Perth is a crossroads, a meeting place for both true blue descendants of convicts and new immigrants starting again.

Perth, Australia—a coastal city sitting relaxed and cross-legged in the southwest corner of the country—surprises you with its urban vibrancy and old world charisma. In the movies, Australia is a paradise of eternal summer. But the truth is that the country offers a depth and richness that must be experienced to be understood. The eternal summer ends for a few dreary months in the middle of each year, but Perth, like a seasoned storyteller, slows down not for loss of things to say, but for dramatic effect.

Experience Energetic Urban Perth

Greater Perth boasts a population of two million, but the city proper doesn’t seem crowded; there are enough people to bring energy but not so many that you feel you can’t walk at your own pace. Shielded with a light jacket from the delicate night chill, visitors may pass several trendy cafes, chic boutiques, a Baskin Robbins, and perhaps a live band playing ritzy jazz music.

For an intimate look at the city, visitors can take a chocolate walking tour. The three-hour tour travels quiet lanes to Perth’s finest chocolatiers, and while munching on chocolate, visitors learn about the history of the city and the art of chocolate making.

To contrast this intimate look at the city, visitors can climb the 271-foot-high Swan Bell Tower for a view from above. The tower was built to commemorate the new millennium and houses twelve 600-year-old bells that once rang in St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church that still stands in London. The tower is a striking symbol of the city’s aspirations for the future and reverence for the past.

Modern Fish and Chips

Fish and chips at Cicerello’s Fremantle

Take a Stroll through Old World Perth

An afternoon that begins with eating fish and chips at Cicerello’s Fremantle can never go wrong. The restaurant is housed in a 100-year-old wharf with charming décor: newspaper front-pages detailing wild fishing stories, a shark-bitten fishing boat suspended from the ceiling, and a large and vibrant aquarium. The Indian Ocean is but one minute away, and with the winter sun still high, it may be warm enough to slip off your shoes and walk along the water’s edge.

Another delightful eatery is Tranby House. The white-walled cottage is one of the oldest buildings in Perth, and its spot among eucalyptus trees by Swan River trees is idyllic. Visitors may sit inside the historic building or under umbrellas outside, sipping herbal teas or hot chocolate in flower-adorned tea cups. Then come out tiered serving trays laden with the high tea selection: finger sandwiches and cakes, scones, and cookies to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Meet the People of Perth

Architecture, tours, and food all create a colorful background, but the most salient part of Perth’s story is the people. Perth is a crossroads, a meeting place for both true blue descendants of convicts and new immigrants starting again. A middle-aged Czech couple selling gelato from their small shop. A young piano teacher holding lessons in her home studio. A Chinese family throwing their annual Christmas in July party. School children wearing collared uniforms, playing chasey in the playground as their teachers watch on.

Perth is a city with a storied past and a promising future. And in winter—the weather milder, the pace slower—the story continues with a beauty and richness unrivaled.

—Isabella Markert

Fish and Chips photo by Pascal Subtil (photo has been cropped)