Despite there being lots of things to do in Perth, Australia, the city has a mellow vibe that I’ve yet to find in any other city in the country. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Recently I spent three months road tripping the great and powerful Oz, stopping at most of the tourist favorites: Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne. I’ve tried and tested them all.
None of them, though, has captured my heart in the way that Perth has.
Contrary to popular belief, Australia’s most remote city is really not that remote at all. Its closest towns are no more than a couple of hour’s drive away and for any backpacker or road tripper, the sights and activities on offer up and down the tremendous stretch of coastline are incredible.
Even if you don’t venture outside of the metro area, you’ll still find plenty to see, do, watch, eat, and experience in Perth.
So, let’s delve into this Perth guide from a visitor who’s been living here on and off for the past two years.
Main things to do in Perth
There is simply no such thing as a terrible beach in Perth.
In the metro area alone, you have nineteen glorious stretches of fine cream-colored sand to wiggle your toes in. Not only this, you won’t spend half an hour searching for a parking space before you can eagerly run into the waves like at some of Australia’s Eastern city beaches. Ahem, Sydney.
My five favorite Perth beaches are:
- City Beach
- Cottesloe Beach
- Scarborough Beach
- Trigg Beach
- Mettams Pool
Probably the most famous attraction to draw visitors to Perth, Rottnest Island is known for its biking trails, transparent bays, and native quokka species.
A quokka, in case you don’t know, is a small wallaby that somewhat resembles a cross between a squirrel, a mouse, and a kangaroo. They are extremely friendly and seem to enjoy selfies.
You can reach Rottnest Island by public ferry, or if you’re really into splashing the cash, charter a yacht and spend the day sailing around the island and jumping off for short hikes.
West Australia sunset viewing
Given the position of Perth on the West Coast, visiting here means you are treated to the most spectacular sunsets.
Seriously, every day when dusk arrives the sky transforms into a brilliant shade of pastel pink. Head to the coast and you’ll have a front-row seat to the sun setting behind the sea, throwing out a glorious golden orange glow that rivals the famous sunset scenes of Santorini.
If you’re not sure the west coast is for you, have a look at FTB’s Destination Guide for Melbourne, Australia.
Just a thirty-minute train ride from Perth’s CBD sits Fremantle; known as the first place the Swan River Colony settled in 1829.
At the heart of Fremantle city center, is World Heritage Site Fremantle Prison, which was built by convicts in the 19th century for their own incarceration.
In use until the 1990s, Fremantle Prison now runs daily tours that teach visitors about the building’s history, everyday life for convicts, and the many escapes that took place over the years.
Tour prices are more than affordable, at roughly $21.00 for a single tour. If you’re brave enough, you can also opt for the spooky ‘Tunnels Tour,’ which involves punting through a labyrinth of underground tunnels.
King’s Park & Botanic Gardens
Resting high above the Swan River and with a perfect vantage point over the Perth city skyline, a picnic or BBQ in King’s Park cannot be missed.
This place is great for rounding up a group of fellow female travelers and spending the afternoon playing Frisbee or cricket, or simply head there solo for some quiet reflective time with a stunning view.
King’s Park also hosts a Moonlight Cinema in the Perth summer season, generally December to April.
Perth’s city quay is an up and coming attraction for tourists. At present, it contains easy access to ferries, which will take you to the other side of the river, or as far as Fremantle if you prefer to take this route rather than the train, bus, or car.
Elizabeth Quay also hosts some of the cities best events, such as the Perth Festival, Fringe Festival, and many markets and fetes.
Year-round, trendy alfresco bars sit on the waterfront, offering food, drink, music, and good vibes. A favorite of mine is The Lucky Shag, which has the perfect outdoor seating area right on the jetty.
Right now, developers are building a Hilton hotel and luxury living apartments, so it’s only going to become more impressive to experience.
Whether you enjoy the odd game of roulette or not, a visit to the Crown Casino in the inner-city suburb of Burswood is one of my most recommended activities for an evening out.
Not only is the gaming area itself enormous, with multiple rooms and, allegedly, a whopping 240 tables, but the restaurant and bar options on offer are hard to beat.
Start your evening in The Merrywell before heading into the main casino area. Stop off at Groove Lounge for some funky ‘80s and ‘90s dancing tunes before checking out the sports bar, where you can watch about fifteen sporting events at the same time.
I have to say when I first visited Australia, I was flabbergasted to find penguins are a resident species! It’s just not the type of animal you associate with such a warm climate. Even better, in Perth, there is an entire island full of them!
Take a short ferry trip from Rockingham to Penguin Island, where you can walk wooden platforms hunting for little penguins. There is also a Discovery Centre where you can watch daily shows and feeding sessions.
Plus, if you’re feeling really adventurous, instead of taking the ferry across to the island, you can take a kayaking tour and find yourself paddling alongside dolphins and seals in the surrounding Shoalwater Marine Park.
Swan Valley Wineries
A little tip – wine tours in Australia are kind of a big deal.
Located only a thirty-minute car journey from the Perth CBD, you’ll find Swan Valley and its multitude of vineyards and wineries. The best way to explore these is to book an Uber Designated Driver to ferry you from place to place. Which means you can drink all of the tasters – perfect.
