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Perth: Why you should visit one of the most isolated cities in the world

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We have not yet been to Australia, but this post by Australian-born guest writer Melissa Peters shines a light onto Perth that makes us want to head there immediately. Read on to find out why Melissa says we should visit Perth, one of her favorite cities Down Under.

Looking at a map of Australia, you can easily see why many people do not have Perth on their itinerary when visiting Oz. Located just under 4,000 km across the country from Sydney, and stuck way down in the southwestern part of the continent, Perth is famously known as one of the most isolated capital cities of over 1,000,000 people in the entire world.

perth australia
Perth, capital of Western Australia

But 1,600,000 live there happily for plenty of reasons and those who make the trip there are rewarded with the experience of Australia’s finest beaches, coffee culture, kangaroos and coastal hiking treks. Read on for the top five reasons that make Perth a city you shouldn’t miss on a trip to Australia:

1 The journey to Perth

If you are traveling through Australia by train, the journey between Sydney and Perth is one of the most spectacular routes in the country. The trans-continental trip takes four days and three nights and is regularly named as one of the world’s greatest train journeys. Considering that fares start at AUD759 for this trip, you might consider buying an Australian Rail Pass for your visit, which allows you to take any train in the country, including the famous Ghan, for just AUD990 for a total of six months – the easiest and most comfortable way to see as much of Oz as possible. The 65-hour train journey from Sydney to Perth offers some of the country’s most stunning scenery, kangaroos, the Blue Mountains and the smallest town on the continent – Cook, with a population of four.

The Indian Pacific at Broken Hill
The Indian Pacific by Simon Yeo on Flickr.com

2 The laid-back vibe of the city

Sprawling along the Indian Ocean and centered around the Swan River, Perth is one of the most scenic cities of Australia. With a population of 1.6 million people it is still the fourth largest city in the country, however, the vibe of Perth is much more laid-back than in Sydney and Melbourne. Perth is famous for its love of good coffee and is home to hundreds of coffee shops that celebrate the art of making excellent coffee creations. The city has a number of great markets and shopping areas such as Kings Street, London Court and Northbridge. Plus, thanks to its perfect climate it’s the ideal place to check out some of the many nearby beaches.

Perth City
Perth by Adrian Nurman on Flickr.com

3 The beaches

Perth has undoubtedly some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, and thanks to its West Coast location, the sunsets here are always magnificent. Cottesloe Beach is the easiest to get to via public transport (take the Fremantle Line to Cottlesloe Station), as is Scarborough Beach (take the Clarkson Line to Glendalough Station and change to the 400 bus there). Swanbourne Beach is the right beach for you if you’re looking to swim naked, being the Perth’s only nude beach.

Shoalwater Marine Park, just one hour south of Perth, is the best place for snorkeling, and in addition to shipwrecks and cavernous reefs, you’ll get to see dolphins, sea lions and penguins here.

Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island by Malcom Browne on Flickr.com

If you are looking for a truly unspoiled beach experience, head over to Rottnest Island, 18 kilometers off the coast of Perth and easily accessible by ferry. The tiny island (11 kilometers long, and 4.5 kilometers at its widest point) has some of the most remote and untouched beaches of the continent with crystal clear turquoise water. The further you go from the ferry terminal, the more deserted the beaches – we recommend you hire a bike for the day (a full loop around the island is 25km) when you get off the ferry. If you want to spend the night here, make sure to book in advance, as accommodation on the island is limited.

4 Kangaroos and koalas

In Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park you can see kangaroos in a more natural environment. It’s the perfect place to head to for a picnic in the company of some kangaroos. It’s the cheapest way to see them up, close and personal.

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Kangaroos in Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park by Paul Wright on Flickr.com

You could also head to Caversham Wildlife Park where you can cuddle koalas and feed kangaroos. The park is easily reachable from downtown Perth, admission is AUD24.

Perth’s zoo has a designated Australian Bushwalk Tour where you can wander the paths inside their natural habitat. You can wander on visitors’ paths and get close to native Australian animals such as the dingoes, emus, koala, numbats, quokkas, red kangaroos, short-beaked echidnas, southern hairy-nosed wombats, Tasmanian Devils, and Western grey kangaroos.

