Flip-flop weather for three-quarters of the year, rolling vineyards, 12,500km of unspoilt beaches, crystal clear waters and white sand. The coast of Western Australia is a gem floating in the Indian Ocean
Words Anna Last
Where to go in Western Australia
Australia’s state capital, Perth, has long been celebrated as one of the world’s most liveable cities: it boasts sun, sea, space and a beautiful skyline. With the 2018 launch of the first ever non-stop flight to Australia from the UK landing in Perth, fittingly named the Dreamliner by Qantas, your trip to paradise down under, is about to get easier.
For a long time, the East Coast has been the favourable Aussie destination for holiday-seekers, who flock to Sydney, Melbourne and Byron Bay. Perth may be the most remote city in the world (for locals, it is closer to travel to Bali than their East Coast neighbours), but nesting within a state that encompasses a third of Australia, there is a beauty in it’s isolation that has led to a huge injection of wealth over recent years. This investment, originally hailing from the mining boom, has seen Perth become a melting pot of tourism, with the booming economy creating in turn, a buzzing food and drink scene and luxurious, boutique accommodation.
Without a doubt, the best thing about WA is its beaches. With 19 breathtaking beaches within driving distance from the city, this coastline offers a limitless, peaceful space to stretch your sandy toes. Cottelsoe, Trigg and City beach are among the most picture perfect (insta-worthy!), and you only need to take a cruise along Sunset Drive to spot blissful surfers bobbing in the Indian Ocean. I’ve lived in Perth for six months now, and fallen hard for WA. For a visitor, there are certain things that need to be ticked off: a trip to Rottnest Island, a stroll through Kings Park, a stroll through the Fremantle markets, endless days spent on the beach. But when planning your trip to this paradise down under, be sure to check the below for my picks of where to eat and stay.
When you land in Perth, you will only want to do one thing after that long journey: relax. There is no better place to unwind in the city, a mere 20 minutes from the airport, then at Como The Treasury. A modern, stylish, luxurious city escape a stone’s throw from the river, Elizabeth Quay and the bustling streets of the city centre.
Como The Treasury opened its doors two years ago, led by luxury hotelier group, COMO Hotels and Resorts. The hotel is set in the ‘State Buildings’, a group of Victorian buildings that has been amalgamated into a luxury precinct, complete with restaurants, wine bars and coffee shops. Yet the charm and heritage of one of Perth’s oldest and most beautiful buildings is respectfully maintained. Despite the grandeur of the building, the hotel is purposefully limited to 48 modern, lofty and luxurious rooms, creating the serene kind of luxury you look for in a city escape. The beauty of such a modernity means all contemporary demands are met; USB portals by the bed and electronic black out blinds, to name a few. Of course, all the luxury necessities are in place: huge marshmallow beds with fluffy pillows, freestanding bathtubs, room service, the list goes on. Like the icing on the top of a cake, Como the Treasury boasts a rooftop pool and sleek gym high above the city. Slide in for a quick dip, before treating yourself to one of the treatments at the hotel’s spa – COMO Shambhala Urban Escape.
Como the Treasury
The State Buildings is home to a number of the cities’ best dining options including the fine-dining restaurant WildFlower, easy and delicious food from POST and a personal favourite, sharing plates at Petition. But do yourself a favour and head to Long Chim for an unforgettable culinary journey.
Long Chim, meaning ‘to come and taste’ was founded by the famous Australian chef, David Thompson. Known for his expertise in Thai cuisine, Thompson famously opened Long Chim in Singapore, soon turning it into one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. After a visit to its sister restaurant in Perth, you will see why.
I recommend going for the Chef’s set menus, allowing them to choose a selection of the best dishes for you. Highlights include the Spicy Pork with Rice Cakes, the Roast Duck with Choy Sum, Ginger and Plum Sauce, the Glass Noodle Salad with Minced Pork and…if you think you can handle the heat, try the Red Curry of Beef. Accompany your food with some unique, top notch cocktails like the Pomelo Spritz, or Tropic Thunder, or choose from their impressive selection of wine.
The best thing about this restaurant is the ambience. It’s such a pleasure when fine dining is presented in a light-hearted, casual way. At Long Chim, you enjoy top quality food at long sharing tables or sat on bar stalls overlooking an open kitchen where you can watch the sizzle and spice in action. Every single bite packs a serious punch: this is not an experience for the faint-hearted, but if you can handle the heat (and I seriously suggest you do), Long Chim is an exquisite culinary journey not to miss out on.
