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Experience Perth - Heritage Walking Tours and Trails

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by Barry J (subscribe)
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Published May 15th 2017
Step Back in Time
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Hopping is optional on these history walks (by Experience Perth)


Perth's CBD is often busy with tourists touching the facades of our heritage-listed buildings but why should they have all the fun? Perthites have endless weekends to delve into our city's history, with special sites linked by themed history walking trails. Step through Perth's history with one of these top 5 walks.

Whichever walk you choose, take your time to imagine horse-drawn carriages, ladies in elaborate petticoats and gentleman with top hats, but stay safe.

Visit the Info Kiosk at Murray St Mall to join tours with a guide or pick up maps.

While you're unlikely to become lost or abandoned on these popular walks in the inner-city, watch for signposts and warning signs, avoid wandering into construction zones and don't get caught by speeding Ubers or taxis when you cross streets.

Each of these walks offers unique highlights, worthy of regular return trips as seasons change.

Allow at least 2 hours to enjoy each of these trails.

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Join a tour for more insights from volunteer guides (by Experience Perth)


Boom or Bust Trail
Begin in the year 1870 on the corner of Hay and Barrack St. At the height of the gold rush, as our city's population tripled, the final touches were completed by convicts on the Gothic styled Perth Town Hall, once a stable for camels still panting after journeying from South Australia. This is one of many historic highlights, funded by the large nuggets of gold plucked from the surrounding hills of Kalgoorlie.

Reminisce about the sweet treats served in the 1890s in the Tea Rooms on 91 Barrack St, where Albany Bell satisfied a local desire for confectionery as wealthy locals socialised while sipping cool drinks from the soda fountain and devouring ice-cream sundaes by the spoonful.

Enjoy Britain without the long flight and rainy weather at London Court, beside the Theatre Royal. The Elizabethan reconstruction features a mechanical clock with jousting knights and St George slaying the mythical dragon at the top of the hour.

Sip a cool drink outside the the Palace Hotel, at the time, one of the largest and most impressive hotels in the city, now dwarfed by the shimmering glass and steel of skyscrapers towering over the elegant 1890s building.

On Hay St, Australia's last active Edwardian entertainment house, His Majesty's Theatre, hosts the Museum of Performing Arts. The snooty rules of 1900s class society, where the poorer working class entered via the side door, have stayed in the past, with all welcome through the large front doors in the 21st century.

Australia Post discourage the sending of money by mail but in the early 1900s, isolated prospectors would post their golden booty to the Beaux Arts-styled General Post Office in Forrest Place for payment from the Perth Mint.

Before visiting the Perth Mint at the corner of Hay and Hill St to haggle for a golden souvenir, receive a check-up in the Perth Hospital Museum but avoid a glow-in-the-dark encounter with the oldest x-ray machine in Australia.

Visit Experience Perth to download the guide.


Icons of Influence Trail
Walk west along St George Terrace to explore the iconic buildings where many of Perth's significant events occurred, marking the city as the capital of a booming new state.

Begin at the Town Hall, a former fire station, to uncover the tale of the "Father of the Kimberley" and captain of industry, Alexander Forrest, who served as mayor in the late 1890s.

Turn onto St George Terrace to see the Free Classical styled Central Government Offices, take a tour of St George's Cathedral and ponder the varied roles of the Deanery, first a home for Anglican Deans, complete with a whipping post to punish thieves in front of a public audience, then as a prison.

Be drawn toward the chimes of the Bell Tower in the Weld Club, where gentlemen would socialise over the billiard tables while at the Art Deco Karrakatta Club, Australia's oldest women's club, one of the founders, Edith Cowan, would discuss plans to become our nation's first female Parliamentarian.

Dine in Lamont's Bishops House, inside the 1860s home of Perth's "Good Bishop" after visiting the Cloisters, the selective school he funded to educate the next generation of political leaders, now housing the Constitutional Centre. While the centre offers an aspirational view of our nation's laws, in may be hard to hear it over the boisterous shouting during Question Time in Parliament House on Harvest Terrace.

Finish your tour at the two jewels of the ornate Trinity Church and the Congregational Chapel.

Visit Experience Perth to download the guide.

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Picnic in the park on the Parks and Gardens Trail (by Experience Perth)


Convicts and Colonials Trail
For almost two decades in the late 1800s, convicts were sent to Perth, upsetting locals, but as they were quickly put to work, their legacy touched many of our most esteemed public buildings.