5 The natural attractions around Perth

Perth is surrounded by so many natural attractions that you can spend weeks here hiking, boarding down sand dunes, cycling, or exploring national parks. Some of the places that shouldn’t be missed include the Lancelin sand dunes (about 90 minutes north of Perth), where you can race up and down giant sand dunes in 4WDs, sand boards or motorbikes; and the Pinnacle Desert in Nambung National Park (two hours north of Perth) is one of the most otherworldly places on the planet: a desert filled with eerie limestone bricks sporadically scattered over vast yellow sand dunes. Both places can be combined in a day trip, if you have limited time.

Pinnacles Desert Nambung National Park Western Australia
Pinnacle Desert by Ian Sanderson on Flickr.com

The Bibbulmun Track is one of the most beautiful long distance walks in the world, spanning 1000 km from Perth to Albany. If you don’t want to walk the whole trek, you can opt for a day hike or an overnight hike.

If you are into cycling, you shouldn’t miss the Munda Biddi Bike Trail which follows the coast for 332 kilometers from Mundaring (north east of Perth) to Collie in the south.

If you are planning to explore Perth’s foothills, you could also consider staying in Armadale, close to the parks, gardens and local wildlife of the area, yet at the same time still offering enough bars, restaurants and shopping facilities. My top choice for a place to stay here would be the Heritage Country.

at Lancelin dunes
Lancelin Sand Dunes by Ms Nina on Flickr.com
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Three different ways to see Sydney Harbour

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The more we read about Sydney Harbour, the higher this spot gets on our must-see list…even more so now that we realize that there are three different and equally spectacular ways to see Sydney Harbour!

Undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful naturally formed harbours, Sydney Harbour is an attraction that nobody visiting Australia’s most highly populated city should miss. Just flying over it is an experience; but seeing it from the water is even more exciting.

Sydney Harbour comprises more than 20 square miles of water and has a total shoreline that is longer than 150 miles. While some of Australia’s most exclusive homes are located on the water’s edge, there are reserves and parklands that are accessible to the public, offering a great way to enjoy the scenic sights of boats and ferries on the water.

These are three of the best ways to see harbour next time you’re in town.

Take a Ferry Ride to Manly

A hugely popular and inexpensive way to see Sydney Harbour from the water is to take a ferry ride to Manly, a seaside suburb that is located close to the magnificent Sydney Heads. While the cruise boats are operated privately, the ferry is run by the government which is why it is such a cheap option.

Manly ferry passing Middle Head

Hire a Kayak

If you want to see the harbour differently, then hiring a kayak is the way to go. Some companies offer lessons for those who haven’t been in a kayak before; most offer tours, or you can hire a kayak and do-it the way you want to (although there is a New South Wales maritime restriction that makes it compulsory to have a guide with you).

P1050418.JPGIt’s a relatively slow way to explore the harbour, but the very nature of the kayaks will enable you to get to places that you wouldn’t see if you were to go by ferry or on a cruise boat.

Climb the Harbour Bridge

Sydney’s landmark Harbour Bridge took eight years to build and was opened in 1932. At the time it was heralded as both a triumph in engineering and an economic achievement. Prior to its construction the only way to get from the center of the city to northern suburbs was by ferry or by road. The road route was more than 12 miles long in total, and there were as many as five bridges to cross.

Even if you’ve already seen Sydney Harbour from the water, the Bridge Climb is worth the effort, particularly if you opt to go up the famous Pylon Tower to the Pylon Lookout where you will have a stunning view of the city’s skyline, including the unmistakable Opera House, and of course Sydney Harbour. There is a short walk from the bridge to get to the Pylon. This walkway is also accessible from stairs that are located at the corner of Argyle and Cumberland Streets below, as well as from The Rocks, and from Milsons Point Station to the north of the bridge.

Rick and me on the BridgeClimbApart from the promise of stunning views at the top of the Pylon, the BridgeClimb features the history of Sydney Harbour Bridge in the form of photographs, artifacts, models and a variety of displays and archival material.

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