Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Australian Desert. Closer to Jakarta in Indonesia than to Sydney or Melbourne and with the nearest city 2000 km away, it is the most distant city in the world! Which does make you think if it’s worth travelling to? However, with over 2.2 million inhabitants, it must be a welcoming place to live especially, as it enjoys 320 days of sunshine a year. If you want to experience real Australian life – laid back and chilled out, visit Perth.
The must-see sights in Perth
Founded in 1829, Perth is a modern and dynamic city which is established on the banks of the Swan River. The city is a clever mix of modern buildings and old 1900-style buildings. So take the time to stroll through the different neighborhoods to appreciate all its diversity!
Perth train station is located in the heart of the city centre, opening directly onto Murray Street and commercial street. You can find big brands such as H & M, Lush etc. but with small-town vibes as all shops close at 5 pm in Perth! It’s a very chilled city where you do not work late. Instead, you play sports after work or go for a drink. A further unique trait of Perth is that Australians eat relatively early in this region, with dinner time around 18:30.
To the right of the train station, you will find Yagan Square with its famous giant screen. There is also a set of several outdoor bars and breweries. This place is also often the meeting place for Australian Footy fans.
Above all, Northbridge is the party district! Full of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and shops of all kinds, this is the place that moves in Perth. William Street is the street with all the Asian restaurants at low prices. The surroundings of Russell Square come alive every night. Many bars in the neighborhood offer happy hours.
Northbridge also hosts several cultural sites to visit: The Western Australian Museum, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, The contemporary State Theater Centre, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.
This is Perth’s most iconic park. Covering an area of more than 4km, it overlooks the City and offers breathtaking views of the Swan River and the city’s skyscrapers. Kings Park is the ideal spot to spend an afternoon with a picnic, relax on the lawn, meditate or join one of the many yoga classes. You can also admire flora and fauna, including multicoloured parrots and numerous species of flowers. Kings Park offers a peaceful oasis and calming atmosphere.
Elizabeth Quay is the next highlight. A neighbourhood on the banks of the Swan River, it is home to a very friendly cafe with an Indian restaurant called “Annalakshmi on the Swan” which is run by volunteers and operates on a “pay as you feel scheme”. From here you can take a cruise along the river.
A few minutes by bus from the city centre, you can reach Heirisson Island which offers the opportunity to tick kangaroos off your Australia bucket list. They live here in freedom! Put on your sneakers and go around the island, the walk is about 5 km.
South Perth Foreshore
Enjoy the view of the city from the other side of the shore. South Perth Foreshore is the perfect place for a picnic on the grass. You will also find a large number of barbecues, games for children, cafes and restaurants. Then go to Mends Street Jetty, where you can take the ferry back to town (10 min crossing). It is also a perfect place to watch the fireworks at New Year or Australia Day.
Perth is also known for the Swan Valley and its vineyards, just 30 minutes drive from the city centre. Many buses and boat tours are available from Perth City. They will take you to discover the many vineyards, breweries and restaurants including tasting stops.
Finally, the beaches of the West coast are famous for surfing, so be careful as the tide can get crazy! Here is not the place for those who are used to the small beaches of the Riviera, as large waves crash against the vibrant sands.
The unmissable beaches include
- Scarborough Beach: the meeting point for young people, surfers and skaters! You will also find many bars, surf shops and restaurants here. Enjoy the Scarborough Sunset Market from November to April. To get there, take the Joondalup Line to Perth train station then buses 990, 421 or 410.
- Cottesloe Beach: Perth’s iconic beach, it is considered the most beautiful in the city. It is also a privileged place to watch the sunset! Once a year, the Sculptures by the Sea festival is held there, an open-air modern art exhibition. To get there, take the Fremantle Line and bus 102. Allow around one hour from the centre by public transport.
- Trigg Beach: the ideal spot for beginners or experienced surfers depending on the weather conditions…
- City Beach: a beach of choice for a picnic or a swim just 15 minutes by car from Perth city center
- Coogee Beach: ideal for a family swim due to its shallow waters. Coogee is also known for its pier, especially among fishermen.
- Swanbourne Beach: for fans of tanning without swimwear brands, Swanbourne is home to a portion of nudist beach 300m from the main entrance to the beach…
Main activities in Perth
If you’re looking for what to do in Perth, we’ve put together a list with all of our must-sees. Here are our top 8 things to do in this multifaceted city!
- Take a tour of the city center
- Discover the colonial architecture of Fremantle
- Stroll through Kings Park
- Stroll on one of the city’s beaches
- Go kite surfing
- Discover Quokkas on Rottnest Island
- Visit Perth Zoo
- Observe kangaroos on Herisson Island
Visit the Perth Region
For starters, head to Fremantle known as “Freo”, a hippie town that has kept the imprint of its history, which adds to its charm. You can get there in around 30 minutes by taking the Fremantle Line from Perth Station. Then, let yourself get carried away in the alleys filled with vintage clothing stores, second-hand books and organic food shops.
There is a large vegan community here, so it’s an ideal spot for vegan restaurants and shops. You can also stroll through the covered market filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables, spiritual shops and discover delicious food stands. In the evenings the town as just as lively with bars and restaurants waiting for you. This place should be on your To-Do list while you visit Perth.
Finally, do not miss the visit of the prison, the only building in Western Australia to have been classified as a World Heritage Site.
