If you let Dan (better known as Aussie Bae) tell it, his hometown of Perth is a sleepy seaside town in the middle of nowhere, Australia. The reality he actually introduced me to (when we visited in March of this year), was a bustling city full of culture, gorgeous beaches and great food! I’d been dying to return to Australia, and my introduction to the East Coast was simply dreamy. Happily, work let me tag on a few days of remote work in Sydney and Melbourne to extend my time in Australia (where, among other highlights, I reunited with my dearly missed friend, Lisa, the lovely Julia, and met Georgia of George Eats!), but for this recap, I’m focusing on Perth. Highly recommend visiting, and hopefully this very detailed recap will help highlight some spots to visit if you make the trip over!
- King’s Park: We drove through this sprawling park, which is reportedly one of the largest inner city parks in the world. The views are incredible, with a very Australian bush-like landscape. We only drove through briefly, but I would have loved to spend more time walking around (it’s a perfect backdrop for picnic-ing!).
- Curtin University: Dan walked me around his alma mater, where I got my first glimpse of an Australian football field, the impressive architecture building, and an overall tour of an Australian university (spoiler alert: it looks a lot like an American university). We ended up taking an impromptu nap in a small hammock forest.
- Himalayan Nepalese Restaurant: Nepalese food is scarce in Houston, so I was very excited to visit this old haunt of Dan’s near Curtin. The vegetable momos (dumplings served with a deliciously thick curry sauce), saag paneer (a little sweeter than typical Indian restaurants and very addictive), the lightly fried barramundi with curried vegetables and rice, and particularly the cheese naan were outrageously good.
- Elizabeth Quay (pronounced “key”): We stopped here on the way home to walk around, and it’s really picturesque at night. There’s a pretty bridge you can walk over, tons of lit up features and quite a few restaurants (though most were closed except for a gelato spot).
- Kayaking at South Fremantle Dog Beach: Since Dan’s parents’ place in Fremantle was so close to the beach, we borrowed kayaks and walked over to kayak around this gorgeous beach. Tons of dogs were running around on the sand; it’s clearly a popular spot for morning walks, though it was very peaceful in the water.
- Koko Black: Dan carved out a special block of time to visit this chocolate spot at a local mall where we sampled an indulgent pastry. It was very representative of Australia, beautiful, delicious and expensive.
- Yagan Square: I believe this square was built to bridge the Perth CBD to Northbridge (a hip, nightlife area), and it’s a beautiful, sprawling space. We met Dan’s friend Emma in the CBD to explore, stopping at Market Hall in Yagan Square to get coffee (a food hall that reminded me in both architecture and offerings of Fareground in Austin). If you love food halls like I do, this is a must-visit!
- Taka’s: A quick bite (udon and sushi) at this nostalgic lunch spot for Dan was cheap and close. Definitely not a must-visit, but it is cheap!
- The Island Brew House at Elizabeth Quay: Loved this spot for afternoon tea! After wandering through downtown Perth (sights included the bell tower, the Perth library and the Treasury building), we ended up at Elizabeth Quay again, where we lazed in a huge porch swing on the patio with drinks. (And we inhaled a slice of the The Honeycake, a Czech sweet that was clearly the latest rage in Perth. It’s worth a try!)
- Bread in Common: We went to dinner with Dan’s parents in Fremantle to this super-hip spot (think communal tables and miniscule accroutements for the bread that included a $5, tiny white bean dip). We ordered bread, the sweet potatoes, squid, Japanese pumpkin, and a few other dishes. Outstanding fare, very small portions for the price—which everyone says is “typical Perth.”
- Rottnest Island: A must if you visit Perth! This renowned island is the only spot in the world where you can find quokkas, a cute-ish marsupial that looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a rat (the island was named after “rat nest” after a Dutch explorer mistook the island creatures for rats). We got up early to catch the 8:15am ferry to Rottnest from Fremantle, which was a short 25-30 min ferry ride. The island is about 11km long, so although you could trek around on foot in theory, it’s much more efficient to rent a bike and bike the loop around the island so you can visit the lighthouse and all the different beaches (you can also bring your own bike via the ferry and save yourself the $30/bike + helmet rental cost). There are tons of government-built vacation houses and a small town with a handful of restaurants, a tourist center, and even a small art gallery. We did the 1.5-3 hour bike loop that took us past what felt like endless scenic views, the Lighthouse (where you can take a paid tour, but we just looked around the outisde), roads filled with quokkas, salt plains, and a few different beaches where we stopped to laze around. The ride was far hillier than I expected, so I recommend wearing sneakers, not flip flops if you’re planning to bike! Even though I got bit by a lizard (a long story involving some pungent cheese) and thus became very distrustful of all moving creatures (particularly a quokka that crawled under our table when we stopped at the Rottnest Bakery for a snack), it was a magical experience.
