Mention a vacation to the West Coast and most people think of Santa Monica Boulevard and the Hollywood Sign. But that’s not the only west coast in the world. Australia is the world’s top bucket list destination, and while Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane all have their charms, there is something extra special about Perth.
The capital of Western Australia, it is neither as complicated nor as expensive to reach from Atlanta as you might think, and it will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Let’s find out more.
How to get there
There’s no denying it, Atlanta to Perth is a long way. There are no direct flights, but there are several indirect options with easy connections at world class hubs. Qatar Airlines can get you there with one stop in Doha, but most travelers find it just as easy to transit through LAX – from there, there are numerous options such as Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong or Singapore Airlines via Singapore. You can even fly direct from LAX to Sydney with Qantas so you have only one international flight. Book well in advance and a return flight can be as little as $1,500 in Economy or $3,000 in Premium Economy.
Foreign visitors require a tourist visa to enter Australia, but the USA is among the eligible countries whose passport holders can instead apply for Electronic Travel Authority. The whole process can be completed in minutes using a mobile app, so it is well worth doing.
Where to stay in Perth
We could spend hours just discussing the accommodation options in Perth. There are hotels and lodgings to suit all budgets, plus other alternatives. Here are a few key points that will serve as food for thought:
- If you have the budget for luxury accommodation, all the review sites will point you towards the Ritz Carlton and The Treasury. They are both magnificent hotels with luxurious rooms and top-notch facilities. But also consider the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle. If you prefer a slower more relaxed pace and personalized service, there is nowhere quite like it.
- AirBnb is huge in Australia, and is worth considering, especially if you are traveling in a family party. Again, there is something to suit all budgets. Pay close attention to reviews and avoid offers to transact outside the app for the safety of all parties.
- Hostels provide a superb option for travelers on a tighter budget. Don’t rule them out without checking them out. Staying at a hostel doesn’t have to mean sharing a dorm with strangers. Some offer private rooms with en suites and are really not so different to budget hotels – but are much cheaper.
Explore a unique ecosystem
Australia is famous for its fauna and flora, none of which is quite like anything else on earth. That counts double in Western Australia, which is different to the rest of the country. Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth is the best place to experience it and it won’t cost you a cent.
Botanically, it is designed to guide you through Western Australia’s unique ecosystems on a meandering walk that has a surprise around every corner. Even if you are not fascinated by botany, you’ll love the views across the Swan River and downtown Perth. It’s the perfect way to start your visit.
A night at the casino – Aussie style
Australians have a love for gambling that goes back decades – in fact, to the 1950s when slot games, or “pokies” as they are known, were first introduced. Today, 20 percent of the world’s slot machines are in Australia, and you’ll find more than 2,000 of them at the Crown Casino in Burswood, right on the border or Perth and Fremantle.
It’s one of western Australia’s premier nightspots, and even though the tech-savvy Aussies of the 2020s are increasingly into Australian mobile casinos, land-based casinos like The Crown are still popular for a sophisticated evening of gaming on a Friday or Saturday night.
As well as the 2,000 odd gaming machines, there’s the opportunity to show off your James Bond casino skills with poker, blackjack, roulette and other traditional games. To top it off, there are 10 bars, 16 food outlets and a theatre elsewhere within the Crown complex, so even if you are not a gambler, it’s still a great place for a night out.
A rich maritime history
Today, Fremantle is almost considered a suburb of Perth, one that is focused on leisure and good food and drink on its famed Cappuccino Strip. That’s what makes it a great place to stay. But it is also home to the biggest port in Western Australia, and it has a rich, fascinating and at times tragic maritime history.
Be sure to allocate a day to visit the Maritime Museum on Victoria Quay and the nearby Shipwreck Galleries. The stories will stay with you long after you leave, and there are some fascinating exhibits that include HMAS Ovens, a cold war submarine that is best avoided if you are claustrophobic.
Meet the quokkas
No, it’s not the latest Aussie addition to the Meet the Parents movie franchise. A quokka is actually a small marsupial, about the same size as a domestic cat. Quokkas are extremely rare on the Australian mainland, but there are populations of them on several islands off Western Australia. The best place to see them is on Rottnest Island.
This Class-A nature reserve is populated by only 100 or so permanent residents. There is tourist accommodation, but most visitors opt to visit for the day and then return to Perth. The ferry takes 20 minutes from Fremantle or 90 minutes from Perth, and crossing the beautiful turquoise water is such a magical experience that there is a lot to be said for taking the longer journey.
As well as the wildlife, Rottnest is a popular diving destination, and diving for lobster and crayfish is permitted, subject to specific rules, during summer months. It’s impossible to get them any fresher!