Perched on the silky indigo waters of the Swan River and blessed with an idyllic turquoise coastline, the natural beauty of Perth is unquestionable.
Yet the capital of vast Western Australia isn’t simply resting on its laurels as the purveyor of sun, sand and surf. There has been a push in recent years to bring entertainment, quality food and dining, and cultural kudos to a city that is sometimes overlooked as a travel destination.
Today, Perth delivers the perfect balance of cultural activities, historical experiences, fabulous food and stunning landscapes that will leave you wishing you could stay longer.
Enjoy this city guide to the top things to do in Perth.
Need to know
Capital of: Western Australia
Base yourself: City
Average hotel price per room/per night: $180AUD
You can’t go wrong with: Modern Oz, European, steak, seafood, pub grub
Best breakfasts: City, West Perth
Great coffee: City, South Perth
Top spots for a beverage: Elizabeth Quay, Northbridge, Cottesloe Beach, Hillarys Boat Harbour
Must-do: Rottnest Island, river cruise, beach day
Best times to visit
The dry days of spring and summer are ideal for the array of outdoor activities on offer in Perth. From September to November, rainfall is rare and temperatures hover around the low 20s. A light jacket may be needed in the evening. From December to February temperatures reach the high 20s to mid 30s, eased by the afternoon ocean breeze nicknamed the ‘Fremantle Doctor’.
In autumn and winter, pack wet weather gear. Expect temperatures in the high teens in autumn, holding above 10 degrees in the evening. From June to August, thunderstorms often strike and daytime temperatures can drop to single figures.
Perth’s city centre effortlessly blends the old and the new. Historic and contemporary architecture sit side by side. It’s a very enjoyable city just to stroll and take it all in.
Start your visit by downloading a Heritage Perth map to view mid 19th century buildings around town. Visit the medieval-inspired Barracks Arch, Perth Town Hall – the only town hall in Australia built by convicts, His Majesty’s Theatre – the only Edwardian theatre in Australia still standing, the Perth Mint and The Cloisters – the first secondary school built in Western Australia. The fabulous Art Gallery of Western Australia is a must for culture vultures.
Listen to our tips for Talking Travel on top things to do in Perth:
The Elizabeth Quay development on the Swan River was unveiled to the eager public in early 2016 to fanfare and laser lights. The swirling metallic footbridge is the centrepiece of the precinct and connects the promenades, island and ferry terminal.
The development is designed to reconnect locals with the Swan River through the expansion of waterfront entertainment and dining options, and is still evolving with plenty more soon-to-be-opened restaurants, hotels, bars and cafes.
Perth’s inner city might not seem like an obvious hub for street art, but if you walk around for long enough, you’ll begin to recognise murals by the same artists in the most unexpected of places. In particular, keep an eye out for the bold and colourful work of local artist Anya Brock and the distinct marine animals by Amok Island. Don’t miss the kaleidoscopic mural by Brooklyn-based artist Maya Hayuk in Wolf Lane.
Perth has a thriving live music scene that supports young local acts of all musical genres. Popular venues include the Rosemount Hotel, The Bird, The Ellington Jazz Club and Mojos Bar. There are also some unique outdoor venues such as the Belvoir Amphitheatre and the Red Hill Auditorium, which sees bigger bands gracing its stages.
For top things to do in Perth that will introduce you to the region’s rich history, step back in time in Fremantle.
Take a river cruise on the magnificent Swan River to Fremantle and immerse yourself in this historic port city. Visit The Roundhouse – the oldest public building in WA, and Fremantle Prison, which housed notorious criminals such as bushranger Moondyne Joe.
Rottnest Island is easily accessible by ferry from the city of Perth or Fremantle, and is one of the region’s premier tourist destinations. However, it has a grim history. From 1838, Indigenous men were imprisoned on Rottnest and their labour was used to construct most of the buildings on the island. Five of the 3,700 men who were imprisoned there are believed to have been hanged, while 364 perished from disease or malnutrition.
The discovery of gold deposits in WA in the 1880s triggered an influx of ambitious immigrant prospectors from Asia, Europe and America, eager to make their fortunes. Dusty mining towns became booming metropolises overnight. Learn more with a visit to the fascinating Western Australian Museum.
There are lots of delicious dining precincts to explore during your stay in Perth.
Hillarys Boat Harbour is one of the city’s best known coastal dining destinations and offers something for everyone – whatever the time of day. After a brisk walk along the beach or a ride along the dedicated cycle paths, settle in for breakfast at Dome Café. Then unleash the kids at The Great Escape where they’ll have access to trampolines, waterslides and wacky putt, while you browse the boutiques and souvenir shops. Enjoy fresh fish and chips for lunch on the grassy areas or by the beach.
