Perth has a reputation for being one of the most remote major cities in the world. That remoteness has unfairly created an assumption that it is behind the times, with some media outlets even calling the city boring.
The city's geographical isolation is only magnified by the hours spent flying over the desert before touching town on West Australian soil. But once in the metropolitan hub of more than 2 million people those preconceptions are blown out of the water.
The urban centre and neighbouring beach-side suburbs are abuzz with vibrancy and there's no shortage of inexpensive activities to keep a first-time visitor occupied.
Here are eight things worth seeing and doing in Perth.
1. Take a walk in the massive park
Larger than New York's Central Park and more than three times larger than London's Hyde Park, Perth's Kings Park and Botanic Gardens is enormous. Positioned on a hill it has views most cities in the world would charge for. Take in panoramic views of the city's skyscrapers, Swan River and as far as the Darling Range, then pull yourself away from the observation deck and go for a hike in the park's bushland. Two-thirds of Kings Park is native bush and is home to many birds, lizards and snakes typically found in the wild.
2. Stroll the streets of quirky Fremantle
A stroll through the charming colonial heritage streets of Fremantle qualifies as an activity in itself. The historical port town has more than 3000 heritage-listed properties built in the 1800's, many of which have been lovingly restored in the last decade. But it's Fremantle's arty population that really makes the place pop. The alternative locals inject life into the town and fill the streets with music and buskers performances, creating a striking contrast to the traditional buildings. The many shops are an eclectic mix of Aboriginal art galleries, independent fashion designers and second-hand book and clothing stores.
3. Find the kangaroos in the city
Spotting wild kangaroos with the Perth skyline in the backdrop is almost a surreal sight. A easy 15 minutes walk from East Perth brings you to Heirisson Island. Surrounded by the Swan River and connected to the mainland by road the reserve is home to five female wild western grey kangaroos. It's free to enter the park and many locals don't even know the roos are there, which means you can normally get the whole island to yourself. Finding them can be tricky, they're often lying under the shade of a tree or in the tall grass. The island is also inhabited by flocks of brightly coloured galah cockatoo and rainbow lorikeets.
4. Catch the sunset
Locals say Perth has the best sunsets in Australia. They may be biased, but the sinking sun sure does turn on a spectacular display over the Indian Ocean. Enjoy the sunset almost year-round from a stretch of Perth's 80 kilometres of coastline. You can't go wrong with a perch on Perth's iconic Cottesloe Beach. Or, for dinner and a show head to the Fremantle boat harbour. It's a popular option with families thanks to the killer fish and chip shops on the waterfront. For something a little more upmarket there's Bathers Beach House, grab a drink and score yourself a deck chair by the water's edge.
5. Check out the public art
The central city has a number of large scale publicly-funded pieces, but it's the urban street art movement that brings the real interest and intrigue. In recent years the not-for-profit organisation FORM has led the charge in transforming otherwise bleak city scapes into canvases for colourful murals. Tucked behind high-end fashion strip King Street is Wolf Lane, Perth's version of Melbourne's Hosier Lane, but unlike Hosier's graffiti art, Wolf Lane has commissioned art by local and international artists. A walk down this short laneway can feel like a trip to an open air art gallery with large-scale works coating every wall. Grab a drink at one of the laneway's small, quirky cafes or bars and take in the scenes.
6. Go dolphin spotting
It's hard to believe, but dolphins live in the Swan River, which runs through the metropolitan heart of Perth. The pod typically cruise the lower reaches of the river that are fairly wide and deep. To get a glimpse of the beauties head to Heirisson Island where they can seen feeding on fish around the shoreline. Seeing them isn't a guarantee, but those who are eagle-eyed and patient can be rewarded with an up-close encounter.
7. Sip your way through Swan Valley
Just 30 minutes from the CBD is the Swan Valley wine region. With more than 40 vineyards minutes apart from one another it makes a prime day trip destination. Hop from one cellar door to the next in the rural sun-drenched valley while sampling the region's chardonnay and shiraz. You don't need to be a wine drinker to enjoy Swan Valley, the fertile landscape also fosters breweries, cideries, a meadery and a coffee bean roastery, all of which welcome visitors in to sample their brews.
8. Spend a night in Northbridge
Spend a night dining at hole-in-the-wall eateries and laneway bars in Northbridge, Perth's up and coming hospitality prescient. On the fringe of Perth's CBD it's a little more edgy than some of the polished restaurants on the main drag. The neighbourhood has the city's highest concentration of small eateries, pubs and cafes, each a little more eccentric than the next. It is also a cultural hub for the Greek and Italian communities and home to Perth's Chinatown.
Have you ever been to Perth before?
Written by Laura Baker. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.