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When most visitors concentrate on visiting the Eastern states of Australia, the impossibly large and dry Western coast deserves a mention. Western Australia accounts for almost half of the continent and is a worthwhile destination, especially for a road trip. It was my first port of call when I moved to Australia and I was amazed to discover the variety of wildflowers. To help you plan your West Australian adventure, I have a list of the best places to explore on your Perth itinerary.
Where to Stay in Perth?
Perth is quite spread out so it’s hard to pick a place where you will be really close to everything. Perth accommodation is varied and in recent years, many boutique hotels have appeared.
Perth city accommodation used to be either really daggy or very expensive, it’s a bit more varied now.
Having lived there years ago, I think the best places to stay in Perth are either by the beach or around the city, near restaurants and public transport. There are also some good options in slightly more residential areas.
To help you find the right accommodation in Perth, I have selected a few options in the chapters below.
Ask any Perth-born person and they’ll tell you that the best beaches in the world are in Perth. Is it an exaggeration? Locals take that statement pretty seriously and I tend to believe them. Going to the beach is one of the most natural things to do in Perth.
Being on the Indian Ocean, Perth has plenty of pristine, seemingly endless beaches. Overcrowding is much less of a problem on Perth beaches than it is in other places like Sydney, for example.
White sand, turquoise blue waters, the best beaches in Perth are a perfect postcard! Here is a selection of my favourite Perth beaches…
Cottesloe Beach has a slightly up-market, turn-of-the-century feel thanks to the iconic Indiana Cottesloe Beach. Right on the beach, you can grab a bite to eat or have a drink after your swim.
With its grand old homes on the waterfront, Cottesloe is a mix of
City Beach always gets my vote. Safely tucked between two rocky points , City Beach is home to families, groups of friends and visitors.
There is a comfortable and somewhat sheltered grass area where you can set up your picnic and what the sun go down. Western Australia has some spectacular sunsets!
Floreat Beach is a wilder beach, tucked behind the sand dunes. It is less crowded than Cottesloe Beach and therefore very popular with the locals.
If you are looking for places to explore in Perth, Floreat Beach is where to feel far away from it all…
Continuing north along West Coast Hwy, Scarborough Beach is the fun beach of Perth, with restaurants, night clubs and now a public swimming pool.
It is as gorgeous as the other Perth beaches and the seafront has been redeveloped in the last few years. I lived in Scarborough for several years, it’s more polished than it was but the pub and some of the cafes haven’t changed much!
Scarborough Beach is a great place to stay in Perth. There are still some self-contained apartments in need of a renovation but the Ramada Scarborough Beach is a new, modern hotel just a stone’s throw from the beachfront.
Further north, Trigg Beach is popular with surfers and has some beautiful sand dunes.
Most Perth beaches are open onto the Indian Ocean and the surf can be dangerous. Yanchep Lagoon is an hour’s drive from Perth CBD but is sheltered by a reef. There is still an open beach but if you have young children or want to go for a snorkel, Yanchep Lagoon is an excellent choice.
Yanchep Lagoon colours are so stunning they probably feature in every Perth travel guide!
Most Perth tours include a stop at Elizabeth Quay, which has been redeveloped not so long ago. Close to the CBD, it’s growing into a pleasant night spot with a microbrewery, an ice-cream parlour and gardens.
The views on the Swan River are beautiful but the area has yet to grow a real personality in my opinion. Still, it’s better than what the Perth waterfront was a few years and it’s a departure point for the ferry to Rottnest Island.
Elizabeth Quay comes to life at night and I would recommend the Melbourne Hotel just nearby, for modern comfort in a grand old pub.
The Bell Tower
The Bell Tower is a pointy glass spire fronted by copper sails, a little reminiscent of the sails of the Sydney Opera House. It contains the royal bells of London’s St Martin in the Fields, the oldest one dating back to 1550.
The bells were gifted by the British Government to Western Australia in 1988. The Bell Tower was subject to much controversy when it was first built but today it’s a familiar silhouette on the Perth skyline.
There is a 360-degree view from the top, however the tower feels as though it’s drowning in new buildings due to the Elizabeth Quay redevelopment.
