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How to spend a fab day in Perth, Australia

Perth is nearly an eight-hour direct flight from Auckland and about three hours to Bali – just saying!

It’s the gateway to Western Australia, a massive state covering a third of Australia. And remember, Australia is about the same size as the United States, so yeah, it’s massive.

However most of that territory is desert, so Perth city sprawls along the Swan River which eventually flows into the Indian Ocean down at Fremantle.

Last time I was here, my friend and I hired a car and spent five days exploring the Margaret River Region.

Shadow of plane landing in Perth
Wheels down! Landing in Perth

It’s a great city with some lovely heritage buildings, good shopping along pedrianised Hay Street and Murray Street featuring department stores David Jones, Myer and KMart. As well as Pottery Barn, Sportsgirl, Uniqlo and a few others that my feet took me into.

If you have a day in Perth and you’re looking for some cool things to do, I have a few suggestions in this post.

I was up before the sparrows, being about five hours ahead on NZ time, so went for a stroll to take some photos. It was 7.15am, but it’s a lovely time of day to head out for a walk in any city.

Old Perth Post Office
The pavers around the old Post Office tell the story of this spot back in the day

After reading the story on the ground (above), I went back to the hotel (I was staying at QT – more on that below and what I ended up buying from them!) and had a yummy breakfast of mushrooms and haloumi on sour dough toast.

Then at 9am I met Jason, my driver and guide from Perth Luxury Tours, to spend half a day visiting some artisan producers in the Swan Valley, which is only a short drive; 30 minutes away, in his BMW SUV, thank you very much.

Coffee time!

Roasting coffee beans at Yahava Koffeeworks

We started with the essential coffee stop. Yahava Koffeeworks was founded in 2001 by coffee fanatic Alex Kok. He was nicknamed the Koffee Baron, because travelled the world finding the best coffee growers and beans, shipping them back to Australia to roast and grind in his Margaret River shed.

He opened a store and people began to come from far and wide for his perfect coffee. This KoffeeWorks location in the Swan Valley is the complete package with a cafe, barista training classes, free coffee tastings and lots of gifts and coffee paraphernalia for sale.

KoffeeWorks entrance
The photos on the right are coffee growers around the world who sell to KoffeeWorks

Sue, who drinks about five cups of coffee a day(!), helped me select three types of beans and made me some freshly ground coffees to try, first black then with a drop of milk to mellow out the taste – if I needed it. Yep, still can’t do black coffee. If only I could then I could join the intermittent fasting club. But I digress…

Sue at KoffeeWorks
Sue and one of her daily coffees 😀

Chocolate Tasting!

We then headed off for chocolate tasting. Mmmm.

The Margaret River Chocolate Company is another success story from the Margaret region that has opened another outlet in the Swan Valley. This factory is huge and the store is even bigger!

It was nearly Easter so there were lots of bunnies, but just any time you’d be overwhelmed by the piles of chocolate bars, eggs, novelty gifts and truffles. I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes tour

Chocolate covered macadamia nuts
Chocolate covered macadamia nuts, getting sprayed on the left and polished in the box!

On the same premises is Margaret River Providore which sells relishes and chutneys, oils and the pièce de résistance, their chocolate liqueurs. I tasted all five of their 18% proof liqueurs and bought a bottle of decaf espresso martini. How awesome is that? You always want an espresso martini at night, but don’t because you know you won’t sleep. Well, voila! And it tastes great too.

Liqueur master Tiann at Providor
Tasting with Tiann, who comes up with these chocolate liqueur recipes

Bush Tucker Tasting!

My next stop was to visit the iconic Dale Tillbrook who owns Maalinup Gallery at Mandoon Estate.

Her ancestry is Wardandi Bibbulmun language group. There are 14 language groups/ or clans around this region, sharing similar dialect and customs.

As well as the art gallery, which is great for a fossick around, she is famous for her knowledge of bush tucker ingredients, local indigenous produce, and incorporating it into restaurant menus. She runs workshops, demonstrations and does speaking engagements all over Australia and beyond.

We actually met in Auckland when she was over with some Aboriginal tourism operators who were showcasing their Western Australia businesses, and it just so happened I was coming to Perth in the next few weeks, so we hatched a plan for me to visit. I was looking forward to learning as much as I could about the amazing properties of some of the berries, nuts, fruits and leaves she gathers and collects from local growers.

Megan with Dale showing indigeous ingredients
These little peppercorn looking things are SUPER hot and spicy!

This was a highlight for me and one of the best things I did while in Perth. I thoroughly recommend anyone who loves interesting food, incredible flavours and getting back to locally grown, even medicinal in some cases, flora.

