Eating

Hungry? Of course you are. Perth chefs draw on culinary influences form across the Indian Ocean: pubs here are just as likely to have a lamb rogan josh curry on the menu as a porterhouse steak or chicken Parmigiana. Cafes here are reliably good, as are seafood restaurants, modern Australian (Mod Oz) bistros, burger bars and bakeries.

Where to Eat

Perth's neighbourhoods have different ways of doing food. Leederville's Oxford St has too many good cafes to ignore, while Central Perth is awash with high-end bistros. Fremantle approaches appetite from a budget perspective, with excellent fish and chips. Northbridge is home to big burgers and quick-fire Asian joints, while from Scarborough to Cottesloe you can get decent pub meals and cafe lunches. Highgate, Mount Lawley and Subiaco have a bit of everything: bistros, cafes and wine bars with tempting menus.

Cheap Eats

For budget eats, head to the Little Asia section of William St in Northbridge, north of the main pub-and-club action. Most downtown shopping centres have food courts that are good for cheap noodles, sushi or a curry, and pubs often do good-value lunch specials. Many restaurants are BYO, meaning you can bring your own wine, though a corkage fee usually applies (even for screw-tops). Perth's excellent cafes are generally primed to deliver big breakfasts for under $20.

Best Cafes

Mary Street Bakery Brilliant baked bits and chocolate-filled doughnuts in Mt Lawley.

Sayers Sister Chorizo! Who doesn't like chorizo? Big Northbridge breakfasts.

Canvas Freo's best breakfasts are at the Fremantle Arts Centre's in-house cafe.

Toastface Grillah Mutter Wu-Tang Clan lyrics as you praise the humble toasted sandwich, in all its gritty city glory.

Ootong & Lincoln A top cafe in boho South Fremantle. Order the macadamia-and-dukkah porridge.

Best Modern Australian

Wildflower Rooftop wonderment at one of Perth's best restaurants (loud renditions of classic-rock hits by the Cult not recommended).

Balthazar Down near Elizabeth Quay, Balthazar is the effortlessly cool embodiment of new-century Perth fine dining.

St Michael 6003 Degustation delights at this Highgate highlight, with special seafood and serene, stylish service.

Bathers Beach House Fine Mod Oz dining needn't be haughty: down by the beach in Fremantle, it's anything but.

Best Self-Catering

Chez Jean-Claude Patisserie Brioche and baguettes to go, all handled with French aplomb.

Perth City Farm Organic eggs, fruit, vegetables and bread, plus an excellent cafe (…come on, just one coffee – there'll be plenty of time for self-catering later on).

Kailis Bros Expect photogenic displays of fresh seafood and a cafe at the Leederville branch of this iconic seafood business.

Kakulas Bros Fabulous deli and provisions store in Northbridge; there's another branch in Fremantle.

Drinking & Nightlife

Perth has always had good pubs, but in recent years a slew of excellent new small bars, whisky dives and gin joints has added variety and vim to a night out on the Perth tiles. WA craft beer is everywhere – enjoy! As per many Australian cities, Perth clubs tend to veer towards the mainstream and tacky – avoid, or embrace.

Sunday Sessions

They're not as popular now as they were a decade ago, but Perth drinkers still like to get wobbly on a Sunday afternoon, putting away plenty o' beers to finish out the weekend in style. 'Sunday Sessions' are advertised everywhere – it would be remiss of you not to attend at least one. And hey, you're on holiday – Monday morning means nothing to you!

Northbridge Scene

Northbridge dwells on the rough edge of Perth's nightlife, with countless pubs, strip joints and clubs around William and James Sts. After dark, tattooed, muscled-up 'roid boys in T-shirts seem permanently on the brink of violence, while scantily clad, vacant-looking girls try not to seem impressed. A harsh and unbalanced critique, probably – and some recent openings have certainly lifted the tone here. But on Saturday nights when fly-in/fly-out workers come to blow off steam, Northbridge can turn ugly very quickly. Still, this is where the fun is! Most pubs have lockouts, so you'll need to be in before midnight. Bring ID.

Best Craft Beer

Northbridge Brewing Company Something different for Northbridge: big beers and big screens aplenty.

Little Creatures Down on the Fremantle waterfront, one of Australia's original craft-beer breweries is still going strong. Great staff; even better food.

Five Bar Craft beer is done with class in Mount Lawley.

Norfolk Hotel Fremantle's (and Perth's?) most charming old pub has plenty of interesting taps with which to rend yourself crafty.

Dutch Trading Co Southside beers (very few of them Dutch) on an emerging strip across the bridge from East Perth.

Best Wine & Whisky

Helvetica Beyond a secret downtown doorway off Howard St, Helvetica does a mean whisky sour.

Varnish on King Vanish into Varnish on King St for 200 American whiskeys (you don't have to try them all in one session).

