2014-Australia travel blog

The Mound with wildflowers representative of what is currently blooming throughout Western...

Red Kangaroo Paw - Kings Park

Flowering Weeping Peppermint Willow (Agonis flexuosa) - Peppermint Lawn, Kings Park

Perth and Swan River from the Aboriginal Art Gallery roof - Kings...

Mosaic of Western Australia's floral emblem, the Mangles Kangaroo Paw, at the...

Large-fruited Mallee (Eucalyptus youngiana) - Botanic Garden

Yellow Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos pulcherrimus) - Botanic Garden

Ancient (750 yrs) Boab Tree transplanted from a bridge site in northern...

Western Australia Parliament House

Flower gardens behind Parliament House

Back of Parliament House (1904 section)

Perth Mint

Statue The Strike (1991, by Greg James) - Perth Mint

The Swan Bells Bell Tower

The Swan Bells - The largest and oldest, Zachariah (1725)

Ringers' chamber - The Swan Bells Bell Tower

Elizabeth Quay construction site from the Swan Bells Bell Tower

Conceptual picture of the Elizabeth Quay when complete

Perth Town Hall (1870)

Large hall used for performances, balls, and ceremonies - Perth Town Hall

St. George's Cathedral (1888)

Chancel in St. George's Cathedral

Organ - St George's Cathedral

Ascalon (the name of St George's lance) by Marcus Canning & Christian...

Government House (1864)

Perth is the capital and largest city of Western Australia with a population of about 2 million – nearly 75% of the state’s residents. Originally founded in 1829 as the administrative center for the Swan River Colony, it became a city in 1856. The first European settlers landed at the mouth of the river but found no edible crops and fresh water to be 51 km (32 mi) away. So they moved the settlement upriver to where present-day Perth lies. The city’s population increased substantially as a result of the Western Australian gold rushes in the late 19th century when would-be millionaires rushed in from the eastern colonies. It is now reputed to be one of the richest cities in the world and the fastest-growing city in Australia.

Kings Park is a 1,003 acre park (New York Central Park is 843 acres) located on the western edge of the central business district. It is a mixture of grassed parklands and botanical gardens. Two-thirds of the grounds are preserved as natural bushland and home to over 300 native plant species and 80 bird species. From its position on Mount Eliza, it also offers panoramic views of downtown, the Swan River, and the Darling Range on the eastern horizon.

Within Kings Park is the 18 acre Western Australian Botanic Garden with a large collection of native Western Australian flora on display. It is part of the worldwide network of botanic gardens committed to plant conservation. Although we were still a couple of weeks behind the peak of the wildflowers, there continues to be a wide variety of trees and shrubs blooming. We took a guided walk and, if we didn’t learn anything else, we learned that there are an astonishing number of varieties of kangaroo paw. One of the more fascinating sights was a giant 750-year-old Boab tree that had been in the way at a bridge construction site in the northern part of the state. They uprooted it and, after a six-day journey by truck, they replanted it in Botanic Garden about six years ago. It appears to be healthy and sprouting new leaves and roots.

Perth and neighboring Fremantle have a wonderful common public transportation system. There is free riding in each of the downtown districts and excellent routes and connections in the suburbs. Nearly every day we traveled about by bus, usually into downtown where we could walk just about anywhere we wanted to go.

Once in downtown, our first stop was Parliament House. The government operates in the Westminster tradition with a Legislative Assembly similar to English House of Commons and the Legislative Council similar to the House of Lords. Inside, it is a beautiful building. We took a guided tour, but for some reason, they don’t allow any photography inside the building. We found that to be quite amazing since most capitals we have toured love to talk up the beauty of the building and encourage picture taking.

In 1892, two prospectors found gold in the eastern outback of Western Australia sparking a gold rush. In response, The Perth Mint was founded as a colonial branch of the Royal Mint in 1899. Its purpose was to process the gold into bullion bars and sovereigns for use throughout the British Empire and beyond. Early in the 20th century it changed to producing large quantities of Australia’s circulating coins. In 1970, ownership of The Perth Mint was transferred from the British Government to the Government of Western Australia. Today it refines all of Australia’s gold production and gold sourced from nearby countries. It is also the official producer of the Australian Precious Metals Coin Program – coins for collectors instead of coins for spending.

Once again, we were forbidden from photography inside the mint, but as part of the tour, we witnessed a demonstration pouring of a gold ingot and saw the largest coin in the world. It is cast from one tonne (2,200 pounds) of pure gold and is valued at $50 million. We were also allowed to handle a 99.99% pure gold bar. It was very securely tied down with only a fraction of an inch movement so we could “lift” it.

In 1987, twelve ancient bells originally cast between 1725 and 1770 were purchased from St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the parish church of Buckingham Palace in London. Those bells plus six more cast for the purpose were installed in the Swan Bells Bell Tower, the first in the world to be built to allow the public to view the bells during ringing and to watch the bell ringers perform their art. We have both played small handbells so were very interested in watching bells weighing hundreds of pounds being played. We took a 1:14 video of the bells being rung. It is too large to post on this web site, so we have uploaded it to YouTube and you can hear them at Swan Bells Change Ringing.

As a bonus, from the top level of the Bell Tower, we could look down on the huge construction project that will result in the Elizabeth Quay, a blending of high-rise offices, apartments, and hotels with cafes, restaurants, and bars surrounding an inlet from the Swan River.

To finish off our stay in Perth, we took a guided walking tour following the “Icons of Influence Trail.” Some of the highlights include the Perth Town Hall (1870 – In addition to administration of the early colony, it has served as a market, a fire station, and a venue for important ceremonies and balls.); St. George’s Cathedral (1888 – an Anglican church with a modern sculpture titled Ascalon of St. George’s lance and banner); and Government House (1894 – This site has been continuously occupied as the principal residence of the royally-appointed governor in Western Australia since the city was founded in 1829.).

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