Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Perth, Australia's coastal boomtown

PERTH Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:54pm IST

Beachgoers watch as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith arrive at a reception hosted by West Australian Premier Colin Barnett at the Indiana Teahouse at Cottesloe Beach near Perth November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool

Beachgoers watch as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith arrive at a reception hosted by West Australian Premier Colin Barnett at the Indiana Teahouse at Cottesloe Beach near Perth November 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Saul Loeb/Pool

PERTH (Reuters) - The hometown of Australia's richest citizen, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, Perth is the centre of the country's iron ore and oil and gas boom. with some of the largest resources firms churning out billions in profits here.

But Perth has a laid back side too-- there's a saying that W.A., the acronym for Western Australia, actually stands for "wait awhile."

And why not take it easy in this city with a sunny Mediterranean climate and miles and miles of coastline where even on a busy summer weekend, you have a good chance of having a big stretch of beach all to yourself.

Closer to Asia than it is to Australia's main population centres on the continent's east coast, Perth is often described as the most remote city in the world with the Indian Ocean at its doorstep and miles of Outback at its back.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit.

FRIDAY

5 p.m. - Arrival and hotel check in. The central business district is a convenient and central location to stay, with more public transportation options on offer, including the free Central Area Transit (CAT) buses if you decide not to hire a car. There are several hotels along the Swan River with beautiful views. Coastal neighborhoods such as the ritzy Cottesloe neighborhood and the less exclusive Scarborough offer beachside accommodation.

6 p.m. - Head over to the Old Swan River Brewery(www.theoldbrewery.com.au/). Beer is no longer made onsite, but the restaurant does have several tasty house brews and a view overlooking the Swan River, where you might spot a dolphin popping up for air if you are lucky. Enthusiastic carnivores can try the tomahawk steak, an Australian cut that generally weighs around 1.5 kg (just over 3 lbs) and can feed up to four.

If you opt for the giant steak, the riverside promenade is a lovely spot for a walk after a heavy dinner. Look for Western Australia's state flower, the kangaroo paw, along the esplanade during the wetter months of the year.

9 p.m. - From here, you can head north up to the Northbridge neighborhood, the center of the city's nightlife, just a few minutes away by taxi. The area is renowned for being one of the places where mining workers belly up to the bar to spend their hard-earned cash after spending weeks digging minerals out of the ground in the Outback.

SATURDAY

8 a.m. - Wake up early like Perth natives and head out for a morning swim in the Indian Ocean or jog along the coastline, or, if you're staying in the city centre, a jog along the Swan River. If you're even more adventurous, drag yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn and head over to the Perth Surf School(www.surfschool.com) on Scarborough Beach, where classes begin at 7:15 a.m. Book ahead.

9 a.m. - Grab breakfast at one of the cafes along the coastline. A strong Italian influence in Australia means the coffee is great, although Perth has the dubious honor of having the country's most expensive cup of coffee, averaging nearly $4.

10 a.m.- Drive out to the Swan Valley (swanvalleywinemakers.com.au), Western Australia's oldest wine producing region, about 25 minutes from the city centre. You can sample a wide range of wines since many vintners that produce in the lauded Margaret River region also have cellar doors in the Swan Valley - and many of the smaller wineries only sell from the cellar door. A branch of the Margaret River Chocolate Factory(www.chocolatefactory.com.au/) also offers treats for the those not inclined to sample the wines. Australia is well-known outside its borders for its bargain bottles of shiraz, but some of the best are only distributed domestically. Oenophiles also shouldn't miss the many other varietals grown here.

12 noon - The cafe at Houghton Wines(www.houghton-wines.com.au), the state's oldest winery, on a large estate with towering eucalyptus trees, a cafe, and picnic benches, makes a nice spot for lunch. It sometimes has art exhibits and musical entertainment at the weekends.

