There’s a Broadsheet editor who refers to Boorloo/Perth as God’s country. It’s not an unreasonable call. With its reputation for clear and sunny skies, white sand beaches up there with the world’s best, one of Australia’s most exciting dining and drinking scenes, and Walyalup/Fremantle’s charming heritage architecture, a first-time visit to the WA capital feels like you’re being let in on a very good secret. And that’s before you even venture out to the Margaret River region’s stunning wine country or up north to the spectacular ancient landscapes of the Kimberley.
If you’re yet to make the trip over, or haven’t been in the last couple of years, you have some catching up to do. To help you make up for lost time, we’ve put together some of our must-visit new hotspots and revamped favourites.
It’s hard to go past recently opened taverna Yiamas, which pays homage to Greek classics while adding influences from Cyprus, Turkey and the Levant. Think house-made dolmades, which replace rice with bulgur wheat and lentils, and baklava served as an ice-cream sandwich with bay leaf parfait in the centre. Add a glass of assyrtiko (a Greek wine varietal) or a nip of anise-flavoured spirit ouzo for maximum island vibes.
For a lazy long lunch, head to South Freo hotspot Madalena’s, which continues to draw a crowd for its ace wine list, fresh local seafood (braised cuttlefish linguine, say, or whole barbequed rainbow trout) and breezy beachside setting. Head to its new upstairs bar at golden hour for a cocktail with views of the Indian Ocean.
Keep heading south to the coastal town of Undalup/Busselton, where a couple who worked at Copenhagen’s Noma are heading up neighbourhood kitchen Alberta’s. But best get thoughts of Rene Redzepi’s three-Michelin-starred fine dining out of your head – this casual eatery is serving humble and delicious home cooking like chicken soup, breakfast congee and an apple and almond cream tart.
From there, it’s a 20-minute drive along the coast to the recently opened brewhouse and beer garden Southcamp in Dunsborough, at the gateway of the Margaret River region. The family-friendly spot is serving pizzas, tacos and other snacks to pair with its house-brewed beers. You can also stay the night in a tiny timber cabin, or if you’re in for a longer stay, there are one- and two-bedroom apartments among the treetops.
Come sunset, new rooftop bar Folly, on the 18th level of Quest East Perth, is the place to be. Settle in with a spin on a classic cocktail (like a Sicilian Old Fashioned, or a spicy, sweet and sour Margarita made with beet syrup), snacks like crumbed snapper sandwiches and Korean fried cauliflower with gochujang, and far-stretching views of the Perth skyline.
If spirits are your drink of choice, head straight to the source at Republic of Fremantle. The ambitious distillery and bar in Freo’s West End crafts vodkas and gins from its own grape-based spirit made from local verdelho grapes, as distinct from the grain-based spirits most distilleries bring in. Try them neat or in a cocktail, paired with a dish from the new open-fire kitchen, which is turning out duck sandwiches and Moreton Bay bugs with ’nduja.
Or go regional for a wine tasting at Burnside Organic, a small family winery and vegetable farm in Margaret River with boutique accommodation. Sip biodynamic wines like wild-fermented zinfandel and vermentino, then rest your head in one of the cosy self-contained bungalows complete with large outdoor baths and wood fires in winter.
If you’re after a taste of WA’s far north, head to Goonoonoorrang/Kununurra, gateway to the east Kimberley, where the recently refurbished riverside Pumphouse is merging Asian and Central American influences with native ingredients to create dishes like emu cold rolls and “bush tacos” with blue swimmer crab. There are also cocktails, Spinifex beers and a wine list that places Unico Zelo’s Sea Foam pét-nat and Esoterico skin-contact wine alongside conventional drops.
Perth’s Como The Treasury occupies the mid-19th century State Buildings, where you’ll also find some of the city’s best dining experiences, including Long Chim, Petition Kitchen and Wildflower. But the luxury hotel is a destination all its own, with some of the most elegant rooms in Perth, complete with lofty ceilings and grand windows, and a wellness centre with a 20-metre indoor heated pool.
If the ocean is calling your name, book a two-hour flight from Perth to Warnangoora/Exmouth, then drive another two hours down a remote coastal road to get to Sal Salis. It’s worth the long journey – the off-grid, luxury bush experience is just steps from the World Heritage-listed Nyinggulu/Ningaloo Reef. The 15-tent, all-inclusive eco-resort among the sand dunes is a unique base from which to explore the reef and its inhabitants. At night you’ll share communal dinners cooked by resident chefs under the stars.
Further up north in the Kimberley – sits El Questro, a 700 thousand-acre cattle station and luxury wilderness resort 80 kilometres west of Kununurra. Choose a luxurious room by the river, a tented cabin in the wilderness or a night under canvas; there are packages that include four nights of accommodation, a Chamberlain River Cruise and return airport transfers. (Note: the accommodation is closed each year between late October and early April during the wet season.)
And at the other end of the state, near Kwirreejeenungup/Cape Naturaliste in the south west’s Bunker Bay, Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is a five-star option with more than 150 spacious rooms, including studios and multi-room villas. All are beautifully furnished with jarrah floors and limestone feature walls. There’s also a tennis court, fitness centre and luxury day spa, plus direct beach access.
See & Do
A quick 20-minute drive from the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, you’ll find Ngilgi Cave in Yallingup. The Ancient Lands Experience is a new addition to the underground cave attraction that already drew crowds for its stunning formations of stalactites, stalagmites and coloured shawls. The above-ground experience introduces visitors to the natural and cultural features of the area with a pathway through native bushland and interactive installations that acknowledge the 60,000-year custodianship of the Wadandi people.
If bubblegum-pink salt lakes are your choice of natural wonder, follow the Indian Ocean Drive from Perth to get to Hutt Lagoon on the mid-west coast in just under six hours. Its bright pink hue can be viewed along the drive, or from the sky with a scenic flight from Jambinu/Geraldton. Visit on a clear day, around mid-morning or sunset. (And if you go between July and September, you’ll catch the countryside blanketed in wildflowers.)
Western Australia is also home to the world’s best beach – add it to the top of your bucket list for crisp white sand, turquoise waters and an escape that isn’t overridden with tourists. The picturesque Lucky Bay over on the south coast is about eight hours’ drive from Perth; you’ll find a five-kilometre stretch of white sand in Mandoowernup/Cape Le Grand National Park. It’s in day-trip territory if you’re staying in Kepa Kurl/Esperance, although many set up camp here.
For something closer to the capital, Wadjemup/Rottnest Island is west of Perth and accessible by ferry, seaplane or helicopter. It’s a car-free zone, so hire a bike to go quokka-spotting and explore the island’s pristine beaches and secluded coves. Learn about the island’s history at the Wadjemup Museum, or on a walking tour with a Noongar guide.
And if you’re heading to Rubibi/Broome, book a Narlijia Experiences tour to hear the rich and colourful stories of Yawuru guide Bart Pigram about the local area, including Dampier Creek, the mangrove forests and the jabalbal (mudflats).
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