Perth is an urban paradise built along the Swan River, defined by its beautiful parklands, stunning beaches and general chilled out vibe, where leisure and pleasure reign supreme and everybody it seems has the freedom to live the life they dreamed of. Perth has a relatively small population of just over 2 million people, living inside a state that is more than a third of the size of Europe.
The region gets more sunshine than almost any other city in the world, with an average of 8 hours a day, every day of the year and Perth’s climate is a distinct part of its appeal, with 32 degree days throughout the summer. They do get a cool breeze though – Perth has more wind than any other Australian city; the predictable-as-clockwork wind known as the Fremantle Doctor sweeps in off the sea between midday and 3pm every day of the year.
The region’s Indigenous history extends back almost 45,000 years and today the Noongar people living in and around metropolitan Perth collectively represent one of Australia’s largest Indigenous groups. Perth was first established as a colony by the British in 1829 (the Swan River Colony) and became a penal colony in 1850, mainly to bring extra labour over to build the city. It took a good few decades to establish itself and then gold was discovered. This was the beginning of many cycles of good fortune for Perth that continue right up to the present day.
Perth is capital city to one of the most resource rich regions in the country and every few decades, a new deposit of something is found, the local economy booms and everyone gets quite rich very quickly! Mining is the backbone to the region’s rapid growth and prosperity and the industry continues to innovate and improve its capabilities, staking its claim as one of the most important mining regions in the world. Perth is a city in constant flux. Its strong economic position encourages urban growth and new developments are common, as even slightly aged buildings are deemed ready for replacement. The city skyline has changed over the past few decades and this will only continue as more opportunities arrive and large scale capital works are completed. Perth is a rather elusive city, to other Australians at least, mainly because it’s so far away. It’s closer to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital than it is to Canberra and has a reputation for being a little less than exciting. Locals will tell you a different story though and the fantastic lifestyle is the reason almost everybody lives there. The isolation is a key factor in the attitude of the locals. Not having close neighbours to compare themselves to, provides a freedom not granted to many big cities and the locals are all the better for it.
Western Australia is the nation’s wealthiest state and with the majority of the WA population calling Perth city home, it’s no surprise that the housing industry has seen its share of phenomenal success. In the early 2000’s incomes almost doubled and in line with that, housing prices did too. Now the city is home to middle class, wealthy and incredibly wealthy and nothing in between it seems.
Singles, Young People and Students
Perth is home to 5 universities and the circuit of Uni, surf, study, swim certainly makes for a great learning routine. Meanwhile many of the young professionals here have considerable wealth compared to those in other states, so choice of suburb may not always be based just on affordability, but also on personal preference. University of WA students are living the dream with classes close to the city, relaxing study sessions nearby in Kings Park and down-time just ten minutes away at Cottesloe Beach. Mount Claremont and Nedlands are popular spots nearby for young people, but rents can be high so share housing is common. South of the city, Curtin and Murdoch University students live around Bibra Lake and Bentley where the cost of living is a little better, but the city is less accessible.
South Perth has transformed in recent years with tall apartment buildings jostling for space, all wanting the coveted river view. This is just the spot for the young urban professionals - centrally located, with great city views and plenty of scenic jogging and biking opportunities. Central to that is the bustling, open, all-hours vibe of Mend Street’s dining strip. East Perth is also popular for those wanting a shorter commute. Again there is an abundance of modern apartments, fantastic city and river access as well as waterfront dining and relaxing around Langley Park and Elizabeth Quay. If river views are not so important to you and park life is more your thing, then West Perth is also a great spot for the young professional. Fremantle is always a popular area for its great waterfront lifestyle of bars, restaurants and leisure activities.
Perth is a great city for families with perfect weather to support an abundance of outdoor leisure time. Choice of suburb is often dependent on schools so families with school aged children tend to prefer the pretty streets of Applecross, though this area is not so budget friendly. Victoria Park, South Perth and Rivervale are also great areas but larger housing options tend to be away from the riverfront, so you may miss out on a river view. Areas like Attadale, Bicton and East Fremantle are a little further from the city, but very family friendly and centrally located to many of Perth’s greatest assets for families - King’s Park, the river, the sea and Fremantle. For those with less concern for budget, many families covet a prestige address close to the city and the neighbouring suburbs of Subiaco, Nedlands, Claremont and Dalkeith certainly do the job. However, the waterfront address is the pinnacle in Perth and the best waterfront living can be found by the beach at Cottesloe and Mosman Park or with spectacular river views in Peppermint Grove amongst the mansions.
