1. Never wearing shoes.
Whether it’s a general “no worries” Aussie attitude or something specific to this beachside town, I know I often went whole days forgetting my sandals. Once I had to put gas in the car and realized at the pump that I’d left home with no shoes. Nobody cared.
2. South Beach
Probably one of the prettiest white-sand beaches around (although North Beach and Swanbourne are also up there), the grassy area has a ton of barbecues for hanging out under the trees, there’s a nice cafe close to the carpark, and if you walk along the dunes far enough, you’ll see the statue of C.Y. O’Connor on his horse charging into the surf.
The vintage, mirror-covered venue Der Spiegeltent is only one part of Perth’s fantastic fringe. Some shows, like all fringes, are bizarre and should have remained conceptual, but the vast majority are hilarious and full of local talent (like Ginger LaMinge, the sassy burlesque star who does a Crazy Cat Lady routine with stuffed kitties glued over her privates).
4. Tiger Tiger
This tiny coffeeshop has a full menu, serves drinks, and tiny rickety tables in a cobblestone alleyway. It’s one of the best cafes in Northbridge.
5. Greens & Co
Right down the street from the Leederville skate park, Greens & Co had their sign changed by a graffiti artist (they added “ck” to the place’s name), but nothing can change how fantastic their cake is. I would travel across the outback for this tasty, tasty cake. The gorgeous paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling are pretty spiffy too.
6. Mulberry season
Wherever you can find mulberry trees (try Perth’s only urban farm City Farm), you can find people with purple fingers snacking on the abundant fruit.
7. Tin roofs
When it rains, which is as bad as winter gets in this incredibly warm state capital, everybody’s roof sounds like handfuls of gravel are being thrown against them. It’s very restful.
8. Backyard chickens
You can have up to twelve assorted backyard poultry in my old neighbourhood of Victoria Park alone, and a lot of people have a stash of laying chooks to keep them (and their neighbours and their coworkers, given how well the little suckers can produce) in eggs every day. Chickens are really dumb, but very friendly; my old housemate once left our back door open after a nighttime trip outside, and woke up at 6 with a chicken amiably pecking around the socks on her bedroom floor.
9. The Melville flea market/car boot sale
Every Sunday morning starting at 7am, this glorious market opens. It’s full of electronic equipment, tools, and vintage clothes, and you can often find fantastic one-of-a-kind items for only pennies (if Australians still used pennies, which they don’t).
10. The Atrium breakfast buffet
It sounds silly to go to the convention centre/casino complex just to get breakfast, when there are many cheaper or less touristy places to go…but the breaky buffet at the Atrium must be seen to be believed.
11. Only a couple of hours’ drive to some really bizarre and impressive scenery
The Pinnacles. Balingup. Margaret River. The Yalgorup peninsula. Walpole. Turns out that southwestern Australia is gorgeous and remote and you can see wonderful rock formations and enjoy massive tingle trees without even going that far from home. There’s also Rottnest, as long as you don’t mind being surrounded by teenagers on school holidays, getting drunk and taking pictures of quokkas.
12. How cheap it is to get to Bali
Those bucket Asian airlines can offer puddle-jumper fares for tiny amounts of money. Get your Bintang singlet and head for the Ubud Monkey Forest on a weekend away, for as much as dinner for two with a nice wine. Okay, so dinner for two can be pretty expensive in Perth, but it’s cheap for a plane ticket.
Perth’s local microbrewery features a “hopinator”; if you like your IPA with extra hops, they’ll dump it in and add even more flavour to the brew. Technically in Fremantle and not Perth proper, it’s got an amazing view of the water.
14. Amusing stories about stuff that will kill you
The years I lived there, there were two great white shark attacks at Cottesloe, one of the most popular beaches in town. I went to an AQWA talk about sea creatures once, and it was all about blue-ringed octopi and cone shells; one woman, the curator said, had stepped in a pool of water that contained a blue-ring, not even on the octopus itself, and was laid up in hospital for a month. The extreme toxicity of Australian animals is delightfully weird.
15. The Freo doctor
Every afternoon, the sea breeze blows in from Fremantle. This either a) perfectly cools down your 40 degree Celsius summer afternoon or b) turns your preferred beach into a sandblasted disaster zone. Usually both.