Recently we had our annual trip home to Western Australia and this time I decided to do things a little differently. You see, throughout the previous year I had been reading on social media, and hearing from friends about all the new and exciting things going on in my home town of Perth. As time has ticked by, I have built deeper ties to Manila which truly is my home now, and I have felt as though I am disconnecting from my ‘other home’. Not a nice feeling, albeit a very natural one. The internal conflict and confusion I was feeling about what my idea of ‘sense of place’ meant was high and so this time around heading home, I wanted to spend time doing things to help me rediscover Perth. I also wanted to remind the children that this is where their roots lay deeply connected, even though they love Manila and their life here in the Philippines.
Our time back home was cathartic. I got to spend plenty of time with friends and family and I got to visit and learn about new and exciting events that go on in my home town. I don’t think I really resolved my internal conflict but that is a conversation for another post. For now, let me give you my guide to Perth, and if you follow it on a visit, or even as a local, you will fall in love with my city and have some wonderful adventures along the way. I can promise you that.
SaltyBug’s Guide to Perth
Head to the Beach
This is what Perth is known for after all. Here is what you do. Go to the supermarket – support local and shop at IGA, buy a packet of cheap sausages and some tomato sauce- not ketchup – sauce (if you want other stuff like butter, onions etc then that’s okay too). Head to a bakery – Baker’s Delight or Brumby’s and get a packet of hotdog buns. Pack up a bag with some plates, a knife, fork, a few drinks (sorry no alcohol allowed in public places) and head down to one of the parks on the coast. There are so many. From Cottesloe up to Trigg, Scarborough, right up to Burns Beach, heck go as far as Yanchep if you like. Find a spot where there are BBQs and a nice swimming beach and a bit of a playground if you have kids. Fire up the BBQ, cook your sausages, bung them in a bun with sauce and kick back on the grass and enjoy a sausage sizzle. Then go and hang out on the beach and have a swim while you watch our amazing sun sets.
Head to the Hills
Perth is not that big and to get to the hills is easy and fast. There are a lot of walking trails and waterfalls you can check out in the Kalumunda Hills and you can also head up to Mundaring Weir. If you don’t want to get sweaty, there are plenty of shops and places to poke around and site-see. Taking a ride out of town to explore can allow you to find all sorts of hidden gems, be it restaurants, memory keepers or new destinations.
Kalamunda is my favourite area to go to in the hills. It is one of the oldest communities in Perth, rich in history, and there are very deep familial ties there for both mine and SB’s family’s so it is kind of special for us. I took my sister and the kids for breakfast because I had asked around about new and exciting places to eat and my friend told me about Mason & Bird. This restaurant is casual dining with an all-day brunch menu. Sourcing only local produce, the food is simple, bursting with flavour, a bit healthy and really interesting. The honey is sourced down the hill, the bread from New Norcia and the coffee is a local roast and is really stunning. The interior has a lot of natural wood features and sits beautifully in this idyllic bush setting. Keeping it local is a big passion for me, so eating at this particular place also gave me the opportunity to support a range of local businesses.
After breakie, we looked in the visitors centre next door where I picked up some Australiana bits and pieces to decorate our Manila home with. The children collected gum nuts from under the trees to hide away in our suitcases, a special memory-keeper for them.
Hang out in parks
We have beautiful green spaces in and around Perth. On our trip back, I made a point of spending time in one whenever I was in-between appointments with people and at places.
One morning I had coffee on the South Perth Foreshore. The children played in the playground and I sat staring at the amazing cityscape across the water. There was a cool breeze and the leaves were blowing off the trees. As the children collected piles of them, filling my handbag to take home to their Aunt’s garden, I sipped my coffee and wrote:
‘If we lived on this street…we’d never leave, it is so beautiful’…sweet words from BB as we hang at the South Perth foreshore waiting for our day to get going. The children are in the playground, I have my coffee and sit listening to the rustling leaves through the trees, the cool breeze is blowing and the smell of fresh air is filling my senses. I need to bottle this up in my memory so I can come back here whenever I need a hit of home…’
One day I took the children to Kings Park to sit under a tree and reflect for a while. This park is iconic and an absolute must-see if you visit Perth. High on a hill overlooking Perth, you get amazing views day and night, along with an array of options for how to spend your day. There are sensory playgrounds, cafés and restaurants. The botanic gardens when in full bloom are stunning. For me, I just love to walk around meandering pathways and sit while the children run around. I posted our time here on Facebook:
‘…we hit up Kings Park for stunning views and some time to reflect. We sat under a tree on a grassy hill. The grass was so green, lush and cool, a breeze was blowing and the smell of our native bushes filled the air. Sunlight filtered through the trees and cicadas happily chirped around us. The kids rolled down the hill as I watched and BB said this was a beautiful life, that just kind of set me off with a few tears for a bit, because damn right it is beautiful’…
We also spent time in the new Elizabeth Quay in Perth CBD. There is a sensory playground right next to a café so that was perfect for a quick stop to refresh and let the children just chill out. This is a new development that has seen the area turned into a social Mecca. There is still a way to go but so far it is looking good. There are restaurants, and lots of space to run around and explore and wonderful public art to interact with. You can catch the Rottnest Ferry from here – but here is a tip, the one from Freo is faster.