Reach Rottnest Island by ferry from Fremantle or Perth City. The crossing takes approximately 25 minutes from Fremantle and 90 minutes from Perth. The Sea Link company is one of the most popular and offers round trip from Fremantle for $53 + count $20 entrance fee on the island. Note that the return boat crossing pack is cheaper on Tuesdays. You will then have to add the price of the bike rental ($34 per person).
The island with a tragic past is now protected and is a small preserved wonder. Indeed, Rottnest is 100% nature and zero pollution, you can only travel by bike (there is only one tourist bus). It is the ideal place for snorkelling, the water is crystal clear and the beaches breathtaking. All you have to do is put on your mask and snorkel! Finally, Rottnest Island is best known for quokkas, called the happiest animal in the world. This is where they live freely and where you can approach them easily. To your selfies!
About a 3 hour drive from Perth is Margaret River. The city and its region are known for the vineyards, the magnificent forests, the beaches, the numerous surf spots and the local gastronomy. You can also visit Busselton and its famous jetty, or Dunsborough, on the road to Margaret River.
Finally, do not miss Penguin Island, which is just 45 minutes south of Perth and lies a five-minute ferry ride away, amongst the spectacular Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
There is actually a sandbar which runs between Penguin Island and the mainland at Mersey Point in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park which you can walk across. However, the walk is not advised as the tide can be unpredictable, leaving you stranded or the water too deep in parts.
You can otherwise reach the island by boat; however, it is a very high price for a 5-minute trip. It is around $18 or $27 per person if you want to feed the penguins. Of course, as its name suggests you will see penguins so I’d say the fee is worth it. Ideally, rent a kayak to visit the two other small islands nearby where you can admire birds and seals as well.
When is it best to visit Perth?
Being the sunniest city in Australia, it is best to visit Perth from October to the end of April. It’s a Mediterranean climate with dry, hot summers and mild, wet winters. Note that evenings are cool from the end of March.
As for the sea, it remains rather cool; however, the warmest time of year is March when the sea reaches 23 degrees.
Other than the good weather, it is nice to come to Perth in Summer for some of its festivals like the Perth festival.
Where to stay in Perth
As in all major Australian cities, there are many ways to find accommodation.
The most common are the backpacker hostels, you can find several in the city centre. Many offer free nights’ accommodation in exchange for cleaning or reception work.
You can also join a Flatshare and find roommates. You will find several ads on social media where rent is paid weekly or monthly as you share an apartment with a few others.
There is also Airbnb, where you can rent a room, allowing you to immerse yourself in Australian family life and learn about the host’s culture and local gems.
This is also the case if you experience HelpX or Woofing. In exchange for your skills (such as childcare, farming or decorating) you are rewarded with free housing and meals. Similarly, there is Couchsurfing, where no work is involved, it is a cultural exchange.
Where to go out in Perth?
Despite the appearance of a quiet city, Perth is lively, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. There are also options in some bars and restaurants on other nights of the week (quiz night, karaoke etc).
Tuesday nights are ideal for movie lovers as the price of cinema tickets are cheaper. There are also offers in some bars and restaurants early in the week. On Friday nights, all the shops, malls and superstores are open later and close at 9 pm. You can also enjoy the world’s food market which is held every Friday night starting at 5 pm on Murray Street. You can discover all the flavours of the world, accompanied by live music.
Finally, the favoured party district is Northbridge. It is a very lively area on weekends with many bars and trendy clubs, including The Court gay box, consisting of 4 rooms with different music. There is Free entry before 9 pm, otherwise $10 per person.
Among the other trendy places to go out, we find The Aviary (rooftop in the city centre), The Market Grounds and its many bars and atmospheres, Henry Summer and its large outdoor garden in Northbridge, Connections and its drag-queen shows or The Geisha Bar.
Remember to bring your passport because there are strict rules enforced with the legal drinking age and licensing laws.
You can reach the city centre of Perth easily by bus or train. There are several good tips for visiting Perth to assist with these various transport routes.
To get around the center and nearby surroundings, there are free CAT buses. They operate for free every day of the week from 6am or 6.45am on weekdays and later on weekends. You will find the schedules of the shuttles on the Transperth website.
Transperth is the main bus and train company of the region. The price of the ticket depends on the area you are heading to. Perth and its surroundings are divided into 8 zones, covering a very large area. A ticket is valid for two hours and can be used indefinitely within the same zone for two hours, taking the bus or the train interchangeably. Perth city also has a Free Transit Zone for buses and a SmartRider Free Transit Zone for trains.
There is a free mobile app for Transperth that can help schedule your trip. It suggests several itineraries and costs for your journey, updated in real time. Tickets can be purchased on the bus, however, make sure you have correct change on hand because bus drivers rarely accept large cash notes. Otherwise, there are terminals in the train stations to receive change.
If you decide to stay for more than three weeks, you can purchase the $10 card which allows you to benefit from a 10% discount on the road. Also, if you have validated your card after 9 am, it will stop debiting money when you reach a threshold of $12.80. The card can be topped up at stations or with bus drivers. Alternatively, if you top up via bank transfer, you will benefit from a 20% discount on all journeys.
It is important to note, the names of the bus stops can be very confusing for tourists as they have no names but instead just numbers. Unfortunately, the drivers do not know all the numbers of each stop so; the app can be very helpful as a guide to each stop. ,
Regarding the trains, it is much easier to coordinate. There are different lines such as Mandurah line, Joondalup Line etc. with each stop also having a name (instead of a number)! It may be handy to know; there is a ” family day rider” ticket for $12.40, which allows two people (or more) to enjoy unlimited travel. This is from 5 pm and all day on weekends.