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The iconic bell tower in Perth, Australia

A Fistful of Cool Things to Do in Perth, Australia

There’s no dearth of cool things to do in Perth, the capital of Western Australia. And many of the most fun things to do in Perth can appeal to older women travelers, no matter your age or degree of comfort with “adventure.”

Perth, Australia—locals call it “The Pretty City.” And with good reason. This west coast city of 2+ million people has a special blend of nature and urban cityscape that can capture both the eye and the heart. With its modern architecture, its plethora of green spaces, and surrounded by some 25 miles (40 km) of soft-sand beaches and the glassy water of the Indian Ocean, it is beautiful for the eye and the lifestyle. And the fact that it has more sunny days per year than any other capital city in Australia doesn’t hurt. The best Perth points of interest will keep you outside a lot of the time.

Perfectly situated where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean, Perth offers a laid-back lifestyle with a cosmopolitan accent. With such a diverse landscape and cityscape, there’s a long list of intriguing, adventurous and downright fun things to do in Perth. (To find out what’s on in Perth today, visit the Perth city Tourism website. And for a great way to save money here, check out the best offers on things to do in Perth at Groupon.

Let’s take a closer look.

A Twilight view of the skyling of Perth, Australia shows one reason it's called The Pretty City.

There’s a reason Perth, Australia is called “The Pretty City.” From skyline to greenways, river to Indian Ocean,
it’s a delight for both the eye and the lifestyle.

Step Up and Look Out

One of your first things to do in Perth is to look at it from a vantage point that will help you get your bearings. I always like getting to some high point in a new city for an overview. In Perth, the best view of The Pretty City, night or day, is from the Fraser Avenue Lookout. You can see how the Swan River snakes through the city, a watery anchor for everything else. You can also see the Narrows Bridge spanning the river.

A view of Perth showing downtown, the Swan  river and the Narrows bridge.

Perth, Australia, offers so many lovely views. Get high up to see it at its best.

And then there’s this… because Tree Tops! Head to the Lotterywest Federation Walkway along the boundaries of Kings Park. The glass-and-steel arched bridge of the walkway begins near the massive Boab Tree, a 750-year-old giant transplanted here from the Kimberley area, nearly 2000 miles (3200 km) away. In a stroll of about 40 minutes, it takes you among the canopy of eucalyptus trees and gives spectacular skyline views of the city. You’ll see the Swan and Canning Rivers, get a sense of the diverse Western Australia flora, and be treated to aboriginal art along the way. One of the most fascinating and fun places to go in Perth, the walkway is open daily from 9-5, is free and is wheelchair accessible.

The glass-and-steel arched walkway traversing the tops of the eucalayptus trees in Perth's Kings Park.

The glass-and-steel Lotterywest Federation Walkway in Kings Park lets you walk among the treetops.
It’s one of the best experiences in Perth.

Eat it Up—One of the Most Delicious Things to do in Perth!

A Cloud Gelato treat in a huge cone, enough to fill you to the brim.

Cloud Gelato–a waffle cone that’s crispy out, soft inside and filled with deliciousness.

Perth’s food scene has exploded in recent years, and you’ll find anything you’re hungering for. From high-end, chef-centric restaurants to the diverse farm stands at Twilight Hawkers Market, from a classic high tea with bubbly at Bistro 10481 to pigging out at Margaret River Chocolate Company (free chocolate tastings!), Perth’s got it. Judging by its diverse food scene, Perth is a truly cosmopolitan place. And thanks to the sunny climate (remember, it has more sunny days than any other capital city in Australia), it has a high concentration of rooftop bars and dozens of opportunities for al fresco dining.

On one of those sunny days, you should definitely hit Cloud Gelato in Hay Street to gorge on one of their signature “cloud waffle” cones, crispy outside, fluffy inside, and filled with premium gelato and enough toppings to please even the most hedonistic Nomad Woman.

Drink it In

Upshot Whiskey from Whipper Snapper Distillery in Perth, Australia

Learn about how whiskey is distilled and why Whipper Snapper Distillery’s Upshot Whiskey is so delicious.

The liquid spirit of Perth is another draw. With the nearby Swan Valley wineries creating some of the best wines in Australia, a bunch of breweries turning out great brewskies, and super-fine coffee on offer all over town, you won’t go thirsty. Take a tasting at the award-winning Upper Reach winery or the globally known Sandalford Winery in the valley. Hit Billabong Brewing for their gluten-free wheat beer, brewed on the premises. Or head to the super-luxe Northbridge Brewing Company for a brew overlooking the city’s skyline from their rooftop Skydeck. For coffee brewing turned into art, head for Standing Room Only, a tiny place in the middle of Picadilly Arcade, with no seating, as the name implies. All they do is coffee, and they do it perfectly. These guys are passionate about coffee and it shows.

If your spirit needs a spirits lift, you need to go to Whipper Snapper Distillery for a whiskey workshop and tasting. You’ll learn that the recipe was developed during World War II by a couple of bomber pilot mates—one Yank and one Aussie. Then it was tweaked 50 years later by a renowned whiskey maven from Scotland. Learn how it’s made and leave with a bottle of their goes-down-so-easy Australian Upshot Whiskey, aged two years, or their whiskey-inspired smoked honey.

Speed it Up—Get an Adrenaline Shot with These Exciting Things to Do in Perth

Need an adrenaline rush? That’s also easy to find in Perth, whether as a spectator or a super-active participant. You can have a 90-minute motorcycle lesson from Down Under Riders. Enjoy a day-long quad tour just outside town. For something a little less stressful, watch harness racing at Gloucester Park. Water babies can learn to ride that wave at Gone Surfin’ Surf School, and they’ll provide the board. At Rooftop Trapeze, you can learn to be that “daring young woman on the flying trapeze.” And for the highest thrill of all, one I’m dying to do myself, let West Oz Skydiving drop you from a plane up to 14000 feet in the air, attached to a professional for a tandem dive. What a thrill! (To see how I’ve been preparing myself for my own first skydive, check out this post about IFly Indoor Skydiving

A tandem skydive, one of the thrills available in Perth, Australia

Sskydiving is one of the thrills I am dying to experience (no deathwish intended). In Perth, it’s easy.

Throw it Back

For a totally different experience of flight, go back a whole lotta years and take a flight tour in a vintage open-cockpit 1930s bi-plane at Ozwest Aviation. See how daddy did it, complete with the wind against your face. It’s great fun.

What a cool red vintage 1930s biplane.. Rides available at Ozwest in Perth.

In an Ozwest Aviation vintage biplane from the 1930s, you’ll see how daddy (or grandpa) experienced flight.

Don’t Feed the Animals

This is Australia, and you can’t leave without a wildlife hit. I mean… kangaroos, right? You might not think you could find them close to town, but Heirison Island, a wildlife refuge in the Swan River, is teeming with the bounding cuties. They are very tame, and not at all people or camera shy. You may have to walk around the island a bit to spot them, or you can head to their enclosure at dusk, when they emerge from the bush. Get there on the free red CAT bus from the WACA stop then it’s a short walk across the causeway. You’re also likely to see lots of birds on your walk, including egrets, ravens and willy wagtails. Open daily.

A kangaroo looks out from the golden grasses of Heirison Island, not far from Perth, Australia.

To see ‘roos up close, head to Heirison Island, just a short bus ride and a walk across the causeway from Perth.

For another unmissable wildlife experience, you can take the brief ferry ride across the Indian Ocean to Rottnest Island—“Rotto” to the locals—and have a close-up look see at what may be the world’s cutest and friendliest marsupials. Expect the island’s quokkas to steal your heart. These little fellas, about the size of a house cat, will come right up to you as you sit in a café and will happily pose for photos. But please, please don’t handle or feed them. It can make them sick, and there’s a high fine for doing it. Do be prepared for a series of “aww…” moments. These guys are such cuties! Rottnest Island is also worth exploring. The whole place is car free, but you can rent a bike at many places, or just have a lovely walkabout.

A darling little quokka on Rottnest island, looks up with a beseeching face, showing why everyone loves them.

The quokkas on Rottnest Island, a short ferry ride from Perth, provide a whole lot of “Awww…” moments.
But please don’t handle or feed them!

As you can see, there are more than enough fun things to do in Perth to keep you busy for days… or weeks. It’s a part of Australia that’s not on many tourists’ radar. It should be on yours.

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Pin - Cool things to do in Perth, showing the Bell Tower.

Blue doors, a rose-colored step and fuchsia bougainvillea petals in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

POTW: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico-It’s the Little Things

On how a photo presented itself to me in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and reminded me to pay attention. To look up.  To look down. To listen and smell and feel the air. To notice the “little things” that can turn any trip into a rich and fulfilling adventure.

On Noticing the Little Things Along the Way

Blue doors. A rose-colored step.  A sprinkling of fuchsia-colored bougainvillea petals.

Blue doors, a rose-colored step and fuchsia bougainvillea petals in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

A perfect still life in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, one of the “small moments” we must slow down to notice as we travel.

This lovey composition was just there, being itself in all its beauty, not waiting for me to come along, not posed for the camera or “set-up” as a perfect shot. I just happened to be walking by. I was on my way home from a meeting, my mind spinning with ideas and “must-dos”—what to fix for dinner, a business call I had to make, a bank balance I had to check. I was half-writing my next blog post in my head while keeping one eye on the ground to avoid tripping over the cobblestones or an all-too-common hole in the sidewalk here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. My only real point of focus was getting home.

But something made me turn my head to the side. A flash of color. A piece of composition. It barely registered and I kept walking. But then I stopped, turned around, walked back the few steps to look at it again. I realized it was beautiful, a perfect composition of color and form, shape and placement. It was a little piece of Mexican art handed to me on a plate.

I whipped my phone out of my pocket and snapped a few photos of it before going back on my busy way.

Later that evening, I looked at the photo again, and I liked it. I decided to put it up on my Instagram page. I post quite a few pphotos of my home town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico there and they usually get a nice response. I also shared that photo on my NomadWomen Facebook page. I didn’t think too much about it for the rest of the evening.

But when I looked at my page the next day, I realized that this one photo was getting a much greater response than usual. Something about this pretty color composition had struck a chord. People were liking, it, commenting on it, and sharing it like crazy, this little photo that was basically an afterthought.

And that got me thinking. How many of these small moments, these little gifts of noticing, do we let go right past us in our normal lives and even in our travels? If you’d been walking up Calle Hernandez Macias on that sunny afternoon, would you have seen that blue door with its rose-colored step and its sprinkling of fuchsia petals? How many times have I passed something very similar in this town and NOT seen it myself?

The Lesson for Travelers from my San Miguel de Allende, Mexico Moment

The moral here, I think, is a simple one. First: Slow down and pay attention. Let your senses run free. Look around you. Smell the wind. Taste the air. Feel the stucco or the water or the wooden door.

Ask yourself: What “small things” and precious moments do we miss on our travels as we rush from place to place? When we go from one “must-see” attraction to the next, when we focus our attention on the street ahead and the day ahead instead of being fully present in the moment, what wonders go right past us unseen, unheard, unnoticed and lost forever to our conscious enjoyment of our trip?

Some Examples from my Own Recent Travels (with Bonus Photos)

If I had rushed through the Rijksmusem, seen the paintings I love, and then run off to the next thing on my Amsterdam “must-do” list, I would not have stopped to rest on a chair in the gardens behind the museum. I would not have noticed how the sun shining through the dancing fountain there created a rainbow that gave me great delight as I watched its changing stripes of color weave through the droplets while the fountain danced its rhythms.

A rainbow in the fountain behind the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

A rainbow plays with the dancing fountain in the garden behind the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

 

If I had been solidly focused on getting to the Charles Bridge in Prague, a highlight of any trip to that magical city, I might not have been hit so hard by the divine smell of chocolate when someone opened the door of the Choco Cafe just as I passed by. I might not have realized I could take a break to rest my sore feet, step inside and order what turned out to be the most decadent, most sensory-fulfilling, most delicious cup of thick hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

The facade of Choco Cafe, near Old Town Square, Prague

The facade of the Choco Cafe, at Liliová 250/4, near Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic.
Photo courtesy of Choco Cafe.

 

If I had not been paying close attention as I strolled the aisles of La Boqueria market in Barcelona, my nose might never have taken in the full variety of the different fish smells and my eyes may not have taught me that barracudas have wicked sharp teeth and are apparently a popular food fish in Catalunya. Or that the movements of the man slicing Jamon Iberico from a large hanging shank of that specially cured and especially delicious ham are a beautifully choreographed ballet.

Head of a barracuda with sharp teeth on a bed of ice at La Boqueria market in Barcelona.

A barracuda with its wicked sharp teeth, resting on a of ice at La Boqueria Market in Barcelona….
not someone you’d want to meet out in a wine-dark sea, or even a sunny one.

 

And I never would have caught, from the corner of my eye as I hurried home, the perfect abstract composition of a pair of blue doors, a rose-colored step and a handful of fallen bougainvillea petals in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.


Pinnable Image of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with Text Overlay--How Noticing the Little Things Can Turn Your Trip into an Adventure

< –Pin this image to Pinterest!

The Eiffel Tower seen in the distance, framed by an iconic Paris pillar.

Paris is Perfect… and Always Will Be

In the wake of the terrible events this week in Paris, I think this is the perfect time to write something about this beautiful city. Because I believe in solidarity in the face of tragedy and horror. Because #JeSuisCharlie.

Louvre Museum seen from inside the courtyard glass pyramid

The Louvre Museum, seen from inside the I.M. Pei-designed glass pyramid in the central courtyard.

My fear is that, faced with the reality of a terrible terrorist attack on Paris, on Parisians and on freedom of speech itself, some potential travelers to the wonderful “City of Light” will now decide to stay home. That happens so much whenever these terrorists act out their limited vision and hatred anywhere in the world. Logic gives way to irrational fear. People are made to feel vulnerable and they crawl into a shell to protect themselves.

I just want to say this…and to say it very loudly: When we give in to fear, the terrorists win! Fear is their weapon of choice. When they use that weapon against us and we become afraid, i.e. we accept the ammunition they hand us, they win. Our fear is their victory!

I refuse to be afraid of them.

OK, enough about these losers with minds full of nothing but hatred and violence. They will never win, because we won’t let them. So let’s talk about something much more pleasant. Let’s talk about Paris!

She is so beautiful, any time, any season, for any reason.

The Eiffel Tower seen in the distance, framed by an iconic Paris pillar.

The Eiffel Tower is visible from most of Paris and is beautiful from up close or far away.

Paris is always
a good idea.
~ Audrey Hepburn


I made my first visit to Paris when I was 25—a number of decades ago! I loved it then. I loved it on several subsequent visits. And I love it still.

I spent a solo week in Paris in September of last year. I wish it could have been a month. I walked, I looked, I talked to people (a struggle with my very limited French), I ate. I walked some more. I ate some more! And it was all fabulous.

This visit was quite different from that first trip as an eager and adventurous young woman. Back then, I ran from place to place, from museum to monument to not-to-be-missed site, my tattered copy of Europe on $5 a Day always at hand. I wanted see it all, do it all, taste it all.

Now, I am more inclined toward what has come to be called “slow travel.” Maybe it’s age. Or perhaps it’s greater wisdom. Whatever, I took Paris slow, savoring each day and each moment, relaxing into the city at my own pace.

Instead of choosing a hotel for this trip, I used AirBnB to book a tiny studio apartment for the week. It turned out to be cheaper than a hotel and much nicer than a hostel. I moved in, settled, slept till I woke, lingered over morning coffee in a local café, then set off to wander. I walked and walked and walked some more, barely getting the full value of the discounted one-week Metro pass I bought in advance of my trip.

The slower pace meant I saw both less and more of Paris. I saw fewer monuments and museums and more people, fewer works of art on walls and more natural works of art in gardens and parks. I never hurried; I strolled. I stopped and just looked and breathed, tasted and smelled. As it turned out, it was absolutely the best way for me not just to “see” Paris but to experience her.

A corner of the Palais Garnier roofline against a blue Paris sky.

A golden statue glows against a blue Parisian sky at one corner of the Palais Garnier, home to the Paris Opéra until 1989. The company now uses this building mainly for ballet performances.

My first day in Paris, I joined a volunteer from Paris Greeters for a free walking tour. They are offered in various parts of the city and always lead by volunteers who know the neighborhood well. My walking tour was in Montparnasse. My guide was Jean-Jacques, a retired teacher full of wisdom, humor and great stories. Often there are several people in the group, but this day I was the only one on his walk. We wandered at our own pace, stopped for coffee, stopped for photos, and simply had a lovely morning.

