Deserted in the middle of the Malaga industrial area, the Perth Ice Arena is an enormous blue building, surrounded by a sea of empty car-park. Waiting for the doors to open on a Monday morning during the school holidays, I expected to see Mad Max hoon through the post-apocalyptic scene, or at least a spiky grass ball rolling through the distance.
In time we were joined by two other families, but the day we visited, there were fewer than 20 people on-site including staff. A tad lonely, but perfect for beginners who spend plenty of time on the ice (literally).
Perth Ice Arena offers a number of general skating sessions during the week. Most are shorter sessions (two hours) although there are five hour sessions during the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Only some sessions are hosted by a DJ (other sessions the music is barely audible) and some sessions are for half the rink only because they also hold private lessons, so it is vital you look at the timetable first. If you are looking for more of a party atmosphere, better music, games and general enthusiasm, I would recommend the DJ sessions.
For young children and beginners, these shorter general sessions are perfect, as are the multitude of free zimmer frames that you can use as a balance aide during your session. Yes, you will look quite ridiculous but most skaters under the age of 15 (and a few over) seemed to be using them for at least part of the session, and it's certainly better than a wet bottom or twisted ankle.
It is very different from ice skating when I was a child, when falling over was a rite of passage and the only thing to hold onto was the sticky rail or grabbing at an unsuspecting skater as they glided past.
Outside food is not allowed and the café offering is limited to coffee, ice-creams and fried foods. Not that there is anything wrong with that (and the chips are particularly good) but don't go expecting a healthy lunch.
Skate hire is included in the entry price (although if you have your own skates they will take $5 off your entry for full priced sessions). Bring a few pairs of socks as the boots do not have a lot of padding. Bring a plastic bag to take home your stinky wet socks afterwards as well.
We found that the ticket booth did not open until the skating session started (10am) meaning that by the time you paid to get in and put your skates on, ten minutes of your session had already gone. I am not sure if this is the case for all sessions or just the first one of the day.
If you are just observing, there are plenty of wooden benches around the perimeter of the rink, however the plastic screens that protect the audience from hockey pucks (not an issue during general sessions) means that your view is quite obstructed, so don't expect to be able to watch children with any great clarity.
You can have birthday parties ($27 per person) which includes entry, skate hire and catering (pizzas, sausage rolls, drinks, lolly bags etc). They are only available at limited times (Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons) but considering the entry cost is normally $20, it represents very good value.