Perth, Western Australia - A Lifestyle That is Hard to Beat

Few visitors to Perth can fail to be impressed with its great outdoors lifestyle - even in the colder winter months of the year (which are mild summer days in some European countries).

Perth's Mediterranean climate (it has more hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital city) simply lures locals and visitors to enjoy the city's vast range of outdoor activities - from a relaxing picnic in a parkland setting to more energetic pursuits, such as jogging on the beach or wind surfing on the Swan River and the Indian Ocean.

Dining in Perth, Western Australia
Dining in Perth, Western Australia

When its comes to eating out, Perth and Fremantle have a plethora of gastronomic delights to tempt all taste buds - from alfresco beach and sidewalk cafes to riverside and beachfront international restaurants.

Northbridge, just over the railway line north of central Perth, is the city's main dining and nightlife spot. Hundreds of cafes, restaurants and international food halls attract people from all walks of life and are a mirror image of the multicultural make-up of Perth society.

At the western end of Saint Georges Terrace - the city's main business thoroughfare - King Street has become a chic address for cafe culture.

Along the beach at Cottesloe and by the river from Old Perth Port at Barrack Square to the foreshore at South Perth, Crawley, Mosman Park and East Fremantle are some of the more fashionable restaurants for eating out in style.

The alfresco cafes and coffee houses which line Fremantle's cappuccino strip and the cluster of fish restaurants around the Fishing Boat Harbour draw big crowds at weekends as the historic port city bursts into life, drawing people from far afield to revel in its carnival atmosphere.

But West Australians prefer nothing better than setting up their own table and chairs at a picturesque picnic spot for a do-it-yourself family barbecue. And Perth boasts countless barbecue facilities - from Kings Park on the city's doorstep and riverside locations to get-away-from-it-all retreats in the hills area of the Darling Ranges.

A piece of prime real estate on the Swan River - named after a midshipman who was the first European to set foot on the land - is set to play a major role with Perth's barbecue aficionados. The Heathcote site in suburban Applecross, with sweeping views over the river and the city, had been used as a psychiatric hospital for 60 years. It's now been opened up for public use and offers visitors, not only the majestic views, but the very latest in barbecue facilities. There's also a children's playground with a difference to keep the young ones active while dad gets to work on the sausage sizzle. Future plans for Heathcote include a museum - due to open later this year - which will represent life as it once was for patients of the old institution, a community arts facility, youth leadership training and a restaurant.

Across the river from Heathcote is Kings Park, Perth's most popular public playground, just a short stroll up St Georges Terrace from the hustle and bustle of the city. Famous for its birdlife and wildflowers (the Botanic Garden has more than 1700 native species) as well as its views, the park has two small lakes around which are popular picnic areas, while there are barbecue facilities in a number of places within its 400 hectares of natural vegetation.

Kings Park stands on the brow of a noble hill called Mount Eliza overlooking the city and another new attraction - a seven-storey high bell tower, home of the 18 Swan Bells, a gift from the British Government. The bells of Barrack Square are based on the original 12 bells in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, which rang out to welcome back Captain James Cook from his Australian voyage in 1788.

Barrack Street jetty is the launch pad for ferries to Rottnest Island, another favourite playground for West Australians and overseas visitors who lap up the island's varied leisure pursuits. Famous for its quokkas, small marsupials which inhabit the island, Rottnest has a rich natural and cultural heritage. Its pristine beaches and crystal clear bays are a haven for swimming, snorkelling, diving, surfing, boating and fishing.

Just an hour from Perth by ferry (30 minutes from Fremantle), Rottnest has amazing diving with its coral reefs and a number of shipwrecks. A ban on cars on the island leaves the humble bicycle as the best way of getting around. Bicycles can be hired on the island or visitors can take their own on the ferries).

Bicycles are also a popular mode of transport for sightseeing on the mainland where hundreds of kilometres of recreational cycleways weave their way around the river from Perth to Fremantle and many other surburban areas. Alongside some of the cycleways are jogging and walking lanes.

Even in winter, the ocean beckons hordes of surfers and some diehard swimming enthusiasts who brave the cold for their regular early morning dip. Beach jogging is a favourite pastime for many, while the less energetic walk their dogs by the ocean (there are designated beach areas where dogs are allowed), or simply find a top spot to watch the world go by.

Of Perth's 19 beaches, Cottesloe is the most famous and, arguably, the most popular - followed by Scarborough and City Beach.

Cottesloe has attracted royalty, superstars and on the eve of the new millennium - a worldwide television audience. Thousands gathered on Cottesloe Beach to listen to a family music concert as the sun went down over the Indian Ocean. It was the last sunset of the 20th century in Australia (Perth is the only Australian city where the sun sets on the ocean horizon). It's not surprising then that a stretch along Perth's 35-kilometre coastline is known as the Sunset Coast. Like the beaches, the sunsets are spectacular.
Another Beautiful Sunset in Western Australia
Another Beautiful Sunset in Western Australia

Surfing, fishing, beach volleyball, parasailing, wind surfing and yachting are the major river and sea sports - some of them all-year round. Perth people take to sport like they do to water. While thousands take part in the annual City to Surf fun run and the Avon Descent - along the upper reaches of the Swan River - is Australia's greatest white water event, Australian Rules football, soccer, cricket, golf, basketball and horse racing top the list of spectator sports.

There are not many places in the world where you can share world-class golf courses with a kangaroo or two. The Vines Resort and Joondalup Country Club and Sun City Country Club are just three top courses where golfers often come close to kangaroos on the fairways - and even on the greens. Western Australia has produced many fine golfers including former world matchplay champion, Graham Marsh, who designed the course at the Vines Resort.

There have also been many Australian Rules football champions from Perth too. Barry Cable and Graham "Polly" Farmer - to name just two - are footballing icons. The latter has even had a freeway named after him. And Perth's West Coast Eagles is a dual Australian Football League (AFL) premiership winner.

Australian Rules football has been joined by soccer in the crowd pulling stakes - due to the advent of Perth Glory. The Glory, as they are affectionately known, drew the biggest ever crowd for a national league soccer match when it was beaten in a penalty shoot-out in this year's grand final after topping the league table and taking out the minor premiership. Around 45,000 fans packed into Subiaco Oval for the match.- the biggest crowd ever for a national league grand final and the largest at the all-seat, revamped Subiaco Oval.

A planned new state-of-the-art soccer stadium will become the home of Perth Glory. The stadium, which will initially seat 19,000 and also be used for rugby matches, will be built next to the Perth Entertainment Centre.

Another strongly supported champion team is the Perth Wildcats, which this year won the National Basketball League title. But it's not Australian Rules football or soccer which are the biggest participant sports in Perth. This honour goes to netball and lawn bowls.

By world standards, you will have to search far and wide to find a better lifestyle than that enjoyed in Perth.

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