As one of, if not the most geographically isolated cities in the world, visiting Perth in Western Australia is a unique prospect.
Probably best known for its stunning beachside sunsets, Perth is a bright, vibrant and young city with its own unique mix of history.
Fun fact: Perth is the fourth biggest city in Australia by population, but closer to Singapore and Bali than it is either Sydney or Melbourne.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Perth before, it is an amazing growing city. But what really makes Western Australia really stand out is the destinations and natural wonders surrounding it. Some of which are very easy day trips out of the city, while others do warrant a much longer stay.
The Best Things To Do In Perth
Kings Park and Botanical Garden
Situated on Mount Eliza overlooking the Swan River and Perth city centre, Kings Park is one of the largest inner-city parks in the world. Covering almost 4 square kilometres, it is one of the most popular places to visit in Perth, especially for locals and visitors alike who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The parklands are home to over 300 species of Australian plants, as well as a number of sculptures and monuments. The most popular attraction within Kings Park is the State War Memorial precinct, which honours the Western Australian servicemen and women who have served in wars and conflicts around the world.
Originally called Perth Park when it was founded in 1895, it was renamed Kings Park in 1901.
The Perth Botanical Garden and Park Authority website offers a heap more information about the park, especially the walking trails.
The Perth Mint is the oldest operating mint in Australia, having first opened its doors in 1899. Situated on Hay Street in East Perth, the mint is open to the public for free, with guided tours (for a fee) running throughout the day.
Tours start with an introductory video before taking you on a behind-the-scenes look at how gold bullion is made and how coins are designed and struck. You’ll also get to see the world’s largest coin, which weighs a whopping 110kg!
At the end of the tour, you can try your hand at gold panning (for an extra fee) and browse the on-site gift shop which stocks a range of unique souvenirs. Ever wanted to own your own Gold minted bar?
Elizabeth Quay is a relatively new development in Perth on the banks of the Swan River, completed in 2016. The focal point of the quay is the stunning architectural feature, The Spanda, which resembles a giant wave about to crash onto the river below.
The quay has transformed Perth’s waterfront, with a number of restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and public parks. It’s also a great place to take a walk or relax by the water’s edge.
It’s also where you will find The Bell Tower, another of Perth’s unique attractions. The tower itself houses 18 bells that were gifted to the City of Perth. Including 12 St Martin-in-the-Fields bells. The bells were cast in England in the early 1800s and were used in the church of the same name until they were replaced in the 1950s.
But the best part of The Bell Tower is the view from the top looking out over the Swan River or back towards the city skyline.
Gooseberry Hill’s Scenic Zig Zag Drive
This is one of the most popular drives in Perth and for good reason. The drive takes you from Kalamunda in the Darling Ranges through to Gooseberry Hill National Park.
The road winds its way up the side of the hill, offering stunning views out over Perth city and the Swan River. It’s a great place to come for a Sunday drive, or even to take a picnic lunch and enjoy the views.
Just be sure to take it easy on the hairpin bends!
Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip
The Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip is one of the largest museums in the state and is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Perth and WA.
While the Western Australia Museum is actually several museums across the state, the Boola Bardip location in the centre of the city is the largest.
Western Australia Museum Boola Bardip is split into two main buildings – the new facility which opened recently, and the older building which dates back to 1891. The new museum houses the permanent galleries, while the old museum is used for temporary exhibitions.
Permanent galleries include the First Australians gallery, which tells the stories of Aboriginal people in WA. There are also a number of interactive exhibits.
Speaking of Fremantle, the Fremantle Prison is another of Perth’s must-see attractions.
The prison was built by convicts in the 1850s and was used to house some of Western Australia’s most notorious criminals until 1991. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in WA.
There are a number of tours available, including a self-guided audio tour and a torchlight tour (if you’re feeling brave!).
The tours take you through the prison cells, gallows, and even the tunnel system that was used by prisoners to escape. It’s a fascinating insight into Perth’s history.
Another part of Fremantle’s living history to explore while you are in Perth, on the weekend is Fremantle Markets.
Held every weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), the Fremantle Markets offer a wide range of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to arts and crafts.
There are also a number of food stalls, so it’s the perfect place to grab lunch or a snack on the go while exploring this historic building that dates back to 1897.
If you’re visiting on a Friday, be sure to check out the special Twilight Markets, which have a more festive atmosphere with live music and entertainment.