Retirement is not just for the over 65’s in Perth. With so many millionaires in one place, retirement looks very different here than it might elsewhere. Million dollar apartments with stunning waterfront views, and luxury cars are not unusual. Privacy and security are priorities too and for the older retiree, a more relaxed pace is also important. For those not living the dream in Peppermint Grove and surrounds, City Beach is a beautiful centrally located suburb with good facilities, not too much traffic and very little nightlife. Inner city living offers convenience and surprisingly, some peace and quiet as Perth locals are drawn to the water so the CBD tends to shut down early. The CBD has great public spaces and lots of walking and bike paths easily connecting city residents to the river. For those needing a supported lifestyle or regular assistance, North Perth has a strong community of elderly residents and a number of aged care facilities particularly around Subiaco and Woodlands. There is also a relatively new industry in ‘lifestyle villages’. Targeted at over 45’s and empty nesters, the villages offer a resort style community with security and all-inclusive living for those wanting a more luxurious lifestyle without the hassle that comes with home ownership. They are however located in Perth’s outer suburbs.
First Time Buyers
It’s reasonable to think that First Home Owner Grants in Perth are a bonus rather than a necessity. Despite many having strong earning capacity to finance a mortgage, Perth residents still like to buy smart in many cases and will buy quickly if they find the right reasonably priced property. A competitive market also influences local buying habits and average purchase price tends to be around $500,000 for a first home buyer. Popular suburbs in the north of the city include Heathridge and Beldon though these are not ideal for city commuters. A little closer in are Craigie and Woodvale, offering similar property choices but with less travel time to work. Much closer to the city are Leederville and Shenton Park, though with a higher purchase price. South of the city, Ferndale is a popular choice with nature at your doorstep. It has its own local river and parklands and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Fremantle is just 30 minutes away. Bibra Lake is similarly located with waterside living a key aspect of the community here. The neighbouring university ensures the suburb will always have some pull and it offers a peaceful, safe, natural environment for families.
Best Investment Areas
It’s all about timing for those investing in Perth real estate. The next big thing is always just around the corner and savvy investors can make very impressive gains if they get in early enough. The prestige addresses of Subiaco, Nedlands, Cottesloe and Mosman Park will always be a drawcard but these are lifestyle choices first and investment choices second in many cases. South Perth is a great location and there are still good buys to be had for 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. Bigger, older properties may offer better investment options to some and can be found just one suburb over in Victoria Park. There is a strange mix of old and new homes here, catering to a range of investors and there are certainly opportunities for projects and decent returns for those who love to renovate. It is still relatively close to the city and has a good mix of residents plus the nice lifestyle of South Perth but with a more affordable price tag. A seaside address is not out of the question in Perth; Scarborough in the northern beaches has good investment potential as more than $50 million is being invested in redeveloping the foreshore area. The northern beaches can be out of the budget of many and not always deliver the best return, but suburbs close to the southern beaches such as Spearwood and Bibra Lake a little more inland, offer good opportunities. Properties south of Fremantle are still affordable and employment opportunities in this region are diverse and close to both the port and Fremantle.
- Perth is located in Australia’s biggest state, Western Australia which takes up one third of the Australian continent’s land mass.
- Perth is the 2nd most isolated capital city in the world after Honolulu.
- It’s closer to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, than it is to Australia’s capital Canberra and it’s usually cheaper to fly from Perth to Bali than it is to other parts of Australia.
- Rottnest Island is just 18 kilometres off the coast of Perth and today is accessed by ferry, but just a few thousand years ago, you could walk there from Perth via land.
- Perth is widely considered to be the sunniest capital city in the world, with an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine per year – that’s roughly 8 hours per day, every day of the year.
- Perth is Australia’s windiest city and is regularly considered the 3rd windiest on a global scale. Its famous daily sea breeze, The Fremantle Doctor, sweeps over the city every day between midday and 3pm.
- Many think that New York’s Central Park is big, but King’s Park in Perth is the largest inner city park in the world.
- Public bus transport in Perth’s inner city is free to commuters.
- Everybody is in the flight path in Perth, with the airport located in the metropolitan area, just 10 kilometres from the city centre.
- In 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. Perth residents turned on their lights to make their presence known and Perth was called the ‘City of Lights’, standing out as a bright beacon on earth as the spacecraft passed.
