On the afternoon we arrived, everyone seemed to be heading for the source of music ringing loudly from near the jetty on Swan River. A big park shaded by sweet-flowering trees and palms hosted a throng of happy, partying people. Around its edges, others wandered, clearly enjoying their city.

The nearby central part of town bristles with high-rises and historic low-rises. Intriguing alleyway malls link wider streets, busy and bustling and compelling.

We ferried to Fremantle and wandered those streets, pulled into cafés, boutiques, galleries, shops overflowing with temptation. A brilliantly sunny, colour-drenched painting by Aboriginal artist Gloria Petyarre insisted on our serious consideration, but then another caught our eye, and then another.

Resting finally in Little Creatures Brewery, an irresistible eatery and brewery by the water, we agreed Fremantle provided a hugely positive, satisfying day.

Another day was spent with complete pleasure on the Swan Valley loop, a trail of about 30km dotted with wineries, boutique breweries, cafés, craft shops and galleries. First stop out of Perth was Guildford, a quaint little place rich in history with an excellent information centre.

There are so many options on the Swan Valley trail it was helpful to chat to info centre staff, who narrowed it down for us. Having made some indulgent purchases at Margaret River Chocolate Company, been tempted by the exquisite photography at Paul Dowe gallery, stopped into a ceramic gallery, stopped again for samples at Sandalford Wines and Houghton Winery, we lunched late at one of several good food stops on the trail before heading back to the city.

Although the city is easy to walk around, it was good to have a rental car to explore its edges. Up at Kings Park, we spent a few easy hours wandering paths with views over the harbour, and meandering over a walkway slung high at tree-top level.

In the right season, this is the place to be for wildflowers – but at any time of year, the range of flowering plants is spectacular.

Out at Hillarys Boat Harbour, where we lunched at the excellent Breakwater, we found another scene, buzzing with kids swimming in a sheltered lagoon, their sun-soaking parents keeping half an eye on them. Shops and cafés, an aquarium and a marina cluster around a series of wharves and walkways edging the water and, over it all, a skein of sophistication.

It presented another example of Perth’s confident and lively personality and all of it, day after day, in generous sunshine.

Reported by Kathryn Webster for our AA Directions Winter 2019 issue

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