Situated just outside the city centre in South Perth, Perth Zoo is one of the best places in Perth to see native Australian animals.
One of those, in particular, being the Western Australian native Quokka. If you won’t get the chance to visit Rottnest Island (which we’ll get to later in this post) while you are in Perth, the Perth Zoo is the next best place to see these amazingly happy animals in person.
You’ll also find the usual staple of Australian animals like Kangaroos, Koalas, Emus, and Tasmanian Devils as well as some international species like Lions, Giraffes, Tigers, and Elephants.
Of course, no trip to Perth would be complete without visiting the beaches! With over 30 kilometres of coastline, there are plenty to choose from.
Some of the most popular beaches around Perth include Cottesloe Beach, Scarborough Beach, Leighton Beach, and Trigg Beach.
In addition to swimming and sunbathing, surfing and windsurfing are also extremely favoured activities along Perth’s beaches.
Just be sure to take heed of the signs and only swim between the red and yellow flags as there can be strong currents at some beaches.
Watch The Sunset
Another novelty of being in Western Australia is being able to sit on the beach and watch the sunset into the ocean.
Many of the beachside towns have bars and restaurants with views out of the ocean if you don’t feel like sitting in the sand. But I would recommend doing what the locals do and grab some takeaway and sit in the sand to enjoy watching the colours change in the sky over the waves.
Where To Stay In Perth
Now that you know all the best things to see and do in Perth, you’ll need somewhere to stay.
There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from in Perth, ranging from hostels to hotels and apartments.
For those on a budget, there are a number of backpacker hostels located in the Northbridge area of the city, which is also where you’ll find many of the best bars and nightclubs. The Quokka Backpackers Hostel, being the most well-appointed of the budget options.
If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, there are plenty of hotels to choose from within the CBD. The most deluxe option is The Ritz-Carlton, right on the water at Elizabeth Quay.
However, if you don’t need to be in the CBD for the entirety of your trip, my personal recommendation would be to stay out by one of the beaches. My personal suggestion being Scarborough.
When To Visit Perth
Personally, I find the best time to visit Perth is during the summer months from December to February.
During this time, the weather is warm and sunny with average temperatures around 28°C, perfect beach weather.
However, Perth can get quite hot during this time of year and temperatures can and do exceed 35°C.
If you’re not a fan of the heat, the shoulder months of March and April or October and November are also great times to visit as the weather is a bit cooler but still pleasant.
How To Get Around Perth
Getting around within Perth’s CBD is really quite easy. The CBD and even the riverside area are very accessible to explore on foot. The heart of the city is relatively small compared to other cities around Australia.
That said, the greater area of Perth and most of its key attractions are actually spread out over a fair area. So having your own transport while in Perth is actually quite vital to making the most of your time there.
Getting Beyond The City
As I just mentioned, having your own transport – ie renting a car – is the best way to see all that Perth has to offer.
The roads in and around the city are pretty easy to navigate. The main roads and freeways are well signposted and interlink making getting to and from (or even bypassing) the city quite easy.
One thing I will say about driving around Perth is though, driving is the main form of transport for everyone who lives there, so during weekday peak hours in the morning and evening can be quite congested and slow-moving.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving, there are train and bus services operated by Transperth (Perth’s public transport operator).
There are 5 train lines that fan out from the centre of Perth interlinking the different outlying suburbs. Midland in the east, Mandurah and Armadale in the south, Joondalup in the north and Fremantle along the coast.
The Transperth website has all the details and routes.
Getting To and From Perth Airport
Perth Airport isn’t too far away from the city centre. Just on the eastern side of the Swan River.
That said, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind while trying to get to and from the airport. The first of which is that there are two terminals on each side of the airport, at least a 15-minute drive away from each other. So make sure you know who you are flying with and which terminal they are operating out of.
Terminal 1 is the largest and split into both domestic and international. The domestic side is home to most of the Virgin Australia flights while the international side is where most, but not all, international flights operate from.
Alongside that is Terminal 2, where the smaller airlines and aircraft operate from, including the intrastate flights from Virgin Australia as well as Alliance and Regional Express.
On the complete other side of the airport is where you will find Terminals 3 and 4, basically, the same building, which is where the bulk of Qantas and Jetstar flights operate (also Airnorth). Qantas’s international flights also operate out of these terminals, while Jetstar uses the conventional international terminal (T1).
Confused yet? Always best to double-check your ticket before heading to the airport just to be on the safe side.
