Exploring Perth, Western Australia

It may not be one of the world's great train trips, but taking the train to Perth from Mandurah was pleasant and quick. We purchased DayRider tickets for $12.10/pp which were good for unlimited transit on all TransPerth routes. A one mile walk from the boat to the bus stop, a 10-minute bus ride to the train station, a 50- minute ride on an electric train, and we were in downtown Perth City at 8am and keen to explore.  

trans perth train


We only had one day in the city so we wanted to make the most of it. We bought discount tickets in advance on-line for a hop-on/hop-off, double-decker sightseeing tour. We've found this is the best way to get a quick overview of a new city and then have the option of stopping off or returning to places that seem interesting. Friends had advised that King's Park was a must, so that was a must in our itinerary, but we wanted to make sure we saw as much as possible in this vibrant, isolated city.


sight seeing bus


We realize we're not your usual tourists. We weren't interested in the Crown Casino nor the discount outlets at Harbour Town, but we did pick up a some interesting nuggets of information as we whizzed past Queen's Park, Stirling Gardens, a statue on Hay Street, and the Perth Mint. My research had also turned up the Bell Tower and London Court as places to check out.

We started off with a coffee on the Hay Street pedestrian mall and wandered into the London Court just as the hourly bells tolled. According to the information provided, the clock face is a replica of the "great Clock" at Rouen in France . Four armored jousting knights circle the window when the clock chimes. Built in 1937 for a wealthy financier, stepping through the archways is a delight as your eyes behold an Elizabethan vendor's lane replete with Tudor architecture and motifs.


london court


We headed back to Hay Street and followed it past the Mint and several alluring pubs until we came to Queen's Park. As we passed it in the bus, we'd heard a few catch phrases about Peter Pan and Notting Hill that caught our attention. Entering through the park's black wrought iron gates emblazoned Queen's Gardens1899, we stepped into a lovely, wide open expanse of lush green dotted with small lily-covered ponds alive with ducks, coots, moorhens and black swans.


black swans


In the center of the park stood Peter Pan, a replica of the statue which stands in England's Kensington Gardens. The statue, cast by the original sculptor, Sir George Frampton and autographed by Peter Pan's creator, Sir J.M.Barrie, was a gift to the children of Perth from the Perth Rotary Club in 1929.


peter pan


One other piece of trivia ... the bench featured in the movie Notting Hill on which Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant sat and chatted is now a bench in Queens Gardens. Evidently a local man purchased the bench to propose marriage to his girlfriend. Alas, she declined his offer and he anonymously donated the bench to the city. It's inscribed “For June who loved this garden … from Joseph who always sat beside her”. We sat in it for a bit, letting some of its romance rub off on us. Awww!


notting hill bench


Walking back along Hay Street, we passed the Perth Mint, the world's oldest continuously operating mint. We didn't go in for a gold-pouring tour as our time was short. I also didn't notice the guy hiking up his britches when I took the picture. Photographs sometimes render more than you'd expect.


perth mint


We passed by Penny Lane which necessitated a quick pic and then headed down to Adelaide Terrace.


penny lane


At the junction of Adelaide and Victoria Avenue, stands the statue of John Septimus Roe, surveyor, explorer and Perth city planner, looking as if he's waiting for the crosswalk light to change. Roe (1797-1878) is probably best known as the man who set aside public land for King's Park. However, it was his wife Matilda's fondness for her rose garden that prompted Roe to make a slight jog in Perth's main street (St. Georges Terrace and Adelaide Terrace) so as not to pass through her garden. I love these odd bits of information. They make the city seem more real and personal to me.


john roe waiting for the light


We continued down St. George's Terrace and passed by Government House, an impressive, rather ostentatious mansion, home to the governor of Western Australia and his family. Built between 1859-1864, the building and the lush gardens surrounding it are listed on the Western Australia Register of Heritage Places. It's pretty “wow”.


government house


When we came to Stirling Gardens, Perth's oldest public gardens, we did a double-take when we saw a mob of kangaroos on the sidewalk and drinking at the fountain.


mob of roos on the terrace


Perth's Swan Bells are located in a distinctive bell tower on the banks of the Swan River. Considered to be one of the world's largest musical instruments, the tower holds six newly cast changing bells as well as the twelve bells of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, which are recorded as being in existence as early as the 13th century. These are the only royal bells known to have left England and they've peeled for many an historic occasion from the return of Captain Cook after his Voyage of Discovery to coronations to the ringing in the New Year in Trafalgar Square for over 275 years.


swan bell tower


Public art in Perth seems to be everywhere. In addition to what we've already described, there was a famous busker, Percy Button, immortalized in bronze on the Hay Street Mall. The Obelisk of Ores aka Harmony of Minerals in Stirling Garden is a tribute to Western Australia's progress in mineral expansion and recognizing its one millionth citizen. We loved Footsteps in Time, five separate sculptures which depicted five separate eras in Western Australia history from early Dutch explorers to a modern businessman. When we first saw the Memory Markers, we were at a loss to know what they represented, but learned later that they are stylized pen nibs signifying the importance of pen and ink in the planning of the city by its forefathers. We came upon the Tree of Symbols quite accidentally as we were walking to Queens Gardens and the Paper Planes, complete with a rumpled nose on one, was a delight. There was much more, but you'll have to discover it for yourself.


public art in perth


We sat through one complete tourist circuit on the bus and walked around lots before reboarding the bus and getting off at King's Park which deserves a blog post of its own. Tune in tomorrow.