Browsing though holiday photos I realised one of the best family trips of the past years was taken in Perth a while back, when both of our kids fell into the toddler category. We picked up cheap Air Asia tickets with the modest goal of getting onto the Australian soil with minimum cost and travel time but we ended up having a great, family friendly holiday.
Unfortunately for anyone coming from Asia (or actually from anywhere but maybe Switzerland) Australian prices make your heart miss a few beats here and there. We tried to minimise cost by doing as many free things as possible, staying in an apartment (admittedly infested with cockroaches) and farm-stays instead of hotels and eating in and having picnics as much as possible. There are fabulous picnic facilities everywhere – I was blown away by the BBQ pits available for everyone to use in many parks (Australian teenagers are obviously not into vandalising things!). The only thing cheaper than in Malaysia seemed to be wine, so I also saved a lot by consuming as much as possible. Remember to pick up an inexpensive cool box, esky in the native language, on your first shopping trip!
These are the reasons why I think Perth and the surrounding areas make for an excellent family holiday destination:
1. Seeing the curious Australian wildlife
The closest we got to kangaroos and koalas was in Caversham Wildlife Park. The kangaroos hang around a large grassy area and you can help yourself to some kangaroo feed to make even better friends. We also got to touch a koala (very, very gently and under supervision), hold various lizards and snakes and pose with an opossum.
The Wildlife park is located in Whiteman Park, a large conservation area with other family oriented stuff to do. We rode on the steam train, always a hit with kids. Be sure to check times, we visited outside the school holidays and found that many attractions ran on reduced schedule.
Rottnest Island just outside Perth is home to the odd quokka. We rented bikes with trailers and cycled around in the stifling heat spotting the quokkas and admiring the carless island with amazing beaches that seems to be one big summer camp for the good citizens of Perth. I must have been too exhausted from biking since I seem to have no photos but have a look at these by the yTravel blog.
Rockingham Penguin Island, a tiny islet 45 minutes outside of Perth is home to the smallest penguin species in the world. After a short boat ride you get to an information centre with a cool indoor feeding platform where these cute tiny creatures can be admired from close distance.
Located at Hillary’s Boat Harbour – a cool destination in itself – is AQWA, Australia’s largest aquarium. Pretty much on par with Aquaria KL but a lovely place with touch pool, cool Danger Zone and a good coverage of Australia’s under water world.
2. Fantastic playgrounds
Everywhere you go there are playgrounds, and just not any old set of swings. They come in the shape of pirate ships or dinosaurs, or as adventure parks for the older ones. And best of all, they almost always have sun shades so that you can actually go and play during daylight hours – something Malaysian city planners should go and have a look at.
We stayed in Freemantle and our favourite hangout was the small Esplanade playground shaded by large old trees. A few steps away is the very cool Little Creatures Brewery in case parents get thirsty – we did. There is even a sand pit for kids! In Perth, we liked the one at King’s Park with attached Sticky Beaks Cafe. Hillary’s Boat Harbour was perfect for some sand play, safe swim and fish & chips. There is an informative list of playgrounds here.
3. Road tripping with sensible distances
Australian friends had me imagine it takes 14 hours to drive anywhere in the country. Obviously I didn’t listen too carefully. The great thing about the area around Perth is that there are many interesting places nearby if you are the driving type. Obviously this can be a negative if you want to get by using public transport. We wanted to venture out to Margaret River anyway, so renting a car was an obvious choice.
4. Perth Beaches
Why would Australians go anywhere else for their beach holidays, I ask! The seaside is just magnificent and in every turn of the road there seems to be a long, sandy beach with nobody on it but the odd angler and surfer. Having said that, our tropical babies did not go anywhere near that cold ocean and the waves were seriously strong in most places. City of Perth has more beaches than seems fair and if you drive out along the coast, you are spoiled for choice.
Pretty much all the activities and places on my list could fall under any of the four categories and this may just be the selling point of Perth – a perfect balance of outdoor fun for kids and cool stuff for adults. Great list of kids’ activities in the area can be found here.
If possible, Margaret River was even more fun – read about it here.