World Travellers Riccarton’s travel specialist Rachael Hawkey travelled to Perth, Western Australia, and documents her experience in this blog post.
Auckland-Perth on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner
I flew Air New Zealand direct from Auckland. It was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner service and took seven and a half hours. Even though we flew out of Auckland a big part of this trip was to remind us of the seasonal Christchurch to Perth direct flight that Air New Zealand operate.
We had two people to each sky couch row which gave us more of a footrest with one and a half seats each. I wouldn’t recommend this for someone who is tall. Each seat can be individually lifted. I recommend it for a single traveller, a couple or a family with a child. It’s much more comfortable than one standard economy seat.
We went for a walk around Kings Park. This park is one of the largest inner city parks in the world, and is located on the western side of Perth city with river and city views. It’s open 24 hours a day and has a lot of sheltered spots and event spaces.
Perth’s natural heartland, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, sits on Mount Eliza overlooking the city and the Swan River. Here you’ll find 400 hectares of towering trees, natural bushland, ornamental lakes, grand lookouts and sculpted botanic gardens. Kings Park offers the best view over Perth, the broad reaches of the Swan River and east to the Darling Range. Free guided walking tours, barbecue facilities, children’s playgrounds, Aspects Gallery Shop and cafes make Kings Park and Botanic Garden a popular place for locals and visitors to relax.
Take a stroll among the treetops on the Lotterywest Federation Walkway in the Botanic Garden. This walk takes you high into the eucalypt canopy, while informative signs and many public artworks teach you about Western Australia’s rich flora and fauna, as well as Perth’s Aboriginal and European history. Visit Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park where children can explore, climb ropes, build a cubby and get dirty. It’s a place for children to connect with nature and see what it’s like to make their own fun.
Luxury accommodation at Fraser Suites
We stayed at Fraser Suites 5*. There are 236 Gold-Standard residences in studio and one-bedroom configurations. Using a dual key system, these can be easily connected to create two-bedroom apartments.
Occupying a prime spot within the Free-Transit Zone, the luxury hotel in Perth is close to prestigious offices, key financial businesses, entertainment venues, Langley Park, and the tranquility of the Swan River. You can explore the nearby Perth Convention Exhibition Centre and Crown Complex.
After a good sleep we had a buffet breakfast at our own leisure in Heirloom at Fraser Suites which was pretty standard and much like any other hotel buffet breakfast.
The next morning we drove to Fremantle which was 30 mins from the city. Fremantle is a port city and great for a day out. Westernaustralia.com best describes Fremantle as set “against a backdrop of the best preserved 19th century port streetscape in the world. A day out in Fremantle is an eclectic and eccentric blend of fabulous artisanal food, handcrafted beers, great coffee, quirky boutiques and a lively music, arts and festival scene.” It’s also known for its maritime history, Victorian architecture and remnants from Australia’s days as a British penal colony.
Little Creatures Brewery is close by for lunch in a converted boat shed right on the Fishing Boat Harbour in Fremantle. This is a massive place with different function spaces, indoor seating, open plan kitchen area as well as an outdoor area. The food was quite adventurous here – we had kangaroo and mussels.
After a while wondering around Fremantle and going to the markets which weren’t that big and pretty standard, we went to our hotel – Seashells Freemantle in the Richmond Quarter.
Seashells Fremantle is located on levels four and five of the stunning new Richmond Quarter development in the heart of East Fremantle. The stylish apartments are set around an open, airy European-style pizza
with cafes and shops, plus an upmarket rooftop tapas and cocktail bar with views over Fremantle. The Sweetwater Rooftop bar isn’t managed by the property. Limited complimentary undercover car parking is available onsite.
Out of the city area between Perth and Fremantle, I did feel like was in a random place in the middle of suburbia on a main driving route. The studio, one and two-bedroom apartments were modern and well-equipped. Staff said to go for the one bedroom apartment over the studio. The bus stops outside of the door and is on route for hotel pick ups. The hotel is 1.5km from centre of Fremantle and 17km from Perth’s CBD. Reception isn’t 24 hours. I would put it in the 4-4.5 star category.
Dining at Coast Port Beach
After a quick drink at the rooftop bar we went to Coast Port Beach. This restaurant was one of my highlights of the trip. The restaurant is right on the beach with long glass windows so you can admire the amazing sunset. They had great service and we enjoyed shared platters here with seafood, cheeses and antipasto, meat and tacos. We were still full from lunch so this was perfect. The restaurant had a great vibe.
