Experience Perth
Experience Perth

"You could be in the Greek Islands." I said it in an intimate bay round the back of Rottnest Island, just as I have at Point Peron and regularly do in little rocky bays and coves on the Swan River anywhere from Mosman Park to Resolution Point in Dalkeith.

It's not that the Greek Islands are any better than Perth, but more that they are a measure. They are a dream, and that means we are living a dream.

For even here, with the towers of the city just over the brow of a hill, there are many spots where you can be out of the sight of everyone, surrounded by limestone, capped by blue sky, water shushing with wind and wake at the gravely lip of the Swan River.

Last weekend I watched ospreys in a nest being buzzed by a peregrine falcon. Imagine that, here, in a capital city. Then sipped morning coffee on a bench, mesmerised by the oil-paint sheen of still river.

Experience Perth - that's what the tourism region from Lancelin down past Mandurah and up the Avon Valley past Northam and centred on the city's called. Yes, I really experience Perth.

It's good to see it through the eyes of others, too. Ask visitors what they like about the place and they'll tell you it's the big, blue sky that hangs above it all, cerulean.

They'll tell you it's the space and cleanliness, the river and the parks - particularly King's Park, which remains the State's most visited tourist venue. They'll stroll through the Western Australian native flora beds and across the walkway, 50m up, and get a different perspective on the place. And up there, we can see it all through fresh eyes, too.

And then on down the hill into the canyons of commerce, where coffee shops puff aromas and their chatterers sprawl out on the pavements.

No, it's not a big, fast, dirty, noisy, crowded city, and thank goodness for that, too. There are plenty of them. Perth's Perth, and that's why we're here.

Fremantle's Fremantle and that's why people love it. For me, it still has the scent of square riggers coming in, and Mediterranean migrants arriving later and making the brew it is today. More pasta than you can poke a stick at, and the markets to wander through for their pulse.

Some friends just took the kids to one of those bigger, faster cities, and still had a few days' holiday left when they got home. They spent every one of them on the beach 10 minutes from their home in Fremantle. "We got coffee, went down there and sat under an umbrella reading books and swimming from 9 to 2 everyday - and realised what an incredible place this is."

Scourfield's picks

• In St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, 12 of the 18 Swan Bells rang for England's victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588. Now they ring on Perth foreshore, a precious instrument.

• It's a dream for many people around the world to swim with dolphins. Do it at Rockingham.

• Kayak the rapids of the Murray River at Dwellingup in winter, and wade 'em in summer. (Or join a commercial rafting trip.)

• Bling and boardwalks? Get eye candy at Hillarys Boat Harbour.

• Australia II won the America's Cup in 1983. Parry Endeavour took Jon Sanders three times around the world. Unparalleled nautical history at Fremantle Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay.

• Doing the ordinary, touristy things. A morning boat cruise on the river, fish and chips at Boat Harbour, Fremantle.

• Treat yourself to time in the city. It's a surprisingly pretty place - not just King Street and the icing-fronted Maj, but the clean streets and pedestrian zones and the aroma of coffee in morning sun.

• Perth Mint, which opened in 1899. A terrific tour, gold pour, and the world's biggest collection of gold bars. An insight into the goldrush mentality that makes WA what it is.

• Show and stay. Yes, you can do a show and stay overnight in a good hotel, without getting on a plane.

• The roads around Mundaring are ideal for Sunday drives. The hotel's ideal for nice lunches on the tables outside.

The West Australian

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