We tasted lemon myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, strawberry gum tree leaves. She was instrumental in preserving many of these trees, by paying those whose land the trees are on to harvest them for her rather than bulldoze them.

Dale showing finger limes
Incredibly punchy finger lime pulp. It’s like citrus caviar!

Then we lunched at the Wild Swan restaurant at Mandoon Estate, where a wedding was being set up on the lawn, and indigenous ingredients were beautifully incorporated into our meals.

We tried some little amuse bousche courses including this sinfully delicious chicken skin with a creamy mousse of something I can’t remember. It was so good!

Chicken skin amuse bousche course at Mandoon Estate
Chicken skin amuse bousche course at Mandoon Estate
Hay Street mall shopping precinct with handstand man statue
Hay Street Mall, before opening hours!

Where to stay in Perth

I’m going say one of the best places to stay is the super styly QT Hotel. It’s not only super central to everything, but I’ve had such a comfy sleep in my uber cool room, that I whipped the sheets back to check out the mattress label and find out where it’s from.

You know it’s a good hotel when you actually buy the bed! Yep, messaged hubby and he said go for it, so I am expecting to take delivery of a superking Dream Bed in the next couple of weeks back home!

My room at QT Perth
I’ve bought the bed ;D

My room faces the setting sun and looks over Murray Street mall, with a modern bathroom and purple and green velvet chairs in a little loungette beside my awesome bed. On the ground floor is a cafe beside reception. The main restaurant, Santini, is on level one and I had a delicious crab linguine there the night I arrived.

Crab linguine at Santini, in the QT Hotel
Crab linguine at Santini, in the QT Hotel

There is also a rooftop bar, altough you won’t actually see the sun set due to the high rises around you, but it has an open top area and indoors as well. It was a bit too “ooncy” for me, so I grabbed a wine and went back to my room to finish this post.

Check out QT Perth room rates

Other things to do in Perth

Dine or drink at Elizabeth Quay. There’s lots of building action still happening at Elizabeth Quay, but it’s definitely worth visiting for lunch/brunch/dinner. There’s also a couple of rooftop bars down here at the Doubletree by Hilton and the Ritz Carlton. The latter also has a swimming pool on the top floor, but for hotel guests only.

Lick the best gelato! Gusto Gelato is down at Elizabeth Quay and the special was banoffee pie when I went. Mmmm, banana/salted caramel gelato with pieces of shortbread in it.

Megan with banoffee gelato ice cream cone
Mmm, banoffee pie gelato!

Fremantle Markets. They run all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am till 6pm and have been running for over 100 years. You’ll find fresh produce, coffee, handicrafts, jewellery, jigsaws, wine and a lot more.

Rottnest Island. Enjoy a day trip by boat from Elizabeth Quay across to Rottnest Island (or Rotto, as the locals call it), so named “rats nest island” in 1696 because of the adorable bit ratty-looking marsupial quokkas, who live here. They are not like rats, but if you have nothing to compare them too, I guess. There’s also good surfing, pristine beaches, bicycles to hire, places to eat and drink and plenty of walks.

Girl giving water to quokka
A curious quokka having a drink

Chime the bells at the Bell Tower. On Thursdays and Sundays from 12-1pm you can watch the bell ringers at the Bell Tower, and you can also take part, learn the history of the bells and get a souvenir bell chiming certificate!

Go wine tasting. There are eight wine regions located around Perth and the south west of WA for wine tastings: Swan Valley, Perth Hills, Peel Wine Region, Geographe Wine Region, Margaret River, Blackwood Valley, Southern Forests, and the Great Southern Wine Region.

Visit Kings Park and Botanic Garden. There are over 3000 species of Western Australia’s unique flora in Kings Park, one of the biggest inner-city parks in the world. It covers 400 hectares (larger than Central Park) and two-thirds of it is protected bushland. Six million people visit this urban park each year. You’ll find cafes, see the city skyline, and the 760 year old Boab tree.

See the animals at Caversham Wildlife Park. Located in Whiteman Park, bring the kids to see wallabies and wombats, kangaroos (I feel a song coming on), koalas, quokkas and Tasmanian Devils. The latter I saw in Tasmania at a conservation park as the devils are succumbing to a terrible facial cancer, so are being carefully looked after and protected. You’ll find 2000 animals including reptiles and birds so bring the kids and cuddle a snake or a koala for a great selfie!

The Art Gallery of Western Australia not only houses indiegnous and contemporary art, but a rooftop bar that is open in spring and summer! Located in the Perth Cultural Centre, is it free to enter.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!