Coast on Port Beach is quintessentially Western Australian. The vibe is relaxed and casual so you’re more than welcome to pop in for a drink straight after a swim, but if you’re after something a little more glam take a seat in the restaurant and take your pick from drool worthy steak, fresh seafood, amazing salads and so much more. It’s the perfect place for a big group catch up or an intimate dinner for two.
Brekkie at Moore & Moore Cafe
After a good sleep we had breakfast at Moore & Moore Café in Fremantle. Situated in the heritage-listed Moores Building in the thriving West End of Fremantle, Moore & Moore Cafe is decked out with kooky chandeliers, vintage water fridges and cozy hiding spots.
The exposed limestone walls create a laneway effect that opens out into a large courtyard with communal tables adjacent to the arts space and gallery next door. Musicians regularly feature to complete the quintessential Fremantle atmosphere. It has a very artsy feel. There were a few families there having breakfast. Food was a la carte and all looked amazing with large portions. They also do different drinks like turmeric and beetroot lattes.
We then drove three hours south to the Margaret River Regional, first stopping at Eagle Bay Brewing company which is a family-run, boutique operation engaging in brewing, wine-making and local produce. It had a lovely winery feel and great food for lunch from the a la carte menu. The massive menu had all sorts on it. Pizzas, burgers, salmon and salad to name a few things, and the portions were huge, if a bit pricey. We also did a beer tasting here. It was full of people. There were lovely views while sitting down for lunch (indoor or out) over bushland to Cape Naturaliste and the Indian Ocean.
Cape Naturaliste Cultural Tour
After lunch we went up the road to towards the lighthouse you can see from Eagle Bay Brewing Co to do a Cape Cultural Tour. The owner and operator whose family and generations before live in the area led us around the lighthouse and down pathways looking out at the different bay areas, explaining the Aboriginal culture and the history of the local Aboriginal people. He explained the Noongar seasons and connections with the rivers, seas, animals and plants on the trail. We also sat in an outdoor theatre area where we looked and passed around weapons and played Aboriginal instruments while he played the didgeridoo. I recommend taking bug spray.
Whale watching at Bunker Bay Beach
We went down to Bunker Bay Beach and sat watching whales out in the bay. The whales usually start to come in from September. If you go further south Augusta we have been told you will see more whales. We saw helicopter and boat tours going past looking for them also. This bay area is lovely and not populated.
Just a quick walk up the path we were at Pullman Bunker Bay for a site inspection and had bubbles out on the deck above the infinity pool looking out to see and dinner. It’s a large resort where all the rooms have ocean sounds. They will deliver you and your bags to your room by golf cart. The rooms are all studios or two bedroom villas. They have high ceilings and are quiet and lovely and peaceful. They are busy on weekends. Lots of people do walks in the area and then come and stay and use the spa services after.
The award-winning restaurant, Other Side of the Moon, offers alfresco dining showcasing local produce and wines. I found the food we had in the restaurant off the menu to be pretty standard. The hotel said the beach which is patrolled only gets up to 20 people max at a time. They do have a two bedroom two bathroom option which is great for couples sharing or families. It really has an outdoors vibe.
Margaret River I found to be quite green, very surfy (on the top 10 pro surfing circuit and attracts a lot of surfers), arty and of course big on wine.
We had an outdoor breakfast overlooking the water at The White Elephant. This casual café has a walk up bit for surfers, tables and umbrellas outside and an indoor café set up. The food and coffee was good and the service was great. Apart from the view, however, there was no major wow factor.
We were then picked up at Margaret Beach Resort by Harvest Tours for our food and wine lovers tour. Note there are a few good wine tours in the region. This is just one of the best ones that Tourism Western Australia picked.
They only visit businesses that are environmentally responsible, farm or create all their products right in Margaret River, have an ethically sound business model and – in the case of our food and wine producers – choose organic, biodynamic, sustainable and/or free range principles. They are inclusive and don’t discriminate based on age, drinking ability, physical disability or knowledge! They offer different tours. We were out for 9-10 hours all up.
We stopped at several wineries. Vasse Felix was where most of us said we had the best meal of our whole trip for lunch. This brewery was very upmarket and knowledgeable. McHenry Hohnen Cellar Door and House of Cards were two of the others we stopped at. Stephen also gave us commentary on the way to places and we stopped for photo ops at Prevelly Beach Margaret River and Canal Rocks. We also stopped for a coffee tasting at Yahava KoffeeWorks and a chocolate tasting. Some of the wineries gave us cheeses and smoked meats to pair with wines.
