Destination Information - Perth, Australia
The first thing people say about Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is that it's a "nice" city, but that doesn't do justice to the stunning setting of this beautiful settlement on the banks of the Swan River.
Perth's not an "in yer face" place. Sure, people party hard, boogie till dawn at the clubs, and get themselves legless at pubs; but Perthites are so laid back, they're almost horizontal. They get up to what people in other big cities do, except it's done without excessive bravado and at about half the pace. The streets are wide and relatively traffic free, it's sparkling clean, and as far as sunlight hours and huge blue skies are concerned, Perth beats its distant neighbours hands down.
Perth's most unusual claim to fame is that it's the most isolated state capital on earth. To the east, over the ancient Darling Ranges, is the forbidding Nullabor Plain, populated only by the smallest lifeforms. Half a day north, after you've passed sandstone formations of the Pinnacles that look like a Mad Max film set, dolphins nuzzle the knees of humans in the shallow waters of Monkey Mia. Then, from the thousands of kilometres of pounding, pristine beaches from Shark Bay to Esperance, there's nothing further west along the cerulean Indian Ocean until the shores of Africa. South of the city there are caves, forests, vineyards, wild waves, and whale watching.
Sophisticated Sydney is almost five thousand kilometres away - the distance between London and Moscow. For many the trans-continental crossing - whether by car, plane, or the iconic Indian Pacific train - is the trip of a lifetime, a chance to see the forbidding interior, and perhaps to understand why once the Western shores were reached, there was no going back.
Dreamers and hopefuls flocked to Perth - and its goldfield region of Kalgoorlie - from many countries during the 1890s gold rush, multiplying its fortunes and quadrupling its population. Convicts - deported for the pettiest of crimes from England - were used to alleviate the labour shortage. They built many of Perth's beautiful old buildings like the Town Hall and Government House, although modern buildings have permanently replaced much of the original city.
During the 1980s, entrepreneurial activities and the much-lauded America's Cup, played off in the waters of Fremantle, put the city on the cosmopolitan map. Fremantle became the natural extension of Perth, and remains the place where everyone goes for a good time, particularly on weekends, when the streets are sometimes closed to traffic and festivals keep everyone up late.