Perth has been called “the most remote capital city in the world.” As the capital of Western Australia (WA), it’s a bustling, ultra-modern city of about 2 million people with forward-thinking architecture, sophisticated fashion, and a booming business district attracting young professionals from around the world.
After living in the bush for 36 days, taking a train into Perth was a shock-and-a-half as you might imagine. My first objective was not to get struck by a car! Whenever crossing a street, I had to remind myself look “right-then-left” not “left-then-right”. Sometimes, I’d just move my head back and forth until I was all the way across.
Perth and the WA region receive more sunshine per year than anywhere else in Australia. There is a long history of mining here in Western Australia and many mining-related jobs as well as careers in finance, construction, and technical services.
The Elizabeth Quay waterfront complex on Perth’s north shore (named after Queen Elizabeth II) overlooks the Swan River and has a hip, mixed-use set of buildings and serves as the location for Swan Bells in the campanile.
After arriving at the northern terminus of the Bibbulmun Track in Kalamunda (about 20 miles east of Perth), I commuted by public bus and train into Perth. I checked into the YHA (Youth Hostel of Australia) right in the heart of the city near the downtown’s shopping district. The YHA is also conveniently the home office of the Bibbulmun Track Foundation of which I’m a member. I registered my end-to-end hike and received an end-to-end badge and certificate.
Since I finished my hike four days ahead of schedule, I had some time to mess around Perth and take in some of the most popular sites.
The first day in Perth I took a cherry-red double-decker bus around the whole city to get an overview of Perth. Yes, I felt like a “Rick Steves-type tourist” but at least I was giving my legs a rest! I made a point to sit up on the rooftop seating, which was basically like riding in a really big convertible. We went by the old convict-built colonial buildings, Hay Street outdoor mall, the new Optus stadium used for Australian Rules Football (footy), the Bell Tower, Crown Perth casino, Burswood, and Northbridge.
Also that day, I got to walk around Kings Park, which could best be described like an Australian version of Central Park, except with amazing botanical gardens and exceptional views of the Swan River and South Perth.
The second day I took a TransPerth train into Fremantle (known as “Freo”), an old port town with lots of history to soak in. I just had to do the tour of the Fremantle Prison and walk the cellblocks from the days of the British Penal colony. The convict-built prison opened in 1855 and operated until 1991.
On the third day, I took a “surprise side-trip” I’ll tell you about later!
On the fourth and last day in Perth, I decided to spend some time at Cottesloe Beach and relax in the sun before putting my body back to strenuous work on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s autumn here so there were only a few people at the beach despite the fact that the water remains at a near-constant temperature year-round.