Embrace the best of both worlds in Perth, where soft-sand beaches and scenic parks meet a thriving metropolis of small bars, creative restaurants and curated street art.
By Fleur Bainger
Nature and urban life exist in harmony in Perth, on Australia's west coast. Here, where the locals soak up more sunny days than in any other Australian capital city, you can visit nearby Rottnest Island, walk in leafy Kings Park and experience Swan Valley's vineyards, Aboriginal art, food and history. For local culture, wander the nearby city of Fremantle's winding portside streets, Perth city centre's museum and gallery precinct or peel back the layers of this urban landscape with an Aboriginal guide.
- Take a dip in the glassy waters of the Indian Ocean at Cottesloe Beach
- Meet the world's cutest marsupial and selfie sensation, the quokka, on Rottnest Island
- Discover laneway bars in multicultural Northbridge
How to get there
International flights arrive directly into Perth Airport from many global transit hubs. From the airport it's an easy 35-minute taxi or coach ride to the city centre.
Things to do and top attractions in Perth
Explore the Australian bush while still in the city
Kings Park is one of the biggest city parks in the world – bigger than Central Park in New York City – yet it's right in the heart of Perth. It grants epic views of the Swan and Canning rivers and the skyscrapers perched on their banks. Astonishingly tall, white-trunked trees line the entrance road to this inspiring patch of green, which has a treetop bridge, bushland trails, manicured gardens and cafés.
Discover Perth's Aboriginal history through an urban tour
Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences offers walking tours around the city's easily accessible waterfront. As you stroll the ancient land, Nyungar guide Walter McGuire shares unique insights spanning culture, bush food and spirituality along the way. Learn of the six seasons observed by Aboriginal people, see how they relate to the edible plants still growing in Perth, and hear spiritual legends that teach listeners what to be careful of and how to live well. By the end of the walk, you’ll glimpse Perth through Aboriginal eyes, as it was before European settlement. A three-hour extended cultural tour includes hands-on elements such as paint-making using natural ochres and handling hunting weapons and other traditional implements.
Swim at Perth's beaches
Expect to have your breath taken away at any of the beaches lining Perth's long coast, where pale sand meets turquoise water so transparent you can see your feet, no matter how deep you swim. Visit Cottesloe Beach, with its cafés and Norfolk pines, Mettams Pool for its snorkelling reef, Leighton Beach for its blindingly white sand and rip-free waters, Trigg Beach for its family-friendly grass area and huge playground, and North Beach for its charming rock pools. Each March Sculpture by the Sea transforms Cottesloe's foreshore into an incredible outdoor gallery.
Snap a quokka selfie
Only 19 kilometres (12 miles) from Perth, car-free Rottnest Island takes you back in time to when life was relaxed and simple. Along with more than 60 beaches, coral reefs harbouring tropical fish, and history-packed buildings, Rottnest is home to an Instagram star, the friendly quokka, a marsupial found only in Western Australia. The friendly creature has been dubbed “the happiest animal in the world”, comically pulling cheeky grins and adorable smiles for the camera. Because quokkas are so trusting, care needs to be taken when posing with them for a photo. Using a selfie stick is a good idea, allowing you to stay a respectful distance.
Wander through Fremantle's historic streets
A 30-minute drive south of Perth’s centre is the port town of Fremantle, which blends interesting colonial remnants with the famous Little Creatures Brewery. Visit Fremantle Prison and take one of its eerie tours, and explore seafaring history at the terrific Maritime Museum and Shipwreck Galleries. Grab a casual lunch at colourful Yocal, have dinner at Bread in Common and stay at boutique Hougoumont Hotel.
Experience wine and Aboriginal culture in the Swan Valley
Western Australia's oldest wine region, the Swan Valley, is home to 40 vineyards, many with cellar doors offering tastings of the region's warm-climate wines. You can drive, cycle or use the Swan Valley Explorer, a convenient hop-on/hop-off bus that loops its way around the valley stopping in at many of the region's famous eateries, wineries, breweries and distilleries. Swan Valley is also home to Caversham Wildlife Park, where visitors can meet koalas and feed friendly kangaroos, and Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery, which offers an easily accessible and fascinating introduction to Aboriginal art, food and culture. View the works of Noongar artists, create your own artwork or enjoy a bush tucker talk and tasting.
Explore Perth's urban villages and small bar scene
Minutes from the city centre, the neighbourhood of Leederville buzzes with eclectic boutiques and alfresco cafes, while hipster Mount Lawley does fantastic bar-bistros, edgy restaurants and fun-loving pubs. Stylish Subiaco offers designer clothing shops and a brilliant Saturday farmers market. Northbridge is best for locally created fashion, its Chinatown restaurants and multicultural food stores. The small bar movement in Perth has exploded in line with the hip street murals that are often found on the bars' outer walls. Hop from moody Ezra Pound bar to live music haunt The Bird. Then whisper a password to the doorman at speakeasy bar Sneaky Tony's (follow the link to the bar's Facebook page to get the password for the day).
Indulge in modern culture in Perth's core
The Perth Cultural Centre delivers a fantastic one-stop culture fix. Delve into an extensive collection of Aboriginal art at the free-entry Art Gallery of Western Australia before roaming the Urban Orchard, a city garden of leafy greens and herbs. Nearby, The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) delivers free, modern exhibitions.
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