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The only major city on the ‘other’ side of Australia, it’s easy to forget about little ol’ Perth. Overshadowed by its extraverted siblings, Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, Perth often gets shafted when it comes to the popular tourist trail. They say, however, that the best revenge is a life well lived, and instead of shaking its fist at those showy East Coast braggarts, Perth is more than happy to keep its pristine beaches, breathtaking sunsets and wide, traffic-free roads a secret.
The capital of Western Australia contains all the essential ingredients for the perfect getaway. Unshakeably sunny weather? Check. Bustling markets? You betcha. Exquisite eateries? Done. A thriving cultural scene? Yep. Friendly, laid-back locals? You better believe it.
The most remote city in the world with a population over one million, Perth is certainly off the beaten track, but the effort to get out will be rewarded. Hugging the beautiful Swan Riveris the Central Business District, which sprawls out into upmarket Subiaco with its leafy streets, trendy boutiques and grand colonial homes. You don’t have to wander far west before stumbling onto wide, clean beaches lapped by the Indian Ocean. There’s Cottesloe with its impossibly laid-back surfer types, Scarborough with its dazzling sunsets, and off the coast of Fremantle you’ll find charming and historical Rottnest Island with its native quokkas.
With a melanoma-inducing 3000 hours of sunlight per year, Perth is just waiting for you to visit. And even if you don’t, it’ll continue to shine on without you.
Perth's Top 10
10. Perth Concert Hall This place has got some damn fine acoustics, so it’s a bit of a must. Get your philharmonic on!
5. Western Australian Museum Known for both enrichment and a rockin’ AC/DC exhibit.
9. Scitech Science is usually a snore-fest but this place makes it fun. Plenty of interactive games and exhibits for both young and old.
4. Cottesloe Beach Show off that sexy bod (or at least get a good look at some) on one of WA’s best beaches. Great for a surf ’n’ perve.
8. Adventure World WA’s biggest amusement park. Water slides and rides, anyone?
3. Perth Zoo We know you want to see those koalas and kangaroos!
7. Perth Institute of Contemporary Art Set in a heritage building, PICA both produces and presents innovative dance, theatre and art events all year around.
2. AQWA Visit this aquarium’s submerged glass tunnel, gaze up at the sharks and thank your lucky stars that you’re behind a thick layer of glass.
6. Perth Mint Watch them pour gold to create solid bars and marvel at the crazy coin collections. No guarantees about taking some samples home, though. Dang.
1. Kings Park This mammoth park has a botanical garden and loads of pretty views. A good setting for a family picnic or romantic rendezvous.
- Guildford Heritage Walk Trails – Learn the history of the city on foot.
- Perth Mint – The oldest mint in Australia and where you can learn about Perth’s gold history.
- Perth Town Hall – Built entirely by convicts, this historic building is generally open to the public in the mornings.
- Aviation Heritage Museum – Displays different planes to showcase the history of aviation in Perth.
- Western Australian Museum – Features everything from dinosaurs to aborigines.
Perth Art & Culture
- Art Gallery of Western Australia – Showcases extensive exhibits dating from 1839 to today.
- Bell Tower – The 14th-century Swan Bells ring for every coronation of a British monarch.
- Perth Concert Hall – A thoroughly modern building offering musical performances.
- Holmes à Court Gallery – A lovely gallery featuring Australian art by famous masters.
- The Butcher Shop – This hip store offers contemporary artwork and hold events from film screenings to art competitions.
- Kakulas Brothers – This store might look like it will fall down, but sells quite the variety of fruits and nuts.
- Elizabeth's Bookshops – Find second-hand and discount books, and even participate in a book exchange.
- Murray Street Mall – This pedestrianized street is lined with popular shops.
- Varga Girl – This store features new clothing by Australian designers and vintage wares.
- Hay Street – A pedestrian outdoor mall in Perth’s Central Business District.
Gay & Lesbian Perth
- Gay and Lesbian Badminton Perth – Play once a week with this social club at the Rise Recreation Centre.
- Connections Nightclub – One of Perth’s oldest and most popular gay clubs. Also the host to the Domination Fair Day Party,
- Court Hotel – A popular gay bar and nightclub that offers gay and lesbian accommodations.
- Northbridge – Home to a number of gay-friendly businesses and bars.
- Mount Lawley – Another neighbourhood known to be gay friendly with nightlife spots.
- Perth Steam Works – Relax at this gay sauna open daily.
- King's Park & Botanic Garden – Offers activities throughout the year, including events for children.
- Caversham Wildlife Park – See 200 species of animals at this private park.
- Perth Zoo – Learn about animals and visit Lily the Koala.
- Cottesloe Beach – A great place to swim and relax.
- Trigg Beach – This beach offers fine surf conditions.
- Catch a game of Australian football at the Patersons Stadium.
- Watch the Western Australia cricket team compete at WACA Ground.
- See major horse races at the “grand old lady” Ascot Racecourse.
- Schedule a horseback-riding trip with the Falcon Manor Equestrian Centre.
- Learn to surf at the Big Wave Surfing School.