After a drive back to Margarets Beach Resort, we had an easy dinner in the resort pub/restaurant and after a good night’s sleep we were up early for a trip into Margaret River township.
We had a lovely breakfast at Riversmith. This café had a lovely small town, country feel to it. The food was good. Their focus is on artisan producers, sourcing local seasonal ingredients, beverages, preserves, handmade wares and seasonally curated workshops.
This is a picturesque heritage-listed jetty and the longest timber jetty (pier) in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors to the Jetty can choose to stroll its length, take a visitor train to the other end, fish, swim, scuba dive or snorkel in a kaleidoscope of colour and marine life or relax and catch a glimpse of playful dolphins. There is a shop and museum there to learn all about the Jetty. Described as Australia’s greatest artificial reef, the Busselton Jetty is host to an awe-inspiring “forest” of vividly-coloured tropical and sub-tropical marine life. More than 300 species of marine life have been recorded beneath the Busselton Jetty. The Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory is known as become one of Western Australia’s most popular ecotourism attractions.
Mandurah is a vibrant and versatile city noted for its magnificent waterways and holiday atmosphere. The city’s restaurants, craft and souvenir shops, art galleries and cultural buildings are set around the blue green waters of Mandjar Bay. At night the bay lights up and people migrate to the waterfront to enjoy a barbecue or dine at the many cafes.
Here we did a Dolphin and Adventure Cruise two hour cruise. Different cruises are available at different times daily. This company have a guarantee you will see a dolphin, which we did. They didn’t come right out of the water though, and we didn’t get super close. The adventure part of our trip was when the boat sped up while we were out at sea and they did donuts. We also had a fish and chip lunch onboard their new boat.
On our return we walked around the boardwalk to the Sebel Mandurah for a site visit of the hotel which boasts contemporary 4.5 star waterfront accommodation just 50 minutes drive south of Perth, overlooking the Mandurah Estuary at The Point Peninsula. Ideal for business or leisure, you can choose from beautifully appointed guestrooms, suites and one, two and three-bedroom apartments, most with private balconies and the choice of water or town vistas. Superb dining is only moments away with an array of local cafes, restaurants and bars all within walking distance.
Our host at the Sebel Mandurah recommended that Mandurah is a good overnight stop on the way to Margaret River. It is 30 minutes driving from the airport to Perth City and 50 minutes from the airport to Mandurah.
Mandurah is easy to get to by train, just 50 minutes from central Perth and then onto a Mandurah foreshore bus.
The Novotel Langley
We then drove an hour north to Perth City where we checked in to the Novotel Langley. This property is standard of most Novotel Langley properties. I did find the rooms lacked sufficient lighting and there wasn’t enough air circulation in the bathroom if the other person showered. Others also complained about the air conditioning. Breakfast here the next morning was standard of most four star Novotel properties. One thing to note is there is an Irish pub that connects to the lobby downstairs.
The hotel has 256 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, offering views of the city and Swan River as well as an Advantages Floor designed for corporate guests with extra comforts and amenities. Also onsite is the award winning Senses Restaurant and Wine Bar, a traditional Irish pub, Fenians, as well as a sauna, spa, and gymnasium facilities.
Next we were off to the Como for a site visit and dinner at one of their onsite restaurants Petition Kitchen.
COMO The Treasury
COMO The Treasury is a five star, 48 room contemporary luxury hotel in Perth’s newly revitalised historic heart. Occupying state buildings dating from the mid 19th -century, COMO The Treasury opens up the city to new experiences by way of two restaurants, a bar and world-renowned COMO Shambhala wellness therapies.
Designed by Kerry Hill, COMO The Treasury also provides an elegant, restful base from which to explore the wilder lures of Western Australia. Rooms had an older elegance but still had modern luxurious features, for instance the ability to close all the curtains with a button. There are several restaurants: Wildflower, Post and The Treasury Lounge and Bar. Executive Chef Jed Gerrard’s reputation for excellence and quality ensures that COMO The Treasury is at the forefront of Perth’s burgeoning dining scene.
Wildflower, which is in a rooftop space, has lunch and dinner offerings served against a backdrop of sweeping views over the Swan River. It has a farmer-and-forager-driven menu of dishes revolving around the indigenous six seasons. There are other restaurants, bars and shops in the complex that specialise in local products. This is a must-see for even just a walk through the public areas whilst in the city.
