Perched on the silky indigo waters of the Swan River, and blessed with an idyllic turquoise coastline, the natural beauty of Perth is unquestionable.
However, the capital of vast Western Australia isn’t simply resting on its sun, surf and sand laurels. There’s been a strong push in recent years to bring quality entertainment, top notch dining, and cultural kudos to a city that is sometimes overlooked as a travel destination. The result is a captivating mix of innovative urban experiences and a revitalised CBD.
Enjoy this Perth travel guide.
Need to know
Capital of: Western Australia
Base yourself: City
Average hotel price per room/per night: $180AUD
Best breakfasts: City, West Perth
Great coffee: City, South Perth
Top spots for a beverage: Elizabeth Quay, Northbridge, Cottesloe Beach, Hillarys Boat Harbour
Must-dos: Hop on/hop off bus tour, Swan River cruise, Fremantle day trip, Swan Valley wine tour
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 tours & experiences
Perth’s city centre effortlessly blends the old and the new.
Historic and contemporary buildings sit comfortably side by side. It’s a very enjoyable city just to stroll and take it all in. Start by downloading one of the City of Perth’s self-guided walking tour itineraries and take in heritage highlights like 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 in Northbridge is a must-visit for culture vultures. The gallery is particularly well known for its holding of Western Australian Indigenous art, and for its early to mid 20th century modernist works.
Listen to a podcast of our tips for 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.
Museums dedicated to cities are not uncommon (the Museum of London and the Museum of the City of York Museum set the gold standard), but they’re bit of a rarity in Australia. Brisbane has one and so does Perth. The Museum of Perth has just relocated to The Esplanade opposite Elizabeth Quay in the Atlas Building. It offers a changing schedule of specially curated presentations on various aspects of Perth’s history.
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.
There are plenty of opportunities to step back in time in and around Perth.
Take a river cruise on the magnificent Swan River to Fremantle and explore this historic port city. Visit the Round House — 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 in Western Australia 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 about the gold rush at the fascinating Western Australian Museum (currently closed for renovation).
Hillarys Boat Harbour is one of Perth’s most popular dining precincts.
It offers something for everyone — whatever the time of day. Take a brisk morning walk along the beach, then settle in for breakfast at Dome Café. Afterwards, unleash the kids at The Great Escape. 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 the use of 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 restaurants.
Watch our guide for Sky News Business Class to top places to eat and stay in Perth:
Adam Ford, editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and host of Tour the World, regularly joins the team at Sky News Business Class to discuss top travel destinations around the world. In this interview Adam checks in from the Western Australian capital Perth.
Down in the shadowy catacomb-like basement you’ll find celebrated Long Chim — the Thai-style eatery by celebrated Aussie chef David Thompson that has taken Perth by storm. Long Chim serves up sensational Bangkok street food inspired fare. Essential spices are brought in from Thailand and mixed with the freshest local produce. The restaurant now has siblings in Sydney and Melbourne and while Long Chim Perth may occupy one of the poshest addresses in town, it remains a very accessible dining experience — and one that everyone will enjoy.
Situated on the rooftop of COMO The Treasury, Wildflower is probably one of the most culturally significant eateries to be found anywhere in Australia. Based on the six Indigenous-recognised local seasons, the menu of native modern Australian makes use of both cultivated and foraged ingredients, and combines them into edible works of bush-inspired art. Highlights include the emu smoked over jarrah embers with black truffle and charcoal crisps, and the finely balanced southwest marron with river fern, preserved pumpkin, finger lime, brown butter and black rice crisps.
If you can’t decide what to try, order the five course tasting menu. A superb wine list, impeccable service and superb views all play their part perfectly to ensure your experience at Wildflower is truly sublime. Don’t miss this.
Located immediately north of the Perth CBD, the Northbridge recreational precinct is home to a number of Western Australia’s state-owned cultural institutions, along with a plethora of restaurants, cafes, wine bars and nightspots. This is normally the go-to spot for great Asian, although the talk of the town at present is fried chicken rather than Chicken Chow Mein. Meat Candy on William Street serves up southern-style fried chook that transcends anything finger-licking good by a Kentucky country mile. It’s a bit of a hike from the city centre, but after all that exercise you can consume your fried feast guilt free.
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.
Back in 2007, the Western Australia State Government began issuing small bar licences, and the result is a highly diverse inner-city small bar scene that continues to go from strength to strength. Two Feet & a Heartbeat offers visitors an evening walking tour to three diverse venues, including the newly opened Bar Sequel on Hay Street (a former Chinese restaurant rumoured to have fronted an illicit gambling operation), slick and stylish Andaluz Bar & Tapas on Howard Street, and super cool Cheeky Sparrow off Wolf Lane. The venues change regularly. Alternatively, you can just head out and see where the wind takes you.
Cafe culture is also booming in the Western Australia capital. Here’s a selection of cool cafes that are well worth seeking out during your visit.