Known locally as ‘Freo’, this culturally -diverse hotspot is actually a 30-minute drive southwest of Perth, but it’s well worth a visit. Grab a coffee and take a stroll through the west-end streets, where you’ll find beautiful Victorian architecture and heritage buildings. If you want to learn a little, check out both the Western Australian Maritime Museum (where you’ll discover relics and artefacts from sunken ships) and Fremantle Prison, the place to learn about convict history. On the weekend, Freemantle Markets has a wide range of stalls and a fun (albeit slightly chaotic) vibe.
The home of the WACA (where West Australians indulge their love of cricket in the summer and Aussie Rules football in the winter), it’s also Perth’s entertainment district. The Burswood Entertainment Complex houses the Burswood Casino and a bevy of bars, clubs and restaurants. Put your lifesavings on black or pretend to be cool at a hip bar packed to the brim with beautiful young things.
One of Perth’s cultural hubs. Check out the Art Gallery of Western Australia with its range of local and international art, much of it distinct to WA, while the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art provides another culture fix. Once you’re done you can remove your pretentious black beret and take in an exhibition at the museum of people watching over a good coffee at one of Northbridge's trendy day spots.
By night, Northbridge is a hub of entertainment, and you can’t stay in Perth without visiting the iconic Brass Monkey Hotel. It’s the most photographed hotel in WA (and chances are you’ll add to that statistic), but more importantly it boasts an incredible range of boutique Australian beers. The local Matilda Bay Brewery Redback Original will reaffirm your faith in the beauty of life. Even if you’re not a beer drinker, don’t leave without trying it
A 30 minute drive from the city lies a mythical land of wineries, gorgeous scenery, wine, restaurants and more wine. Swan Valley is the place to indulge in truly fabulous local produce. Hit up the Sandalford Winery, one of Australia’s oldest and largest vineyards, and sample a few (or a few more) award-wining reds and whites. Caversham Wildlife Park is also a fun attraction where you can watch native animals on their home turf while you work out which of you is sober enough to drive back to the city.
Grab a ferry from Perth to picturesque Rottnest Island ('Rotto' to the locals) and experience some of Australia’s most fascinating coral reefs and pristine beaches. We’re talking crystal blue waters and hot, white sands. The Basin and Geordie Bay are two of Rotto’s finest beaches, but the island also boasts a rich colonial, convict and indigenous history. Check out the Aboriginal Burial Ground and the Oliver Hill Battery.
Unique to Rotto is the quokka – a small, native marsupial that is equal parts rat, gremlin and adorable. Imagine a basketball covered in fur hopping awkwardly along and you’ve got a rough idea. Local legend has it that the fig trees on the island had to be removed because after their fruit dropped it would ferment and be eaten by the quokkas, who would consequently become rolling drunk. Once you’ve seen them, the image of these pint-sized fur balls barrelling down Rotto’s many hills will tickle your funny-bone the entire trip back.
Perth Eat & Drink
Melbourne and Sydney may earn the hats and stars, but Perth has a unique and innovative foodie circuit that constantly dishes up superb fare to rival that of its big-smoke rivals. West Australia has some of the best local produce in the country, and meaning Perth’s restaurants can lay on the taste without the pretence or the pricetag of other major cities. If you get a chance, make sure you try marron – a land-dwelling shellfish and WA specialty with a delicate, lobster-like taste.
Hog’s Breath Café An Australian fave! Fill yourself to the brim with a mammoth steak and chips.
150 East Riverside Bar and Restaurant Sit in comfy-yet-chic armchairs and enjoy a fine menu and wine selection.
Sail and Anchor If you love your amber ale, you won’t want to leave this joint. Awarded ‘2010’s Best Beer Venue’, this place churns out beer showcases and beer-themed events every week, with a hearty menu to go with them.
C Restaurant Dine in the sky atop the iconic St Martin’s Tower, with a fancy menu to match the fancy view. Brilliant for high tea if you’re feeling decadent.
Boatshed Located on the picturesque Coode St Jetty, there’s less seafood on the menu than you’d expect, but every item is sourced from the highest-quality produce. Try the scallops and pork belly for a delicious marriage of land and sea.
Gold This is for the Perth glam-squad. If you want premium liquor and premium eye-candy, this is your place. A mix of local glitterati and cashed-up miners looking to spend their hard-earned pay-packets.
China Town Kitchen A cosy, basic but very popular eatery catering to each and every Chinese-food fetish.
Dear Friends Award-winning food on a fairytale premises. The degustation will blow your mind and test the strength of that top button.
Pagoda Restaurant and Bar Sumptuous eats to the smooth and sexy notes of jazz. This historic building once provided accommodation to WWII soldiers.
The Loose Box A slightly creepy name for this gem doesn’t take away from the fine, French cuisine. It’s said to be suited to Perth’s more adventurous tastes so bring an open-mind. Mundaring
While pint-sized fish may sound like an odd premise for a festival, the Fremantle Sardine Festival held every January is a guaranteed good time. Set along the Fremantle Esplanade, it will satisfy every foodie and rumbling tummy. We’re talking heaps of food and drink stalls, and freshly-caught sardines served every which-way and ready for devouring.
