Western Australia's capital, Perth, was founded in 1829 by Captain James Stirling, and in 1856 was proclaimed a city. Perth has a Mediterranean climate, with more hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital city. The average temperature range in summer is 16 to 30 degrees Celsius, in winter 8 to 18 degrees Celsius.
The Indian Ocean is its western border, the Swan River courses through its centre and the Darling Ranges border the eastern outskirts. Perth's population grew strongly following the discovery of gold in Western Australia in the 1880s, and is now is approaching 1.5 million.
The CBD is a mix of colonial and modern architecture, stone amidst the steel, concrete and glass. Many of Perth's best Victorian-era buildings are found in the heritage precinct close to St George's Terrace: the convict-built Town Hall; the old Treasury building and Government House, still the official residence of the Governor of Western Australia.
For history and culture buffs, Perth Cultural Centre, beside the main railway station, includes the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth Museum and the Alexander Library.
Adjacent to the cultural precinct is the city's major dining and nightlife area, Northbridge, where the attractions are a mirror image of the multicultural make-up of Perth society: Irish bars, English-style pubs, Asian, Italian, Greek and seafood restaurants, cafes and more.
Only a short walk from the city centre is Kings Park, 1000 acres (400 hectares) of natural vegetation, lakes and lookouts. Eucalypts, native shrubs like the kangaroo paw, exotic orchids, unique grass trees and wildflowers are nurtured here in natural surroundings. Other features of the park are walkways, children's playgrounds and the Botanic Gardens.
The Federation Walkway is a combination of ground level paths, elevated walkways and a steel and glass bridge. It passes through some of the park's key areas in spectacular style, and is a must-do for visitors to the park. Kings Park has been a sacred place for Aborigines whose mythical snake, the wagyl, is said to have entered the ground near here and emerged at the foot of Mt Eliza to create the Swan River.
Also close to the city is Lake Monger, which harbours a rich variety of birdlife, including most notably Perth's trademark black swans.
Perth has an excellent metropolitan public transport system, Transperth. Tickets are valid on all modes of transport offered - bus, train and the city to South Perth ferry. Transperth also provides free city centre buses, the Red and Blue CAT services. Barrack Square is the departure point for a 5 minute ferry ride across the Swan River to the Perth Zoo and many good restaurants in South Perth. Catch ferries here also for Rottnest Island, and boats upriver to the vineyards of the Swan Valley. A good way to discover Perth is on the Perth Tram, a wooden replica of the trams of the late 19th century, which takes 1.5 hours to travel a loop taking in some of the city's major attractions.
Other attractions in and around Perth are:
Western Australia Museum - Egyptian artefacts, maritime exhibitions, flora, fauna and more, with free admission.
The Aquarium of Western Australia - with over 2000 marine animals, including bottlenose dolphins, sharks, giant rays and the interactive Discovery Pool.
Perth Zoo - minutes from the city, set amid gardens, walkways and picnic areas, allowing close observation of the animals.
Scitech Discovery Centre - science made adventurous, with over 160 hands-on exhibits.
Swan River Foreshore - some of Perth's more salubrious suburbs: Nedlands, Dalkieth, Claremont and Peppermint Grove. Shops galore, restaurants and galleries.
Fremantle - Perth's port, the host of the 1987 America's Cup, 17 kilometres down the Swan River from Perth. Restaurants, cafes, entertainment, all in one of the world's best-preserved 19th century seaports.
Rottnest Island - 19 kilometres off the coast, a 60 minute trip from the city. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Rottnest Island. There are stunning beaches and bays, historic sites and fine views. Hire a bike (no cars allowed) and explore all that the island has to offer.
Perth's beaches - 19 in total, covering 35 kilometres of coastline. Cottesloe, Scarborough, City Beach, Sorrento and Trigg beach are some of the more popular and scenic spots.
Swan Valley - 30 minutes by car from Perth, with vineyards, wineries, restaurants and boutique accommodation.