The top 10 places to visit in Perth
Looking at a map, it’s easy to get the impression Perth is a lonely outpost far removed from the rest of the world. Situated near the southwestern tip of Australia and some 2131 kilometres from the nearest state capital, it’s one of the most isolated cities on the planet.But don’t let Perth’s remote location fool you: it’s widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in Australia and harbours a bounty of treasures waiting for you to discover them. Stunning beaches, year-round sunshine, a thriving culture and countless natural attractions help make this city a perfect destination for travellers of all breeds.
Perth straddles the beautiful Swan River, which is a prominent feature in the many breathtaking photos of the city’s iconic skyline. Countless white sand beaches are just a stone’s throw from the CBD’s hub of entertainment, dining and cultural attractions, ensuring you’ll never have a dull day in the City of Light.Whether you’re a backpacker, retiree, family with young children, sports fanatic or anything in between, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to enjoy this much-loved city. To help you plan your itinerary, here are our top 10 things to see and do in Perth.
The sheer number of world-class beaches in Perth deserves a top 10 of its own. The sun-soaked city is renowned for its swimming, sailing, fishing, boating and snorkelling hotspots, so there’s no shortage of options to suit your ideal beach day. Cottesloe Beach is one of Perth’s most famous, which will come at no surprise when you bury your toes into its idyllic white sand for the first time. Its beautiful, clear waters and prime location just 15 minutes from the CBD make it worthy of the fussiest beachgoer, while a litany of local cafes and restaurants means hungry visitors are spoilt for choice.
The beauty of Perth, however, is that there are so many incredible beaches to visit. Scarborough and Port Beach are popular alternatives to Cottesloe, while City Beach’s adjoining park and playground make it the perfect spot for a picnic. Travellers who want to explore Perth’s lesser-known beaches can head to North Cottesloe, Leighton, Brighton, Mullaloo or Fremantle’s South Beach. While Perth’s shallow offshore seafloor isn’t ideal for surfing, those keen to catch some waves should head to Trigg Beach or Scarborough for the most consistent surf in the city.
Few of Perth’s iconic attractions feature as prominently as the Swan River. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a panoramic photo of the city skyline that doesn’t show off the beautiful river, whether it’s sparkling in the sunlight or reflecting the twinkling lights of the CBD at night.
The Swan River has a strong connection to the history, culture and lifestyle of Perth. At its mouth lies Fremantle Harbour, the largest and busiest general port in Western Australia and a site of historical significance, and along the river you’ll find countless yachting and rowing clubs.
Families with young children have a number of sheltered coves and beaches to choose from, including Como, Point Walter, Crawley and the many other inlets of Swan River, along with Hillarys Marina and Rockingham. While Perth’s coastal beaches are typically flat or have a gentle swell, these secluded swimming spots along the city’s iconic river have their own unique ambience and are perfect for kids. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot a bottlenose dolphin frolicking through the water! If you find yourself in Perth in late January, it’s worth knowing that Perth Water -- the section of the Swan River nearest the CBD, between the Causeway and Narrows Bridge -- is a popular spot for viewing the annual Australia Day fireworks, which sees some 400,000 people heading to the foreshore to get the best seat in the house.
If you’re ticking the items off this list in order, you’ll have already experienced the bountiful natural attractions Perth has to offer. But the city is also a thriving cultural and economic hub, and there’s no greater evidence of this than at the Fremantle Markets. The port city of Fremantle, which is part of Perth’s metropolitan area, is steeped in maritime and colonial history, and its market dates back to 1897.
Locals and tourists alike head down to the markets in droves to browse through art, homewares, trinkets, produce and fashion, and tuck into some first-class grub from one of the many food stalls. The Fremantle Markets are also an excellent place to hear the best local buskers flaunt their talent around the historic, heritage-listed building. Home-grown musician John Butler -- a Fremantle native -- has been known to throw free, impromptu concerts at the markets to pay homage to the community.
Perth is a proud sporting city and the brand-new Optus Stadium is its crown jewel. Opened in January 2018, the 60,000-capacity stadium is just a short walk from Perth CBD to the Burswood Peninsula where patrons are gifted with sprawling views of the city and Swan River. The world-class arena, also known as Perth Stadium, replaced Subiaco Oval as the host of Perth’s biggest concerts and events and is the new home of several sports teams, including the AFL’s West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers, and the Big Bash League’s Perth Scorchers. In 2018 it also hosted Perth Glory v Chelsea FC and an NRL double-header.
