Exploring Western Australia (Part 1/2 : Best of Perth & Fremantle)

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Other than my native Singapore, the next city that I spent a significant amount of time was in Sydney where I did my engineering degree for 2 years. However, over the years after graduation, the one city that I most frequented for holiday is PERTH! In fact, my boy was named after a scenic Western Australia town (8hrs drive from Perth) that has one of the BEST collections of swimming beaches in Australia!

Why Perth? Simply because it’s one of the nearest non-Asian city from Singapore. Hop on a plane at Singapore’s iconic Changi Airport and you’ll be in Perth in 4-5hrs (consider driving from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur takes 3-4hrs). Perth has the reputation as one of the world’s most isolated cities; the next nearest city, Adelaide, is 2100km away.

 

Perth CBD skyline viewed from South Perth Esplanade (Nov2014)
Perth CBD skyline viewed from South Perth Esplanade (Nov2014)

 

Perth is not exactly the most exciting Australian city to visit. But if you’re based in/near Singapore and looking for a relatively short get-away, Perth offers the relaxing nature, beach and small-city feel for a relatively short flight. Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast though more exciting, requires 8-9hrs flights.

I’ve visited Perth no lesser than 4-5times (I cannot even remember!). The most recent being Nov 2014 when my mom, boy, nephew, wifey and myself had a 1week trip involving a 2days rental car trip followed by 5days motorhome (aka big campervan) adventure.

(motorhome and car rental review: click here)

 

6-berth Motorhome (Nov2014)
6-berth Motorhome (Nov2014)

 

I’m often asked what is the best route/way to plan a Perth holiday (or more precisely; a Western Australia holiday). Well, it really depends on what interest you and your entourage. Below is what I would normally recommend to the average first-time visitors to Western Australia.

 


 

Recommended Western Australia Itinerary (for 1-2weeks)

My recommended Western Australia holiday would be to focus on Perth/Fremantle (+Rottnest island), then travel down south hugging the coast to Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River, Augusta, Walpole and finally Albany (basically a big anti-clockwise loop ending at Albany). Return via inland highway from Albany direct to Perth in 4.5hrs.
 

 
Below is the list of attractions which I personally enjoyed and felt worth exploring (in random order).

Perth :

Kings Park & Botanic Garden

  • Huge park overlooking Perth CBD. Good for leisure walks with tree top walks and a number of excellent playgrounds.
  • Excellent place to spend late afternoons and evenings taking sunset and night pictures of the CBD. Postcard views of the CBD.

 

Chinatown (William Street)

  • A single stretch of street on the northern side of the Perth train station. Walking distance from CBD.
  • The unofficial Chinatown of Perth, it’s the place to go for Chinese food and supermarkets. Dwarf in size and number of shops compared to Sydney’s Chinatown. Go only if you’re looking for Chinese/Asian food.

 

Swan Bells

  • Situated beside the CBD. Unique bell tower overlooking the Swan River. Great place for photography.

 

South Perth Esplanade

  • Other than some open space and jogging tracks, there’s practically nothing else. However, it does offer some of the best views of the CBD from across the Swan River.

 

Aviation Heritage Museum

  • Though small (there are only 2 small buildings), it manages to squeeze in quite a number of full-size aircrafts (including spitfire, Catalina, Lancaster, huey etc).
  • If you’re someone who has at least slight interest in aviation, this museum should appeal to you. I particularly enjoyed the chance to be able to take a look up close at some of the prominent WW2 aircrafts, though the young kids might not be able to fully appreciate them.
  • Be prepared to spend ~1-2hours here.
  • http://www.raafawa.org.au/museum/

 

Cottesloe Beach

  • The main city beach of Perth with a great atmosphere.
  • Most of the times when I visited, sea condition is calm enough for children to swim.
  • Great beach for families as it has sufficient amenities (e.g. public shower/toilet, food outlets, large carparks).
  • It’s a fantastic place to spend a few hours enjoying and relaxing in the sun, sand, wind and sea.

 

Rottnest island

(last visited in 2005; as such, some info might be outdated)

  • A small and laid-back island just off the coast of Fremantle. It’s an extremely popular “resort” island catering mainly to tourism, and only has a permanent population of 100. There’s a number of scenic beaches/bays dotting the island, some of which has accommodation and water activities catering to the visitors.
  • Being designated by the government as a reserve land, it has limited non-tourism related activities. As expected, there aren’t many vehicles on the island although it has a small airport.