2 p.m.- Head toward Fremantle, the small port city about 20 minutes from Perth, to visit the Fremantle Prison(www.fremantleprison.com.au), originally built to house convicts transported by the British government but closed in 1991. The prison is a window into Australia's convict era as well as its more recent past, and tours take visitors through cells, some of which include murals by prisoners. Tours run throughout the day and torchlight tours are also available at night.

If you find prison lore too depressing, head over to the Western Australian Maritime Museum (museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime) on Victoria Quay, where you can check out the yacht that won Australia the America's Cup, the Australia II, ending the New York Yacht Club's 132-year winning streak and bringing the Cup to Fremantle in 1983.

3:30 p.m. - Stroll along Fremantle's "Cappucino Strip" which is dotted with art galleries, including some that carry Aboriginal art and shops-- a good place to pick up all things kangaroo, emu, or crocodile-themed. The Fremantle Market (fremantlemarkets.com.au/)is also a great place for knick-knacks, crafts and souvenirs.

6 p.m. For dinner, take your pick from several establishments along the fishing boat harbour which serve up seafood by the waterfront, including Cicerello's (www.cicerellos.com.au), Joe's Fish Shack (www.joesfishshack.com.au), and Kailis Fish & Lobster Market Cafe (www.kailis.com). Order up some oysters on the half shell and barramundi, one of Australia's most popular fish.

8 p.m. Just down the waterfront is one of Western Australia's most well-known microbreweries, Little Creatures Brewery (www.littlecreatures.com.au). This little town is a heaven for craft beer lovers and you can easily while away your Saturday night sampling microbrews. The Monk Brewery & Kitchen (www.themonk.com.au), with its rustic patio and occasional Saturday night musical entertainment, is a good choice. If you like your beer full of flavour, try "The Chief" brew.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. - Start off with a more leisurely breakfast at one of Perth's brunch spots. On the high end, Fraser's (www.frasersrestaurant.com.au) in King Park in the centre of town. For thriftier, but very hearty, option, try Miss Maud Pastry (www.missmaud.com.au), a Perth chain with locations all over town for the quintessential Aussie breakfast - a meat or veggie pie.

10 a.m. - Time to squeeze in some more culture. The Art Gallery of Western Australia is free to the public and has a good collection of indigenous art.(www.artgallery.wa.gov.au/)

The Perth Mint (www.perthmint.com.au) is a good place to soak in some of Western Australia's mining history. If you're shopping for jewellery, this is the place. Western Australian gold, pink diamonds, and pearls abound, but bring your checkbook - none of it is cheap. The mint also houses the world's largest pure gold coin, a 1 tonne behemoth worth tens of millions (www.1tonnegoldcoin.com).

12:30 - Head back out to the coast to grab lunch at one of the fish and chips shops on the coast. Adam's Cafe Tonino's in North Beach is not fancy, but has an amazing view.

2 p.m. - Off to the beach! This is the place to be, especially during the summer where the "Fremantle Doctor", a soothing sea breeze, will cool you down. Take a hat and sunscreen, the Australian sun is fierce.

4 p.m. - Before you leave, join the locals in a Perth tradition - the Sunday session. The pubs dotting Marine Parade along the coastline are a popular gathering place for this weekly ritual of raising a few pints from mid-afternoon til after the sun sets. The Indiana Tea House(indiana.com.au/)directly on Cottesloe Beach is also a popular choice, with an alfresco terrace and great views. The waterfront Clancy's Fish Pub (www.clancysfishpub.com.au/) in the suburb of City Beach is a more laid back option and with a lax dress code and changing rooms and showers downstairs, you can slip in a swim in the Indian Ocean before starting your Sunday Session.

After session, it's time to indulge in another Australian staple - the "burger with the lot", the classic Australian burger piled high with goodies: pineapple, bacon, a fried egg, fried onions, beet root (red beet), and standards cheese, lettuce and tomato. Any pub worth its salt has its own version of the burger with the lot, but if you've just had a Sunday Session in Cottesloe, Madlily's Burgers is right off the main drag.

(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede, editing by Elaine Lies)

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