ON a recent visit to Western Australia (WA), a land that blends storied heritage with art and culture, scenery and culinary revelations, I ticked off my list of things to do and see, starting with its capital, Perth.
First stop: Perth
Sitting where the Swan River meets the southwest coast, Perth is said to be the sunniest and windiest city in Australia. In summer, its beaches are popular with wind and kite surfers. It has a Mediterranean climate that is hot and dry in summer and cool with moderate to high rainfall in winter.
We started with a hearty lunch at Yagan Square, which connects Northbridge and the Central Business District (CBD) which is easily recognised by a 45m-high digital tower and the statue, Wirin, designed by aboriginal artist Tjyllyungoo.
Then, we explored the city with Two Feet & A Heartbeat, a walking tour that revealed Perth’s astounding history hidden away in the old yet new building facades, secret laneways with urban art and cafes serving the best coffees.
We navigated the quaint and the bustling streets, ending at the vibrant waterfront of Elizabeth Quay, so named to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.
Next we hopped on Segways and cruised along the river foreshore, soaking up the sights, architecture and contemporary sculptures such as the iconic 29m-tall Spanda and First Contact – an aluminium bird sculpture that depicts the arrival of Europeans in Perth in 1606.
Elizabeth Quay is also home to several dining options. Look out for The Island, a restaurant and brewery inside a heritage pavilion and The Reveley bar/restaurant with a water view. Not far away, Sauma Restaurant in Northbridge serves the familiar flavours and traditional tastes of modern Indian street food.
There are accommodation options for both budget and luxury travellers. We stayed at Mantra on Murray the first night and moved to The Adnate for another three nights in the CBD.
Perth’s only six-star hotel, Como The Treasury, is set in the restored 19th century Victorian era facade of the original State Building. It used to house public offices and government departments but is now home to upmarket bars, cafes and retail spaces.
Second stop: Margaret River
WA’s food scene never ceases to amaze me. We gorged on gourmet delights in Perth and continued with indigenous regional produce in Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth. The wine-producing region is famous for its award-winning chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
However, it also wears a culinary crown, offering degustation menus of traditional and experimental cuisine.
We went on a culinary journey, made memorable by Kellie Tannock of Walk Talk Taste, along the short main street in Margaret River.
Her passion for weaving stories, encounters and treasures, has framed the extraordinary in the ordinary of the region. Farmers, artisans, craftsmen, fine restaurants, boutique breweries and distilleries form the modern tapestry of the community here, intertwined with a rich indigenous and settler history.
As we sat around a table bench, Tannock pulled out an impromptu picnic at the Old Settlement, catching us by surprise.
So we had a little feast of local produce before making our way to Swings Taphouse for more delicious bites, fancy mocktails and chardonnay on tap. We finished at the iconic Settlers Tavern, with steamed marron, slow-cooked meats, more mocktails and, for this round, sparkling chardonnay.
Third stop: Fremantle
Life’s good in this port city that locals call “Freo”. With a history dating back to 1828, Freo hosted the inaugural Fremantle Biennale in November 2018 and continued to elevate the artistic landscape this year with site-specific works that responded to the vibrant cultural mix of migrant flows. Must-visit attractions are Fremantle Market, Cappucino Strip, Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle Prison and the WA Maritime Museum.
Even if you skip these attractions, you simply must have its famous fish ‘n’ chips. Cicerello’s is the most famous seafood eatery here.
It stands on the jetty, with al fresco seating that offers scenic views of the harbour, but watch out for hungry seagulls. The view is stunning and the food marvellous, with fish, lobster, crab, prawn, mussel and even abalone.
Fourth stop: Rottnest Island
You haven’t really been to WA if you have not visited Rottnest Island (Rotto to the locals), accessible from Freo via a short ferry ride. Think picture-perfect beaches and bays with ample opportunities for a swim while the coral reef and marine life offer great snorkelling experiences.
Go meet the native resident here, the quokka. This furry, adorable marsupial was an internet sensation after it was dubbed “the world’s happiest animal”, amplifying the social media trend #quokkaselfie on Instagram.
Celebrities such as Margot Robbie, Roger Federer, Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman and Shawn Mendes have framed perfect quokka selfies on their visits to Rotto.
Quokkas are curious and extremely trusting. Just sit tight and a quokka will hop over to greet you. It’s not hard to capture that ultimate quokka selfie.
Keep the selfie stick in hand as this allows you and quokka to stay at a mindful distance. Then position yourself at ground level. When it approaches with that cheeky grin, snap away and you’d have got an Instagram-worthy quokka selfie.