 

Rottnest island @2005
Rottnest island @2005

 

Aerial view Rottnest island, jetty area @2005
Aerial view Rottnest island, jetty area @2005

 

“Rottnest Island (known locally as Rotto) is an island off the coast of Western Australia, located 18 kilometres (11 mi) west of Fremantle. The island covers 19 square kilometres (7.3 sq mi) in land area…” (Source, Wikipedia: Rottnest Island)

 

“Rottnest is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found.” (Source, Wikipedia: Rottnest Island)

 

Rottnest island @2005
Rottnest island @2005

 

Rottnest island @2005
Rottnest island @2005

 

  • Ferry to the island departs from both Fremantle and Perth City. Duration from Fremantle is ~25minutes.
  • For transportation within the island, you could walk, cycle or take the island’s sole bus service which circles the entire loop around the island. The bus service is a one-payment, unlimited usage, hop-on-hop-off system.

 

Water activities on Rottnest island @2005
Water activities on Rottnest island @2005

 

Water activities on Rottnest island @2005
Water activities on Rottnest island @2005

 

  • Since Rottnest island is rather small, I would recommend exploring it as a day trip instead of spending a night there. Take one of the early morning ferries there. Then use the bus service to explore each of the beaches/bays along its route. By early or mid afternoon, arrive back at one of the bays near to the jetty (e.g. Geordie Bay, Longreach Bay or Thomson Bay) and spend the rest of the day there enjoying the water activities.
  • http://www.rottnestisland.com

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Fremantle :

Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour

  • On all of my trips to Perth, a visit to the Fremantle harbour is definitely a MUST.
  • The harbour is ~30minutes drive from Perth CBD and it’s situated right on the mouth of Swan River.
  • There’re a couple of restaurants and cruise boat operators here. Though not a big place, the atmosphere is great and you could often see seagulls around the area.
  • The main reason for all my visits to the harbour is always the FOOD! There’s an extremely famous Fish-n-chips restaurant right at the heart of the harbour. (www.cicerellos.com.au)
  • The food here is fantastic and not too high-priced. Highly recommended!
  • Right beside the harbour is a rail track that separates the harbour from the neighbouring park. There are a couple of playgrounds at the park and it’s common to see kids enjoying themselves there. In fact, my son had a great time at the playgrounds during our 2012 visit.
  • There’s a Ferris wheel in the park though I’ve never tried it as I remembered it’s rather expensive.

 

Fremantle Prison

  • Located a short walk from Fremantle Market (and the Fremantle harbour). Fremantle Prison was operational from 1855 to 1991.
  • I was last there in 2005 and my memories about it have faded. However, I remembered it to be a great place to visit, especially if you’ve not visited similar jails before.
  • If I’ve not mistaken, you’ll need to join one of the guided tours in order to enter the jail premises. It’s not an open concept attraction where you just purchase a ticket and proceed to roam around the grounds at your leisure pace.
  • www.fremantleprison.com.au

 

Fremantle Markets

  • Other than the harbour, the Fremantle Market must be one of the other must-see attractions in Fremantle. Construction was completed in 1902.
  • Nowadays it houses ~150 stalls selling local produces, cooked food, art products and souvenirs. It’s a good place to get some fresh local fruits or home-made food items and offers you the chance to see some of the local handicrafts.
  • It has 2 sections: The Yard and The Hall. The Yard focuses on food items while The Hall on non-food products.
  • For those who has visited Paddy’s market in Sydney, you’ll find Fremantle Market much smaller and having less variety of goods. Having said, it’s still worth visiting especially during weekends when there are street performances beside the market and the crowd swells.
  • Do note that the market only opens during Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. So forget about going during other days of the week. Plan your visit accordingly.
  • http://fremantlemarkets.com.au

 

Western Australian Maritime Museum

  • Located within a short walk of the Fremantle Harbour and right beside the E Shed Markets.
  • Having visited it ~10years ago (in 2005), I don’t have a very clear memory of it. However, I do remember it as an interesting museum with many well laid-out exhibits.

 

The most interesting exhibit MUST be that of the HMS Ovens:

“The Oberon class Submarine HMAS Ovens is an authentic Cold War-era vessel situated on Fremantle’s historic World War II submarine slipway.” (Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au)

  • It’s not an everyday chance that you could get to tour a once operational submarine. Thus, when I realized that there are guided tours available for the submarine, I did not hesitate!
  • Being my first time in a submarine, it’s really fascinating to be able to experience for myself how cramp the interior was. Extremely exciting to be able to learn and see how submariners operate and live in such extreme conditions.
  • If you only need ONE reason to visit the museum, the HMS Ovens guided tour MUST be it! Do not miss it!

 

For Part 2 of the blog, click here.

 


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