Early February to the beginning of March each year sees the Perth International Arts Festival. Venues across the city get crammed with people wanting to experience the most electric and energetic displays of music, theatre and dance from both local and international stars.
Acrobats and gigantic puppets come together at the Fremantle Street Arts Festival in late-April. This unique experience brings cool people from across the globe and showcases awesome physical feats, comedy, circus-like tricks, sexy cabaret and more. This is a family-friendly festival with plenty of kooky characters mixed in.
Kings Park sees The Perth Wildflower Festival reels in thousands of green-thumbs and flower-fanciers every September – and has done for over 40 years. Not only are the flowers exceptional, there are lots of activities for the whole family for those who may not be quite so enamoured with the blooming beauties.
The Perth Royal Show in early October is an extravaganza of fun. Rides, games, great food and drink, art exhibits, animal shows, showbags galore and much, much more. Everyone’s covered at this place. Expect to be shatteringly exhausted by the time you’re done.
When To Go
Perth enjoys sunny weather most of the year and has a relatively mild winter. You won’t find a Perth local admitting that, though, and the spectacle of a city wrapping itself in scarves and overcoats when the mercury drops below a hardly chilly 18°C (64°F) is a sight to behold.
Summers can bring intense heatwaves and humidity, so the most comfortable months to visit are September to November and March to May.
Spring (September-November) averages around 24°C (75°F); summer is (December to February) a sweaty 30°C (86°F); autumn is a pleasant 21°C (70°F); and winter is 16°C (61°F).
What To Miss
Feeding quokkas on Rottnest Island. If caught, you’ll get an instant fine. Plus, some of them can be a little antsy and may attack – and imagine having to ’fess up in your travel journal that a football-sized marsupial ran you off the island.
Perth in summer, if you hate heat. 42°C (108°F) days are common and the humidity will turn you into a sweaty ball.
While Perth is a relatively safe city, suburbs like Cloverdale, Balga and Armadale can get a bit dodgy after dark. They’re mostly residential-based, though, so you’re not missing much if you stay away.
Transperth provides all your bus, train and ferry needs. Plus, they have SmartRider passes (multiple tickets on the one card) to give you more bang for your buck.
If you want to re-visit the ’90s, the Swan River has a great path on its banks that just begs to be roller-bladed on.
Taxis in Perth are reliable, clean and pretty standard in terms of fare. A trip from the airport to the city shouldn’t cost more than $30.
The state capital of Western Australia lacks the buzz of Melbourne or the grand allure of Sydney but wins out in the charm department. With rapid population growth and urban development, Perth is a pretty Swan River city. The attractive skyline, visible from the water, is a wonderful vision to behold. A near vicinity to the Indian Ocean and Darling Scarp geological formation provides the area around Perth with majestic scenery. Indeed, because of sheer geographic chance, the city is a hub of industry, most notably in the realms of mineral sands, gold, nickel, diamonds and iron ore. As a result of the influx of outside investment, Perth is a diverse and vibrant city, with a quarter of urban inhabitants from overseas.
In relative isolation - the next city with a population over 1 million people is a 20 hour drive away – Perth better have some decent attractions in order to entice visitors. Thankfully, it has many that qualify as world class.
A cursory tour of Perth must begin with the Cultural Centre. The area defines a group of attractions in the Central Business District of premier tourist importance. They include the Art Gallery of Western Australia, State Library, State Records Office, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and Western Australian Museum. For art exhibits, interdisciplinary projects and various installations, the venues within the Cultural Centre represent the best of Perth.
A great distance from Sydney and Melbourne - and well outside powerful spheres of influence - Perth has a distinct and proud identity as a result. Evident in the music and theatre scene, the city is alive with great performances. The Concert Hall, home of the city Symphony Orchestra, and Exhibition Convention Centre both host major concerts. With a casino and several nightclubs, Burswood Entertainment Complex on Swan River is a popular draw as well. For sophistication however, head to His Majesty’s Theatre, to see either the wonderful Western Australia Opera or Ballet.
The Big Day Out is the most famous festival in Australia. With stops all over the country, the outdoor music celebration has come to Perth since 1993. The festival features a diverse line-up of acts that hail from around the globe and range from alternative to heavy metal, electronic to acoustic.
The V Festival is another major Australian music tour that stops in Perth. With Virgin as the primary corporate sponsor, the festival draws some major names in international pop music.
A hotbed for athletic pursuits, with a surfeit of important events throughout the year, Perth is a paradise for rugby, cricket, soccer and tennis lovers. With teams or tournaments for each, there is never a bad time of year to be a sports fan in the city. The Swan River and other areas in particular, host a number of water sports events, from the Gravity Games to the Avon Descent.
Perth has a Mediterranean climate, with enviable conditions throughout most of the year.
- Winter (June to August) 6-21°C
- Spring (September to November) 9-27°C
- Summer (December to February) 15-33°C
- Fall (March to May) 9-30°C
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