World Facts Index > Australia > Perth

Enjoying more hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital, Perth is the place to take advantage of clean air, great beaches and a laid-back lifestyle.

Perth is located on the Swan River, with the suburbs sprawling out in a north-south direction, and east to the Darling Ranges. Locals refer to locations as being either north or south of the river, or in the Hills.

The central business district (CBD)
The streets of Perth's CBD are aligned in a grid-like fashion and are easily navigated.

The 'nine to five' work is focused along St George's Terrace ('the Terrace') at the western end and Adelaide Terrace at the eastern end. The high-rise buildings contribute to the notorious wind tunnel effect along this stretch of road.

Barracks Archway, located at the very top end of St George's Terrace, is all that remains of the original military barracks, which were built by convict labour in 1863 and demolished in 1966.

City shopping is centred around the Hay and Murray Street Malls and the arcades joining the two together. Forrest Place, a 'town square' bordered on four sides by the Myer store, Wellington Street, the Central Post Office Building and the Murray Street Mall, is often the site of free public entertainment and street theatre. Buskers are a regular feature and the overpass from Myer to the Carillion Arcade offers a prime viewing spot. Across from Forrest Place is the Wellington Street Rail Station, the main terminal for the metropolitan train system.

Within the Hay Street Mall lies the entrance to London Court, a shopping arcade built in the style of Tudor England. Knights joust every hour as the entrance clock chimes.

King Street, at the western end of the city, has seen a revamp that has transformed the once run-down warehouses into funky shops and apartments. His Majestys Theatre is located here. This Edwardian theatre was built in 1904 and is home to the Western Australia Ballet and Opera companies.

Heading east along the 'Terrace', you'll find the Gothic style Saint George's Cathedral (Anglican) and Government House, the home of the Governor of Western Australia. Next door to Government House is the Perth Concert Hall, which is the main venue for classical music performances.

The Perth Mint in Hay Street is Australia's oldest operating mint. Established in 1899, the Mint now specialises in producing gold, silver and platinum coins, and houses a museum with regularly changing displays.

The Old Perth Port and Barrack Street Jetty is the base for Perth's ferry and river cruises, and also host to a number of restaurants and cafes.

Terrific panoramic views of the city and Swan River can be seen from Kings Park, a 1000 acre area of native bushland adjacent to the city.

Over the rail line from the city, lies Perth's nightlife centre. The streets of Northbridge are packed every Friday and Saturday night with people on their way to nightclubs after eating out at one of the many restaurants. A combination of Italian, Greek and Asian influences make for a wide variety of food and a cosmopolitan party atmosphere.

As well as being the capital of the city's nightlife, Northbridge is also the place to go to take in some culture. The Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), the State Library and the Western Australia Museum are all located here. On weekends, you can browse through the open-air market held in the square outside the Art Gallery.

Although strictly speaking a suburb of Perth, Fremantle could almost be classified as a separate city. 'Freo' has its own unique style.

Fremantle is a major working port and fishing city, with a history going back to convict times. The National Trust has classified most of Fremantle's buildings, and many of them were renovated in the lead up to Australia's defence of the America's Cup in 1987.

Fremantle's culture is very strongly influenced by the city's ethnic community. A visit is a gourmet's dream, with the cafes and restaurants lining the streets offering an international feast.

Having an al fresco cappuccino as you do a spot of people watching on South Terrace (the 'cafe strip') is practically compulsory. Don't miss Fremantle Markets at the corner of South Terrace and Henderson Streets. The original markets were opened in 1897 and still flourish today with more than 150 stalls selling fruit and vegetables, clothing, antiques and other assorted 'stuff'.

Fremantle Prison is another must see. Ex-prison guards conduct guided tours of the heritage-listed prison. The spooky night tours, which take you through the prison and gallows by candlelight, are a fantastic experience.

A trip to Freo isn't complete without a visit to Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and a meal of fish and chips at Kailis' Fish Market Cafe.

Swan Valley
The Swan Valley, 30 minutes drive from the centre of Perth, is home to an excellent selection of wineries, restaurants, galleries and accommodation. The Valley hosts two festivals each year. Taste of the Valley, held during April, and Spring in the Valley, held annually on the second weekend in October, showcase the region's finest offering of food, wine and art.

The region, one of the first areas within Western Australia to be settled, has a history of producing award-winning wines. Two of the state's largest wineries (Houghton Wines and Sandalford Wines), are located in the Valley, along with many small boutique wineries.

Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is Perth's own holiday resort and home to the famous quokka (a small marsupial unique to this area). The island is a great place for a day trip, reminiscent of bygone days of playing hide and seek in small coves, cycling across rolling hills and stopping for ice cream in a hidden local store.

History of Perth

In 1697, a Dutch captain, Willem de Vlamingh, named a river after the black swans he saw on the water. The Swan River eventually became the base around which the city of Perth and its suburbs would grow.

Perth started out as a colony established by free pioneers, with 100 men, women and children being the first European settlers to arrive in 1829. Aboriginals however, had been in the area for thousands of years: there is an Aboriginal site in the Upper Swan area thought to be 40,000 years old.

The colony of Western Australia was proclaimed on 8 June 1829 on Garden Island. A short time later, Captain James Stirling sailed up the Swan River to an area that was to become the centre of Perth. On August 12 1829, the city of Perth was founded with the ceremonial cutting down of a Sheoak tree on a site close to the present Town Hall.

The hardships of colonial times meant that development of the city was very slow. In 1850, the Government was eventually convinced to transport convicts to the colony, following which, Perth grew steadily on the back of their hard labour. The Perth Gaol and Fremantle Prison were two of the first building tasks completed by the convicts. The Town Hall was the last building in Perth to be built by convict labour.

Named after the Scottish city, Perth was announced a city in 1856 by Queen Victoria.

The first port of call for migrants and visitors, the port city of Fremantle (pictured) was proclaimed on 3 June 1929. The different mix of cultures arriving in Fremantle was the foundation for the cosmopolitan atmosphere still found here today. Western Australia's oldest remaining building, The Round House, was built here by convicts between 1830 and 1831. Built as a gaol, the building housed eight cells and a gaoler's residence. The building soon became too small to house the growing number of convict arrivals and so the prisoners built their own "new home", the Fremantle Prison. The prison was completed in 1859 and only ceased being a working prison in 1991.

Thirteen kilometres from central Perth is Guildford, the only town in Perth to be registered by the National Trust of Australia. Together with Perth and Fremantle, Guildford was one of the first three original Swan River Colony settlements.

Established in 1829, Guildford was an inland port and market town, making use of the Swan and Helena Rivers to transport goods to and from Perth and Fremantle. The Guildford town site is arranged in the manner of a 19th century English market town, complete with a church square, main street and grid subdivision. Many of the town's original buildings and homes still exist and are open to the public.

The original commercial precinct, dating back to 1829, around Meadow and Swan Streets contains many historically significant buildings, including Padburys Cafe Restaurant (1869), the Old Town Gaol (1840), that today houses the Guildford Tourist Bureau, and St Matthew's Church (1873).

In 1881, the railway line to Fremantle was opened changing the town's development as river transport declined and rail became the focus.

Guildford is the gateway to the Swan Valley, Perth's wine producing region. Olive Farm Winery is one of the area's oldest vineyards. Established in 1829, the limestone wine cellar is still in use. The Swan Valley is also home to Western Australia's oldest church, All Saint's Anglican Church at Henley Brook. The church is in the area where captain Stirling made camp in 1827. Opened in 1841, it was originally made of mud brick, with a porch and belfry added in 1860.

The growth of Perth owes a great deal to the discovery of gold in the northwest of the state and again in 1887 at Southern Cross. Gold fever hit and the population doubled twice in a decade. The biggest gold boom occurred in 1893 when Paddy Hannan, Tom Flannagan and Dan Shea discovered gold 40km east of Coolgardie. Prospectors from China, Europe and the USA flocked to Western Australia in search of fortune.

The area around Kalgoorlie became known as the "Golden Mile". The biggest gold nugget ever found in Western Australia, The Golden Eagle, was found here in 1931. The Perth Mint was established in 1899 and refined much of the state's gold.

The 1960s saw Western Australia's mineral mining industry boom and in the 1970s natural gas resources in the North West Shelf brought further growth. The city skyline changed significantly during this time, with the building of many of today's office towers.

Perth became known as the "city of lights" in 1962 when the Challenger spaceship passed overhead. The lights in the office buildings of the city centre were kept on and the residents of Perth lit up their households as US astronaut John Glen orbited above. Thirty five years later, in 1998, Perth lit up again, with Glen this time passing by on board the Discovery space shuttle.

1987 was a very important year for Perth, with Fremantle hosting Australia's defence of the America's Cup. The region saw major renovations to many listed buildings during this period. World publicity put Perth on the global tourist map, since when Perth has never looked back and looks forward to a prosperous future.

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