Discover the laid-back charms of Western Australia's capital city before enjoying an island getaway surrounded by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean.
By Sue Gough Henly
What to expect
- Dine at Perth's edgy restaurants and cafés
- Kick back on Rottnest Island's beautiful beaches
- Meet the world’s cutest marsupial
- Time: 3 days
- Distance: 115 kilometres (75 miles)
- Transport: bus, boat and train
- Price: $$$
Perth is known for its sunshine, natural beauty and relaxed pace. Explore Kings Park, watch the sunset from Cottesloe Beach, then hit Northbridge's trendy bars. Explore Australia's best-preserved 19th-century port streetscape in Fremantle and enjoy Indian Ocean seafood and craft beers. Discover Rottnest Island by bike, boat or on foot. Swim from perfect white beaches, snorkel with tropical fish and get up close to a cute quokka.
Day 1: Get to know Perth
Take a free city bus known as CAT (Central Area Transit), jumping off at attractions such as the Perth Cultural Centre (to see Aboriginal art at the free Art Gallery of Western Australia, explore Urban Orchard and check out the edgy exhibitions at the free Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts), the Perth Mint (it exhibits Australia’s largest gold nugget collection) and The Swan Bell Tower (the largest musical instrument in the Southern Hemisphere). Explore the modern Elizabeth Quay with its waterpark, playground, and cafés and check out designer labels along King and Queen streets. Or, let history come to life with an Aboriginal guide. Tour the quay with a Nyungar guide who peels back the layers of this urban landscape to reveal its ancient history. Then, wander along St Georges Terrace to see the clever integration of Perth’s historic and contemporary buildings and have lunch at the multi-level Print Hall at Brookfield Place.
Head over to Kings Park one of the world’s largest inner city parks offering splendid views over the Swan River and city skyline. Marvel at the native wildflowers blooming in spring (September-November), stroll across the Federation Walkway, and check out the giant boab tree transplanted from the Kimberley. Afterwards, go for a swim or stroll along Perth’s famous Norfolk-pine framed Cottesloe Beach and enjoy a sunset drink at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel. Explore the trendy inner-city neighbourhood of Northbridge popping into bars and restaurants such as the rooftop Mechanics Institute, laneway Ezra Pound or Mexican La Cholita. Spoil yourself and stay at Australia’s hottest luxury hotel, Como the Treasury, set inside a heritage-listed building.
Day 2: Fremantle fun
Cruise down the Swan River to the charming port of Fremantle, its streets filled with stories of convicts, maritime heroes, murderous mutineers and pioneers. Taste the past on a tour of Fremantle Prison, the state's first jail and largest convict built structure, and check out Western Australian Maritime Museum, overlooking the Indian Ocean, which features the winning America's Cup yacht, Australia II, an Oberon class submarine and the 17th century Dutch Batavia shipwreck.
Have lunch at Bread in Common, an inspired bakery, restaurant and bar in a converted warehouse before checking out the rollicking Fremantle Markets (Friday to Sunday) where you can shop for Aboriginal artworks and local produce, then browse the bookshops and boutiques along nearby South Terrace where local artists and musicians create a carnival atmosphere on weekends. Go on a pub crawl to check out Fremantle’s craft brewers such as The Monk Brewery and Kitchen and the heritage-listed Sail & Anchor Hotel. Finish at the large and bustling Little Creatures Brewery on Fishing Boat Harbour. Dine on fish and chips at Kailis' Fish Market Café or watch the sunset over dinner at the Bathers Beach House. Catch a train and you will return to Perth in 25 minutes.
Day 3: Island life
Take the ferry to Rottnest Island (or as the locals say, Rotto) just 18 kilometres (11 miles) off the coast where there are 63 beaches, 20 bays and no cars to spoil the tranquility. Rent a bicycle at Rottnest Island Peddle and Flipper, which also rents all sorts of boards, wetsuits and snorkelling gear, and ride four kilometres (2.5 miles) through the island’s centre to Oliver Hill, where huge guns and underground tunnels were installed last century. Take in the sweeping views and walk to the salt lakes. Spot diverse birdlife and quokkas, the island’s cute native marsupial, which has become something of an Instagram star. Cycle north 3.4 kilometres (2.1 miles) to Little Parakeet Bay for a swim in the clear, protected waters. Enjoy a relaxed seafood lunch at Geordie’s Café and Art Gallery. If you would rather go by bus, jump on and off the Islander Explorer Bus or take the 90-minute Discovery Tour, which circumnavigates the island and gives information about wildlife and the island's cultural and historical heritage.
If you’d like to explore underwater, follow a snorkel trail at Parker Point or over various shipwreck sites. Scuba dive in Fish Hook Bay, where coral reefs make the water a patchwork of different shades of blues. Surf at Strickland, Salmon and Stark Bays. Go birdwatching for wedge-tailed shearwaters, osprey, sacred kingfishers, singing honeyeaters and sandpipers and watch the sunset from Wadjemup Lighthouse or just beachcomb your way around the island. You can also take an Eco Express bus, boat or snorkel tour and there is also sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling and walking tours. From September to November, whale watching trips along what's called "the humpback highway" (between Fremantle and Rottnest Island) are offered.
If you're keen to spend a bit more time on the island, book into Discovery Rottnest Island's eco-friendly glamping tents. They're ideally located just behind Pinky's Beach, giving you more time to explore the island and soak up the tranquility. Otherwise, take the ferry back to Perth to dine at vibrant Brika, with its Greek share plates served up in a rustic setting. Explore Perth’s laneway bar scene at places such as the Wolfe Lane Bar, Cheeky Sparrow, and Helvetica.
Consider extending your stay and drive three hours south of Perth to the beachy wine region of Margaret River or head north on the Indian Ocean Drive to swim with whale sharks, humpback whales, turtles and manta rays.
Make your trip happen