The conundrum in the title of this post is what befell me today: having planned to be in Perth today for the 5th day of the Australia v South Africa cricket test match at the WACA I was left at a loose end given the early end of the test match before I arrived. I did not have a flexible flight so my only option was to come up with a way to entertain myself in a city I had never been to before.
As my brain is still on Brisbane time despite having been in Western Australia since Friday I awoke at 4am feeling more than a bit unwell. All the warning signs of a migraine hit me, most ominously my right eye was blurry, but the combination of drugs and a little more sleep seemed to work and by 7am I was wondering what I was going to do for the day. I basically had 16 hours before my flight and nothing to do.
Going against my usual policy, I first decided to spend as much time as I could in my hotel room before check out. If I had not have had some work to do I would have watched a movie but having work to do meant that it was not until 9:50am that I was ready to leave. I had already chewed up 3 hours of time and despite some serious negativity about the remainder of my day I sent off into a hot Perth day to eek out another 13 hours of fun before heading home.
My first thought was to head to the WACA and check out the very good cricket museum there as well as take the ground tour. Only a 500m walk from my hotel it was an easy stroll down Hay Street to the ground. Unfortunately, the museum was closed today and the tours unavailable seemingly because the WACA authorities decided to have a day off. I was irritated but I will say when I come back to Perth I will definitely do this tour.
Queens Gardens is just next door to the WACA ground and with its green grass luring me having spent four days in the red dirt of Port Hedland, I decided that I would spend my first couple of hours in my quest to fill time just sitting in the park. Basically alone the whole time, and taking the opportunity to call a dear friend I had not spoken to for some time, time flew by and I left the park feeling relaxed and with a plan in the back of my mind for the rest of the day.
What I did not know about Perth before ringing my parents to whinge about my predicament today was the free bus service around the city. The Cat service that encompasses three routes and arrives at the bus stop every 5 minutes during the week is easily the best way to get around town and seems, from my limited knowledge, to cover just about every place one would want to go on a lazy day in Perth.
My plan for the rest of the day was simple: I was going to walk around the shops for a while and then head down to the Barracks St Jetty and get on the ferry to Fremantle (another parental recommendation). My walk around the shops started at the Miller Street Mall and wound its way around St George’s Terrace until I was back at a bus stop and ready for my trip to Fremantle. For those noting the time, it was now 1pm and my time to be filled had dropped to 10 hours.
I had some time to kill before my 2:15pm trip along the Swan River to Fremantle and stopped in a cafe for a drink and got to work on a couple of blogs whilst answering some work emails. The Riverside Cafe was a great spot to stop and relax but I will say a smidgen expensive.
The ferry to Fremantle one way will cost you $25 and if nothing else will chew up 75 minutes on our quest to get to the 16 hour mark. However, to consider it a time filler does it zero justice: the scenery is breathtaking in some places and the guide gives you just enough information to let you know what you are seeing. If I had one criticism it is that they only opened one bar and as it was on a different level of the boat than me I decided to not risk loosing my window seat by leaving it to get a beverage. It frankly would not have taken much to open that bar given that they had a staff member restocking it basically the whole trip.
Fremantle is a very nice harbour town that has as its highlight for nerds like me an excellent Maritime Museum. Now I concede that I love going to museums whenever I travel but again if you are looking at burning up time there are few better ways of doing that than wandering around a museum. You can spend as long you want in the museum until it shuts and the air conditioning gets you out of the intense Perth heat. That said, the Maritime Museum at Fremantle is an absolute ripper: great exhibits, great cafe and a great gift shop. I could have spent hours there by knowing that it shut at 5pm I decided to leave at 4:45pm and head to the train station to travel back to Perth.
I have to say I was very impressed with the train service from Fremantle to Perth. It was cheap ($4) and the carriages were clean and well air conditioned. It being peak hour my carriage did get a little full but it was not long before I was back at Perth Central station.
Another walk around the shops and another bus ride saw me back at my hotel from last night (Comfort Inn on Hay Street) where I had been storing my bags by 7pm. Now I concede as I write this that I have not completely filled the 16 hours I have spare before my flight leaves however there are only 4 hours left to go and as I see it there are only really two ways to spend them. If you are a member of the Qantas Club, one could collect their bags and head to the airport to bunker down and eat the free food and drink the free drink while reading a book. The other alternative is that you can just sit in the hotel lobby, as I am doing right now rest ones weary legs from doing a lot of walking today whilst charging ones phone. This option appealed to me as, having baggage I am going check at the airport I wanted to change clothes and have a quick wash (which I have done) and my phone was completely dead. I will have a meal in the hotel restaurant shortly (it is the least I can do as I have been lazing around the lobby) and I will then head to the airport with an hour or so to go before my plane.
So there you have it: if you are in Perth and you have time to burn before the red eye flight home do not despair because even a novice like me can find enough things to do to keep the mind occupied during a day when plans go awry. You never know, you might like the place so much that you decided you need to come back to properly check out the place like I have.
Travellers on a budget should note that excluding food today cost me a grand total of $39: not bad if funds are tight and you still want to see part of the city of Perth.