New and Old in Perth Western Australia. The Perth Arena and The Melbourne Hotel

Why you have to visit ‘sleepy’ Perth before it’s too late to catch the zzzz’s.

“Know what?” I said last Saturday as we were wandering around the all but deserted city streets of Perth.

“Perth isn’t a city for the week.”

“I disagree,” Dave retorted. “It’s anything but. It’s a city for the strong – steeped and built on hard work and the red dust of places such as the Pilbara and the Gascoyne.”

“No I mean ‘Week’ as in ‘Days of’ I laughed. “You know, in the week you can’t get a hotel room at a decent price and the streets are full of people, but at the weekend it’s cheaper to stay here, and there only seems to be a handful of tourists wandering around.”

Having fun, playing the fool and enjoying the sights and statues of Perth at the weekend

Yes, it’s a city for sightseeing on Saturdays, Sundays and some public holidays. The office workers have disappeared to the suburbs or they have headed down south or up north for the weekend, and the streets are free of the rush of traffic.

Tip. Perth hotels are less expensive on weekends, and the city is easier to drive around – no gridlock or hustle and bustle like on weekdays.

Look around and you’ll see Perth’s steel and glass towers rising out of the earth like beacons, as if heralding in the era of the resources giants and Western Australia’s part in this chapter of the moulding of a continent.

The building that changes colours at night.

Perhaps the growth of the nouveaux riche has led to the death of Perth as the quaint backwater of Australian capitals, but all is not lost for in amongst this chrome and vitreous mining magnet, plans have been set in place, and the cogs are turning to ensure that development is accompanied by a renaissance of the city CBD which will enhance old favourites and exude a new vibrancy.

Perth is changing rapidly

The Lanes are one example. Once slightly seedy, dingy backwaters of the city, they are being revamped. I can’t wait for more to be peppered with bars and bistros and individual shops.

I’ve been in SWA for four years, and when we arrived I had to admit that Perth felt, well, a little sleepy. But as we walked around last Saturday we were suddenly aware of how rapidly things have been changing right under our noses.

We had been sleeping ‘down south’ while a renaissance had been burgeoning in the ‘big smoke’.

“That’s new!” I said as we walked in hot summer sun from Hay Street to the very new Perth Arena where international stars such as Pink, Neil Young and The Script are soon to play.

“Not so new,” Dave said. “We just haven’t noticed it going up.”

I thought what a magnificent modern structure it is, and in a great position because it’s going to connect to the railway – how easy is that if you come to watch a sports game or music event?

The old railway station is ‘going underground’ and the waterfront is being redeveloped.

“But where’s the railway station gone?” Mrs-country-bumpkin asked in dismay as I saw that the old station had all but disappeared and turned into rubble.

The main train station was just a skeleton of its former self and I hardly recognized it.

“It’s all going, or gone underground,” Dave replied and we saw the huge earthworks taking place as we crossed to get over to the Art Gallery.

Memories of trains and sleepy WA towns

Fondly, I remembered back to our early days in Australia…  my 5.30am starts from home (when I didn’t want to drive up to Perth because even then I felt the roads were too busy) when I would catch the early morning Australind train from Bunbury. The slow train to Perth, stopping at all the country towns  and arriving at the city’s characterful old station at around 8.30am.

I remember how seedy we thought the area close to Northbridge was when we’d been spat off the plane (that’s what it felt like) on our very first, very hot day in Australia with only four suitcases and a lot of wonder and anticipation.

Soon the city will merge seamlessly into Northbridge and the area will be revitalized with new shopping areas, and Perth will not anymore be chopped into two by the railway, so there can be no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ side anymore.

King’s Park is a lovely place for a walk, a glass of wine and something to eat, a wonderful sunset view and art in the park.

The waterfront down by the Swan River is also in for a revamp and extension, like multi million dollar extension. Many disagree with what’s happening, but as a relative newcomer I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy a more extensive waterside experience. I’m thinking Sydney Harbour or Cape Town waterfront – there’s plenty of scope to make it more interesting in Perth.

A Pact about Perth

Anyways, I’ve made a bit of a pact with myself not to fall asleep for another four years, because I might not recognize Perth ever again if I do. I’m already wondering where I’ll be getting off if I ever catch the Australind train again.

Have you been watching Perth’s renaissance – do you like it or hate it? Or what changes have you noticed most over the years?

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  1. I have not been to Perth but once lived there for two years. I have very fond memories of Freo Market and working in the City and the week-end BBQ’s in the National Parks and fleeing to the beach when it was oh so hot after work, and the beautiful Kings Park. We will return one day and I am sure that we will still love it.

  2. Great that you have such fond memories, Jan! And here’s hoping that you do get back to Perth’s fair shores one day soon 🙂

  3. Don’t worry! I got that ok! and b.t.w. I too know what it’s like being able to hit the ‘publish’ button so easily! Many’s the time a very obvious and much regretted typo has gone ‘live’.

  4. I live in Perth and often am surprised by what changes on a weekly basis. The city is growing rapidly with buildings popping up everywhere and tourist-friendly spots constantly multiplying. The sad truth is that a lot of the locals still think the city is boring so they don’t visit as much as they should. I wouldn’t be surprised if Perth squeezes in the top 4 most tourist friendly cities within the next decade.

  5. Thanks Grum, and I’m sure that you are a lot more in touch with all the changes living in Perth. It would be great if it gets into the top 4 most tourist friendly cities – it is a great place to visit for lots of different reasons 🙂

  6. I don’t know too much about Perth nor have I been but it looks very charming. Your pictures with the statues are awesome. Great to see that it’s making some big changes for the better. You certainly made it look very inviting.

  7. Thanks Ciara, that’s lovely praise for the post and I’m glad you found it interesting.

  8. Hi Johanna, I haven’t been to Perth but have heard wonderful things about it. I hope to make it there sometime soon. I know rapid development can be daunting but it seems inevitable in a lot of places that have great potential to attract tourism and commerce. I hope that Perth will be able to retain its old charm despite the changes.
    P.s. Love your hand holding shot with the statue. You guys look good together:)

  9. Thank you, Marisol. Yes, i also hope that it doesn’t lose its charm in all the progress. We had a giggle with the statues that day! Thanks for your comments.

  10. I am from Perth originally and I have always loved our city and the way it wraps around the Swan River and the views from Kings Park. We have been in Bunbury for over 30 years now and last year we had a weekend in Perth and enjoyed walking and re-getting-to-know our city. We really enjoyed exploring with “tourist” eyes. We even went on the ferry across the river – something we haven’t done for years. I love Perth and I love that it is a little bit sleepy. But it is growing (the traffic!), there is lots happening, and lots in the pipeline. Perth – Australia’s best kept secret – and we like it that way!

  11. Some lovely thoughts, Jill and yes, Australia’s best kept secret 🙂

  12. Arianwen

    I think sometimes you have to leave a place for a few months to notice it changing. I’m sure London has changed heaps over the past 7 years that I’ve been based here, but I only noticed the changes after I went travelling in South America.

  13. That’s so true Arianwen, and travel also gives us a different perspective on how we view a place that we were once familiar with, don’t you think? Hope that you are happily surprised by London when you return one day.

  14. It does seem to be different every time I visit, with decent gaps in between getting over there.

    Love the pic of you and the statue holding hands – where is he?

  15. Hi Tash, thanks for popping by 🙂 You’d notice the changes if you come over intermittently. That statue is on St George’s terrace as you go up the hill towards King’s Park.

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