Perth CBD walking tour with Oh Hey WA
Get up close and personal with Perth’s ever-evolving CBD on this superb walking tour with a local guide. You’ll hear tales of the city’s past and present, and see lots of awesome street artworks. Bring something to jot down the recommendations for bars and eateries to return to during your stay. Duration: 2 hours (approx.)
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
Every time I visit Perth, I learn something new about this flourishing city.
Today my teacher is Robyn from Oh Hey WA and I’m about to embark on their two-hour Perth CBD walking tour. Before we make a move, Robyn pays respect to the Noongar people — the traditional owners of the Perth region. Then she points to our meeting place: the large green sculpture in Forrest Place, known locally as ‘the cactus’. It’s not actually a cactus. To me it looks more like a heart monitor, which is in line with what it represents — organic farming, living, art and ideas. The work is called Grow Your Own, and it was created by James Angus.
Also in Forrest Place is the handsome once-General Post Office — now an H&M store. The building’s history is fascinating. The Australian coat of arms, which adorns the left side of the neo-classical facade, shows the kangaroo and emu gazing to their right instead of inwards. Legend has it that because the sculptor had not been paid he made the animals look towards the treasury building, awaiting payday! I continue to chuckle about this as we make our way down Murray Street Mall and up to Hay Street Mall.
Once there, we chat about the extraordinary architecture of the many now derelict buildings above the modern shopfronts. The Plaza Theatre and the Savoy Hotel are just two of the beautiful premises that have been empty for close to 30 years. We come to a bronze statue of a man doing a handstand over a newspaper. The statue represents Percy Button — a popular Perth street performer from the first half of the 20th century — who’ll forever charm and entertain on Hay Street. You can read his story on the bronze newspaper beneath him.
Continuing through the busy streets, we find ourselves at the State Buildings — home to several fine eateries, cafes, shops and the luxurious 6-star hotel, COMO The Treasury. Stores like Sue Lewis Chocolatier tempt me to linger but Robyn’s commentary keeps me engaged.
We’re now on St Georges Terrace — possibly the windiest street in the Southern Hemisphere! Thankfully, today is calm so we continue along while Robyn shares story after story after interesting fact. We enter Stirling Gardens beside the heritage-listed Council House, and walk towards the Supreme Court. We exit the gardens on Barrack Street and get a good view of The Bell Tower, which houses 18 bells. Twelve came from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. They’re one of the few sets of royal bells to have left England.
The walking tour takes us past Elizabeth Quay and Perth’s most expensive showing of public art – Spanda — or as Perthites call it — the ‘paper clip’. Artist Christian de Vietri received the cool sum of $1.3 million for the commissioned piece and though not everyone loves it, it’s certainly memorable.
It’s dusk as we enter Howard Lane to look at some street art. Robyn shares a tip that cobblestones in a Perth laneway or alley like this one will generally lead you to something good: boutique bars, secret cafes, restaurants and most certainly, epic wall murals. She’s right. We see work by Stormie Mills — a well-known Perth-based artist. He has a definitive style that includes sad and strange-looking creatures. His works can be found throughout the city, and the world.
Wolf Lane is one of the city’s most popular alleyways to view commissioned street art. Not to be missed is the digitally interactive mural by Heavy. You’ll need to download an app to see the piece come alive, but it’s well worth the data. Wolf Lane also has a few bars to check out. Try Cheeky Sparrow, Wolf Lane or The Spaniard for drinks and evening snacks.
As we weave our way back to St Georges Terrace we saunter through Brookfield Place — a trendy space designed to keep socialising office workers in the city. With a series of hip bars and cafes like Print Hall, Small Print, Gazette, Apple Daily and Bob’s Bar (named after former PM Bob Hawke), there’s plenty of choice for after-work drinks and mingling.
The stories keep coming as we make our way towards Perth’s newest public space: Yagan Square, which is making a name for itself as Perth’s premier meeting and eating space. Developed in consultation with the Aboriginal community, the 1.1 hectare area features rounded benches that encourage conversation and an amphitheatre for community events.
Yagan Square showcases the Western Australian landscape through a building facade that looks like it spent time in the Aussie Outback. Native trees and shrubs, water features, and a boutique food court that offers upscale eats by locally owned businesses, add to the quintessential WA vibe.
Yagan Square is the only notable public space in Australia named after an Indigenous person. In the 1830s Yagan was the tenacious leader of the Noongar people, who rebelled against the European colonists and paid for his efforts with his life. The statue of a warrior standing tall is often mistakenly thought to be of Yagan himself. The sculpture, which was created by Tjyllyungoo Lance Chadd, Trish Robinson and Stuart Green, is called Wirin and represents the Aboriginal community’s continuing spirit and creative power.
As the sun sets, my Perth CBD walking tour finishes in the amphitheatre at Yagan Square. Two hours have flown by and thanks to Robyn, I have learned so much more about the city. Now, I’m going to try out her pizza recommendation and head to Alfred’s Pizzeria on Barrack Street for a beer and a slice.
Update: Robyn was right. Alfred’s is the most gangster pizza joint in Perth!
Jennifer travelled as a paying guest with Oh Hey WA.
About the writer
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand and Australia. She also spent six months working on a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book or zooming in on a beautiful scene. She’s also likely to be boarding a plane — or jumping out of one.