Said to be the world’s most isolated city, Perth is somewhere extremely few travellers to Australia (and equally few locals) ever visit, most sticking instead to the concentrated attractions of the East Coast. But, in a country overflowing with natural beauty, Western Australia may just be the most spectacular of all.
Dominated by white sand beaches and dramatic orange coastline, home to some of the country’s best wine regions and most unique animals, and yet still delightfully under the radar, Perth will absolutely blow your mind and leave you wanting more. Here are just 9 of the best things to do in and around Perth, Western Australia’s under-rated but absolutely incredible capital city.
What's in this travel guide
1 | Rottnest Island
Just 18km off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island (or Rotto, as it’s lovingly called by the locals) perfectly showcases the rugged, untouched beauty of Australia’s South West. Coupled with the fact that it’s one of only a few places in the world where you can see quokkas, the adorable little marsupials that have gained internet fame for smiling in selfies alongside giddy tourists, no visit to WA is complete without a day trip (or, better yet, an overnighter) out to beautiful Rottnest Island.
From Perth or nearby Fremantle, 3 different ferry companies sail over to Rotto — I’d recommend travelling mid-week with either SeaLink Rottnest or Rottnest Express from B Shed in Fremantle, as these tickets are the cheapest ($30 return + $19 Government Admission Fee) and this trip is also the shortest (25min). Once on the island, bike hire is just $30 for the entire day and all the secluded swimming beaches, fantastic snorkelling bays, adorable quokkas, and vibrant pink lakes can easily be enjoyed on your own 2 wheels. For more ideas of what to see and do on Rotto, check out this post.
For the single most spectacular view over Perth city and the Swan River, there is no better place than Kings Park just a few kilometres west of the CBD. This massive 1,000-acre park, set aside for city gardens long before the boom of WA’s capital, is one of the main reasons to fall in love with Perth— it’s one of the largest inner-city parks in the world, and that’s not even to mention the tree-lined streets and flower-filled greenspaces throughout the rest of the city that make this feel more like a small town than the west’s largest metropolitan area.
There’s a lot to explore in Kings Park beyond the expansive views, including several short walks, a 75-year-old boab tree from the Kimberley, the State War Memorial Cenotaph and Flame of Remembrance, nearly 100 different bird species, and an abundance of endemic plants and wildflowers. Stay a while— pack a picnic to enjoy an afternoon in the park or grab a bite at the on-site cafe.
State War Memorial in Kings Park
Red flowering gum native to WA
3 | Busselton Jetty
Busselton Jetty, built more than 150 years ago and stretching an impressive 1.8 kilometres over sheltered Geographe Bay, has been made famous as the longest jetty in the entire hemisphere, securing its spot as one of South West Australia’s premier attractions. And, at just 2.5hrs south of Perth, it’s an awesome place to spend the day away from the city.
There’s a whole host of things to do in Busselton, including strolling along the entire length of the jetty ($4 admission), catching the little train to the far tip ($14 ticket), visiting the Underwater Observatory for a glimpse below the surface, swimming in the salt water pools, or even dining “underwater”, if you’ve got money to blow.
My favourite way to enjoy the jetty, though, is to actually get underneath it— Busselton Jetty is said to be Australia’s largest artificial reef and the thousands of wooden pylons supporting the boardwalk also support a vast and vibrant assortment of marine life, including small sharks, colourful fish, seals, octopus, and stingrays. BYO snorkel gear or hire for $15 from the local dive shop.
Snorkelling off Busselton Jetty
Reef under Busselton Jetty
Stingray under Busselton Jetty
4 | Elizabeth Quay
Sparkling Elizabeth Quay, a relatively new development on the foreshore between Perth CBD and the Swan River, is one of the most picturesque places to explore within the city. Framed by modern high-rise buildings and set right along Perth Water, there are several kilometres of boardwalk to stroll or ride alone, all leading out to great eateries and trendy bars.
To enjoy some of Elizabeth Quay’s best views and most beautiful gardens, go for lunch at Island Brew House, a charming restaurant and craft brewery situated on its own private island, or enjoy cocktails from The Reveley’s rooftop bar.
Looking back at Perth CBD and Elisabeth Quay
Island Brew House
5 | Wine tasting in Margaret River
As Western Australia’s premier wine region and one of the country’s largest wine producers, Margaret River is a real highlight in WA for both wine lovers and foodies. In addition to producing a large variety Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, Margaret River is the country’s main Chardonnay producer and has even been lauded as one of the world’s finest, routinely beating out wines from the Burgundy region of France in blind tastings. More than 200 wineries, countless cellar doors, and dozens of fantastic gourmet restaurants are concentrated just 3hrs south of Perth, making for the perfect day trip or extended getaway from the city.