Afterwards, treat yourself to Cold Rock ice-cream before meandering along the boardwalk and climbing the lighthouse for the impressive views. End the day with an intimate dining experience at Ishka at The Breakwater, with its focus on local produce.
For top-notch dining in the city, try COMO The Treasury – a luxury hotel housed in the recently renovated State Treasury Building. The Victorian building is architecturally magnificent and the detailing inside is exquisite. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, take some time to meander through the heritage surroundings and eat in one of the fine-dining restaurants. Long Chim by David Thompson – Thai cuisine chef extraordinaire – is highly recommended.
In a nod to the excellence of the local drinking scene, Perth’s inner city has been home to Australia’s best small bar for the past two years running, with the Mechanics’ Institute in Northbridge and Varnish on King in the city both taking out gongs. Discover more eclectic options on a guided walking tour.
Alfresco beach dining is a popular trend in Fremantle, with The Shorehouse, Odyssea Beach Café and Bib and Tucker all taking full advantage of their magnificent seaside locations, and combining unrivalled views with sophisticated menu options.
There are plenty of options for a spot of retail therapy during your visit to Perth.
Suburban trains stop directly at the entrance to WA’s largest shopping destination – Lakeside Joondalup – with over 300 retailers, including department stores, specialty shops, food outlets and more.
If high-end fashion is more your style, take a trip back to the early 20th century by visiting the restored shopfront facades along King Street in the CBD. Be greeted by doormen and peruse the luxury goods at Hunt Leather, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany & Co and Sass and Bide.
For a more casual ambience, be tempted by farm-fresh local produce, authentic Aboriginal art and souvenirs, and trinkets on sale from over 150 indoor stalls at the Fremantle Markets.
Wind down with a beer and a bite to eat on the balcony of the Sail and Anchor pub and brewery, which overlooks the talented buskers who perform Saturdays and Sundays outside the market.
There’s no shortage of top things to do in Perth that will sooth the body and soul.
Spectacular beaches all along the coast offer the opportunity to laze away a day or two as the waves gently lap at the shore. Cottesloe Beach is one of the most popular.
Closer to the city a riot of colour from wildflowers in bloom enhances a leisurely stroll through Kings Park – which is one of the biggest inner-city parks in the world – eclipsing even Central Park in New York City. This is a must on any list of top things to do in Perth. The expansive green space is made up of lush gardens, manicured lawns and scrubland bush, and is home to lots of native flora and fauna.
Spend hours wandering the extensive nature trails and admiring the colourful wildflowers, honour our fallen service personnel at the State War Memorial, and climb the spiralling DNA tower to follow the popular Federation Walkway treetop walk. The highlight is the impressive panorama of the sleek Perth skyline.
Venture 30 minutes east of the city into the hills and indulge in a decadent spa treatment at Hidden Valley Eco Lodges and Day Spa, before exploring the spectacular surroundings of Kalamunda with its charming village vibe.
Often overshadowed by renowned Margaret River, the Swan Valley is actually WA’s oldest wine-producing region and is only a 25-minute drive from the Perth city centre and a 10-minute drive from the airport. The region is compact and follows a winding loop, along which you’ll find myriad award-winning wineries, restaurants, breweries and distilleries. Wine tours from the city are a great way to explore.
Make a pit stop in the charming colonial village of Guildford. Along with Perth and Fremantle, Guildford was one of the founding towns in the region.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Perth? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Tania Connolly is a freelance writer living in Perth. She has travelled to Bali twice and the Gold Coast three times – once with friends, then for her honeymoon and more recently with her young children. The family regularly drives to beautiful Coral Bay twelve hours north of Perth – staying overnight in Kalbarri or at the Billabong roadhouse, with lunch stops in either Geraldton or Dongara. They have ventured into Exmouth and Yardie Creek for day trips. The family has also spent quite a bit of time south of Perth in Margaret River, Dunsborough, Busselton and Bunbury, visiting wineries and searching caves.
About the writer
Camha Pham is a freelance writer and editor who has recently swapped the cosmopolitan laneways of Melbourne for the sunny beaches of Perth. Struck with the wanderlust bug from an early age, she has travelled extensively through Asia, Europe and parts of North America. When she isn’t travelling, Camha is planning her next adventure and loves nothing more than the thrill of exploring new destinations and learning about other cultures. Travel highlights to date include chasing waterfalls in enchanting Iceland, hot-air ballooning over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia and accepting a surprise marriage proposal from her now fiancé at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto!