The rebirth of Perth: Welcome to Australia's new capital of cool
It was the unlikely setting of a dark basement rock bar named Alfred's Pizzeria that confirmed our suspicions about Perth.
Under a tongue-in-cheek sign proclaiming "No Stairway to Heaven," brilliant cocktails, the perfect playlist and impeccable handmade pizzas came together in one of the coolest bars in what's definitely one of the coolest cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
Even if, this being Australia, they'd never admit as much.
The capital of the vast state of Western Australia may be a long way from most destinations, but Perth's remote location makes its appeal even stronger.
There's the feeling that Perthites have long known that their city was a hidden travel gem, but it's come into its own more than ever in the past couple of years.
That's set to increase still further in March next year as Qantas makes it the hub for their long-range nonstop Dreamliner flights from Europe, meaning thousands more visitors will arrive each month.
Here are nine ways to enjoy Perth, which has earned itself a place with the more well-known state capitals of Melbourne and Sydney as must-visit cities when in Australia.
Bar and nightlife scene
Perth's bar and nightlife scene has exploded in recent years, with scores of independent watering holes springing up around the city.
One man who has visited most of them is Canadian Ryan Mossny, Perth resident and co-founder of Two Feet and a Heartbeat, a popular walking tour highlighting some of the city's best bars.
"Everyone talks about our amazing weather, blue skies and perfect beaches," says Mossny.
"I love that we have a thriving art, culture and festival scene, but most importantly the incredible bars and restaurants that feature local produce."
There are upwards of 30 small bars in the heart of the city center including Helvetica, which specializes in whisky cocktails and carries more than 400 varieties of the brown stuff.
Bar Sequel pays homage to movie sequels while Fromage Artisans offers an optional cheese-tasting experience with their array of fine wines and drinks, served up in a former bank vault.
The manager of the subterranean rock bar Alfred's Pizzeria, Gillian Kady explains: "Everybody works very well together and there's a lot of skill and talent in this town. Perth is now on par with Melbourne and staff are coming back from the east coast with their knowledge. They also try to use seasonal and native herbs and vegetables, while there are great local whiskies and gins too."
Another discovery on the walking tour is Wolf Lane, home to sensational street art by global artists invited to Perth by City Council. Highlights include Argentinian artist Pastel's works inspired by intricate, indigenous Australian art and the characters of Stormie Mills, a local artist.
Wolf Lane itself is a pedestrian lane revitalized as part of a project to make the most of the city's urban spaces. It sits between two shopping streets and features cafes and bars, but it's the mix of huge murals and smaller artworks that catch the eye.
One notable work comes from Peter Drew, an Australian artist whose poster-sized images of real Australians from over the years come with the word "Aussie" prominently stamped in capital letters.
All the images stimulate discussion around the idea of national identity. Those immortalized include Monga Khan, a 19th-century turban-wearing Indian who brought camels to Australia.
It may not have the most enticing name, but Rottnest Island is an iconic spot for Perthites. It was originally named "Rotte Nest," or "rat's nest," by a 17th-century Dutch explorer who mistook the island's quokkas for giant rats.
What's a quokka? The beloved creatures are ridiculously cute, herbivorous marsupials about the size of a domestic cat.
They've made the island even more of a draw as they show little fear of humans and are seemingly happy to "pose" for selfies with visitors, even if authorities are keen to point out that both touching and feeding them are illegal.
But Rottnest -- or Rotto as it's known locally -- has much more to offer.
White sand beaches and aquamarine water feature in secluded coves, where snorkeling brings visitors up close with dazzling marine life.
Bike trails crisscross the island, while Wadjemup Bidi has 45 kilometers of paths highlighting cultural and environmental landmarks.
History also abounds in the island's museum, which chronicles the island's former role as a harsh prison colony, almost wholly for the local indigenous Australian Nyungar people.
Humpback whale hotspot
Rottnest Island sits 17 kilometers offshore and the channel between it and the mainland is home to an annual humpback whale migration that visitors can experience between September and early December.
The gentle giants pass down the coast of Western Australia, through Perth's coastal waters, to feeding grounds near Antarctica.
They then form groups and migrate north to warmer winter breeding grounds nearer the equator.
If visitors on the whale-watching boat tours are lucky, they may catch a breach when the humpbacks throw themselves out of the water before crashing back down.
For added insights, scientists from Perth Aquarium join the tours.
Every city has a park of some description, so what's so special about King's Park, overlooking Perth? Much, as it turns out.
For starters it's one of the world's largest inner-city parks, 400 hectares in size, two-thirds of which is protected bushland that celebrates the region's unique native biodiversity.
The Western Australian Botanic Garden holds more than 3,000 species of the state's diverse and spectacular flora, while a giant 750-year-old boab tree is rightly an icon.
In 2008, it was bought to the park from Warmun in the state's Kimberley region, almost 2,000 miles away, a reminder of the incredible size of Western Australia.
King's Park is also rich with Nyungar and European history, something it shares through public education programs, walking trails, children's play areas and more.
Visitors can also walk through the treetops, take in the graceful State War Memorial or just kick back and relax with views overlooking the city and Swan River below.