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PERTH

To saunter along St George’s Terrace – downtown Perth’s corridor of power – is to be impressed. Steel and glass high rises ooze evidence of mineral and agricultural wealth anchoring the prosperity of Australia’s largest state. In such environs it’s possible to feel a twinge of sympathy for the westerners’ common grumble that they pay more than their share into federal coffers. WA is bigger than Texas – bigger even than Texas, Japan, New Zealand and Britain combined. Perth residents formerly revelled in their away-from-it-all location (often boasting theirs was the

Many people in this multicultural polyglot pay scant attention to faraway eastern Australia. However, substantial corporate clout ensures Perth woos a strong flow of business travellers, almost all by air. These days, the epic Indian Pacific rail journey is overwhelmingly for holiday trippers. Even by air, Perth is more than four hours from the eastern seaboard. Barely 1.8 million of Australia’s 20 million people inhabit this vast state – with all but 500,000 of them concentrated in or near Perth.

Getting around

Taxis are easiest: pay about $24 (including a $2 airport charge) for an 11km trip downtown from the domestic terminal and around $6 more from international. From eastern Australia, fly Qantas or Virgin Blue. Intrastate, Skywest also has an extensive network. Around the city, taxis are plentiful with tariffs comparable to those in other state capitals. Within a Central Area Transit (Cat) zone in and around the CBD, buses and trains are free. Buses (with giveaway maps available in hotels) are surprisingly efficient, however, Perth’s compact downtown grid layout makes it difficult to get lost – and sensible to walk between CBD appointments.

BUS, TRAIN: 13 62 13 TAXI:  13 13 30

Staying there
Even Perth’s ubiquitous five-star chains such as Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Novotel and Sheraton (plus apartment groups such as Medina) will at most times leave determined hagglers with some change from $200. Other well located and good value options: an immaculately kept Ibis (rooms from $109) in the CBD’s in-vogue West End area (small but well-appointed rooms with compact bathrooms); boutique-style Miss Maud Swedish Hotel ($112), a Perth icon that attracts many female business travellers and is much like a mid-market European pension, down to its old fashioned lift (Scandinavian ambience, with memorable smorgasbord breakfast included in room rate); contemporary styled and friendly Kings ($86) in the heart of the city; tranquil Sullivans ($120) adjoining leafy Kings Park and the Botanic Garden, but only a 10min stroll to the CBD.
IBIS: [08] 9322 2844, www.ibishotels.com.au
MISS MAUD: [08] 9325 3900, www.missmaud.com.au
KINGS: [08] 9325 6555, www.kingshotel.com.au
SULLIVANS: [08] 9321 8022, www.sullivans.com.au

Entertain THEM
Suggest meeting at the trendy Globe, the Parmelia Hilton’s flagship outlet, drawing a loyal corporate clientele from nearby St George’s Terrace (unstuffy, mod-Oz fare with a nod to Asian influences, showcasing seafood, beef and lamb). Similarly popular for business chat-and-chew is the Adelphi, a New York steakhouse also in the Hilton. Very hip is 44 King, again,  mod-Oz but with Asian input apparent in dishes such as Balinese chicken and a tangy black risotto with squid. A CBD crowd heads to Chi for swiftly served southern Chinese fare. Or, in the CBD’s West End, more casual business lunches are the norm at Westende where shoptalk bubbles amid beer and steaming mussels in a thriving example of the spreading Belgian beer cafe format.
GLOBE: [08] 9215 2000, www.hilton.com
ADELPHI: [08] 9215 2000, www.hilton.com
44 KING: [08] 9321 4476
CHI: [08] 9361 0036, www.chi-restaurant.com
WESTENDE: [08] 9321 4094, www.belgianbeer.com.au

