Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Western Australia © Tourism Australia
Perth suburb guide
Beachside lifestyle or inner-city buzz? In Perth, you can have both.
By Ute Junker
It might seem like a simple choice. Perth is known for enjoying more sunny days than any other Australian capital city, so why wouldn’t you base yourself at one of its inviting white-sand beaches, such as Cottesloe?
However, inner-city neighbourhoods such as Northbridge and Mount Lawley offer an equally alluring experience, with their wine bars and museums, sprawling parks, restaurants and cutting-edge street art.
Whatever type of stay or play you’re after, this guide will help you find your perfect base.
Where: City centre, Northbridge, Mount Lawley
Expect the unexpected in Perth’s most central neighbourhoods: heritage buildings reinvented as restaurants, laneways that double as alfresco bars and metres-high murals decorating the sides of office blocks. A natural escape is never far away, with the tranquil Swan River and the sprawling Kings Park easily accessible from the heart of town. For a dose of culture, head to Northbridge, where Perth’s best museums, theatres and galleries congregate. William Street is the heart of the Northbridge neighbourhood, lined with cocktail bars, Asian eateries, vintage stores and gay bars. Neighbouring Mount Lawley has a more intimate village vibe, with the heritage buildings lining Beaufort Street now housing an inviting array of shops and bars.
Just how many top-notch bars and eateries can you fit under one roof? In the city centre, the beautifully restored State Buildings are home to some of Perth’s best restaurants – including Long Chim’s authentic Thai cuisine and the rooftop fine diner, Wildflower – but the place to be for breakfast is Petition Kitchen. Enjoy a flavour-packed Asian dinner at the sleek Apple Daily Bar & Eating House – the raw kingfish, teamed with caviar, wasabi and ponzu, goes nicely with a watermelon piñata cocktail made with gin and green chilli.
Take a wander down to the lively Elizabeth Quay by the river, or stroll along quirky King Street where the high fashion boutiques at one end give way to hip speakeasy bars at the other. Join a walking tour through Kings Park with Nyungar Tours to learn more about Perth’s Aboriginal history, or explore the colourful street art and pocket bars tucked away down Wolf Lane and Howard Lane in the city centre. For more art encounters, head to Northbridge to check out the Aboriginal art collection – one of Australia’s finest – at the Art Gallery of WA. For a spot of window shopping, stop by Mount Lawley’s Beaufort Street’s boutiques (homewares fans will love Kartique and Empire Homewares).
Sip a nightcap at one of Northbridge’s bars before laying your head at the minimalist-chic Alex Hotel, or check in to elegant city centre hotel, COMO The Treasury. Just one block north, there’s also the playful QT Perth.
Where: Fremantle, Cottesloe, Scarborough
Any local will tell you: the beach is an integral part of daily life. Perth residents often start the day with a quick dip and return at the end of the day to watch the sun sink into the horizon from one of the beachside bars, as Perth’s beaches are easy to get to from the city. But there is more to its most well-known trio coastal hubs – Fremantle, Cottesloe, Scarborough – than just swimming, surfing and socialising, especially in historic Fremantle.
Thirty minutes’ drive south-west of the city centre, Fremantle (that’s “Freo” to locals) is home to the lively Fremantle Markets, a thriving craft beer scene (Little Creatures tops the list of local favourites) and some of Perth’s best cafés and restaurants such as Bread in Common. Over in Cottesloe, 15 minutes from the city centre by public transport, foodies can enjoy the delights of The Cottesloe Beach Hotel, a favourite weekend hangout with locals.
Cottesloe ticks all the boxes for a relaxing day out, with its gentle ocean swell and picnic-ready lawns shaded by Norfolk Pine trees. Snorkellers head to the reef at the north end to explore sponge gardens, shellfish and weedy sea dragons. In March, the foreshore hosts the popular Sculpture by the Sea exhibition.
The equally-accessible Scarborough Beach draws not just swimmers but also kite surfers and wind surfers who take advantage of the afternoon breeze. There’s also an open-air public pool, an amphitheatre that hosts live events and sunset markets held every Thursday in summer – or you can just kick back in one of the cafés and bars overlooking the beach.
Fremantle's inviting beaches such as Port Beach and South Beach are often overshadowed by this historic port’s other attractions. For those with a taste for architecture, stroll around the local landmarks including the World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison (the torchlit tours are spine-tingling) and the state’s most-visited museum, the WA Shipwreck Museum. The port is also home to a multitude of galleries including relics from ships wrecked along the coast, and the reconstructed remains of the Batavia. The survivors of this ship, wrecked in 1629, endured horrific trials that remain notorious to this day.
In the heart of Fremantle, the Hougoumont Hotel (named for the last ship to transport convicts to Australia) offers an innovative boutique sleeping option honouring Freo’s seafaring past. For something completely different, you can even sleep in a former prison cell at the Fremantle Prison YHA. Further north, enjoy ocean views from The Cottesloe Beach Hotel, or relax by the lagoon-style pool at Scarborough’s Rendezvous Hotel.