town, feeling cheerful and excited about the week ahead. It was sunny and none too cold despite being winter. I walked around near the hostel (which was close to/in the city) and took photographs while listening to my audiobook of The Fault in Our Stars, which I was really enjoying. This is indeed my latest favourite travel activity: walking around, looking at things and soaking up the atmosphere while listening to a good audiobook.

I walked through the city to soak up the atmosphere and then down to the big famous Kings Park that overlooked the sea. I took some photos, including of a very large and elaborate bridal party that were there, then sat on the grass with many other tourists and enjoyed a particularly poignant part of The Fault in Our Stars. I had a tasty lunch at the cafe in the garden – possibly called The Botanical or similar – at an outdoor table overlooking the park.

It was then I received a reply to a message I had sent to a friend I had met in Nha Trang who, as I had seen on Facebook, happened to be visiting his sister in Perth. He replied to invite me to his sister’s 30th birthday that night, and said he would pick me up at about 4pm. I was thrilled and accepted.

With this deadline, I headed back towards my hostel. As the party’s theme was ‘bogans and divas’, I bought a pair of long black gloves in a sock shop in an alley way to match a simple black dress I had brought in an effort to construct a ‘diva’ costume. I then returned to the hostel to quickly get ready to be picked up.

The party was a very merry, although small affair. In typical Perth style it was mostly set in the backyard, although it was rather biting cold – as it was the middle of winter – so I wore my coat most of the time. It was great fun to dance and party with all the locals, especially those who were working in various more regional locations, doing FIFO and mine work.

As I didn’t get back to central Perth (the party was a little way out in a suburb) until the next afternoon, I just had enough time for a pizza lunch in a tucked away food court and a nap before getting ready to join some of the visiting Norwegians that had been at the previous party, and most of the party’s guests, at one of the guest’s farewell dinners and a few drinks at a pub on Sunday night. Apparently it is a pub that is supposed to be famous and busy on a Sunday, but it was not! Perfectly suitable for a few quiet drinks and some pizza, though.

On Monday I had determined to head to Margaret River, so after walking around more of the town I did so. By the time the bus arrived it was dinner time, so I had a burrito and an interesting chilli mango margarita in a Mexican restaurant before turning in at the hostel.

The next day I had booked onto a wine tour that had been recommended by the party host and her boyfriend, so the minivan came to get me in the morning. It came earlier than it was meant to so I didn’t have time to eat breakfast! This proved a mild problem as we started sampling wines early, and until I could have some food the wine hit me unnecessarily. Nonetheless it was a fun day of meeting other young travellers: we went to three different wineries, including one at which we had a gourmet, buffet lunch; as well as a liqueur place, the Margaret River Chocolate factory and a brewery.

On the bus back to the town some English travellers were discussing kicking on so I invited myself to join them and we went straight to a pub in town to have dinner. We then went back to their very nice accommodation, complete with a spa, and had a couple more drinks, including in the very hot spa. However I had filled myself up too much with food and could not handle even another drink, so it wasn’t long before I headed back to the hostel for another relatively early night – with my roommates not returning for several hours!

The next day was raining and I quickly realised there wasn’t a lot to do in Margaret River town itself: one needed to hire a car and go driving around, which wasn’t something I was going to do on my own. So I changed my bus ticket to that afternoon and after having a delicious three course lunch in a restaurant that had been recommended the previous day, caught the bus back to Perth to my new, party-friendly hostel, which was happy to extend my reservation.

Back at the Perth hostel I was immediately greeted by my friendly roommates who invited me out for cheap Wednesday backpacker drinks. However, I was too exhausted so simply had to decline in favour of sleep.

The next day I was on another wine tour I had booked the night before, this time of the Swan Valley region. I’m actually surprised it went ahead, as there was only myself and one other couple on the tour, and the couple apparently only booked onto it that day! Nonetheless go ahead it did, with the minibus picking all three of us up and being joined by a guy from Hong Kong (or was it China?) who wasn’t even supposed to be on that day’s tour but was allowed to join.

