Forget just getting out of Perth; a trip to the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park will have you feeling like you’ve landed on a different planet! The golden landscape, complete with its scattering of oddly-shaped limestone pillars, is both eerie and captivating — especially in the late afternoon as the pillars cast their shadows over rippled sand. Don’t forget your camera!
Combine this outing with some sandboarding at Lancelin. The crayfishing town is home to Western Australia’s biggest dunes and sliding down the pure white slopes is an exhilarating experience that allows you to work up an appetite for an indulgent seafood lunch. The Lobster Shack beside the beach at nearby Cervantes serves up the best crays, and provides an informative tour of the lobster processing plant.
Driving from Perth will take you two and a half hours — longer if you stop to spot wildlife and take in the scenery (including the stunning wildflowers from September to November).
Just 25 minutes’ drive from Perth, the Swan Valley is a favourite weekend getaway for locals and the perfect destination for foodies all year round. This is the oldest wine region in Western Australia, and you’ll find some of the state’s best wineries here — including Mandoon Estate and Sandalford.
But it’s not all about the grapes. The area also boasts boutique breweries, distilleries and cideries and the valley’s rich soil and climate ensure a variety of freshly grown produce. Follow the new Fresh Seasonal Produce Trail to buy direct from the farm gate, lunch at local restaurants and stock up on gourmet and artisan goodies at places such as Lamont’s, Whistler’s Chocolate Company and The House of Honey.
History lovers will also appreciate this trip; the charming town of Guildford with its colonial buildings, museums and antique stores, is the gateway to the Swan Valley.
Only 50 minutes by car south of the capital, Mandurah has a special place in the hearts of Perthites. Many of us have fond childhood memories of time spent in this family-favourite coastal town. Fantastic beaches, an estuary twice the size of Sydney Harbour, and the waterways of the Peel-Harvey region are all on offer, and leisure activities include boating, water sports, wildlife spotting, fishing and crabbing, and even the chance to swim with dolphins!
After all the excitement on the water, take some time to relax beside it. Mandurah’s redeveloped foreshore is a great place to take a stroll along the boardwalk, picnic in the park, explore the vibrant cultural hub, or simply sit back and enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the many seafood restaurants and bars. Cicerello’s and Redmanna are two top options.
For serious seafood lovers, a visit in March is a must for Mandurah’s annual Crab Fest celebration.
Another popular escape from the city is the hills area within the Darling Range — located 45 minutes’ drive to the east of the city. The town of Kalamunda is a must-visit. It captures the feel of country life with quaint village-style pubs, cafes and art galleries (such as the Zig Zag Gallery), as well as a weekly farmers market in its central mall.
Nature lovers will enjoy the area’s national parks. There are over 40 hiking and biking trails that range from easy to difficult, including the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail, Lesmurdie Falls Bush Walk, and the start of one of the world’s greatest walking trails — the Bibbulmun Track. The gardens at Araluen Botanic Park and the scenic lookout at Mundaring Weir are also worth a visit.
What do haunted hospitals, giant animals sculpted out of straw, and motorcycle festivals all have in common? You’ll find them all in York — an hour and a half east of Perth by car. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit quirky to visit, this town nestled in the Avon Valley should suit.
Established in 1831, York is the oldest inland settlement in Western Australia and is known as one of the best preserved 19th century towns in the country. As such, there are many old buildings to see including the Town Hall, the Old York Courthouse, the Residency Museum and the Old Hospital (rumoured to be haunted by the ghosts of past patients).
York also hosts two annual festivals: York Festival (where last year, animals were sculpted from straw by artists from Japan using a technique known as ‘wara’) and York Motorcycle Festival, where enthusiasts and exhibitors gather for displays and events.
A little further from Perth (about three hours’ drive south) but well worth the journey is Margaret River. Internationally renowned as one of Australia’s best wine regions, Margaret River is also home to pristine beaches, epic surf breaks, untouched forest and amazing local produce.
Enjoy lunch at award-winning wineries such as Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix or my personal favourite — Amelia Park (the cellar door and restaurant are both stunning!). Afterwards, sample local sweets from Simmo’s Ice Creamery, Temper Temper or The Margaret River Chocolate Company.
The region’s natural beauty will have you wanting to get out and explore. Walk sections of the Cape to Cape Track (which follows the coast between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin), cycle along the Wadandi Track, hit the surf, or hire a kayak or paddle board at the river mouth and simply drift along while enjoying the view.
Located approximately 420 kilometres from Perth in Western Australia’s South West region, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk is an internationally-recognised nature-based tourist attraction. Plenty of visitors do it on a day trip from the Western Australia capital, so keen are they to see the magnificent tingle trees that give the valley its name. The name ‘tingle’, believed to be derived from an Aboriginal word, includes several varieties of ancient eucalypts. Tingles are one of the tallest trees in Western Australia and can grow to a height of 50-metres-plus.
On arrival at the Treetop Walk, you’ll have the opportunity to stroll along a walkway 40 metres above the ground and admire the magnificent tingle forest canopy and stunning views. The 600-metre-long walk is suitable for all ages. There’s also a walking trail through the forest at ground level.
Save some time to pop into the Wilderness Discovery Centre. It has information boards on some of the wildlife species that live in the area. There’s also a gift shop and a small kiosk that sells cold drinks and ice creams. Oh, and if you feel like a bit of fun, check out the car in the hollow of a tree. It’s a great photo opportunity!
Another of regional Western Australia’s must-sees that is doable as a day trip from Perth is Wave Rock. This fascinating ancient geological rock formation, which is believed to be around 2,500 million years old, rises 15 metres above the surrounding outback plain. It looks like a surfer’s perfect wave, literally frozen in time. Getting to Wave Rock from the city takes around four hours. You’ll pass through small rural communities and magnificent farming country planted with wheat and canola. The plains seem to stretch to infinity beneath the endless blue sky.
If you happen to be travelling in wildflower season (September and October), expect to see the landscape carpeted in rich colour!
Ace Rent a Car offers car hire from Perth Airport, which means you’ll have the convenience of a vehicle from the moment you land in the Western Australia capital.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best day trips from Perth? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Tourism Western Australia/Jean Leggat. Additional images: Bigstock
Bonita Grima is a Perth-based freelance travel writer with a background in television and radio production in Australia and the United Kingdom. She believes travel to be a powerful tool that can challenge, inspire, educate and encourage empathy by providing a window into the worlds of others. After years of living and exploring overseas, she is now back in Perth, rediscovering and enjoying the West Australian lifestyle and all that it offers. When not working on a story, you’ll find her at the beach, on a hiking trail, drinking great coffee, discovering what’s new about town, and dreaming up her next adventure!