Few will get a chance to enjoy a spaceman’s perspective, but II” the view over Perth from King’s Park is a good compromise for sizing up the city below. These 400 hectares (990 acres) of
Perth’s skyscrapers are crowded around the Swan River
natural woodland and wild flowers, manicured lawns and picnic sites, solemn monuments, bike tracks (hire bikes from the main car park) and lively playgrounds are found on the top of a bluff called Mt Eliza, right on the edge of the city centre. From here you look down on the wide Swan River as it meanders toward the sea, on the business district with its gleaming skyscrapers. and on the complexity of the well-landscaped municipal freeway system.
The Swan River was named after the indigenous black swans found here. first noted with amazement by the 17th-century Dutch navigator Willem de Vlaming. Unlike swans in the Northern Hemisphere, which are white and prone to whistling or grunting when they are not naturally mute, the black swans sound off like a band of clarinets noisily tuning up.
They’re such tame creatures that they’ll take bread out of the palm of your hand without biting. The Swan River begins about 240km (ISO miles) inland in the wheatlands of Western Australia. For most of its long journey. under the name of Avon River, it is only seasonally navigable, and occasionally downright treacherous.
But here, with the Indian Ocean close enough to salt it. the Swan widens into a lake. and invites reflection – and attracts flotillas of breezy yachts. By the riverside in the centre of town, the Old Courthouse really is old, especially by local standards. Built in Georgian style in 1836. it’s the oldest pub-lic building in Perth and houses a law museum (open: Tuts and Thur 10 am-2.30pm). Stirling Gardens, surrounding the courthouse, is a restful hideaway. The ‘Ore Obelisk’ monument here looks like a giant shish-kebab impaling all of the minerals mined in Western Australia; but don’t expect to find gold or diamonds on the skewer-they don’t seem to count. Nearby, fronting the river, the Barrack Street Jetty, where ferries leave for Rottncst Island. is the site of the striking steel, glass and copper Swan Bells Tower (open: daily 9am-6pin), completed in 2001. The 82.5-m (270-ft) spire houses the 14th-century bells of the church of St-Martin-in-the-Fields.
London – a Bicentennial present from Quccn Eliza-beth II – which ring out on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons (12.30-2pm). On the top floor, an observation deck gives views of the Perth skyline. The Town Hall, at the corner of Hay and Barrack Streets. was built in the 1860s by convict labour.
If you look closely at the outline of the windows of the tower, you may perceive the design of broad arrows – the prison symbol that was stencilled on convict uniforms. Similarly Tudor in inspiration, but even less of an antique than the Town Hall, London Court is a 1930s shopping mall done up in touristy 16th-century style. leaded windows and all. It fits in quite happily with the modem stores and interconnecting shopping precincts radiating from the Hay Street Mall, the main shopping street of Perth.
Cars are prohibited here, so the window-shopping is very relaxed. A couple of blocks north, across Murray Street Mall, is For-rest Place on the corner of Wellington Street. Here, in Albert Facey House, you’ll find the Perth Visitor Centre (tel: 1300 361 351) – a source of brochures, maps. tickets, tours and bright ideas, all cheerfully dispensed by the helpful staff. In a city as young as Perth, with its skyline of tall, modem office buildings, those historic structures which have escaped the developer’s demolition ball are proudly pointed out to visitors. Government House.
found on the main street. St George’s Terrace, is the official residence of the Western Australia governor. Its Gothic effects date from the 1860s. Built by hard-working convicts, the house is used nowadays for a variety of state occasions and as a place to accommodate visimg vies. The elegant terrace leads directly to the Barracks Archway, the last vestige of a headquarters building of the 1860$.
This crenellated three-storey structure has been preserved as a memorial to the early colonists. Behind the brick archway you can catch a glimpse of the Parliament House, where the state legislature holds forth.
On the other side of the railway tracks – you can cross the unusual Horseshoe Bridge by foot or car – stands the Perth Cultural Centre. which is made up of Western Australia’s state museum and art gallery, state library and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (eirA: open: Tucs-Sun I I am-7pm). Part of the Western Australian Museum (open: daily 9.30am-5pm) is the Old Gaol, which was constructed and used by convicts in 1856. The museum offers rather more than penal relics of the wild-west days – there is also an extensive collection of Aboriginal rock paintings. head-dresses and weapons. and a 10- tonne meteorite. The Western Australia Art Gallery (open: daily lOarn-5pm) displays paintings from several continents.
Also north of the city centre is the Northbridge district. which is full of lively ethnic restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. especially around lames and Lake streets. If you’re in the mood for gambling, head for the Burswood Casino, near the Causeway Bridge.