I believe I enjoyed this day more than the previous wine tour. It was cheaper and more intimate, our guide gave us more information (compared with practically none during the Margaret River tour) as we drove, and I preferred the places we stopped at. We also went to a different chocolate place – although it was also the Margaret River Chocolate Company – that had a big, different section where we could try preserves and liqueurs as well as chocolates. And our final destination was also a brewery, but we had a free drink and a platter of food included.

Back in Perth I was excited to head out with my hostel mates, but naturally no one was heading out that night. So I went out by myself, to the only place I found that was busy: a relatively small but packed bar that always had live music. There I met some Englishmen who were on leave from their FIFO work, and together we all walked to another allegedly happening bar in the city. It probably would have been happening later in the night but was too quiet for us at that point in our jovial mood so the bartender very kindly recommended the place that would be happening: a bar/club that we needed to train or taxi out to. Well she was quite right: the venue was definitely happening, full of people and the place to be. Excitement!

Unfortunately, however, my English companions did not bring their passports and the venue wouldn’t accept non-Australian IDs – which seemed commonplace in Perth. Rookie error! (I happened to only have my passport with me due to waiting for my interstate licence to be processed, leaving me license-less). So we tried around the corner at another place people apparently go to after the first place. It was smaller but equally happening so we danced the night away there. Nightlife score!

The next day I had to set my alarm and be up much earlier than I wanted to as I was waiting for a call from an employer. The call never came but it forced me to get up and go so I took the train to Fremantle. Here I went to the Little Creatures Brewery, where I had a nice pizza and wine (I know, not beer) for lunch overlooking the sea.

Afterwards it unfortunately began to rain, so I waited inside and happened to overhear a walking tour of the brewery beginning, so I joined in. I had to pop out during the tour to take the call I was expecting, but I rejoined it in time for the samples at the end. I then had a chat with the two other travellers on the tour as we waited for the rain to end.

Back in Perth I headed out on Friday after enjoying a famous burger at a famous burger place and glass of wine. Although some people were hanging out in the hostel having a drink, they didn’t seem to be up to much else so I went and found some friendly people in a line to a big pub-like venue (it was also 4th of July, so people were thematically revelling) and hung out with them in said venue. There I also met a new local friend and his brother, who invited me to head out with them the next night.

The next day, Saturday, I took the bus to Scarborough beach, where I had a tasty lunch on a table overlooking the sea. I relaxed on the steps that overlooked the beach itself for a bit – the weather was warm and sunny – before heading back into Perth.

Outside the hostel I ran into some roommates who were having a drink in the sunshine. They invited me to join them, but I went for a run around the streets nearby to a nearby park, which was quite pretty, all the while listening to a short story of Tim Winton’s authorship.

Back at the hostel they had disappeared to watch a movie on the TV; but eventually, after I got ready, I joined a couple of them to have a drink at the neighbouring hostel, before leaving to join the Perth local I had met the night before and his friends at a kitsch bar. We then crawled onto another indoor venue but found the atmosphere was a tad lacking so joined the first friend’s brother at the originally intended club.

This club was so busy and popular that the line was extremely long. However, my friend managed to get us in because he and his brother knew the owner somehow, so the brother came out and we skipped the line. Inside we met a couple of girls and hung out with them too, and I ran into an old university acquaintance I hadn’t seen for a long time.

The next day after an afternoon nap I took the bus to Cottlesloe Beach to check out the famed restaurant/bar. Unfortunately it was cold and windy, and it turned out what used to be a crazy, pumping Sunday session venue is no longer, and is now just a quiet venue for a drink. I had some tasty pizza and a glass of wine before heading back to town.

The next day – my last – I wandered Perth city again before having lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant. I even got a lift to the airport from my new Perth friend, who works early hours so had finished work by then. And ultimately, I had probably as good a time in Perth as I’ve had in overseas cities, due to random adventures and meeting new people. Bring on the next trip!

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