If you still haven’t sampled enough Western Australian wine after travelling south to Margaret River, the Swan Valley just 30min northeast of Perth is the perfect place to continue wine tasting. Not only is this region extremely close to the city, it’s also incredibly compact and well-connected via the Swan Valley Cycle Trail, which makes exploring without a tour or private driver super simple.
As WA’s oldest wine region, there are 40 wineries and a number of craft breweries and distilleries to visit, including award-winners like Faber Vineyard, Sittella, and Houghton. The Swan Valley is best known for its Verdelho, Shiraz, and Cabernet, but it’s not just the wine that makes the experience so worthwhile— the area is also home to some of Perth’s best restaurants, churning out farm-to-table delicacies at dozens of scenic eateries around the valley. Best of all, at the end of a long day of wine tasting and 3-course meals, easily return back to your accommodation in Perth and be well-rested for more adventures the following day.
Chardonnay in the Swan Valley
7 | Explore Fremantle
Just 25min southwest of Perth CBD (and still considered to be part of the Perth metro area), this enchanting 19th century port town on the Indian Ocean is a fas favourite among visitors. Strolling through the streets of Fremantle feels like stepping back in time, the convict-built hotels and ornate limestone buildings a perfectly preserved reminder of the city’s colonial past.
In addition to its old-world charm, Freo (as it’s affectionately referred to by the locals) is also an epicentre for arts and culture in Western Australia, attracting a variety of musical and visual talents to the popular Fremantle Markets every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as hip local boutiques, trendy cafes, and craft breweries. I’d actually recommend staying in Fremantle and making the quick trip up to Perth to explore, but either way, don’t miss spending time in this magnetic city.
B Shed Fremantle
Colonial architecture in Fremantle
8 | Sail on the Swan River
To enjoy Perth and its scenic skyline from a totally unique vantage point, hire a catamaran from Funcats ($45 for 1hr) and set sail on the Swan River. No sailing experience is required to navigate these small 14-foot boats and the staff will give you a quick explanation of how to manoeuvre before sending you out into the water.
This was my absolute favourite activity during my first trip to Perth and it’s still something I recommend to every single person visiting the west coast. For the superb scenery, the inevitable black swan sightings (WA’s state bird), and the thrill of captaining a ship (however small), this is seriously as fun as it gets.
Actual swans on the Swan River
Sailing on the Swan River
9 | Injidup Natural Spa
One of the most spectacular and Insta-famous swimming spots in South West Australia, Injidup Natural Spa is just 3hrs south of Perth, not far from the wineries of Margaret Riveror the beautiful beaches of Yallingup and Busselton.
This naturally-formed rock pool off Injidup Beach, with its bright orange stones and foaming turquoise water, is seriously stunning, and so worth the trip down south. Enjoy the intense froth of nature’s jacuzzi as water crashes over the rocks, scramble along the rounded boulders, or just admire the scenery from above. It can get a bit busy on weekends or during the holidays, but a quick wander around the coastline reveals yet more beautiful swimming holes that can be enjoyed completely to yourself.
Injidup Natural Spa
* Practical information
Getting to Perth
Given its distant position on the west coast of Australia, most all visitors to Perth will arrive via plane into Perth Airport, which has regular flights from all major Australian cities, as well as direct flights from London, South Africa, the Middle East, and heaps of cities in Asia.
Due to open in 2020, the new Forrestfield-Airport Link train line will also make it super easy to get between the city and Perth Airport. Stay up to date on the progress here.
Getting around Perth
Perth city is reasonably well served by a public transit network of trains, buses, and ferries, all operated by TransPerth. Within the centre of the city and its 3 main train stations, travel is actually free, as are the CAT (Centre Area Transit) buses in this area. Outside of the Free Transit Zone, standard fares are just a few dollars. Buy a SmartRider card ($10 minimum) from the airport or most newsagencies around WA.
To really get the most out of a trip to Perth, though, I’d recommend hiring a car. There are 8 hire car companies at Perth Airport, including Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise, but there are also cheaper companies located just off site. Ace Rental Cars has a fleet of slightly older cars (around 5-10 years old, but still perfectly safe) and has dramatically better prices as a result.
There are heaps of options for accomodation in Perth, ranging from budget hostels like Spinner’s Backpackers to upscale hotels like Quay Perth, but my personal recommendation is to stay in Fremantle, about 25min SW of Perth CBD. Federal Hotel is set right in the middle of town in a large colonial building with a bustling on-site bar and restaurant, offering spacious, air-conditioned rooms for about $70/night.