The last time I visited more than a decade ago, Perth was closed on Sundays and there was a distinct country town feel to the place.
The laid-back atmosphere remains but a booming economy has transformed an unpretentious city into a sophisticated urban hub full of great food, wine, craft beer and cultural spaces.
An abundance of hip cafes, eateries, laneway bars, restaurants and boutique hotels give the Western Australian capital a cosmopolitan confidence that contrasts with the natural beauty of its location on the banks of the Swan River and nearby hectares of natural bush and botanic gardens of Kings Park.
Two nights at the ultra-stylish yet relaxed Alex Hotel – founded by the team behind Little Creatures' brewery in Fremantle – in the bohemian inner-city suburb of Northbridge, put me in the centre of the city on the doorstep of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the recently opened Yagan Square entertainment precinct. The rooms are minimalist but comfortable with communal spaces and relaxed dining areas perfect for a quick brekky before a day of exploring and quiet drink upon your return.
Families might prefer the Fraser Suites, larger serviced apartments on the eastern side of the city, next door to the famous WACA Ground, close to the Crown Casino, and just 15 minutes' walk to impressive Optus Stadium.
Dinner at Shadow Wine Bar (neighbour of the Alex) set the tone for six days of gorging on Perth's famous fusion cuisine — think tiger prawn a la plancha and crab spaghettini - with a wine list that could drive a long lunch well into the evening.
Make sure to also pay a visit to their sister eatery, the Gordon Street Garage, an expansive cafe based in an old auto-electrician's garage with furniture custom-made of wood and steel recycled from the garage. Great coffee and a menu featuring culturally diverse ingredients such as fig, pomegranate, goat's curd, pistachio on one hand and Isaan barbecue chicken, green papaya, pomelo and snake beans on the other.
Wildflower is another food lover's dream – a first-class restaurant in the CBD occupying the rooftop space of a stunning mid-19th century building, COMO The Treasury, now a luxury hotel. Wrapped within an elegant, contemporary steel and glass box on the fourth floor overlooking the city, Wildflower serves contemporary dishes revolving around the six indigenous Aboriginal seasons (Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba and Kambarang) with farmer- and forager-driven menus plus a boutique wine list. Treat yourself to the phenomenal degustation menu while taking in sweeping views of the Swan River.
It's worth mentioning the manner in which Perth's revamped city centre embraces Aboriginal culture, giving it another point of difference to other bigger cities where the country's indigenous people and culture are less apparent. There's an Aboriginal art gallery in Kings Park, and the newly developed Yagan Square, connecting Northbridge and the CBD, contains a stunning 9m-high sculpture of iconic warrior, Yagan, celebrating the spirit and culture of the Noongar people. The area also contains an amphitheatre, playground and a top-shelf food court with 19 eateries to pick from (try the lobster roll at Fish Boss).
Reveley, down at Elizabeth Quay, is yet another top restaurant to add to your list, with two floors of delicious food and a rooftop cocktail bar providing even more stunning views of the Swan River and city. As a Kiwi it's difficult to admit but the WA lamb was superb and equal to, if not better than, that served on our own shores.
After all that fine dining you may be in need of a change of pace and scenery, in which case you should dart back across to Northbridge (hipster central, in a good way) and check out Lucky Chan's Laundry & Noodle Bar. Appearing at first as an old laundromat, the covert, speak-easy style entrance leads you to three levels of kitsch interior but the rooftop bar is where you want to be to enjoy a cold drink together with ramen, dumplings and bao.
Perth, city on the grow, left me full as a bull yet thirsting for more.
New Stadium a treat for All Blacks fans
Travelling All Blacks supporters are in for a treat when they head to Perth's Optus Stadium for a historic Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies next month.
A sell-out crowd of 60,000 fans is expected for the August 10 clash. The world-class, multipurpose venue's oval shape allows the stadium to host cricket, Australian Rules Football, and large music concerts - but fear not, rugby fans, Optus Stadium's steep bowl seating arrangement puts you right on top of the action.
An additional 10,000 drop-in seats can also be added for rectangular field sports with stands extending on to the grass behind the goal posts and along one sideline. The seats are bigger than average at a minimum of 50cm wide, while the comfort levels increase according to different ticket price points including private corporate boxes.
I was lucky enough to be on hand at Optus Stadium to watch the New Zealand Warriors claim their first ever National Rugby League win in Perth in their season-opening victory over South Sydney. The spacious media box was the best I've worked in and included a private elevator that took reporters direct to the ground level post-match press conference and dressing shed area.
No expense was spared on the $1.4 billion WA State Government-funded project, including a new public transport network and extensive parklands and entertainment precinct within the 16ha site located east of the city centre and close to the river.
The stadium was designed with a technological focus that ensures a premium fan experience with full 4G coverage throughout the venue, while two 340sq m giant screens and more than 1000 TV screens ensure you won't miss any of the on-field action.
The stadium roof covers 85 per cent of seats and at night LED lighting creates a slick halo effect with vivid team colours and logos swirling around the roof and stadium facades.
Hungry fans won't be disappointed with more than 50 food and beverage outlets throughout while a buffet and a la carte restaurant over-looking the river can be enjoyed before or after the match.
Air New Zealand offers 787-9 Dreamliner flights from Auckland to Perth every day, all year round; and between Christchurch and Perth twice weekly, December-April.