Perth skyline at sunset

One of the reasons we chose Saigon, Vietnam, for our SE Asia home base for the next year, is that there are so many places we can explore within a four-hour (or less) flight. However, realizing we are as close to Australia as we’re ever likely to be, we decided to bend our four-hour flight “rule.”

After researching destinations that would be closest to us, we chose to go to Perth (a six-hour flight). While it’s not the first city that came to our minds when thinking about taking a trip to Australia, the fact that we knew very little about it made it more intriguing – And we were not disappointed.

The City

Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is a city of about two million people. The Central Business District (CBD) buzzes with walkers in a maze of elevated skyways that link many of its buildings and on several of the pedestrian-only streets. Many shops and restaurants spill onto the sidewalks, making a stop for lunch or a coffee great for people-watching. 

Aside from its bustling downtown area, Perth offers several museums. We went to the Perth Mint and watched an entertaining and informative demonstration of how gold bars are made. Note: They did not give out any samples 😉

Green Space

The peaceful Swan River meanders through the city on its way to the Indian Ocean. Tree-lined footpaths on each bank make for lovely strolls. There is also Kings Park and Botanical Garden, a nine hundred-eighty-eight-acre public park perched on a hill high above the CBD. It offers a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the city and river. Entry is free, and although some areas and restaurants close at sunset, the park remains open 24 hours. We went up late one evening and joined many folks there to do a little stargazing.

Perth also offers many lovely sandy beaches along the Indian Ocean that are easy to get to on the clean, efficient light rail. We spent a peaceful afternoon at the very pretty Cottesloe Beach.

There are also several excellent day trips to choose from that offer experiences that are unique to Western Australia.

The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park

The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park

We rented a car and drove 2 hours north to see the extraordinary Pinnacles Desert. Thousands of limestone pillars jut through the shifting gold (and I mean bright yellow-gold) sand. Scientists think that the pillars were formed underground up to 500,000 years ago. They also believe these limestone formations have likely been covered up and exposed with the shifting sand several times over millennia. The belief is that the most recent uncovering happened only a few hundred years ago.

On our way to the Pinnacles, we stopped in Cervantes for a much-touted lobster roll that did not disappoint. The soft, buttery roll was so stuffed with delicious lobster that we had to eat much of it with a fork before we even tried to pick it up.


Freemantle is located on the Indian Ocean at the mouth of the Swan River. Although it had been inhabited by indigenous people for millennia, it was proclaimed a city in 1929 and named for British Naval Captain Charles Freemantle. Historical buildings, shops, and restaurants line the streets. We visited the WA Shipwrecks Museum which exhibits fascinating items that are found along Western Australia’s perilous coastline.

Rottnest Island

 We took a pleasant two-hour ferry ride from Perth to Rottnest Island. This lovely respite is popular with locals and tourists alike. Once we docked we could choose to spend the day at any of the island’s 63 beaches, take a tour bus ride around the island, or rent bikes (which we did) and explore the island, riding along trails that loop around and through the island. The island is surprisingly hilly. Combined with the fact that there are not many trees to offer shade, it can be daunting on a pedal bike. We made sure to bring what we thought was a lot of water. (We needed LOTS more! ) We did jump into the ocean to cool down when we needed to. (Tip: Electric bikes are also offered, and knowing the landscape as I do now, I would rent one of these next time.)

We found Perth to be a lovely, vibrant city with many excellent museums, restaurants, green spaces, and easy access to beautiful beaches. It’s also a great location for several fun day trips.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, we did see a kangaroo hopping through the brush on our drive up the north coast. That was my, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto,” moment. 🙂