Must Winebar Must Winebar is a Mount Lawley must, with 40-odd wines by the glass and just as much class.

Alabama Song We doubt that Jim Morrison ever made it to Perth's CBD, but this whiskey bar would have been right up his alley.

Swallow A bit French, a bit art deco, little Swallow on the edge of Mount Lawley is a divine spot in which to swallow some Western Australian wine.

Best Small Bars

Sneaky Tony's Sneak into Tony's hidden Northbridge speakeasy with a secret password. Cocktails ahoy.

LOT 20 Emblematic of the new Northbridge: a small bar with charm and sophistication to burn.

Strange Company Drinking cool cocktails and WA craft brews in Freo ain't so strange.

Pinchos Little Leederville tapas bar with Spanish beer, wine, sherry and sangria.

Ezra Pound Bookish bohemia meets city-side cool at this Northbridge alleyway haunt.

Shopping

Over the decades, very few people have been heard to say, 'I'm going to Perth to experience some really world-class shopping!' Life here has always been more about the beach than the boutique. Perth still largely follows Sydney and Melbourne's lead when it comes to fashion, but there are some great markets and speciality shops, with books, music and Aboriginal art particularly well represented.

Where to Shop

Murray Street Mall and Hay Street Mall in central Perth are the city's shopping heartland. Lower King St near Wellington St in the CBD is also developing as a hub for independent retail stores and designers. Further afield, Fremantle, Leederville and Mount Lawley feature more eclectic shops; in particular, Leederville's Oxford St is the place for boutiques, eclectic music and bookshops. If you're after vintage or retro style, head to Northbridge. Meanwhile in Subiaco, Hay St and Rokeby Rd (pronounced 'rock-uh-bee', not 'roke-bee') boast fashion, art and classy gifts.

When to Shop

Shops in Perth and Fremantle keep fairly regular hours: 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and around 11am to 5pm on Sunday. But in central Perth there's late-night shopping on Fridays, most shops staying open until 9pm to catch the last of the city workers as they wander off towards the weekend. Note that the iconic Fremantle Markets complex is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Best Books & Music

Boffins Books A catchy name and an impressive collection of scientific, technical and specialist books and travel guides (look for the ones with the funky logo and the blue spine).

New Edition Australian literature has never been in a stronger position: settle into an armchair with something engaging from celebrated WA writers like Tim Winton or Robert Drewe.

Planet Books With all that sunshine outside, it's a wonder that Perth locals have the time or inclination to read books. Here's where they buy them.

Record Finder Divine vinyl in Fremantle.

Mills Records Another excellent Fremantle record store, with a section dedicated to Freo and WA musos.

Best Markets

Fremantle Markets Freo's famous market sheds are full of weird arts and crafts, crappy souvenirs and much-better food and drink. Even if you don't buy anything, it's well worth a wander.

Boatshed Market Fab food piled high, not far inland from Cottesloe Beach.

Subiaco Farmers Market Street eats, organic produce and family entertainment.

Best Aboriginal Art

Japingka An ethically attuned Fremantle dealer, specialising in high-end product.

Mossenson Galleries – Indigenart Gorgeous weavings, paintings and sculpted works from across the country come to Subiaco.

Didgeridoo Breath The biggest didge shop on Earth is in Fremantle! Lessons cost extra (you're going to need a few: circular breathing is far from an instinctive human behaviour).

Aboriginal Art & Craft Gallery Duck into this interesting commercial gallery in Kings Park.

Beaches

Perth's western suburbs front directly onto the Indian Ocean – a long string of golden sand mirroring Sydney's Northern Beaches on the other side of the continent. Life by beach is chilled-out and unhurried, wed to breaking waves and ebbing tides. On any day of the week, Perth's beaches are full of people (don't they have jobs to do?).

Beach Bods

Australians hate to think of themselves as prudish or conservative – something to do with Irish stock and a healthy disrespect for authority. But on Perth's beaches, even the most open-minded Melburnian may find cause to blush. G-string bikinis are de rigueur, muscle-bound gym bods oil themselves to a lustrous sheen, and nobody is anybody without a tattoo or 12. This is the West. This is freedom. This is the Perth beach – sexed-up, confident and self-adulating.

Swim Between the Flags

Every year in Australia, thousands of people are dragged from the surf by surf-lifesavers, coughing up seaweed and gasping for air after being caught in a rip or dumped by a wave. Sadly, many (if not most) of these soggy souls are tourists, and not all of them survive. Play it safe beyond the shore: always swim between the red-and-yellow flags, never swim alone and never turn your back on the waves. In Perth, the Indian Ocean may look warm and inviting, but it can be a spiteful and tumultuous sea.

Best for Swimming

Sorrento Beach Forget about things that bite: Sorrento's big net keeps the big fish at bay.

Mettams Pool Between Trigg Beach and Sorrento Beach is this little-known snorkelling spot that's lovely for a dip.