Given Optus Stadium’s modern facilities and the city’s proud sporting heritage, you can’t miss an opportunity to head down and catch a game. The Western Derby between arch rivals West Coast and Fremantle (April 13 and July 6) of the AFL is an unmissable spectacle that divides the city; no matter how the regular season is going for either team, it always shapes up to be an intense and captivating contest. Other notable sports fixtures for 2019 include two Manchester United exhibition matches (July 13, 17), the second game of the NRL’s State of Origin series (June 23) and the Bledisloe Cup rugby union competition between Australia and New Zealand (August 10).
For those who don’t give a hoot about sport, Optus Stadium hosts plenty of other events that’ll be sure to tickle your fancy. 2018 saw performances from Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Nitro Circus, with Eminem gracing the turf in early 2019. Heavy metal supergroup Metallica will also join the list of musicians to have performed at Optus Stadium when they hold their concert there on October 17.
Kings Park & Botanic Garden
When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, Kings Park and Botanic Garden is the perfect retreat. Explore this beautiful and rather convenient 1,000-acre oasis -- one of the largest inner-city parks in the world -- and you’ll soon forget you’re in the middle of Australia’s fourth-most populous city.
Given much of Kings Park is bushland, the area is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna and its many walking trails are a great excuse to stretch the legs. The park offers many jaw-dropping views of the city skyline, the Swan and Canning Rivers and the Darling Ranges, and the most rewarding can be found at the Kings Park War Memorial. Some of the park’s most popular attractions are the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, which takes visitors on a dream-like stroll through a canopy of eucalyptus trees, and the moonlight cinema by Lycopod Island. The park is also an abundant source of historical and cultural significance; established in 1892, it contains numerous memorials and plenty of opportunities to learn about the Indigenous connection to the area. This includes the Beedawong Meeting Place and the Aboriginal Art Gallery near the Kaarta Gar-up lookout, which displays the works of Indigenous artists from Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
If Kings Park wasn’t already an unmissable attraction, it also contains the spectacular Botanic Garden. The garden’s 42 acres of flourishing displays feature roughly 3000 of the 12,000 species of flora native to Western Australia, making it an ideal opportunity to discover the many iconic plants and flowers of Australia’s largest state. Once you’re all tuckered out from exploring the many wonders of Kings Park and Botanic Garden (and you will be!), grab a seat at one of the many cafes and eateries situated around the grounds: Fraser’s, the Botanical Cafe, the King’s Park Kiosk, Zafferano, Zamia and The Old Brewery & Riverside Brewhouse. Before you leave, be sure to drop into Aspects of Kings Park where you’ll find gift shops and galleries brimming with artworks and trinkets.
Just 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island has the pristine beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and abundant marine life you’d find on a secluded tropical island. Whether you want to stay on the island or only have time for a day trip, this little paradise in an unmissable destination on your journey through Perth’s top attractions. Rottnest -- which unflatteringly translates to “rats nest” -- was named by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh in 1696 after he mistook the island’s wildlife for rodents. The animals he spotted were none other than quokkas, the iconic, smiling marsupials adored by locals and tourists alike. No trip to Rottnest is complete without a quokka selfie!
One of the first things you’ll want to do after arriving on the island is find the perfect spot on one of its many picturesque beaches and take a plunge in the crystal clear water. Although the island is relatively small at 11 kilometres long and 4.5 kilometres wide, there are an incredible 63 beaches and 20 bays to choose from. Hire snorkelling equipment on the island or bring your own and discover the dazzling coral reefs and marine life (there are even some hidden underwater trails to be found at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay), or enjoy some diving, boating, kayaking or sailing in the sunshine.
Getting around the island is a breeze, with bikes being the preferred mode of transport. You can bring your own on the short ferry ride to the island or hire when you get there, and it’s a fantastic way to soak in the scenery and explore everything Rottnest has to offer. There’s also a hop-on/hop-off bus service that takes you around the island, and you’re free to experience the best of both worlds by leaving your hire bike at one of the 18 bus stops when you’re tired of cycling. You can also embark on free guided walking tours that take you to Rottnest’s most popular hotspots. Catch a glimpse of the island’s resident quokkas, dolphins and birds as you explore the island, and be sure to delve into the history of the area by checking out the museum, Lomas Cottage, Salt Store, Vincent Way, Pilot Boat House and the tunnels underneath the WWII gun emplacement.
