By Aoife Gleeson
Ah Australia, the ‘Land Down Under’. Home of The Great Barrier Reef, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Blue Mountains, Hamilton Island…the list goes on. However, who first thought of the West Coast when I mentioned ‘Australia’? Aha, caught you there didn’t I! The humble region that is Western Australia is often overlooked and even outshone by its more glamourous other half. So, wait until I tell you that the west is just as spectacular. Dare I say that it might even be better? Anyone who strongly disagrees with this I shall hope to turn you to the other side… the west side. At the pinnacle of the west, besides the actual pinnacles themselves (I shall get to them later for those utterly confused), is the glorious city of Perth.
My first encounter with Perth was a rather cold one. Cold in Australia you say? Well yes! Cold if you had just spent five weeks in the sweltering 33°C heat of Singapore. I can tell you now, arriving at Perth Airport in about 17°C at night was a chilly one. Thankfully my uncle was at hand with my aunt’s fluffy ski jacket and a warm car. Never before did I imagine that I’d be wearing a woolly jacket in 17°C and still shivering. If I had disembarked straight from Ireland I’d probably be swanning about in a t-shirt and flip-flops, with my aunt and uncle exchanging strange glances! Ok maybe not the flip-flops I admit, but sure you get my gist.
While dawning the trusty jacket, a well-needed coffee, a belly full of toast and marmalade, and a great deal of sun-cream, (one can still burn in the Australian Winter), it was time that I set off exploring the magnificent city of Perth. And what a treat that was! Strolling along the promenade of Scarborough beach in the delightful sunshine with alluring azure skies, I thought that this must be the life! The beach itself at Scarborough was an expansive stretch of powdery sands overlooking the pristine Indian Ocean dotted with adventurous surfers. If the sea didn’t take your fancy, there was a state-of-the-art outdoor swimming pool directly overlooking the beach. I had the pleasure of swimming there one day and all I can say is simply wow! Not only was Scarborough an ideal place for surfing and swimming, (as long as you didn’t go too far out to play with the sharks…yikes), but also for long walks along the dazzling beach. One day my aunt and I even ventured as far as Trigg beach, which adjoins to Scarborough beach, in a very wholesome walk. The only thing was, was that we also had to endure a very “wholesome” walk all the way back to their house, and for some reason decided to jog up a small hill too?! Needless to say, we were absolutely poofed afterwards, and that a strong cup of tea was thoroughly needed.
With all of that exertion endured, we had to balance that with some wonderful food of course. From gorgeous little Italian cafés, to wonderful lunches at Fremantle and in “Hamptons” at City Beach, to BBQ breakfasts and delicious home-cooked meals, one could say that I was certainly spoilt on this trip to Perth. One rather strange addition to my palate however was chillies. Now, my uncle grows his own chillies and preserves them in jars for future chilli purposes. This may sound like a relatively normal hobby; however, he then proceeds to eat them straight from the jar as if they were sweets! I attempted to do this since he made it look so easy but without success. In fact, I failed so bad at eating a miniscule bit of chilli, I thought that my mouth would never be the same again! From that moment on I learned to leave the ludicrous chilli business to the ‘Chilli Master’ himself, my uncle. To recover from the chilli trauma, I would definitely recommend a drink at ‘The Sand Bar’ overlooking the sunset at Scarborough beach, or a delicious, refreshing glass of Penfold’s Tempranillo wine.
When I wasn’t relaxing, walking, indulging, or being given a guided tour of all the supermarkets, (shoutout to my relatives), I was exploring Perth and its spectacular surroundings. The Central Business District (CBD) of Perth itself was a sharp contrast to its low-rise coastal suburbs. Here stood an impressive array of modern, futuristic skyscrapers and beautifully designed bridges, all resting along the banks of the idyllic Swan River. There was even a defunct, historic runway smack bang in the middle of the CBD, now used as a recreational area (as you do). Leaving the CBD behind me, my next venture involved a four-wheeled drive around designated sand dunes north of Perth. All of this exhilaration was of course topped off by a pit stop along a secluded beach, where we tucked into a freshly baked muffin and a nice cup of tea.
Once we were refreshed, we ventured even further North into part of the arid region of Western Australia. Here I was utterly amazed at the colour of the sand. What stood before me was sand that was as white as snow. So white that if you took a photo of it and said that you were skiing in the Alps people would unquestionably believe you. After a wholesome picnic on a splendid beach at the town of Lancelin, we headed off to see The Pinnacles. See, I told you that I would eventually explain this! Located in the Pinnacles Desert, which is part of Nambung National Park, proudly stood the mighty pinnacles themselves. These are weathered limestone pillars formed millions of years ago by the compressed and lithified remains of marine shells and bones. There were thousands of them located here on this almost otherworldly landscape, with many lookout points to take in the extent of them all. Amazing!
To end this most exquisite week in Perth, we topped it off by exploring King’s Park and the Botanical Gardens located on the hillside. This magical place offered breath-taking views over the city of Perth and the Swan River. The park and gardens themselves were naturally wonderful, too. It was a mind-opening experience to see such an array of flora and fauna unique to Australia. My personal favourites included a beautiful, little plant known as Kangaroo’s Paw and a rather bizarre looking Boab Tree. I’d strongly recommend a quick google of these two unique plants, you will 100% not be disappointed! I can safely say that Perth was one of the best places that I have ever visited. It offered a unique Australian experience while not straying too far from our own culture in Ireland. With so much to do and see and such an array of fantastic natural facilities located not too far from the doorstep, I would undoubtedly recommend Perth to anyone who may be interested in travelling to Australia. I know that I will definitely go back there sometime. And who knows? Maybe next time I will get to walk around in my t-shirt and flip-flops in the middle of Winter? That will certainly be another perk of Perth for me!