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The Perth Hit List: What to do and where to go on a three or five day stay

From quokkas to the Swan River: let this be your go-to guide to going west

Photograph: Long Chim

It’s the only capital city in Australia where you can watch the sun set over the ocean, but that’s not the only reason Perth is now one of the coolest places to visit. Once known only for its pristine beaches, Perth’s love of food and culture is capturing the attention of tastemakers. Blame it on Instagram or the perfect weather – no one can explain how WA’s capital city made its way onto the international radar – but the latest frenzy of new hotel openings, a statewide culinary scene that is booming and a string of new urban projects may provide some clues. Stay a little longer and you can explore ancient caves and award winning wineries just three hours ‘down south’ around Margaret River.

Stay: Como the Treasury

Most recently known as “the place Pippa Middleton stayed at during her Aussie honeymoon”, Como is a must for those who like plush outposts while on the road. The hotel was also most recently voted as the second best hotel in the world by Conde Nast. Como is a part of a $580 million redevelopment of the city’s Cathedral Avenue and spans the top three floors of three historic buildings. The rooms are Scandi-chic with minimal décor that allows the natural bones of the period architecture to shine and for your mind to reach a place of Zen. The top-floor, glass-encased restaurant, Wildflower, is ‘Fine Dining’ but without the expected stuffy silver service. The kangaroo smoked over jarrah and served with blueberries is like a Jenny Kee creation exploding in your mouth – a must-try dish.

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Perth Central

Stay: Aloft Perth

Perth was once regarded as Boom Town thanks to the iron ore and resources market explosion of the mid-2000s, but boutique hotels are the new thriving industry thanks to seven opening in the city in the past year. The locals and travellers alike cannot get enough of Aloft. Situated in Rivervale, a ten-minute drive to the city and 15 minutes from the airport, the hotel is perfect for those who are after an affordable yet sophisticated stay. Aimed at tech-savvy travellers who like a great breakfast buffet and à la carte menu, it’s one of kind in WA right now. The beds are great, the design by artists like Ben Barretto and Anya Brock is too, but the floor-to-ceiling windows are the best feature, taking full advantage of the natural sunlight and sweeping Swan River views.

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Eat: Lamonts Swan Valley

The original and the best, Lamonts was the first of the family-owned wine and gourmet food outlets to be established out in the Swan Valley in the 1970s, while the inner-city establishments in the CBD and Cottesloe are institutions, the original winery is a must-see for foodies. Choose either a wine tasting or pair the tipples with food from the specially designed tasting menus. In the mood for something sweeter or lighter? Head up the road to the new Little Lamonts Express for a coffee and swag of cheeses, fresh bread and dips.

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Eat: Bib and Tucker

This modern Australian restaurant-slash-pizza joint is a triple threat, with great atmosphere for breakfast, brunch and supper, friendly staff and cracking coffee. The beachfront location isn’t bad either. Order the green egg white omelette and drink in the view of Leighton Beach along with a salted caramel shake or one of the many breakfast cocktails. Stay for sundown in summer to enjoy one of two lavish set menus or (if you’re rocking a party of at least ten) a whole suckling pig.

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North Fremantle
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Drink: Sweetwater Rooftop Bar

The odd ocean glimpse from the sixth level roof top bar is almost as delicious as the cocktails. As the top-floor tenant at East Fremantle’s Richmond Quarter complex, the Sweetwater experience is a like a little sip of New York, south of the river. Entry is via an exclusive lift and the bartenders can help those who appreciate classic cocktails – order a Chicago Fizz. The food is courtesy of Leigh Power, of Gingerboy fame, and equally impressive. Asian-fusion bar bites are a must-try.

