When I arrived in Perth, Australia I was expecting a scene from Summer Bay, the fictional beachside town from an Australia soap opera I watched as a kid. I was very happy to be proven wrong as the day after arriving my friend there took me out to a swanky rooftop bar full of sharply dressed business types out for after work cocktails. I have family in Perth, so any time I wasn’t spending with my twin nephews was spent out exploring the most isolated city on earth, quite a title. Perth is a health-freak’s paradise, and rightly so. EVERYTHING is based outside because of the year-round gorgeous weather: exercising, eating, drinking, playing, entertainment, everything. It also has an impressive Central Business District with stunning skyscrapers, shopping malls and the newly renovated Elizabeth Quay. The Swan River runs through the city and is clean enough for fishing, watersports, swimming; everything you can do in the ocean, unlike other urban waterways.
Which brings me to the best thing about Perth, and Western Australia in general. The beaches. These beaches rival the Maldives, Zanzibar and controversially beaches on the east coast like Bondi. Going “down south” to the wineries and breweries in Margaret River is one of the best things to do near Perth. If you can’t spare the three hour drive, try Swan Valley 30 minutes from the city which has the benefit of specialising in chocolate too!
There’s not much to the north of the city, other than the Pinnacles about a two hour drive away. It’s a spread of unusual rock formations and just beyond that is Cervantes, where you can find sand dunes like you’ve never seen before. They are the size of small mountains and have to be seen to be believed. Perth has its own version of the Hamptons, a small island called Rottness, that all the cool kids scramble to secure accommodation in January when it’s too hot to do anything in the city. The boat takes about 40 minutes and there’s no cars allowed on the island so most people get around on bikes or the shuttle bus. There’s one pub which everyone goes to and it’s usually good fun.
If you’re too scared of the sharks and jellyfish, or aren’t beach-bod ready, King’s Park is definitely worth checking out. There’s tons of green space, as well as botanic gardens and cafes. The views of the city and the river are phenomenal and during the summer there’s an outdoor cinema in the evening. My other favourite spot is Fremantle, an industrial port town that has transformed from hippy to hipster. The harbour is lined with amazing bars and restaurants. My favourite is Little Creatures brewery, a local craft beer which is now drunk all over the world. The historic architecture of Freo, especially the prison built in 1855, gives the town a distinctive feel compared to shiny, modern urban sprawls found elsewhere in the country.
All of this adds up to a pretty idyllic life. How can Western Australia possibly be the global capital of crystal meth (“ice”) addicts? And Australia the country with the fastest growing (no pun intended) levels of obesity? Once you travel inland a little, the communities grow less wealthy, less employed, less healthy, less educated and less white. Anyone visiting Australia ought to be aware of its Indigenous People, both the history and the current situation. People can draw their own conclusions but here are a few facts that paint a picture.
· Indigenous people make up 3% of the population but 30% of the prison population.
· 66% of non-Indigenous children remain in education until aged 17 compared to 36% of their Indigenous counterparts.
· Life expectancy is an average of 79.7 years for non-Indigenous Australians compared to 69.1 years of Indigenous people.