Entertain YOU
Free day? Take a river cruise up to the Swan Valley vineyards (much closer than Margaret River’s wine country), a safer option than driving if you plan to imbibe. Spare half-day? Head for Fremantle, 19km southwest down the Swan River, but these days a Perth suburb: rich in convict-era history and sandstone architecture, its tourist precinct features alfresco tables along an Italianate cappuccino strip. While in Freo, drop in at the historic Sail & Anchor brew-pub, amble through needle-to-an-anchor Fremantle Markets and examine a cruel colonial penal system at Fremantle Prison. A few hours to kill? The WA Museum, Art Gallery of WA, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and Perth Mint all merit exploration. Or, visit one of Perth’s prime attractions in a specially built steel-and-glass tower that’s become a landmark (with splendid city views from the top): now called the Swan Bells, they formerly rang in St Martin-in-the-Fields and were a gift from London to Perth (bell-ringing lessons are available). Otherwise, opt for an undemanding stroll from St George’s Terrace to the retail malls of Hay and Murray Streets via an extraordinary and ultra-kitsch arcade called London Court: a mock-Tudor architectural folly that seems transplanted from an olde-England film set. Tenants include souvenir stores and other retail outlets (including an exceptionally well-stocked cigar shop). Joggers and cyclists (some hotels have pushbikes for rent) are numerous along parkland tracks on the bank of the Swan closest to the CBD.
SWAN VALLEY CRUISES: [08] 9325 1191, www.oceaniccruises.com.au
SAIL AND ANCHOR: [08] 9335 8433, www.sailandanchor.com.au
FREMANTLE MARKETS: [08] 9335 2515, www.fremantlemarkets.com.au
FREMANTLE PRISON: [08] 9336 9200, www.fremantleprison.com.au
PERTH INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ARTS: [08] 9227 6144, www.pica.org.au
WA MUSEUM: [08] 9427 2700, www.museum.wa.gov.au
ART GALLERY OF WA: [08] 9492 6600, www.artgallery.wa.gov.au
PERTH MINT: [08] 9421 7218, www.perthmint.com.au
SWAN BELLS: [08] 9218 8183, www.swanbells.com.au

After hours
Most convenient from downtown is a short northbound walk across a horseshoe-shaped bridge alongside the railway station, which puts you immediately in Northbridge, a latticework of restaurants, pubs (best of which is the big-and-bustling Brass Monkey with its extensive range of beers and wines and multiplicity of bars), nightclubs and live-music venues. Good jazz and blues is the raison d’être of the Universal Bar. Northbridge sometimes develops a rough edge late in the evening when pubs close, and unaccompanied women travellers may then not feel at ease here. Century-old His Majesty’s Theatre, ornate and exquisitely restored, is home to visiting big musicals and a performance menu that runs the gamut of music, ballet and drama. Five minutes by cab from the city is the Burswood casino complex. The casino itself has standard gambling choices but the complex includes plentiful eating and drinking outlets: Paddy Hannan’s is a lively Irish pub with music most nights while Chinois is among the city’s better Chinese eateries.
BRASS MONKEY: [08] 9227 9596, www.thebrassmonkey.com.au
UNIVERSAL BAR: [08] 9227 6771, www.universalbar.com.au
HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE: [08] 9484 1133, www.ptt.wa.gov.au
CROWN PERTH: [08] 1800 556 688,
PADDY HANNAN’S: [08] 9362 7777
CHINOIS: [08] 9362 7777,

Insider tips
1. Be aware: many locals dismiss Northbridge as too touristy and prefer the diverse restaurant belts of Subiaco or up-and-coming Leederville, both reached from city hotels in under 10min and worth exploring if you have more time. Women travellers will certainly find the latter two areas more comfortable for solo strolling.

2. Take a half-hour train trip to Freo rather than drive. Trains are clean, carpeted, comfortable and safe.

3. Perth has an oversupply of hotel rooms – so drive a hard bargain. Deep discounts of 20 percent or more are commonplace. Even if your company doesn’t have a negotiated corporate rate, it’s prudent to hold out for one . . . or call another hotel.

most isolated large city in the world) but now they speak more of their proximity to fast-growing Asian tigers such as Singapore.

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