Rambla on Swan
For a different dining experience, head to the South side of the Swan River and dine at Rambla on Swan. You’ll catch sight of dolphins, pelicans and black swans if you take a stroll around the river during the day, but at night time, the city lights up to reveal a twinkling skyline. Rambla on Swan, offering a fine twist on modern food from Western Australia, is a delectable experience, made only better as you soak up the stunning views during your dinner. Grab a table on the outdoor decking to match your surroundings with the incredible meal you’re about to have…
The ambience here feels more ‘up-market’ with excellent staff on hand to help you with your every desire. Gorge on some Australian oysters and Chardonnay to start before tucking into one of their ‘Three Pieces’. These dishes are a stroke of genius, allowing you to try three different meals in miniature size as your entree, each complimenting each other. I recommend the Pork Belly followed by the Snapper Croquette, cleansed with Watermelon and Feta. For mains, choose from a selection of fresh, seasonal offerings and finish with an excellent dessert – the Toasted Tortitas is a must-have for dessert lovers.
Western Australia is a huge state and there are so many options at hand when you’re ready to branch out of Perth. It’s only a two-and-a-half-hour flight up North to the tropics of Broome, the home of Cable Beach, camels and Matsos Ginger Beer. But at only a two-hour drive out of the city, you would be foolish to leave WA without a trip to the world famous wine region of Margaret River.
Stay: Empire Retreat
This five-star retreat will leave you breathless. Nestled into a serene forest, Empire Retreat limits it’s luxury to only eleven bedrooms, creating a personal experience. The owner of the hotel is the brainchild of Empire Homewares, meaning that you’ll be drooling over the gorgeous, shabby chic design of the hotel – it is interior heaven.
There is a calmness about this beautiful hotel that is seldom experienced. Empire Retreat has very much been designed to work within nature, not disturbing the grounds but rather working with them. Huge glass windows and bountiful outdoor seating ensure that nature takes precedence. Escape to your room for total privacy, or relax in the common lounge, complete with books, cushions, candles and a roaring fire for the cooler evenings. Guests can access this whenever they please and are encouraged to relax with a glass of wine at their leisure (at any hour of the night, I was told).
Each room is decorated to perfection, but I recommend you stay in the deluxe balcony suite. With an open plan bathroom complete with a huge bath and outdoor shower, you will never want to leave. Sit out on your private balcony after a day of wine tasting and watch the sun go down before star-gazing through the forest — you will feel like there is no one else for miles.
Breakfast is included, and what a treat it is. Enjoy a personal experience from the small team who cook up a storm alongside a gourmet Skandi style buffet and barista coffee. Don’t leave the premises without a walk through the grounds, loop past the lake and head down into the vineyard. Empire Retreat is also complete with a beautiful spa, just in case you aren’t relaxed enough. Re-treat yourself to an expert treatment to top off your five-star stay.
You may find yourself, like me, unwilling to tear yourself away from this haven, but there is nothing better to tempt you away then wine. Margaret River is world-famous for it’s unbeatable food and wine offering. Take a drive down Caves Road only to find winery, after brewery, after chocolate factory, after cheese factory…it is a foodie’s heaven. There are plenty of wineries to choose from, but Voyager Estate is one you can’t miss out on.
Voyager Estate is one of the prettiest wineries. The Cellar Door (tasting room) is one of the most impressive, complete with a private tasting room for those who want a more intimate experience. Don’t worry about being a connoisseur – sit back and enjoy the Heroes of Margaret River tasting, as one of the expert wine team guide you through the best pick of the bunch. After tasting these buttery whites and smooth reds, you’ll find it hard to leave without a case of Voyager Vintages.
The restaurant is equally stunning. Enjoy their ‘Wine Discovery’ Menus, as the Head Chef pairs fresh, seasonal ingredients with their delicious wines, or settle in for High Tea. A walk around the grounds is a must – get lost in the winding vineyard and watch the sun go down over the impressive vista.
Top tip – Don’t leave Margaret River and Western Australia without a coastal walk and a trip to Smiths Beach! It’s not just about the wineries, breweries, and restaurants here, the scenery and beaches are breathtaking.
About the writer: Anna Last is a British expat living in Perth, Western Australia. Follow her adventure at @BritGirlTravels