Perth Cultural Center
Perth has undergone an extensive urban redevelopment project, which is evident as you explore the galleries, heritage buildings and natural habitats of the Perth Cultural Centre, located a short walk from the central business district. The AU$35 million ($25 million) regeneration has transformed what was previously a seedy wasteland. There are several major cultural venues here, including the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia (WA), the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) as well as the Art Gallery of WA.PICA stages a diverse program of exhibitions and events. 51 James Street Northbridge; open Tues-Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; free admission; pica.org.au. The Art Gallery of WA’s permanent collection consists of 17,000 pieces that showcase indigenous and 20th-century Australian and British paintings and sculpture. Open Wed-Mon 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; entry is free; artgallery.wa.gov.auThe center also has an ecological interest and grows an organic orchard on the roof of a multi-story parking deck, as well as cultivating a wetland habitat that supports native fish, frogs and invertebrates. perthculturalcentre.com.au
Heritage preservation is a big focus of the Northbridge neighborhood, where the Cultural Centre is located. Tucked alongside the glass-encased WA Museum is a colonial relic, the 1855 Perth Gaol, which convicts built from limestone cut from cliffs in nearby Freemantle and floated up river. It now houses displays of colonial and prison related artifacts, plus the museum’s retail shop and coffee shop. WA Museum Gardens, Francis Street; open daily 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM; tel +61 411 708 063.On adjoining William Street, you’ll find an eclectic mix of record stores, local clothing labels and French patisseries.
Take the pedestrian bridge over Roe Street and veer left onto Wellington Street. Further redevelopment has transformed this area into a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard. On nearby Grand Lane, as part of the city’s “Forgotten Spaces” strategy, walls have been decked out with gigantic spray-painted murals reaching up to 325 feet high which feature native birds such as owls, magpies, kingfishers and parrots.
Walk down Barrack Street to St George’s Terrace, where you’ll find two Perth landmarks from past and present – the 19th-century St George’s Cathedral and, opposite, the life size Footsteps in Time sculptures, which commemorate the 1829 founding of the Swan River colony. Continue down to Barrack Square on the waterfront and to the glass, 270-foot rocket-like Bell Tower. It houses the only set of royal bells outside England – replicas of the 12 bells of London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields church, cast in the early 1700s on the order of the Prince of Wales, later King George II.
Its observation deck provides 360-degree views of the Swan River and the CBD. Open daily from 10:00 AM, closing times vary; entry AU$18/$13; thebelltower.com.au
Stroll 15 minutes west along the walking trails of Kings Park, one and a-half square miles of urban bushland that hugs the Swan River foreshore. Two-thirds of the park is a protected haven for more than 300 species of native plants, which thrive among its heath and woodlands. It’s home to the Botanic Garden, the State War Memorial, picnic areas, lakes and the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, a 170-foot-tall glass and rusted steel structure that hangs in a canopy of eucalyptus (open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily; free entry).It provides great views of the city skyline along its nearly half-mile course. From here, it’s just under a mile walk back to St George’s Terrace, or take the free 37 Transperth bus from the Fraser Avenue Precinct at the heart of the park.