Australia’s most westerly state capital is closer to Singapore than Sydney. Unsurprisingly, it’s viewed as the distant, lonelier relation, far removed from the glitz of the east coast. But Perth doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, it seems to revel in being the rebel, enjoying its label as the Cinderella City.
Founded in 1829, it took a gold rush in the 1890s to send Perth’s population soaring.
As it has grown the city has spread along the banks of the Swan River. It now mixes a laid back reputation with a high rise centre of glass and steel that betrays the fact that this is the centre of Australia’s massive mineral and mining industry.
It’s hugely diverse. Half the population was born outside Australia, which gives Perth a truly cosmopolitan feel, although everyone seems to adopt the traditional outdoor Perthite (or ‘Sandgroper’) lifestyle.
When to visit
Summers (December to February) are hot and dry. 31°C is the average but can soar beyond 40° even in April. Thankfully the cooling Fremantle Doctor can take the edge off.
- Winters tend to be mild and wet, but we’ve been when it’s just plain cold so pack a sweater and waterproof jacket.To avoid the extremes we’d suggest visiting in spring or autumn, though you might prefer to miss the boisterousness of the Schoolies. Then again, you might want to join in. You can check Western Australia holiday dates here but remember not all states are the same.
Things to do in Perth:
The Mt Eliza area of Perth (it’s really more of a hill) was an important meeting place for locals before Perth even existed. The indigenous Nyoongar have used the area for thousands of years. So it’s perhaps appropriate that King’s Park was sited here – because it’s where the city still meets.
Filled with native plants, memorials, birds, playgrounds and picnic areas, it’s worth visiting all year round, and especially for these attractions:
- DNA Tower Climb: On a clear day you can see the ocean from the top of this tower, which resembles the double-helix of a DNA molecule. There are 101 steps, with rest points along the way.
- Lotterywest Federation Walkway: A ground and canopy level walk through the Botanic Garden. Genuinely thrilling – especially when you hit the heights. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, you’ll find plenty of walks, including free guided ones, in the park. Guided walks meet at the Aspects of Kings Park on Fraser Avenue.
- Festivals and concerts: The Perth Festival of live music, exhibitions and workshops happens every September, with numerous seminars and free events.
In summer and autumn Kings Park is a popular venue for theatrical productions, and concerts and shows by national and international acts.
- Moonlight Cinema, Synergy Parkland: Pack a picnic and enjoy an open air movie. Book Moonlight Cinema tickets here. You’ll also find info on what you can and can’t take. We’d suggest packing some insect repellent, a torch and a warm sweater.
- Ceremonies: Kings Park is where Perth assembles for its national occasions. On Australia Day (January 26), a 21 gun salute is fired at noon from the State War Memorial. There’s a firework display too. There are also ceremonies on ANZAC Day (April 25), and Remembrance Day (November 11).
Swan Bells, Barrack Street, blue CAT bus route
What do you do when the weight of your church bells threatens to pull down your bell tower? In the case of St-Martin-in-the-Field in London, you send them to Perth as a bicentennial gift. The tower that houses them was built especially and its three viewing levels give you a panoramic view of the city and the Swan River.
The exhibitions on the lower level are fascinating, and if you visit between noon and 1.00pm on any day except Wednesday and Friday, you’ll hear the bellringers practising.
This is also the departure point for river cruises, ferries to the Perth Zoo and South Perth, and the ferry to Rottnest Island. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants too.
Perth Mint, Hat Street, red CAT bus route
See gold being poured (guaranteed to stir the megalomaniac in you), buy gold gifts and even invest in gold at the Mint. The guided talks are breezy and informative, and we’d recommend the Devonshire afternoon tea (you have to pre-book) as an ideal way to round off of a day of opulence.
WACA: Western Australia Cricket Association Museum, (corner of Nelson Crescent and Hale Street, red CAT or yellow bus route)
They’ve been playing cricket in Perth since 1835 and the WACA Museum and ground tours do a comprehensive job of finding the inspiring moments in almost 200 years of cricketing derring-do.
Across the road from the WACA. You’d never think this haven of tranquillity, with its carefully clipped lawns, lily-strewn pools and replica of Kensington Gardens’ statue of Peter Pan, was once a clay pit and brick works. It’s an awful lot prettier like this.
It seems odd to find an island of grey kangaroos in the city, but here they are, along the Causeway in East Perth, smack in the middle of the Swan River. You can do the whole island in an hour or so, and then head back to the nearby shops. Keep a look out for the statue of Yagan, former leader of the Nyoongar.
Perth Cultural Centre, (blue CAT route)
Cafes, shops, galleries (many of which sell original art and artefacts by aboriginal artists) and restaurants jostle for the spaces in between the centrepiece attractions of the cultural centre. These are:
- The Western Australia Museum, James Street: A rolling programme of exhibitions supplement permanent displays covering everything from aboriginal history and culture, to marine life and dinosaurs. Entry is free although you are encouraged to make a donation.
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Roe Street. Feature exhibitions by national and international artists and collections of Western Australian art covering historical, contemporary and indigenous pieces. The gallery also specialises in 20th Century British and Australian art and sculpture.
The Perth Cultural Centre is also home to the State Library, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art and the Blue Room Theatre.
The hostels and budget hotels of Northbridge are ideal for backpackers, as are the clubs, pubs, bars and cafes nearby.
Perth Zoo, (bus route 30 or 31, or a short walk from Mends Street ferry)
On the banks of the Swan River and only 5 minutes from the CBD of the city. Fun and informative tours, including behind the scenes tours.
Other Perth attractions:
Walks: There’s lots of good walking to be done in the city. Our favourite is the popular Swan River walk. The city has helpfully produced a map featuring a number of others.
Watersports: Find hire facilities along the foreshore of the Swan River for sailing, windsurfing and canoeing.
Mount Lawley: There’s often live music at the Astor Theatre, and an enticing collection of boutiques and delis.
Subiaco: This suburb is where Benedictine monks from Italy settled in 1851. The Italianate architecture provides the perfect backdrop for the museum, Regal Theatre and Subiaco Arts Centre. Close to Kings Park.
To Perth from the airport
The airport is roughly 10km/6 miles east of the city.
Car rental companies have service desks on the ground floors of both airport terminals.
Taxis will usually ask for the fee in advance.
The Perth Airport Shuttle services both terminals (unlike the regular CityBus service) and will drop you off at your accommodation in the city or in Fremantle. There’s no need to book your journey from the airport in advance, it’s decent value, and you can pay the driver direct in cash, or use your card at the kiosk on the terminal forecourt. You’ll need to book your return journey in advance, though.
Getting Around In Perth
Bus: The CAT (Central Area Transit) buses in Perth city centre are frequent and free.
Ferries: Depart Barrack Street Jetty and cross the river to Mends Street Jetty every 25 minutes(ish) throughout the day.
Cycling: It’s a pretty flat city, so cycling doesn’t have to be for fitness fanatics only.
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