Explore the city of Perth and its historic neighbour Fremantle on this fabulous morning coach tour. You’ll enjoy commentary from your knowledgeable local guide as you tick off must-sees like Elizabeth Quay, Kings Park, the WACA, The Perth Mint and famous Cottesloe Beach. Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
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I’ve been described as a serial traveller, and I do love to explore new places.
What I don’t like is that overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start. That’s why, after many years of travelling the world, I’ve discovered that the easiest way to get acquainted with a new destination is to let a local show me around on a guided city tour.
Today I’m doing a Perth morning city tour with Gray Line Australia. These short and sharp tours are great because they allow you to see snippets of the best a city like Perth has to offer. That makes planning the rest of your stay a breeze. You can simply head back and explore the sights and attractions that take your fancy, at your own pace.
The tour begins at 8am with hotel pick-ups. There are just eight guests on board today, including me. Perthite Amy is our guide and driver, and as we pull out of Crown Perth, she begins her commentary — which includes how the surrounding Burswood area was once a rubbish dump! This glittering entertainment precinct is now home to flash hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, theatres and a casino. What is also interesting about Crown Perth is that they maintain 23 separate gardens around Burswood. It’s certainly a rubbish dump no longer!
Australians love to use nicknames for people and places and it didn’t take long for Perth’s newest entertainment venue — Perth Stadium — to be dubbed the ‘cray pot’. It does look like one, although I doubt any cray pot could seat 70,000 people and have Ed Sheeran christen it with a concert.
Amy drives by another important landmark — the WACA (Western Australian Cricket Association) Ground. I’m not a cricket fan so this doesn’t interest me at all. However, the fact that the WACA holds a 999-year lease on the stadium, which basically means forever, is fascinating. I guess I better get used to cricket being the West’s mainstay sport.
As we pass the Queens Gardens, Amy tells the story of the famed bench from the movie Notting Hill with the inscription that reads, ‘For June, who loved this garden. From Joseph, who always sat beside her.’ The bench was donated to the City of Perth anonymously after a failed marriage proposal. A story like this (and the bench) is bound to be missed by tourists who wander about in the city centre without guidance.
Driving along Adelaide Terrace we learn that the small bend in the road near St Georges Terrace was to accommodate rose bushes belonging to Matilda Roe — the wife of John Septimus Roe — Western Australia’s first Surveyor-General. Once we hit St Georges Terrace, Amy points out the Perth Concert Hall and Government House before we do a drive-by of the Barrack Street Jetty and Elizabeth Quay.
Our first stop is Kings Park and Botanic Garden — a favourite spot for tourists and locals alike. We have 45 minutes to take a walk through the gardens, grab a coffee, view the memorial plaques beneath the lemon-scented gums or take a city skyline photo. I mosey toward the Fraser Avenue Lookout, passing a collection of shops, restaurants and cafes, and the park’s Visitor Information Centre. I walk through the Court of Contemplation and past the Flame of Remembrance. Queen Elizabeth II dedicated this remembrance park back in 1954 to Western Australians involved in armed conflict. She returned in 2000 to light the eternal flame, which is surrounded by four torches representing the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force, the Australian Army and Women’s Services.
It’s a clear and beautiful sunny day but the park is quiet with only a handful of other visitors and several volunteer gardeners in the Fraser Avenue Precinct. The sun is high above the city but I manage to snap a few city skyline photos from the lookout. As I walk back to the bus, I stop to chat with one of the volunteer gardeners. I ask about a purple flower that looks like a kangaroo paw (which I thought were always gold or red). ‘Kangaroo paws have been cultivated to produce many colours, but the green and gold ones are Western Australia’s emblem colours’, she tells me. I’m not a natural gardener (even though my mother and step-father were professionals), but I do love flowers so I stop to take some photos.
Back on board the coach, we exit Kings Park via Poole Road, then travel along Hackett Drive for views of Matilda Bay — home to the Royal Perth Yacht Club. As we cruise along Jutland Parade, we begin to understand why it’s known locally as ‘Millionaires’ Row’. These houses are mansions! Amy points out the property belonging to mining mogul Gina Rinehart, and gives us an update on the median property price in the area ($2.6 million).
Our next stop will be the historic port city of Fremantle. We pass by Cottesloe Beach and see Rottnest Island sitting pretty off in the distance. On arrival in ‘Freo’ (local lingo for Fremantle), we do a circuit of the city before being set down for 45 minutes of free time. Fremantle is a cool little place with stacks of convict and colonial history, famous markets, delicious cafes and restaurants, and a swag of museums. Let’s not forget that it’s also the birthplace of Australian craft beer.
I’ve decided to stay on in Freo and catch the train back to Perth later in the day. If this will be your only visit to Fremantle, I recommend turning this half day into a full day excursion so you can go ‘full-tourist’. There’s a lot to see.
This Perth morning city tour took me to places I hadn’t been before, and Amy told me stories that were fun and interesting. There’s no better way to learn about a city than spending time with a local who knows and loves their home. On that note, I’m off to the much-loved Little Creatures brewery in Freo for a pint of Pale Ale.
Cover image: The Bell Tower. Additional images: Bigstock
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.