Look closely at the clock tower of the Town Hall on the corner of Hay and Barrack St, where rumours still swirl about the brickwork and windows containing subtle references to the chevrons on convict uniforms and a symbol of capital punishment, the hangman's noose.

Although the Gothic styled Deanery on the corner of St Georges Terrace and Pier St housed local Anglican Deans, the exposed courtyard contained wooden stocks, where petty thieves were held as they were punished and humiliated before the public.

On the same terrace, the Jacobian styled Government House and its picturesque gardens were completed with convict labour in 1864.

In the Stirling Gardens, justice is administered in the Supreme Court, where in 1964, the last sentence of death by hanging was imposed, to be performed in the former court house, now the Law Museum.

In James St Mall, convict ghosts still linger at the WA Museum, previously a gaol where hangings occurred before a public audience. The new museum opens in 2020. The Art Gallery next door was a police station, where detectives would interrogate suspected Communists and other "undesirables".

Finish with a prayer at St Mary's Cathedral and the cemetery at the end of Waterloo Crescent. The class system didn't apply at this resting place for the dead, with convicts buried alongside judges and lawyers, making for interesting conversations in the afterlife.

Visit Experience Perth to download the guide.


Parks & Gardens Walking Trail
Our city hosts over 25 parklands, each with a unique atmosphere and link with a period of Perth's history. While the highlights are dotted throughout the CBD, this is a trail that can be leisurely explored over many weekends.

Start your search for nature in our oldest garden, Stirling Gardens, where Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are hidden in the foliage. In the Supreme Court Gardens nearby, step lightly into our city's oldest building, serving numerous roles since 1836 and now functioning as the Francis Burt Law Education Centre.

Retreat to a traditional English Garden, Queens Gardens, to admire the water lilies in the pond which was a large pit, excavated for clay to produce the tonnes of bricks needed in the late 1800s to build our city. Peter Pan stands cheekily in the park, a replica of a statue in Kensington Gardens, London.

For an Indigenous-themed stroll in open spaces, visit Victorian Gardens on Royal St for a string of large public artworks, representing Perth's links to the Nyoongar people.

For more art and architecture, wander through the Lake St Plateia, where the towering Nexus columns draw in the local Greek community while at Perth's 'Little Italy' in Russell Square on Shenton St, community festivals are lively.

In the Harold Boas Gardens on Wellington St, watch for newly weds, as cameras flash for photos beside the 100-year-old trees.

Finish in Kings Park on Fraser Ave, where the Old Swan Brewery quenched Perth's thirst but though the taps are dry, the park still hosts hundreds of native plants and animals across 400 hectares.

Visit Visit Perth City to download the guide.

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The General Post Office, delivering the mail since 1923 (Wai Hong / Public Domain)


Art & Heritage Trail Northbridge
While our expression of culture in art, food, nightlife and music boomed since the 1980s, many of Perth's public artworks are inspired by our city's past, with highlights from over a century beginning at the Perth Cultural Centre.

In Lock Lane, listen to the oral histories drifting from the Interval artwork, with true tales told by those who lived it.

Enjoy a tipple at the Brass Monkey, once the Great Western Hotel, built during the gold boom and lined with ornate iron railings and topped with a distinctive white dome.

On James St, look up at the two-storey building with Cantonese lettering, the Chung Wah/Chinese People's Association, the hub for local Chinese residents since 1920.

Wander through the grassy Northbridge Piazza, the first plot of land in Northbridge to be owned by a woman.

Hard to miss with the giant palm tree on the corner, the European Club has been a popular entertainment spot for the local Greek community since 1950 but restaurants on the site now also serve Italian and Japanese dishes.

Although James St seems tame, in the early 1900s, opium and gambling dens thrived in the buildings with sloped roofs.

You won't have to ask twice to get a drink in Rosie O'Grady's Irish Pub. The bar has been open since 1895 when it began life as the Victoria Hotel.

Ice cream, once made from the Peter's Factory behind the hotel, would be sold in half-gallon tins while Michelides Factory on Roe St was the largest manufacturer of tobacco products until it closed in the 1950s, when the city suddenly breathed easier.

Walk over the Horseshoe Bridge, opened in 1903 and adorned with our state emblem, the black swan to finish at the State Theatre, where shooting stars fall to earth, the twinkling reminders of fleeting fame in an artwork by Matthew Ngui.

Visit Experience Perth to download the guide.

After you've left only footprints, which of these historical sites in Perth is your favourite?

We'd love to hear your comments.

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Why? Experience some of Perth's best historical sites.
When: Anytime!
Phone: 1800 812 808
Where: Throughout Perth
Cost: Free!
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