Spend the day in Fremantle
Freo is kind of the hippy artsy-fartsy centre of Perth. On the water, it is all about food, coffee, drinking and hanging out. It is a great place to walk around and take in the vibe. At night there are cool bars with live music, and the streets are just as alive as during the daytime. This trip home I just wanted to walk the streets and reabsorb the energy in Freo, which is a little bit magical. I gathered a couple of girlfriends, and together with our tribe of children we meandered around. We found an old gallery I used to hang out in back in the day, it now has a very funky café inside. We had the kids play puppet theatres, performing for each other with finger puppets we’d brought them, while we waited on the street, taking turns to browse in boutique shops.
We found lovely shops such as Paper Bird, a children’s bookshop and art studio where there are artists in residence. I met the delightful Liliana Stafford whose work is simple, beautiful, childlike and imaginative. We chatted about our lives and there were so many parallels. I think that is why I connected with her work so much:
‘…As I looked at her work we chatted. I loved the simplicity and childlike nature of her paintings. They make me feel good, joyful and happy. Light colours and lines create shapes and a world of wonderful imagination. Liliana’s work is about embracing the past and the memories we keep. Her work with stones and wire are about balance and sharing, a dance between two mediums which create a harmony that is simple yet strong. Liliana’s work resonates with me and we seem similar in the way we collect stones and treasures to keep as memory keepers.
I brought Liliana’s kids book ‘Amelia Ellicott’s Garden’ which is a book about community, breaking down walls, multiculturalism, friendship…and chickens. This story is beautiful and made me cry, in a good way…’
Down near the main strip, there was a street artist named Horacio T Birdbath doing his thing. I tried to speak to him and this is how it all turned out:
Me: How long has this taken you to do so far?
Him: This long
Me: When did you start?
Him: At the beginning
Me: Okay then, thanks.
That just about sums up what Fremantle is like.
Check out the night life
I’m not talking about going clubbing…although you can hit Northbridge if that is your deal. Seedy, stinky and filled with the flavours of club life, there is sure to be something to see. No, that is not my scene anymore…my idea of night life is a little more soulful than that.
Food trucks and food markets have become popular around the globe it seems, and Perth is no exception. When we were home I found out what was around the city, and worked out how we could fit a few things into our trip. One Friday night the kids and I hit the Street Hawker Market in Forrest Place. We wandered around listening to salsa music boom out of speakers. The smell of food and smoke was all around and the vibe was electric. Families hanging out, school kids on their way to the train station. Workers after their busy week chilling out before heading off for the night. It was great. Informal seating filled the area on a giant Astro-turf blanket. The kids got an iceypole and I got us paella, then we found giant arancini balls to snack on for the ride home. On during summer from late October through to March, this is definitely worth checking out if you are in town.
Under the Bridge is a group of five food-truck’s that hang out on the East Perth Foreshore, Monday Nights from 5 – 9pm. On the night we went the evening was warm and balmy which created a wonderful relaxed atmosphere. The trucks set up in a semi-circle in a carpark on the edge of the estuary, a little band played jazz. The kids hung out on the rocks at the waters edge and we ate our way through taco’s, kebabs and icecream sandwiches. Family members and friends joined us and it was one of the best nights. There are food- trucks all around town and you can check out where they are by visiting the website www.foodtrucksperth.com.
Take a Walking Tour
There are so many great waking tours around these days, and they are becoming a bit hip and cool. There is no better way to discover a new city or rediscover your old one than by hitting the pavement and have someone show you the secrets hidden in full view.
I booked a walking tour with Adie from her company Oh Hey WA! And we took her Cultural Tour. We met up in the middle of Perth CBD in Forest Chase and as we walked around I learned so many interesting and wonderful titbits about my city that I had no clue about. I also asked specifically, to be shown the street art which Adie obliged me in. I learned about the programs, the artists and got to see some wonderful hidden gems. If you have young children perhaps organise a stroller for the tour as their little feet will get tired and remember to take hats and lots of drinking water for hot days.
There is so much to see and do on a visit to Perth and by no means did I cover off everything. I mean, I didn’t get to eat my weight in free chocolate at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory in the Swan Valley, or do any wine tasting! I wanted to get up North further to Yanchep but that didn’t happen either.
My advice to people travelling is this: Make a list of the ‘must do’ things in the city that you feel excited about. If you have time for other stuff then awesome. My other piece of advice, well actually it’s an anecdote, is this: One time, long ago in the Czech Republic, I was feeling particularly knackered and wanted to rest. A friend said to me, ‘you can sleep when you’re dead’ and you know what, she was totally right, and I have lived by this philosophy ever since, particularly whenever we travel. So, I treated this trip as I do one of our holidays – we were out the door early and home late. Our down time came at the airport when you are stuck waiting around for hours and hours, and then on the plane. This way we got to see and do so much more, and I got to hang out with many more friends this time around, which is just the best kind of soul food.