Australia: Traveling Down Under is possible again

After more than two years of isolation: Australia is once again an accessible dream travel destination. Instead of starting a tour of the fifth continent in Sydney, you should first land in Perth – this has many advantages.

Perth is closer than you think. Not least because of the new direct flights from London and Rome to the Western Australian metropolis, which the Qantas Dreamliner covers in less than 16 hours. Even if you take off from Frankfurt for Singapore at noon, you will land in the city-state early in the morning. The connecting flight to Perth takes just four hours – that’s shorter than a flight from Hamburg to the Canary Islands.

Since Singapore and Perth are in the same time zone, the difference is only six hours. The time difference is no bigger than on a flight from Germany to New York, you just have to put the clock forward instead of back. On the other hand, if you’ve booked an unfavorable connection to Sydney or Melbourne, you can spend two consecutive nights on the plane and arrive depending on your wheels.

Perth has long been overshadowed by Australia’s major cities on the east and south coasts. But this has changed radically in the last ten years. The city on the wide Swan River has rediscovered its vantage point on the water: around the square water basin, Elizabeth Quay, a promenade of restaurants, bars and artworks has been created, surrounded by high-rise blocks of flats and new hotels, including the first Ritz-Carlton in Australia.

Perth and the Mining Boom

In the past, it was mainly business people traveling to Perth, who drove up the prices for the few accommodations. “But the mining boom changed everything,” says Tiana Anderson of Tourism Western Australia. Like almost no other place in Australia, Perth has benefited from rapidly growing iron ore mining and export to China from the Pilbara and Kimberley regions.

He drives me

Drives through her beloved city of Perth with ‘Oh Hey WA’ and shows ‘forgotten spaces’, alleys come alive with graffiti: Adie Chapman

© Till Bartels

“A new law required mining companies to invest part of their profits in the city,” says Tiana. This gave rise not only to the skyscrapers of raw materials companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP and the Fortescue Metals group, but also to new hotels and extensive renovation projects of historic buildings.

A symbol of the new Perth is the revitalization of the 1870 State Building, which has been empty for more than 35 years, now with a hotel, restaurants and bars on the former post office counter.

Boola Bardip Museum of Western Australia

Exhibition space expanded several times in 2020: Boola Bardip Museum of Western Australia

© Till Bartels

An architectural landmark is the expansion of the Boola Bardip Museum of Western Australia, which was completed in November 2020 and cost the sum of €260 million. Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas and his Office of Metropolitan Architecture from Rotterdam could win the superstructure of the existing building.

Rottnest, Rotty or Wadjemup Island

But Perth also means beaches and nature. In the beach suburb of Cottesloe, even in mild winter, swimmers take to the waters of the Indian Ocean. On the horizon, container ships entering the port of Freemantle are moored. From the deep-water port of the old harbor town with its historic buildings, ships move on a 30-minute journey to offshore Rottnest Island, one of the most popular destinations in the west.

Rottnest Iceland

Located 19km west of Fremantle in the Indian Ocean: Rottnest Island or Wadjemup

© Till Bartels

Eleven kilometers long and up to four kilometers wide, the island is car-free and famous for its quokkas. These little rabbit-sized kangaroos are affectionate, have become a popular selfie on Instagram, and wander around restaurants looking for something to eat. But the signs point out: “Do not feed the locals” – meaning gulls and quokkas.

Rottnest Island, sighted as far back as the 17th century by Dutch sailors, – hence the name as the quokkas are thought to be a type of rat – has become an attractive travel destination in Western Australia in the last two pandemic years, with even the border between the individual states were sealed.


Typical resident of Rottnest Island: a quokka, a short-tailed kangaroo

© Till Bartels

Today’s family- and biker-friendly “Rotty” with its many pines and palms, cabins, campgrounds and few hotel rooms also has a dark chapter: from 1838 to the 1930s, Wadjemup , as the Aborigines call it, was a prison island for 3700 Aborigines, and in both world wars the island served as an internment camp. The Wadjemup cemeteries and museum are a reminder of this.

Change of location to the east coast

If you want to travel more within the country, you usually have to rely on the plane because of the size, if you want to avoid sitting in the train or car for days. Unlike the current situation at many airports in Europe, things are more relaxed at Australian airports. Also, liquids have been allowed in hand luggage for years, including a bottle of wine.

High rise buildings at Barangaroo

Harborside revitalization: In the Barangaroo precinct, new skyscrapers and a waterfront park are being built. On the left is the 271 meter high Crown building.

© Till Bartels

As of late 2021, after the Qantas plane crashed at Sydney Airport, it wasn’t just “Welcome to Sydney”, but Qantas staff struck a new note and started an announcement with the sentence: “I’d like to meet the traditional owner of the . hours to east coast time.

The city itself is growing, especially where building land is scarce and expensive. Near the city center, between the approach to the famous Harbor Bridge and Darling Harbour, a new district is emerging: Barangaroo, named after an 18th-century Aboriginal woman famous for her resistance to colonialists.

The Crown, at 271 meters the tallest building in the city, has already been completed. The tower, which rotates 60 degrees, houses expensive apartments, a 350-room hotel and a casino behind the glass facade and has changed Sydney’s skyline.

At the foot of the new landmark was the Waterfront, a consumer mile with 90 restaurants and shops. During their lunch break, employees run from the surrounding offices to the water and sit with their snacks in the sun on the boulders on the shore. And in the evenings, Darling Harbor’s nightlife has already shifted significantly north to Barangaroo.

The same is true here as elsewhere in Australia: there have been hardly any tourists from Europe so far. “Except for a few Singaporeans. But since the testing requirement there for re-entry has been lifted, we’re getting bookings from the US again,” says Mark Holmes, general manager of Crown Towers.

Work, travel and surfing

In restaurants and hotels, as everywhere, there is a shortage of service employees. But in Australia, the pandemic was made more difficult by the fact that skilled overseas workers were tied to one employer by a sponsor and could not switch if there was a risk of job loss and they had to leave the country.

In other sectors too, such as agriculture, there is a shortage of young people who have worked on farms and discovered the continent on working holiday visas. Before the coronavirus, up to 250,000 backpackers between the ages of 18 and 30 supported the Australian economy and particularly tourism each year.

“It will take another three years to re-establish the working and traveling workforce,” says Crown Hotel sous chef Stefan Beck, who is in charge of a staff of nine restaurants.

It was no coincidence that the Australian government was the first to make work and travel possible again in February after the long period of isolation and even offered as an incentive the prospect of returning the visa fee in the first few months. If this is not an invitation.

Read also:

– 56,000 Years of Aboriginal Art: From Rock Carvings to Video Installations

– Dream hiking in Tasmania: long distance hiking at the end of the world

– 500 million years of solitude – a journey through the mountains of South Australia

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