If you are interested in visiting the Bell Tower, you can book a guided tour. Check out additional information and current tour prices.
In the east side of the city, Claisebrook is a charming little cove with a few cafes and restaurants. You can easily get there from the city on the CAT bus or by train. Dolphins sometimes visit the cove at night and there is a footpath snaking around the edge of the Swan River, with views over the Matagarup Bridge and the Optus Stadium.
If you are keen to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Fraser Suites Perth are just across the river and offer perfectly appointed apartments.
The Matagarup Bridge
The Matagarup Bridge is a walkway linking East Perth to Burswood, enabling easy access to the Optus Stadium. Its elegant shape is reminiscent of two swans facing each other.
It’s a nice walk from Claisebrook to the bridge and then on to Burswood.
The Optus Stadium
As is true in the rest of Australia, sporting events play an important part in the Perth lifestyle. The sunny and dry climate lends itself very well to outdoor activities and sports. The new Optus Stadium is Perth’s pride and joy in that regard and combines events around Aussie Rules, Soccer, Cricket and Rugby.
So this the place to be for sporting events when you visit Perth!
The Swan River
Before taking the name of Perth, the settlement established in 1829 was known as the Swan River Colony. The Swan River is a beautiful body of water that runs all the way to Fremantle.
One of the things to do in Perth is to take a cruise on the Swan River. Check out additional information and current tour prices.
Alternatively, it’s a good place for boating and fishing. and there are numerous picnic spots along its banks.
In Perth, the Swan River is the boundary between “north of the river” and “south of the river”. People in Perth often introduce themselves as being from one side or the other…
Dolphins are also a fairly common sight in the Swan River so keep your eyes peeled…
Kings Park is one of the places to explore on your Perth itinerary. The park is on the western side of the city, overlooking the Swan River. There are no less than 400 hectares of land, ranging from bushland to manicured laws.
The Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens contain some 2000 plants, all indigenous to Western Australia.
The State War Memorial
Australia loves to celebrate its fallen soldiers
Kings Park is a great place for picnics, or you can enjoy the café, or Frasers, the more upmarket restaurant. The gift shop is actually excellent for books and quality Australian souvenirs.
This quirky construction is not as busy as some other parts of Kings Park. The views from up there go far…
This walkway is a relatively recent addition to Kings Park and a donation is encouraged. Apart from the views over the Swan River and the Brewery, I really liked the walk amongst the treetops.
On my last visit there, I found there was a great contrast between the bushland and the more manicured areas of the park. But that’s the charm of Kings Park, so I encourage you to explore beyond these landmarks.
The Blue Boatshed
You may have encountered it on social media or a Perth travel guide, the blue boatshed at Crawley is a bit of an icon…
The boatshed was first built in the 1930s and has been renovated since. It’s a simple building and it makes a beautiful photography spot, especially at dawn or dusk, when the colours over Matilda Bay evolve from orange to purple…
The blue boatshed is off Mounts Bay Road however there is nowhere to stop nearby. The best access is through Kings Park. If you stop at the Swan carpark, you will find a footpath through the bush and stairs taking you down to Mounts Bay Road. There is no pedestrian crossing though so be careful when you cross the road.
Black swans are an emblem of Western Australia. One of the places to visit in Perth to see black swans is Lake Monger. You can find several spots to stop along the way and you are guaranteed to see black swans and other water birds. No feeding the birds though!
One of my favourite Perth stories from my time there is when cars stop altogether on the road along Lake Monger to allow the ducks to cross… It happens often in spring when ducklings are around…
Sunday Sesh at the Pub
This West Australian tradition is nowhere near as popular in Perth as it is in the Eastern States. The “Sunday Sesh” is all about socialising with friends around a drink or two, often watching a sports game.
The Sunday session happens in many of the large pubs around Perth and it should really feature in your Perth itinerary, especially in the old pubs around Fremantle.
Coming from Paris, it took me a little while to get my head around this tradition but it’s really nice and relaxing…
The port city of Fremantle is only 15 km south of the city and one of the best day trips from Perth. Fremantle is many things to Perth: a historical and cultural centre, an active harbour and a great place for nightlife.
Many things in Fremantle will feature on your Perth itinerary and you shouldn’t miss it!