Fringe World Festival
Nudity, swearing, experimental art exhibitions -- Perth’s boldest and most daring festival has it all. Originating in 2011, Fringe World Festival has grown rapidly to become the biggest summer celebration in Western Australia and the third-largest fringe festival in the world. Every year, hundreds of artists from Australia and overseas descend on Perth to put their talents on show, from shameless comedy and circus acts to burlesque and theatre shows, creating a quirky and eclectic celebration of all things alternative. The best part? Many events during the Fringe World Festival are free, while any ticketed events are well worth the asking price.
More than 400,000 people attended the record-breaking 2019 instalment which featured more than 700 shows across 130+ venues in Perth. These figures mean the festival is now 10 times bigger than it was in 2011 -- a testament to the sheer delight it brings to the sun-soaked capital. While most of the entries on our top 10 list can be experienced all year round, Fringe World Festival runs annually from mid-January to mid-February. If you’re flexible on dates, visit Perth during this four-week period and you won’t regret it!
It might seem ironic to spend your life avoiding anything that could get you into prison only to end up visiting one in your spare time, but Fremantle Prison is worth it. Built by convicts in the 1850s, the prison is one of the most iconic historical attractions in Western Australia. It played a fundamental role in the state’s growth throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and was a primary site of incarceration for nearly 140 years, complete with death row, gallows and solitary confinement.
After being decommissioned in 1991, Fremantle Prison was opened to the public and became a fascinating portal to Western Australia’s past and a confronting reminder of how criminals of the past were treated. The building is the state’s largest convict-built structure and its first to be added to the World Heritage list. Passionate tour guides reveal fascinating insights into the history of the prison by day and lead spine-chilling torchlight tours by night, with special tours of the prison’s ‘extreme heritage’ tunnels also available. There’s plenty to see at the Gatehouse alone, with the Convict Cafe, Prison Gallery, Museum, Gift Shop and Convict Depot all able to be explored free of charge.
Tucked away in South Perth just across the Swan River from the CBD lies one of Perth’s great treasures. Founded in 1898, Perth Zoo is home to a diverse range of wildlife from Australia and across the world, including African lions, Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers, penguins, zebras, rhinoceroses, sun bears, dingoes, squirrel monkeys and many more. Whether you’re in Perth with the kids or simply an animal lover, it’s the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. Wind your way through Australian Wetlands, Tropical Birds and Rainforest Retreat before trekking through African Savannah, Primate Trail and Amazonia on your journey through the world’s great biospheres.
Be sure to stop by the Wild Bites cafe for a bite to eat and coffee in the shade -- you’ll need it for a busy and rewarding afternoon spent strolling through the many other areas of the zoo. There are plenty of special events throughout the year, so keep an eye on the website to make sure you don’t miss out! And don’t forget to take a moment to learn how the team gives back through wildlife conservation and education.
With such an abundance of excellent bars, pubs and restaurants in Perth -- including our very own Heirloom -- we’ve kept them out of our top 10 so you can experience the joy of discovering them all for yourself. However, it’d be cruel of us not to mention this absolute gem, particularly because you may never otherwise find it. Huddled between street art and Chinese restaurants, you’d have no idea one of Perth’s most popular bars lies on Nicks Ln just off Roe St. Thirsty sleuths who manage to track down the venue will encounter an unmarked door, one which you might assume leads to the rear of an eatery or a shady private property and not a place to spend your evening.
But finding the door is just the beginning: it will remain shut unless you know the password, which changes every week (hint: you’ll need to check their Facebook page). Step through the doorway and your surroundings will immediately transform from an inner-city laneway to a Prohibition-era bar, named after infamous rum-runner Tony “The Hat” and brimming with more than 300 bottles of rum from every corner of the world. Take a seat at the long bar and try their famous rum cocktails; for something particularly refreshing, grab a Dark & Stormy and settle in for a great night.
Located in the heart of Perth, a serviced apartment at Fraser Suites is the perfect accommodation to experience one of Australia’s most beautiful cities. Packed with on-site services and facilities, there’s no better way to see Perth.