La Veen Coffee
Looking for a place to rest your feet after shopping in Perth’s garment district? Head to La Veen Coffee situated at the end of King Street — Perth’s destination for high-end fashion like Louis Vuitton, Bally, Miu Miu and Chanel, and local favourites Zomp, Cult Status and Alpha 60. La Veen offers Five Senses coffees, along with an impressive array of baked goods and more substantial fare. The combination of exposed brick and sleek tongue and groove timber provide a nod to this café’s historic location. 90 King Street, Perth
The Secret Garden Café
Situated at the back of Wolf Lane, entering The Secret Garden Café is something akin to entering your hippie aunt’s kitchen: polished concrete floors, whitewashed brick walls, potted succulents and colourful chairs. There’s also teak outdoor seating covered with umbrellas should the sun manage to peek into this alley location festooned with street art. With free wi-fi and mood music, The Secret Garden Cafe is the perfect place to work away from the office, should the need arise. Wolf Lane, 329 Murray Street, Perth
Tucked away in a graffiti emblazoned lane in the heart of the city, Toastface Grillah is best known for killer toasted sandwiches, but it also does sensational coffee. Don’t miss the chance to kick back at this Perth institution and enjoy sanger combinations like brie cheese, zucchini and prosciutto (Danny Zuccho) or blue cheese, pear and lime chutney (Pear Grillz). Grand Lane, Perth
The bright yellow stools at DuoTone act as a beacon for those in need of a good coffee. DuoTone deftly delivers 7 Seeds coffee to its communal tables. There’s also a window nook where you can curl up with a few of the modern upholstered throw pillows, sip your latte and dream that this is actually your kitchen. Try the minimalist menu of well thought out breakfasts on offer, along with other gourmet delights like locally produced Bahen & Co chocolates. 313 Hay Street, East Perth
Nestled at the back of a gritty arcade on the CBD side of William Street, is the unassuming Babooshka Bar. Offering Blacklist specialty coffees, this snug space is an urban oasis for the all-day breakfast. Babooshka has also set the bar in Perth for extreme shakes, including the widely Instagrammed triple donut chocolate coated bacon shake. Its close proximity to the CBD, means that you can stumble to Babooshka bleary-eyed and get your caffeine fix in minutes. 189 William Street, Northbridge
Mary Street Bakery
Walking into Mary Street Bakery at Highgate is like entering the warehouse apartment you’ve always dreamed of owning. Hipster waitstaff serve up coffees made with beans from local artisan roaster Pound. If it’s busy (which often happens on weekends), queue up along the bakery case. You’re sure to spot (and probably buy) a legendary salted caramel doughnut. 507 Beaufort Street, Highgate, and three other locations
Gordon Street Garage
As the name suggests, the Gordon Street Garage had a previous life as an automobile workshop. It’s fitted out with industrial light fittings, exposed HVAC, and has retained the original architecture of the garage including the skylights. With its peppy music and relaxed vibe, you can choose indoor seating or opt for the smaller outside area. Gordon Street Garage serves Mano a Mano beans, harvested from ethically sourced micro lots and roasted on site. It’s also open in the evening, with a full dinner menu worth the walk from the city. 16 Gordon St, West Perth
Cafe reviews: Gayann Walker
Shopaholics are well catered for in Perth.
Very conveniently, there’s a train staton (Joondalup) right at the entrance to Lakeside Joondalup — Western Australia’s largest shopping centre. It’s home to more than 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 retail ambience, head for the famous Fremantle Markets. Be tempted by the farm-fresh produce and tasty treats, fashion and accessories, Indigenous art, and souvenirs and trinkets on sale from the many indoor stalls.
Wind down after your market shopping spree with a cold beer and a bite to eat on the balcony of the Sail and Anchor pub and brewery. It overlooks the street where talented market buskers perform Saturdays and Sundays.
No Perth travel guide would be complete without mention of the city’s spectacular beaches.
Cottesloe Beach is probably the most popular, but there are plenty of others to choose from — including Scarborough Beach, Sorrento Beach and City Beach.
Closer to the city centre, a riot of colour from wildflowers in bloom enhances a leisurely stroll through Kings Park. It’s one of the biggest inner-city parks in the world (eclipsing even Central Park in New York City). 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.
Wander the extensive network of nature trails and honour our fallen service personnel at the State War Memorial. You can also climb the spiralling DNA tower and follow the popular Federation Walkway treetop walk for amazing views of the sleek city skyline.
Often overshadowed by renowned Margaret River, the Swan Valley is actually Western Australia’s oldest wine-producing region. It’s located just a 25-minute drive from Perth’s 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.
Peppers Kings Square Hotel
Located on the northern edge of Perth’s city grid, opposite the Kings Square development (currently under construction) and just a stone’s throw from the William Street flyover to food and nightlife precinct Northbridge, Peppers Kings Hotel Square has brought boutique luxury hoteling to the Western Australia capital.
The compact foyer area combines industrial chic and neutral tones. Reception and the bar are one and the same. The ground floor also houses The Stage Bar and Grill, which offers a modern menu of delicious delights.
Up on the guest floors you’ll find spacious suites with large picture windows, contemporary finishes, minimalist bathrooms and mini bars stocked with local specialties. The complimentary brownies on arrival are a nice touch. As night falls, the city lights turn on a stunning show — best seen from the south-facing side of the building. It’s well worth requesting a city view room.
Over in West Perth, opposite the green oasis that is Kings Park, Tribe Perth is completely redefining what a hotel stay means. There’s a touch of the Austin Powers about this hip haven and from the moment you walk in the front door you are in for something special. While Tribe Perth appears to be targeted squarely at today’s young urban traveller, any age group will enjoy the experience.
Upstairs, each guest room comes complete with the supremely comfortable signature Tribe bed (if you love the throw, you can pick one up at the front desk), contemporary finishes, glass-walled bathrooms, smart TVs and free Wi-Fi.
Downstairs, the communal space is designed to draw guests out of their shells. It includes a lounge area, a small library, work zones and the Tribe bar and dining room, which offers an a la carte menu with a handful of well executed mains (try the delicious fish and potato pie), and a selection of readymade meals and salads. The boutique breakfast of baked eggs, French-style pastries and freshly squeezed OJ is totes da bomb.
Do you have any tips to add to our Perth travel guide? 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.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.
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