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Play: Selfie with a quokka

Play: Selfie with a quokka

Rottnest Island – or Rotto – is an A-class nature reserve boasting 63 white-as-snow beaches perfect for snorkelling, diving, surfing off the back breaks and posting to Instagram with #nofilter. Jump on a ferry from Fremantle or Barrack Street Jetty, where the ride will take about an hour and either stay for the day lapping up the sun or overnight at one of the many chalets or inside Hotel Rottnest, the only hotel on the island for now. A new marina and luxury glamping experience, which is expected to open in late 2017, will no doubt attract more visitors “overseas”. One thing that won’t change is the quokkas. The marsupials are native to Rottnest and are heavily protected, yet love to investigate and mingle with new visitors, especially those who have visited Rottnest Bakery – be warned, your sourdough will not be safe. They are the main patrons of Hotel Rottnest’s beer garden so if you are lucky, expect meet the furry critters up close. Remember to always approach with caution when leaning in for a selfie.

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Play: Sunset swim at Fays Bay

Play: Sunset swim at Fays Bay

During the summer many of Perth’s beaches can get a little gusty,  thanks to the Fremantle Doctor sweeping through every afternoon. However, if you’re over on Rotto, there is Fays Bay. This hidden spot between Longreach and popular mooring spot Geordie Bay is protected by a backdrop of sand dunes and a limestone ridge that tempers the sea breeze for a postcard-worthy snap-and-swim while watching the sun sink into the water.

Play: Cycle the Bridges route around Swan River

To cyclists, Perth may be considered the Scandinavia of the south – the city is home to hundreds of kilometres of bike paths safely tucked away from busy roads. Some also offer a great way to see the city with the wind in your hair. Set aside about two hours for the popular Bridges Ride or hire a bike for the whole day from just $24. The 16-kilometre loop takes in the Bell Tower and offers uninterrupted city views from the South Perth foreshore. Call into the Millpoint Caffe Bookshop for an energising coffee or juice and continue on taking in the Windan Bridge, great for avid bird watchers where many a feathered friend resides around Burswood Lakes.

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Perth Central
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Play: Yoga class at The Raw Kitchen

For those that have a regular practice, whether it’s Vinyasa, Hatha Flow or Iyengar, the in-house studio above this great eatery in Fremantle has got you and your downward dog covered. Classes are held at various times every day in the spacious shala upstairs on the mezzanine level. Once you’ve shavasana-ed, head downstairs to experience the restaurant, a leading plant-based eatery. All dishes are made with natural wholefoods – no dairy, gluten, refined sugars or additives feature on the menu.

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Fremantle

Spend three nights in Perth...

Stay: The Lodging

Fremantle is renowned for coffee and colonial architecture; the Lodging exploits both. This contemporary guesthouse is a restored terrace with bones dating all the way back to the late 1800s, well positioned on bustling High Street and just walking distance to some of the suburb’s delicious and cosy cafés, bars and restaurants. Ten guests sleep comfortably inside the four suites that boast modern, monochrome décor thanks to ornate fireplaces and four-poster beds. The bathrooms all feature Grown Alchemist products while the walls serve as canvases for black-and-white prints of pop culture icons like Elvis and Sophia Loren. Book either one room and share the kitchen and living spaces with other travellers or take the entire house exclusively.

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Stay: Alex Hotel

Situated right in the beating heart of Perth’s cultural hub is a hotel gaining a reputation not only for its exquisite breakfast buffet, Italian sheets and Turkish cotton towels, but for its roof top. Perth is blessed with some of the best weather in the country, so catch a glimpse of the sunset before it dips over the horizon during cocktail hour or hot desk with a coffee during the day in one of the many communal spaces. The rooms are small but functional, but why be inside watching Netflix when you can pop downstairs and catch a live show around the corner at the Black Swan Theatre Company or grab a world-famous toastie from Toastface Grillah, the sandwich shop just down the road that was rated third on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat list in 2016?

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Perth Central

Eat: Bread in Common

Ensconced inside a 1898 heritage-listed building on Freo’s bustling Pakenham Street, the eatery and bakery is not only for carb enthusiasts. While all dishes on the menu are designed to be paired with the bread made out the back, gluten-free and vegan dishes are plentiful. Crowd pleasers and tastebuds teasers like the black vinegar chicken and pork belly are popular, but be sure to order dessert: bread and butter pudding with condensed milk ice cream, or flourless chocolate cake with Oreos and burnt toast ice cream.