Fremantle is also a great place to stay and has some good accommodation options. I especially recommend the Hougoumont Hotel as it’s in the heart of Fremantle and is a stylish mid-range option.
The Fremantle Prison
Free settlers established the Swan River Colony in 1829, although Albany in South West WA was founded a few years before. Life was a struggle for many years. Convicts were finally sent to the colony in 1850 to help with building the infrastructure. One of the first buildings was the Prison. Initially designed to house convicts, the building became a high-security prison until it was definitely closed in 1991.
You can choose various tours at the Fremantle Prison, depending on which era is of interest. You can combine a tour of the Prison with the local tram. Check out additional information and current tour prices.
Understandably, the stories you will hear at the Fremantle Prison are not the most fun, but the visit will open your eyes onto Australia’s convict history. Indeed, this essential aspect of Australia’s history started in the neighbourhood of The Rocks in Sydney.
Fremantle Prison YHA has accommodation available. It’s a backpackers hostel so it’s very reasonably priced and some rooms even have ensuites.
The Fremantle Markets
This was one of my first
Much to my delight, the French crèperie is still there!
Fremantle still has a strong seafaring identity, which makes it quite different to the rest of Perth.
Both museums are worth visiting. The Maritime Museum has a great collection of boats hanging from the ceiling… And the Shipwrecks Museum tells the sad yet fascinating story of the Batavia…
Fremantle has a strong Italian heritage and the main street bears the nickname of Capuccino Strip, as a homage to the cafés and restaurants lining it. Enjoy a pizza and an espresso! Seafood is also high on the menu.
Fremantle Street Art
With its quirky and slightly hippy identity, Fremantle is a fantastic street art centre. You can easily spend a bit of time in South Fremantle to find some spectacular wall art.
Fremantle is that great you should dedicate sufficient time to visiting it as part of your Perth itinerary. You can easily spend two days enjoying its relaxing vibe.
In case you haven’t seen enough Perth beautiful beaches, then consider a day trip to Rottnest Island. This beautiful island, very popular for family holidays is great to explore on bicycle. Similarly to Kangaroo Island and Bruny Island, although on a much smaller scale, wildlife is plentiful. Rottnest Island is home to fur seals, dolphins and the famous quokkas.
The island was named by the Dutch explorer De Vlamingh, Rottnest meaning “rat’s nest” in Dutch.
Rottnest Island is a great day trip from Perth, taking a ferry from Fremantle or Elizabeth Quay.
If you want to stay overnight on Rottnest Island, I can suggest Karma Rottnest but make sure you book early in high season, the island gets pretty booked up.
Perth Street Art
This is a development since I lived there, but the Perth street art scene is incredibly lively and could almost rival that of Melbourne. From beach suburbs to residential neighbourhoods and even more rural communities, street art is everywhere and you could easily dedicate a whole day of your Perth itinerary to finding striking murals and little gems.
The suburbs of Claremont, Highgate, Leederville, Maylands, Mount Hawthorn, Northbridge, Victoria Park, Subiaco and Perth CBD have some fantastic examples of street art.
You can take a 2-hour walking tour of Perth CBD to take in the inner city art. Check out more information and current tour prices.
One of the most entertaining places to visit in Perth, whether you are young or not so young, is Perth Zoo. I remember it as a revelation in my early Perth days. Having grown up in France, I was used to cramped and dirty spaces, with seemingly unhappy animals looking forlorn in small cages.
On the contrary, Perth Zoo lies on over 40 hectares of land, with plenty of space for animals. If you are keen to learn more about Australian wildlife, the zoo is one of the best places to visit in Perth, as they are involved in many animal conservation projects.
The Best Time to Visit Perth
Perth has a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers, and mild and wet winters. Don’t forget that the seasons are inverted compared to the Northern Hemisphere, so January in the middle of summer!
As a former resident of Western Australia, I would say that the best time to visit Perth would be spring or autumn. I still love summer, but temperatures above 35° are not uncommon.
The main thing you will notice when you visit
Perth is a great starting point for a road trip in Western Australia. On my last trip, I visited WA’s South West, Albany and Kalbarri and I will have more great articles soon!
Have you been to Perth? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!