- Every February, Perth hosts the longest running international arts festival in Australia that connects over 500,000 people annually – The Perth International Arts Festival.
- The prestigious America’s Cup sailing race was won to great shock, for the first time in 1983 by a non-American team - Australia. This brought the race to Perth in 1984, transforming Fremantle in the process.
- The Indian Pacific is one of the world’s great railway journeys and it begins and ends in Perth, following the longest stretch of straight railway line in the world.
- In 1933, Western Australians voted to separate from Australia, making Perth the capital of their new country. However, the process was unsuccessful.
- Thanks to the spectacular WA mining industry, Perth has the largest number of self-made millionaires (per capita) in the world.
- Speaking of wealth, at $8.8 billion, the 2nd richest person in Australia is also Australia’s richest woman and the only Australian woman on the Forbes Billionaires list. That person is mining executive Gina Rinehart.
- Australia’s oldest mint is in Perth, still operating and in its original building. It produces gold, silver and platinum coins and offers tours and a museum with some fascinating gold exhibits.
- Thanks to a generous gift from the UK, Perth is home to the 14th century bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields, some of which are the bells that were rung to farewell James Cook on his voyage that would lead to the discovery of Australia.
- Fremantle Prison was built by convicts and still operated as a maximum security jail until 1991.
- Almost 65% of the trade that is processed through the port of Fremantle is with Asia and 15% with the Middle East. The remainder is with other Australian regions.
PERTH LIVING – SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Perth’s brightest stars are its natural attractions. More than a dozen pristine beaches offer the classic Australian lifestyle as well as stunning sunsets from Elizabeth Quay to Cottesloe Beach, over the Swan River or the Indian Ocean. Perth locals are either sea people or river people and are always in the water, on the water or near the water. You will find them out and about on boats or bikes or on foot, enjoying the weather, the parks and the general joy that comes from living a life of abundance. For those who prefer dry land, King’s Park is one of Perth’s greatest attractions with more than 400 acres of Indigenous trees, heritage gardens and every September, stunning displays of wildflowers. It also offers some of the best views in the city.
Perth has a great selection of heritage museums and galleries and the treasure in its collection is the Perth Mint. It is still operational, can be visited and produces coins used as Australian legal tender in gold, silver and platinum. Just a short walk away is the Swan Bell Tower – a purpose built construction to house a set of historic 14th century bells which can be heard ringing every day at noon.Another important part of the city’s history is Fremantle Prison – the largest convict built structure in western Australia. It offers a chilling insight into the life of a prisoner right up to recent years and is one of the 11 Australian Convict Sites classified under a UNESCO World Heritage Listing.
Sport is a passion easily indulged in Perth and football and cricket are the hot tickets. ‘The WACA’ is home to the West Australian Cricket Association and has hosted matches there since the 1890’s. Subiaco Oval is one of Australian’s premier football stadiums and is home ground to local teams the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers.
Perth is well serviced by public transport and has a good network of trains, buses and some nice river trips on the ferries. It also has a great incentive for people to ride rather than drive by offering free transit zones in the city centre and as well as free bus services in certain zones. One of the world’s greatest train journeys is the Indian Pacific that connects Perth and the Indian Ocean with Sydney and the Pacific Ocean. A large portion of the journey is through desert and the train itself is a once in a lifetime experience. Perth’s airport’s claim to fame is that ‘anyone can land a plane in the CBD’. This is not entirely accurate but the airport is definitely in the inner metropolitan area, just 11 kilometres from the city centre. It services regional, domestic and international flights and is known for its predominance of ‘work wear’ in the Qantas Club members lounge – Perth is the main connecting airport for FIFO workers – those who don’t live in WA but ‘Fly In & Fly Out’ to work in the mines. Fremantle is one of Australia’s biggest ports and though it is predominantly a cargo port, it has had an increasing number of round-the-world cruise ships adding it to their itineraries since the 1970’s. Perth has a good highway and freeway system though there are often issues with traffic congestion at peak hours. Perth locals love to cycle and there are plenty of great bike paths for commuters and leisure. Taxis are also plentiful.
Perth is a city of change, with golden sunshine and that reliable cleansing sea breeze. Its isolation may be the secret to its unique lifestyle and its natural attractions make it easy to see why people live there. It is a city of simple things and one where you can build a strong and stable foundation for the future. Its prosperous energy and entrepreneurial spirit makes for a dynamically evolving cityscape and its best asset is its central location to some of Western Australia’s most beautiful regions.