Dinner at Petition Kitchen was share plates and the food was incredible. It was good filling and of a very high standard. Head Chef Jesse Blake’s passion for fresh food has culminated in an assortment of rustic, quirky and fun dishes meant to share or simply enjoy solo. Petition Head Chef Jesse Blake developed his unique and exacting style working in acclaimed restaurants from New Zealand to Melbourne. Given the Petition space to work with, he signed up immediately.
First visit on Thursday was a site visit to the four star Tribe Hotel Perth. This is the first of this hotel in the Mantra Portfolio. New hotels under this umbrella will be opening in further main Australian cities.
When you walk into the lobby you can see what they mean about how they want to get the guests to hang out down here and use it as a communal workspace/social area. There is a grab and go area, bar and cafe. It has a very QT Hotel feel to the décor. The lobby contains expensive pieces by Italian furniture designer Moroso, and original artwork from contemporary Australia artists feature throughout the hotel. When you go upstairs the rooms are small comparative to an Ibis property at 18 sq metres. All 126 rooms are the same apart from the view. Rooms contain modern features and technology, T2 tea and free wifi. The hotel is located near to Kings Park. Rates were really cheap for the rooms at under $200 a night.
Visit to the Bell Tower
Next we went back to The Bell Tower for a guided tour including a bell ringing experience. This is one of the things to do if you have spare time. However, just walking around the bell tours and listening to the bells chime from outside is just as fun. There is also a railing here with love locks that local couples have left. A local bell ringers group come in on certain days of the week and perform, record and show locals how to ring the bells. You can also go on guided tours and ring the bells. Afterwards you can get a certificate to show you have done so. You do need a bit of arm strength to be able to ring the bells as they are heavy.
The Bell Tower includes the twelve bells of St Martin in the Fields, which are recorded as being in existence from before the 14th century and recast in the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I. The bells were again recast between 1725 and 1770 by three generations of the Rudhall family of bell founders from Gloucester in England, under the order of the Prince of Wales who was later crowned as King George II. They are one of the few sets of royal bells and are the only ones known to have left England.
Ku De Ta
Next were were off to Ku De Ta. This restaurant in Bali is so popular with the people of Perth that they decided why not open one in Perth!
This is a big indoor and outdoor restaurant with lot of separate function space. We weren’t on a miserable grey day so sat inside. I think it would be have a lot better if it was bustling on a sunny day. The food I wasn’t overly wowed by. Again we had share plates that included beef brisket, oysters and octopus. A cool novelty was going to the bathroom as they are hidden in the wall. You wouldn’t have known they were there if you didn’t see the sign and push on the wall. Service was excellent.
Perth city walking tour
Upon returning to Elizabeth Quay we met our guide for a two hour walking tour.
I do recommend this tour around Perth City. Two Feet tours, affiliated with Urban Adventures, are designed to appeal to all age groups and demographics. The two hour tour covers 3km with frequent rest stops. They do multiple other tours and also offer specialised custom tours. Our guide was knowledgable and gave great info. We saw lots of sights. He also knew little shortcuts when it started to drizzle. We got to look around Elizabeth Quay which is where new hotels are being built and lots of other development, including around big oil company offices that were connected to Heritage buildings, giving a real
mixture of old and new.
Our guide pointed out bars and restaurants he thought were good too. We also walked around past the big new Western Australia museum that is being built, the Cultural Centre, and around through the main shopping streets including the upmarket King Street. Perth has several new big hotels that have recently opened or are being built which is taking the hotel prices down due to competition. A billion dollars are aksi being spent on each of Perth City and Fremantle.
What I was surprised about was the artistic arcades and laneways that reminded me a lot of Melbourne and multiple art sculptures through the city.
Crown Towers Perth
Our last stop was Crown Towers Perth which opened in December 2016. Crown Towers Perth is a luxury six Star property. The new Ritz Carlton hotel that is being built will also be 6 stars. There is also Crown Metropol and Crown Promenade in the complex like Melbourne. This property is worth a stay just to people watch. Security levels in the hotel are very high.
We went into one of the popular restaurants Epicurean, where there are a series of different culinary stations. Diners can choose from seafood, sushi and salads or indulge in the Asian dim sum and noodles. Epicurean also boasts a Western hot food station, a tandoori oven for authentic flavours of India and a dessert station featuring amazing chocolate fountains. We saw the dessert station and it was like being a kid in a candy store.
Rachael’s trip was sponsored by Air New Zealand and Tourism Western Australia.