Now for getting to and from the airport, again, renting a car is the easiest and most convenient way when travel to Perth, but it is not your only option.
The cheapest way between to city and the airport is the public bus service operated by Transperth.
Bus Route 380 links the Elizabeth Quay Bus Station with Terminals 1 and 2. While Route 40 links the Elizabeth Quay Bus Station with Terminals 3 and 4. And if you need to transfer between the two airport precincts, there is a limited Terminal Transfer Bus, but you will need to give yourself heaps of time.
If you aren’t planning to rent a car while you are in Perth, and you don’t intend on staying in the heart of the city. Your best bet is to take a taxi or use a ride-sharing service like Uber.
Where To Find Food/What To Do In The Evenings?
Perth has plenty going on and so many great places to eat and drink in and around the city. It’s just a matter of where and when.
Obviously, I’ve already made mention of the ocean sunsets, and sitting at any number of bars and cafes along the coast is a very popular choice. Scarborough Beach is probably the most popular with a number of restaurants and bars right by the beach. But also keep an eye out for the Scarborough Sunset Markets which add a whole bunch of food trucks and other vendors to the mix.
Fremantle is also quite a good option for a night out. Headlining the best options is the Little Creatures Brewery Great Hall right on the waterfront. But there are countless options throughout Freo (as it’s referred to by the locals).
A little closer to the heart of the city, Crown Perth, on the eastern bank of the Swan River is popular for its variety of restaurant options as well as the live shows in its theatre.
Within the CBD, you could start with a few drinks at one of the many bars located around the city, before heading to a nightclub. Alternatively, you could catch a movie at one of the many cinemas, or see a show at His Majesty’s Theatre.
You can find some cheap eats around William Street and Aberdeen Street in Northbridge. But also keep an eye out for one of Perth’s many food trucks. You’ll find them dotted around the city, usually concentrated near popular tourist spots and event venues.
Day Trips From Perth
There are plenty of day trips you can do while you are staying in Perth. Here are just a few of my favourites.
The Pinnacles and Cervantes
One of the truly unique attractions just outside of Perth is The Pinnacles.
Up amongst Western Australia’s most iconic natural landmarks, these limestone pillars are located about two hours drive north of the city in the Nambung National Park.
There are a few theories on how these intriguing rock formations came to be, but you can discover more about those in the visitors centre when you get there.
The Pinnacles can easily be explored as a self-guided driving tour. You will have to pay the park entrance fee when you arrive. But from that point, you can drive around the well-laid-out track through the dunes that are suitable for most cars.
Give yourself plenty of time, a trip out to The Pinnacles and Cervantes is a full day trip anyway given the drive time to there. But you will definitely want to get out of the car and explore some of the formations on foot as well. There are ample opportunities to climb through the dunes and find something unique.
That said, the best times to visit as a photographer are either at sunrise or sunset when the light is softer and the colours are more vibrant. The Pinnacles is also a very popular spot for photographers to stay overnight and take photos of the stars as well.
Once you have seen all you can at The Pinnacles, head on over to the small seaside town of Cervantes.
There aren’t many towns near the The Pinnacles, but the small fishing town Cervantes makes up for it. Not only the best (possibly only) place to get lunch while you are on the road depending on what time you’ve made the trip, but it also has the most stunning white-sand beaches.
Since you are in the area to check out some unique rock formations, while you are in town also check out the Lake Thetis Stromatolites with its own features.
If you’re looking for a different day trip from Perth or even a quick overnight escape, Rottnest Island is a great option.
The island is located just 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth and can be easily reached by ferry with services from Fremantle, Elizabeth Quay and Hillarys Boat Harbour (north of the city) or plane.
A popular summer weekend getaway for Perth locals, Rottnest Island offers plenty to keep you busy including swimming, snorkelling, cycling and exploring the many historic buildings, two lighthouses and shipwrecks.
But the real reason to visit the island is that is home to the happiest creatures on earth, the resident Quokkas.
These native marsupials that look like miniature kangaroos live almost exclusively on Rottnest Island and are known for their friendly smiling demeanour.
Cars are limited on the island, so the best way to get around is by renting a bike and cycling around. Something you will definitely want to do as some of the more interesting parts of the Rotto (as it’s referred to by the locals) are a fair walk from the ferry terminal.
A trip to Rottnest Island can be as relaxed or as adventurous as you feel like.
If you’d like to get more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.