Recommendations: bring your own water, sunscreen, a hat, a bike (if you have one), a few snacks (not pungent ones) and wear sneakers!
- Bivouac: My favorite place we ate in Perth! In a very exciting turn of events, Dan and I met my long-time blogger friend, Laura, and her husband Aaron, at Bivouac in the CBD! At dinner, Laura and I realized we’ve been following each other since 2012. Laura and Aaron were so funny, interesting and sweet and the food was phenomenal—after the previous night’s tiny portions, Dan and I were conditioned to overorder, and overorder we did (happily enabled by Laura and Aaron). Everything, from the generously-portioned fried potatoes and roasted cauliflower sides to the crispy barramundi and ricotta gnocchi, the huge, tender grilled boat of an eggplant topped with haloumi to the grilled kefalograviera with figs and lemon, was phenomenal. Don’t just take my word for it, this is also a favorite spot of Laura and Aaron: bonafide, expert locals.
- Mechanic’s Institute: We went to this rooftop bar afterwards for a drink. Did I mention how cool Laura and Aaron are? They are the best and I wish I had gotten a picture with them!
- Surf lessons at Scarborough: Dan had taken around 5 surfing lessons previously with this company. They set you up with a wetsuit, rashguard, surfboard and sunscreen if you need it, and I liked that they split us up into a beginner group and a more advanced group. The waves were quite choppy and they gave me a smaller board than I was used to, so overall it wasn’t my best session—but the picturesque beach was completely worth it and the instructors were friendly. Highly recommend!
- Sculpture Fest at Cottesloe: We drove over to Cottesloe afterwards to check out Sculpture Fest, which lasts through the month of March. It was a super fun, family-friendly atmosphere with tons of interesting artwork to look at. We stopped at one of the beachside cafes for fish and chips. Crispy potato wedges and salt-crusted, juicy fish under the hot sun after surfing: perfection.
- The Flour Factory/The Globe/Uncle Billy’s: On the way back from Cottesloe, we stopped at a fancy grocery store to poke around before meeting up with some of Dan’s friends in the CBD. Our mini bar crawl led through The Flour Factory and The Globe (trendy bars with okay drinks, would return for the ambiance) before we attempted going to Hummus Club for dinner (there were way too many of us to get in without a reservation–next time!). So we ended up at Uncle Billy’s, apparently a beloved hole in the wall dim sum place that’s always good for groups and a late night dining special (indeed, the dim sum is nothing special but it was a cool local experience).
- Fremantle Markets: If you love markets like I do, THIS WILL BE YOUR DREAM. There are tons of food stalls—from Turkish gozleme to Asian baos to Spanish paella to cupcake bakeries, a “New-York style cookie” stand, and more. We snacked on a hand roll, a huge, noodle-y wedge of spinach and cheese borek and a bubble waffle. All delicious. There are a fair amount of craft stalls as well, and I think there was quite a bit of the market that we didn’t explore. You could easily spend 2-3 hours shopping and snacking here.
- The Raw Kitchen: We meant to come here for lunch, but we were quite full after the markets. Dan’s parents, Dan and I split the jackfruit burger, hummus and cauliflower. In the realm of vegan cafes, this wasn’t a must-visit to me.
- Fremantle Prison: Since we were close by, we walked here afterwards. Although we didn’t take an official tour, it was interesting just walking around and reading some of the exhibition features. Apparently the prisoners (if on good behavior) used to be let out into the city all day, and only had to adhere to their curfew at night!
- Mundaring Hotel: Dan drove us up into the hills to this famous hotel—deep in the bush where the yards were thick with kangaroos! Emma and her friend came to meet us and we hung out on the sunny patio eating sweet potato fries. It was fairly dead when we went, but supposedly it is a great spot for dining and people-watching during the summer!
- The Sewing Room: We ended the trip with dinner at a Mediterranean place with Dan’s friends and briefly stopped by a couple bars before I had to call an early night to catch my flight to Melbourne the next day.
Conclusion: The East Coast isn’t the be all, end all of Australia! I loved Perth in all its laid back, natural beauty, hipster dining and bar scene, and potential for adventure. Later this year, I look forward to adding a Perth, part II series as Dan and I will be returning to Perth for a wedding (and hopefully doing some more travel along the West Coast)!