Hikes, Waterfalls, and Hikes to Waterfalls
Again, needing no more than thirty minutes in a car, you can experience some of the best hikes and waterfalls I’ve found in the Perth metro area. I won’t delve into the details of each one today (because this is already a mammoth guide) but here’s a quick list of the best ones for you to research:
- Lesmurdie Falls
- Bells Rapids
- John Forrest National Park
- Yanchep National Park
- Ellis Brooke Valley Reserve
- Rocky Pool Walk
Perth’s best food & drink options
Northbridge Restaurants & Bars
Northbridge is not the classiest part of the city, however, it does have some of the best options for food and drink, including Chinatown, Varsity Burgers, Northbridge Brewery, and Lucky Chan’s Laundry. You don’t even need to plan ahead when dining or drinking in Northbridge – just take a stroll around the easy to navigate blocks and find a place that takes your fancy.
Perth City Lanes
With a Brighton-esque feel to them, the hidden cobbled lanes of Perth city are home to some of my favorite bars and eateries. These are:
- Stables Bar
- The Laneway Lounge
- Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub
- Wolf Lane
Near to the laneways, above Perth Underground, you also have The Aviary, which does some yummy pub grub and rooftop DJ sessions.
A trendy and underrated part of Perth, Leederville has a brilliant selection of restaurants for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. From the tapas of Panchos to the reliable tastiness of a Grill’d Healthy Burger, again, you can decide on a restaurant upon arrival.
Wherever you choose to eat, I recommend checking out outdoor venue The Garden for a pre- or post-meal tipple.
Mount Lawley is yet another laidback suburb of Perth offering visitors and locals outstanding food and drink options. You can reach this part of the city easily by bus or taxi but you may want to decide on your destination beforehand, as the road most eateries sit on is very long.
My recommendations are:
- Mary Street bakery – for brunch or coffee and cake
- Brisbane Hostel – for alfresco drinks
- Ugolicious – for a sweet frozen yogurt treat
- The Meatball Bar – for delicious pasta and meat
Though to be honest, there are at least a dozen more that I’ve yet to try, so perhaps you’ll uncover a gem I’m not aware of!
Getting around Perth
Coming from the UK, where trains running on time is somewhat of an urban legend, taking public transport in Perth is like a breath of fresh air. Of course, some of the locals love a moan about it, but who doesn’t complain about their local public transport system?
Transperth is government-run, always clean, almost always on time and free within the city center. Yep, you read that right; it’s FREE in the city center!
The best way to use it is to purchase a SmartRider from a retail outlet, although you can still pay by cash on buses or purchase real-life tickets at train stations.
You can find details and a map of the Free Transit Zone here.
Now, you may struggle to reach every beach by bus, as some don’t have super close stops. In these cases, I’d recommend taking an Uber, which is one of the most affordable modes of transport in Perth.
Places to stay in Perth
The best suburbs to stay in Perth if you don’t have access to a car are the city center, East Perth, West Perth, and Northbridge. These are all within close proximity to a train station and the Perth Busport, which means you can pretty much get anywhere on public transport.
If you do have access to a car, you might want to consider staying a little further out for cheaper accommodation options, such as South Perth, Fremantle, Scarborough, or Hillary’s.
Mount Lawley, Northbridge, and Scarborough are very backpacker-friendly options with good hostels and social scenes.
If you are looking for an upmarket accommodation option, you can find plenty of hotels in the East Perth area, particularly the Fraser Suites, Hyatt Hotel, and Pan Pacific.
If you’re really looking for someplace swanky, check out the Crown hotels, nicely positioned on the site of the casino and featuring five-star facilities.
Don’t miss out on Perth’s…
If you’re considering visiting Perth, Australia (and surely you must be after reading about those brilliant attractions!) it’s worth trying to time your trip with the following seasonal attractions.
You may have heard of Fringe Festival thanks to Edinburgh, which hosts the famous event every year and is well known as a bucket list experience for travelers to the UK.
What you might not know is the two next largest Fringe Festival events take place in Adelaide and Perth.
Each year, from the end of January until the end of February, Perth city is brimming with big top tents playing host to performers from around the globe. From comedians to acrobats to dancers, singers and traditional artists, you’ll find at least a dozen shows you’ll want to see.
Twilight Hawker’s Market
This one is a spring and summer event, running between October and March every Friday evening in the city center of Perth.
Get a taste of the food market experience of Asia by heading to the Twilight Hawker’s Market for dinner and sampling an array of exotic dishes.
On that note, if you can’t time your visit with this event, fear not, there are plenty of other dining options available.
Perth: Survival Guide
- The warmest months of the year are usually November – April. January is particularly hot.
- The city of Perth offers free WiFi in the city center.
- Generally, prices equal those on the East Coast, but if you’re staying for a while, rent is much more affordable than in Sydney and Melbourne
- If you’re headed to the beach, take a parasol and wear sunscreen as the UV is Beyoncé fierce in Perth
I’m going to round this beast of a Perth guide up by saying that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer to visitors to the city.
I’m already mentally debating whether I should have included X, Y, and Z in the main attractions list detailed here.
Instead, if you want to discover 7 Reasons Why Western Australia easily rivals the East, check out my post here.
In the meantime, enjoy planning your trip to Perth. If you’re anything like me, you’ll adore the laidback yet cosmopolitan vibe.
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Aimee is a British born budget traveler with extreme nomadic tendencies. She left the UK 2.5 years ago and since then has traveled Central and South America, Asia, and Australia. Despite hitting her 30s in 2018, she couldn’t be less interested in having a mortgage, or a fancy car, or babies. For Aimee, travel is a full-time lifestyle.