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Fremantle
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Eat: May Street Larder

The casual cousin of Bib & Tucker is tucked off the beaten track down in East Fremantle. This café does everything from Soul Food to raw, paleo and organic options, and does them well. With items like CocoWhip, twice-cooked pork belly, gluten-free peanut butter waffles and smashed avocado on toasted cornbread, there will be no regrets in spending your house deposit here on a made-for-Instagram menu. Drown your sorrows in some kombucha (served on tap) or a soda made in house.

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East Fremantle

Eat: Ku De Ta

A little piece of Seminyak right on the Swan River is the perfect place to spend an afternoon west side. The Bali institution has launched in Perth and offers three distinct venues inside the one establishment. After something casual, some breakfast or just a quiet drink, head to the Deck for 270-degree views of the river. The menu changes at noon and slips into something more Mediterranean; the bigoli carbonara served with a duck egg and crab linguine are high-achievers, but the pizzas are A+, especially as they are cooked in a Pavesi oven, just like they do at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. Leave your Havaianas at the hotel though – the Perth chapter of the Bali bar demands more fashion-forward attire than flip flops.

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Eat: Fish and chips from Cicerello's

Eat: Fish and chips from Cicerello's

Make the most of the warmer weather (year round) and head to Bathers Beach, just a short stroll from the Fremantle CBD. While most tourists love the sunset vista over Cottesloe, Freo’s local haunt is less crowded than the western suburbs but the seafood is fresher than the Fremantle Doctor (afternoon sea breeze). Bathers Beach House is a touch of the Hamptons right on the water, complete with a meandering boardwalk. Grab some local crunchy prawns or tempura squid from seafood institution Cicerellos just before dusk for one of the best al fresco experiences in Perth.

Eat: Gusto Gelato at Elizabeth Quay

Eat: Gusto Gelato at Elizabeth Quay

The Messina of the west is becoming just as popular as its east coast counterpart. Gusto Gelato is all handmade in small batches using traditional artisanal production techniques learned by owner Sean Lee in Bologna. Flavours are made from scratch, with no commercial pastes or artificial flavours – which is why five scoops is a must. People line up in the two locations in Elizabeth Quay and Leederville for tastes like 3 Bears, honey gelato with dark chocolate sauce smashed with Tiny Teddies and Chief Wiggum, a coffee flavour mixed with a caramel sauce and pieces of cinnamon donut. The best bit? Stores are open seven days, 11am till 10pm.

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Drink: Guildford Hotel

The historic pub reopened in 2016 after it was partially destroyed by fire in 2008 and, like a phoenix that become a publican, it’s back better than ever. The lengthy restoration saved the majority of the shell: now, unrendered walls welcome clientele who are flocking to the northern suburbs hotspot for good old fashioned counter meals with a twist, like cheeseburger spring rolls and smoked pork bao, and a beer and wine list longer than the Great Northern Highway. Choose from more than 18 brews on tap or visit the specialist gin and whisky bar.

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Guildford
Play: Selfie with a quokka

Play: Selfie with a quokka

Rottnest Island – or Rotto – is an A-class nature reserve boasting 63 white-as-snow beaches perfect for snorkelling, diving, surfing off the back breaks and posting to Instagram with #nofilter. Jump on a ferry from Fremantle or Barrack Street Jetty, where the ride will take about an hour and either stay for the day lapping up the sun or overnight at one of the many chalets or inside Hotel Rottnest, the only hotel on the island for now. A new marina and luxury glamping experience, which is expected to open in late 2017, will no doubt attract more visitors “overseas”. One thing that won’t change is the quokkas. The marsupials are native to Rottnest and are heavily protected, yet love to investigate and mingle with new visitors, especially those who have visited Rottnest Bakery – be warned, your sourdough will not be safe. They are the main patrons of Hotel Rottnest’s beer garden so if you are lucky, expect meet the furry critters up close. Remember to always approach with caution when leaning in for a selfie.

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Getting there

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