Montparnasse is a neighborhood I had never explored before and I learned so much. Jean-Jacques was full of stories about the artists and writers who called this quartier home in the late-19th and early-20th centuries—after Montmartre became too chic and expensive for them! I saw where Degas painted, where Hemingway drank, where Mondrian loved.

Entrance to artist's studio in a hidden courtyard in Montparnasse.

Entrance to an artist’s studio in a hidden courtyard in Montparnasse. I would never have known about it or found it without my Paris Greeters guide, Jean-Jacques. Degas had his studio in this very courtyard.

Me enjoying the sunshine at Cafe de la Rotonde

Enjoying sunshine and coffee at Cafe de la Rotonde in Montparnasse, a favorite hang-out of Picasso, Modigliani and Soutine, Apollinaire and Jean Cocteau, Hemingway, Henry Miller and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Debussy and the ballet dancer Nijinsky, among others.

My main activity throughout my week in Paris was simply walking around this glorious city, often without much of a plan, seeing where my feet would take me. I spent a lot of time sitting in sidewalk cafés just watching the world go by. I wrote in my journal. I took pictures. I breathed in the special magic that is Paris.

The studio apartment I rented was right in the center of the Ile St. Louis. Can you say… LOCATION?? You can’t get any more central in Paris. I fell in love with my neighborhood. There are tiny shops and patisseries and cafés everywhere. The famous Berthillón ice cream store was just around the corner… very dangerous! By my second visit to a neighborhood café or mini-supermarket, I was considered a local.

Another thing that made the location so perfect was that no matter where I was headed, I passed Notre Dame on the way. I spent several hours wandering around the beautiful cathedral, inside and out, taking pictures and just feeling the ancient wonder of this glorious work of architecture and faith.

Notre Dame de Paris at the golden hour

The main facade of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris glows in the “golden hour” of late afternoon against a blue Paris sky.

dtatues of saints on the high buttresses of Notre Dame, Paris

Statues of saints line the roof and high buttresses of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.
Always remember to look up!


I spent much of one whole afternoon wandering from stall to stall of the book and print sellers along the banks of the Seine, mostly along the famous Rive Gauche, the Left Bank. And yes, my suitcase was noticeably heavier when I left than when I landed!

Open-air bookstall along the Left Bank in Paris

When strolling along the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) in Paris, don’t plan to hurry… ever. The open-air book stalls
will be calling your name… if you are like me.

My “slow travel” schedule meant I passed on several of the iconic Parisian must-sees on this trip. I spent very little time in the Louvre, put off by the crowds and my own already tired feet. I never made it to the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe. I did not get anywhere near the Eiffel Tower—although I did have some lovely views of it from all over the city. It is pretty hard to miss!

I did make it to the Cluny Medieval Museum, in the heart of the Quartier Latin on the Left Bank. It is one of my favorite spots in Paris, and I spent more than an hour just sitting peacefully with the gorgeous tapestries in the “Lady and the Unicorn” series. It is basically impossible to capture the vibrancy and life in these centuries-old weavings in a photo—at least for me—but here is a taste.

A detail of one of the series of medieval tapestries The Lady and the Unicorn.

A detail of one of the famous “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries from the middle ages.
In the Musée de Cluny, Museum of the Middle Ages, in Paris.

I was fortunate with the weather. Except for waiting out one short rain squall in a doorway crowded with a few other Parisians near the Opéra, the sun shone brilliantly, sparkling off the waters of the Seine and pulling my eye up to roof lines and chimney pots, sculptures and that ever-present view of the Eiffel Tower.

I wandered through the Jardin de Luxembourg and the Park behind Notre Dame, snapping photos of flowers and lovers. What better place than Paris to photograph lovers?

Parisian lovers

Paris is for lovers….

Parisian lovers kissing on a concrete wall.

… and you can see them everywhere.


On my last day in Paris, she gave me a special gift… a perfectly Parisian sunset that set the Seine aglow, an apt image to remember her by.

 Parisian sunset

What could be more beautiful than Paris at sunset…?

This was not my last visit to Paris, of that I was determined. In fact, I have already booked my return ticket, this time for the spring. Paris in April! What could be more perfect?

What should I make it a point not to miss on my next trip to this golden, gorgeous, light-filled city? Tell me in the comments below.