Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia. It is the fourth most populous city in Australia, with an estimated population of 1.9 million (as of 30 June 2012) living in Greater Perth. Part of the South West Land Division of Western Australia, the majority of the metropolitan area of Perth is located on the Swan Coastal Plain, a narrow strip between the Indian Ocean and the Darling Scarp, a low coastal escarpment. The first areas settled were on the Swan River, with the city’s central business district and port (Fremantle) both located on its shores. Perth is formally divided into a number of local government areas, which themselves consist of a large number of suburbs, extending from Two Rocks in the north to Rockingham in the south, and east inland to The Lakes.
Perth was originally founded by Captain James Stirling in 1829 as the administrative centre of the Swan River Colony, and gained city status in 1856 (currently vested in the smaller City of Perth). The city is named for Perth, Scotland, by influence of Sir George Murray, then British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The city’s population increased substantially as a result of the Western Australian gold rushes in the late 19th century, largely as a result of emigration from the eastern colonies of Australia. During Australia’s involvement in World War II, Fremantle served as a base for submarines operating in the Pacific Theatre, and a US Navy Catalina flying boat fleet was based at Matilda Bay. An influx of immigrants after the war, predominantly from Britain, Greece, Italy and Yugoslavia, led to rapid population growth. This was followed by a surge in economic activity flowing from several mining booms in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that saw Perth become the regional headquarters for a number of large mining operations located around the state.
As part of Perth’s role as the capital of Western Australia, the state’s Parliament and Supreme Court are located within the city, as well as Government House, the residence of the Governor of Western Australia. Perth became known worldwide as the “City of Light” when city residents lit their house lights and streetlights as American astronaut John Glenn passed overhead while orbiting the earth on Friendship 7 in 1962. The city repeated the act as Glenn passed overhead on the Space Shuttle in 1998. Perth came 9th in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s August 2012 list of the world’s most liveable cities, and was classified by Tourism in Perth is an important part of the state’s economy, with approximately 2.8 million domestic visitors and 0.7 million international visitors in the year ending March 2012. Tourist attractions are generally focused around the city centre, Fremantle, the coast, and the Swan River. In addition to the Perth Cultural Centre, there are a number of museums across the city. The Scitech Discovery Centre in West Perth is an interactive science museum, with regularly changing exhibitions on a large range of science and technology based subjects. Scitech also conducts live science demonstration shows, and operates the adjacent Horizon planetarium. The Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle displays maritime objects from all eras. It houses Australia II, the yacht that won the 1983 America’s Cup, as well as a former Royal Australian Navy submarine. Also located in Fremantle is the Army Museum of Western Australia, situated within a historic artillery barracks. The museum consists of several galleries which reflect the Army’s involvement in Western Australia, and the military service of Western Australians.
The museum holds numerous items of significance, including three Victoria Crosses. There are many heritage sites in Perth’s CBD, Fremantle, and other parts of the metropolitan areas. Some of the oldest remaining building, dating back to the 1830s, include the Round House in Fremantle, the Old Mill in South Perth, and the Old Court House in the city centre. Registers of important buildings are maintained by the Heritage Council of Western Australia and local governments.
Retail shopping in the Perth CBD is focused around Murray Street and Hay Street. Both of these streets are pedestrian malls between William Street and Barrack Street. Forrest Place is another pedestrian mall that connects the Murray Street Mall to Wellington Street and the Perth railway station. A number of arcades run between Hay Street and Murray Street, including the Piccadilly Arcade, which houses the Piccadilly Cinema. Other shopping precincts include Harbour Town in West Perth, featuring factory outlets for major brands, the historically significant Fremantle Markets, which date back to 1897, and the Midland townsite on Great Eastern Highway, combining historic development around the Town Hall and Post Office buildings with the modern Midland Gate shopping centre further east. Joondalup’s central business district is largely a shopping and retail area lined with townhouses and apartments, and also features Lakeside Joondalup Shopping City. Joondalup was granted the status of “tourism precinct” by the State Government in 2009, allowing for extended retail trading hours. The Swan Valley, with fertile soil, uncommon in the Perth region, features numerous wineries such as the large complex at Houghtons, the state’s biggest producer, Sandalfords and many smaller operators, including microbreweries and rum distilleries. The Swan Valley also contains specialised food producers, many restaurants and cafes, and roadside local-produce stalls that sell seasonal fruit throughout the year. Tourist Drive 203 is a circular route in the Swan Valley, passing by many attractions on West Swan Road and Great Northern Highway.
Kings Park, located in central Perth between the CBD and the University of Western Australia, is one of the world’s largest inner-city parks, at 400.6 hectares (990 acres). There are many landmarks and attractions within Kings Park, including the State War Memorial Precinct on Mount Eliza, Western Australian Botanic Garden, and children’s playgrounds. Other features include DNA Tower, a 15m high double helix staircase that resembles the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule, and Jacob’s Ladder, comprising 242 steps that lead down to Mounts Bay Road. Hyde Park is another inner-city park located 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north of the CBD. It was gazetted as a public park in 1897, created from 15 hectares (37 acres) of a chain of wetlands known as Third Swamp. Avon Valey, John Forrest and Yanchep national parks are areas of protected bushland at the northern and eastern edges of the metropolitan area. Within the cities northern suburbs is Whiteman Park, a 4,000-hectare (9,900-acre) bushland area, with bushwalking trails, bike paths, sports facilities, playgrounds, a tram on a 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) circular track, motor and tractor museums, and Caversham Wildlife Park.the Globalization and World Cities Research Network in 2010 as a world city.
Perth Zoo, located in South Perth, houses a variety of Australian and exotic animals from around the globe. The zoo is home to highly successful breeding programs for orangutans and giraffes, and participates in captive breeding and reintroduction efforts for a number of Western Australian species, including the numbat, the dibbler, the chuditch, and the western swamp tortoise. More wildlife can be observed at the Aquarium of Western Australia in Hillarys, which is Australia’s largest aquarium, specialising in marine animals that inhabit the 12,000-kilometre-long (7,500 mi) western coast of Australia. The northern Perth section of the coastline is known as Sunset Coast; it includes numerous beaches and the Marmion Marine Park, a protected area inhabited by tropical fish, Australian sea lions and bottlenose dolphins, and traversed by humpback whales. Tourist Drive 204, also known as Sunset Coast Tourist Drive, is a designated route from North Fremantle to Iluka along coastal roads.