A few months ago I received one of those emails – airfare specials ‘on now’, so I had a look at the flights and found a return fare to Perth for $255. That’s cheap! I had never been to Perth and all I knew was it’s one of the most isolated cities in the world. But at that price, why not give it a go? I went with no expectations but what I found there amazed me!
Although Perth isn’t a big city and the Northbridge gay scene is quite small, it is certainly vibrant. It’s home to the longest-surviving gay club in the southern hemisphere, Connections, locally known as Connies. They recently celebrated their 40th Anniversary. When I popped in, I was shocked by the size of the stage and its lighting which is on par with many theatres.
The “Large And In Charge” touring drag show was on in all its splendour rivalling Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Perhaps I only imagined the miners in the crowd and CUBS (cashed up bogans). Upstairs there’s a rooftop cocktail bar sporting a spectacular view of the city skyline.
Connies has also hosted many a visiting celeb. “Certainly the gay ones always came here — every time Elton came to Perth he was here and the Pet Shop Boys were here,” Tim the owner says proudly. “But there were also visitors such as Rod Stewart and Mel Gibson, who enjoyed the fuss-free, mostly groupie- free atmosphere.”
The other main gay venue is the Court Hotel, which boasts four bars (two indoor and two outdoor), two dance floors, a restaurant and a pizza bar. The Beer Garden can host up to 500 people in a comfortable space. Fridays and Saturdays are packed and it’s a great pre-Connies venue. Unfortunately, I just missed the 25th year celebrations of PrideFEST, Western Australia’s premiere LGBTIQ arts, culture and community festival.
To find out what’s happening around town, check out ‘Out In Perth’ – a comprehensive monthly newspaper for what’s on and where to go.
However, there’s much more to Perth than gay venues. I took a drive north to The Pinnacles. The scenic walk through the desert landscape of weathered phallic rock spires rising out of yellow sand dunes contrasted against the deep blue Indian Ocean lit by sunset is a colour phenomenon. I even saw Emus darting through the sculptured pillars.
On the way, I stopped at Lake Thetis, one of the few places in the world to shelter marine stromatolites which are living fossils formed by organisms similar to the earliest forms of life on earth.
All of this traveling is thirsty work so I made sure the itinerary included Margaret River for wine tasting in the vineyards. I stopped in Yallingup at a third generation vineyard sampling Shiraz and then later popped into amazing underground cave formations at Ngilgi Cave. Besides an arts precinct, with more galleries than anywhere else in the Margaret River Region, Yallingup has bred some of the world’s greatest surfers and it’s well worth a visit to Yallingup Beach or Dunsborough beach. The stunning turquoise colours, calm clear water and white sandy beach along with its wild flowers are very different than Queensland.
The Perth CBD itself is flush with art and natural history museums or you can take a ferry and see black swans on the river to the Perth Zoo where the Western Australian emblem the numbat has been rescued from extinction. Kings Park set high on a cliff overlooking Perth’s CBD is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful inner city parks and home to the spectacular Western Australian Botanic Garden, which displays over 3,000 species of the State’s unique flora.
I have been bitten by Western Australia and can’t wait to return and venture further north – Carnarvon, Exmouth, Ningaloo and Broome. Anyone want to join me?