Swanbourne Beach Get natural at Swanbourne, Perth's unofficial gay and nude beach.

South Beach Fremantle's beaches nearer the port tend to get a bit soupy: head to South Beach (further south) for a cleaner oceanic experience.

Best for Surfing

Scarborough Beach Scarborough rivals Cottesloe for beach culture, but the essence of 'Scarbs' remains the surf. If you're in need of a lesson, you're in the right place.

Floreat Beach Probably Perth's least crowded stretch of sand: if you're looking for some solo beach time, you'll find it here.

Trigg Beach Trigg surfers don't mess around: when the surf is pumping here, the local crew knows how to carve it up.

Leighton Beach A consistent surfing hotspot a short walk from North Freo train station.

Best Beach Culture

Cottesloe Beach Cottesloe has it all: a gorgeous beach, safe swimming areas, good waves, a historic surf-club building, waterside pubs, backpackers and beautiful people.

Bathers Beach WA's only beach with an alcohol licence – sundowners on the sand! If you can think of a better end to a Fremantle day, let us know.

City Beach Far enough from both Scarborough and Cottesloe to beat the crowds, City Beach has some fab cafes in which to contemplate another swim.

Top Tips Box: Beach Background

Run by the Surf Life Saving Club of WA, www.mybeach.com.au has a profile of all Perth's beaches, including weather forecasts and information about buses, amenities and beach patrols. Handy stuff to know.

With Kids

Kids usually either like somewhere, or they don't! But if we must, yes, Perth is a very kid-friendly city, with daredevil activities, interesting museums, splashy water parks and wild critters to meet.

Best Places to Cool Off

Hyde Park Playground Excellent suburban water park (free!), with splashy jets aplenty. There's a turtle-filled lake here too.

Elizabeth Quay Water Park Down by the river at vamped-up Elizabeth Quay, kids run amok through free fountains and sprays.

Sorrento Beach Enclosure A safe swimming, shark-proof ocean enclosure at lovely Sorrento Beach, with the waves surging through.

Beatty Park Leisure Centre Perth's 1962 Commonweath Games swimming pool is still buckets of watery fun.

Best Museums & Galleries

Fremantle Arts Centre Fabulously arty programs, performances and activities for kids.

WA Shipwrecks Museum Kids and shipwrecks – the fascination is never-ending.

Scitech Excellent push-button/pull-lever science interaction aimed squarely at kids.

Best Gravity-defying Activities

iFly Indoor Skydiving Put on a jumpsuit and goggles, flop into a surging column of air and float – it's skydiving for the acrophobic.

Adventure World Roller-coaster and water-slide mayhem south of Perth – give yourselves a full day to do it all.

Rockface Indoor rock-climbing and scrambling-over-boulders action for all ages.

Best Creature Encounters

Perth Zoo Perth Zoo is shady, compact and marvellously well laid-out – it would be a pleasure to push a pram around here, even without the animals.

Aquarium of Western Australia Wander through underwater tunnels and come face-to-face with many of WA's myriad underwater residents.

Camel West Camels? In the city? Yes indeed. Make friends with one as you ride along the riverfront.

Active Outdoors

It does rain here, but not often! Actually, Perth is wetter than Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne – but when the WA sun is shining, there are few more pleasant places to be than the city's parks, plazas and walking trails. Pack a picnic, head outside and get active. If you’re not the outdoors type already, you soon will be!

Best Parks

Kings Park Offering brilliant views of the city and lengthy walking trails, Kings Park is a Perth essential. Don't miss the lofty 620m Lotterywest Federation Walkway.

Hyde Park Navigate the path around the lake at one of Perth's prettiest parks, in leafy Mount Lawley.

Esplanade Reserve Lined with Norfolk Island pines, Fremantle's waterside park is a hub for families, skaters, picnickers and protesters.

Lake Monger Near Leederville, the parklands around Lake Monger have jogging trails and open space aplenty.

Best by the River

Elizabeth Quay The plazas and walkways around redeveloped Elizabeth Quay connect the Swan River with downtown Perth: this really is a river city!

Bicton Baths Low-key suburban swims at this lovely little riverside park.

Blackwall Reach Reserve Plummet from 8m limestone cliffs into the Swan River, if you dare!

Spinway WA Hire a bike in the CBD and go exploring: trails meander along the the Swan River's banks from the city centre and back again.

Best by the Beach

Scarborough Beach Pool If the beach is too windy (or even if it isn't), Scarborough's gorgeous 50m foreshore pool is irresistible.

Coastal Trail Tracking right along Perth's suburban coast, this endless cycling/walking trail is eternally popular.

Snake Pit Take the drop into this 3.6m-deep concrete skate bowl on the Scarborough Beach foreshore.

Fun's Back Surf Hire a surfboard or a SUP and splash into the Cottesloe brine.