Perth, or The (Second) Most Isolated Large City in the World
Top honor for the world’s most isolated large city may go to Honolulu, but coming in a close second is Perth, the fourth largest city in Australia. It’s pretty damn isolated; at five hours from the East coast of Australia, it’s closer to Jakarta and East Timor than Sydney. Flying there is great; you gain time as you fly across the time zones. Flying back is another story. It’s not easy to get to, and you burn a lot of time in transit, so think carefully when considering visiting.
Proper Perth is a bit of a sprawling city and it’s often described as having a sleepier pace than other large Australian cities. A description I would have to agree with, based on my limited experience, but it’s clean, tidy and pleasant, so I’ve no complaints to lodge. It’s presided over by King’s Park, a thousand acre refuge that observes the city and the Swan river that traces through it. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic on the perfectly manicured grass, it’s lovely.
Exploring downtown Perth is easy. It’s a pretty walkable city, for the most part, and there are free buses that can shuttle you around the CBD if needed. If there’s one thing I love – it’s city that has an abundance of statues to pose with, and Perth is lousy with them. Observe:
Phil and I, wrapping up our epic Australian journey, made our home base in the
suburb town of Fremantle. It’s a bit of a scruffy port city, but in a pleasant way – like a cute dog that maybe needs a bath and brush. It’s home to Little Creatures Brewery, a great spot for local beer and gourmet pizza in the coolest space you’ll find in town. Most importantly, it’s the closest stop for the ferry to Rottnest Island, also known as The Most Charming Little Island That Ever Was.
Rottnest Island is almost anachronistic in the way it resists overdevelopment and, I don’t know, colonization by the mainland. No cars are allowed on the small island – it’s bike or bust – though buses do loop the island, giving the lazy or infirm a chance to experience this magical place too. Rottnest is about a twenty-five minutes by ferry (yes, yes, I know, another ferry. My life for an extra long zip line, amiright?) The ferry and bike rentals are not exactly cheap, but it’s such a fantastic time you won’t mind. I loved it so much I dedicated a post just to Rottnest. You can find it here.
After rusticating, tanning, and listening to a pair of Aussie parents discuss with their children the odds of survival if Trump were to incite a nuclear war, we were ready for a day of adventure on the road. Have you ever driven through rural Texas? That’s what Western Australia feels like, at least in the area surrounding Perth. Balgas plants line the road, lending the area a Tim Burton kind of feel. Emus and kangaroo can be seen from the road, particularly around sunrise and sunset. Our first stop was the strangest wildlife park I’ve ever been to.
Behold the fever dream that is Cohuna Koala Park:
The Cohuna Wildlife park has an unfinished feel to it. Not like, it’s still under construction, more like years ago all work was halted because of ghosts, giant sand worms, or lack of funding, and now they are back open. The first animal that greeted us as we walked through the chainlink fence was, surprisingly, a two hundred pound pot belly pig. I named him Snackbox. The park is clearly from a more simple time, a time filled with whimsy, ambition, and lots of questionable business decisions. Did you know they have a deep space observatory here? Well, they don’t, because of funding, but they WANT to have one. So much that they built a structure to house a telescope, nestled above the bathroom facilities, next to the duck pond (home to a one-winged pelican, of course), and a seven foot velociraptor. A child size train loops through the property, a property filled with miniature ponies, kangaroos, koalas, ducks, peacocks, deer, unfulfilled dreams, emus and ostriches. It’s surreal and fantastically odd and you have to go.
The scientifically curious will appreciate a trip to the International Gravitational Research Center, located in the Middle of Nowhere, but sort of on the way to Pinnacle National Park, north of Perth. Educational opportunities abound, and you can see the tree planted in honor of Kip Thorne, in additional to dropping water balloons from the leaning tower of physics (ha!). The entrance fee seems a little steep for what you get, but considered the state of scientific research in the world, your patronage would be appreciated.
An hour from the Gravitational Research Center, just off of the gorgeous Indian Ocean Highway, are the Pinnacles. Located in the Nambung National Park, the ancient shell-made spires are from an epoch of time when the area was underwater. Thousands of them jut out from golden sand, and we spent an hour driving through the park, goofing off, and taking photos. There’s a loop that cars have to follow, but you can get out pretty much wherever you want to snap pics. I would budget an hour or so here and make sure you have a full tank of gas before you head out, because gas stations are few and far between. After lunch along the ocean, we headed back to Perth, stopping at the remains of the Atlantis Marine Park. Not much is left, except for a huge bust of Poseidon, God of the sea, and a few crumbling dolphin statues. There are ‘no trespassing’ signs, and – supposedly – cameras at the top of statue to discourage people from climbing around, but it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right?
The remains of Atlantis Marine Park:
Tonight, we fly out head begin the journey back to Boston, cold weather, and an existence without kangaroos and ‘G’day mate’. It will take around 32 hours of planes, layovers, mouth-breather filled airports, and security checks to get home. I’ve had an incredible time in Australia and I’m already looking forward to a return visit.
*I would plan on renting a car for part of the your stay, there’s a lot to see out of the city.
*Get a ice-cream from Honey Cream in downtown Perth, you won’t regret it!
*Pack a lunch and eat King’s Park.
How I got here: Jetstar flight for $442AU.
Where I stayed: Esplande Hotel Fremantle. Terrible wifi, but otherwise pleasant enough hotel in a central area, short walk to ferry and train terminal. Easy train ride from downtown Perth.
What I did:
Rottnest Island : When the robots finally take over, you can find me here, on the beach, petting a quokka. Catch the ferry front fremantle, which takes about 25 minutes. Rent a bike, some snorkel gear, and try to find all the underwater plaques in Little Salmon Bay.
Gravity Discovery Center : Science Fun!
The Pinnacles : A three-ish hour drive from Perth. Well worth the trip with plenty of things to see along the way.
Lots of Statue Shushing in downtown Perth
Atlantis Marine Park – Abandoned. Crawl under the barbwire fence to explore this abandoned park. There isn’t much to see, but it’s worth a stop. Ignore the cameras at the top – I’m
pretty sure they are there just to scare away hooligans. Have lunch overlooking the ocean afterwards at Oscar and Sons.
Full Perth and Rottnest Gallery: