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Situated near the southwestern tip of Australia and some 2131 kilometres from the nearest state capital, Perth is one of the most isolated cities on the planet.
But don’t let Perth’s remote location fool you: it’s widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in Australia. Stunning beaches, year-round sunshine, a thriving culture and countless natural attractions help make this city a perfect destination for any traveller.
Whether you’re solo-tripping, a family with young children or travelling with your best buddies, there’s no lack of ways to enjoy this much-loved city. From food to nature and activities, here are our top 10 things to do in Perth.
The port city of Fremantle is steeped in maritime and colonial history, with its market dating back to 1897. From homewares to local produce and first-class grub, Fremantle Markets (main photo) today sees droves of both tourists and locals visiting daily to fill their tummies and do some shopping.
The Markets are also an excellent place to hear the best local buskers flaunt their talent around the historic, heritage-listed building. Home-grown musician John Butler – a Fremantle native – has been known to throw free, impromptu concerts at the markets to pay homage to the community.
Huddled between street art and Chinese restaurants, you’d have no idea one of Perth’s most popular bars lies in the middle of the city’s Chinatown. Thirsty sleuths wanting to track down Sneaky Tony’s will have to identify its unmarked door amongst the many along the lane. The challenge doesn’t end there: you’d need to provide a password to enter the speakeasy bar, which changes weekly. (Hint: try Facebook!)
Once through, you’ll be welcomed to a Prohibition-era bar, named after infamous rum-runner Tony “The Hat” and brimming with more than 300 bottles of rum from every corner of the world. Take a seat at the long bar and try their famous rum cocktails.
If heading out is not an option for the night, eat in or grab drinks at Heirloom Restaurant & Bar. Located ideally in the heart of the CBD, you get to enjoy a lovely view of the Swan River too as you wine and dine.
Few of Perth’s iconic attractions feature as prominently as the Swan River; you’ll be hard pressed to find a panoramic photo of the city skyline that doesn’t show off the beautiful river. The Swan River also has a strong connection to the history, culture and lifestyle of Perth. At its mouth lies Fremantle Harbour, the largest and busiest general port in Western Australia and a site of historical significance.
Dotting the river are countless yachting and rowing clubs, as well as many sheltered coves and beaches. While Perth’s coastal beaches are typically flat or have a gentle swell (wave), these secluded swimming spots along the city’s iconic river have their own unique ambiance and are safe for kids. On a good day, you might even spot a bottlenose dolphin frolicking through the water!
If you find yourself in Perth in late January, check out Perth Water, the section along the river just adjacent to the CBD. It is a popular spot for viewing the annual Australia Day fireworks on January 26, which sees some 400,000 people heading to the foreshore to get the best seat in the house.
Tucked away in South Perth just across the Swan River lies one of Perth’s great treasures. Founded in 1898, the Perth Zoo is home to a diverse range of wildlife from Australia and across the world, including African lions, Sumatran tigers, the vulnerable sun bears and dingoes, Australia’s native wild dog.
Whether you’re in Perth with the kids or simply an animal lover, it’s the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. Wind your way through Australian Wetlands, Tropical Birds and Rainforest Retreat before trekking through African Savannah, Primate Trail and Amazonia on your journey through the world’s great biospheres.
Be sure to stop by the Wild Bites cafe for a bite and coffee in the shade. There are plenty of special events throughout the year such as Father’s Day and Halloween. Don’t forget to take a moment to learn how the team gives back through wildlife conservation and education.
The sheer number of world-class beaches in Perth deserves a top 10 list of its own. The sun-soaked city is renowned for its swimming, sailing, fishing, boating and snorkelling hotspots, so there’s no shortage of options for a beach day.
Cottesloe Beach is one of Perth’s most famous. Its beautiful clear waters, white sandy beaches and prime location just 15 minutes from the CBD make it worthy of the fussiest beachgoer, while a litany of local cafes and restaurants mean hungry visitors are spoilt for choice.
Not just a popular destination for swimming and surfing, you’ll also find many locals enjoying a game of beach cricket here.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Explore this beautiful 1,000-acre oasis – one of the largest inner-city parks in the world – and you’ll soon forget you’re in the middle of Australia’s fourth-most populous city.
The park offers stunning views of the city skyline, the Swan and Canning Rivers and Darling Ranges; the most rewarding views can be found at the Kings Park War Memorial. Don’t miss popular attractions like the Lotterywest Federation Walkway – which takes visitors on a dream-like stroll through a canopy of eucalyptus trees – and the moonlight cinema by Lycopod Island.
The park is also an abundant source of historical and cultural significance. Established in 1892, visitors are able to learn more about aboriginal art traditions and culture through the numerous memorials and art pieces by indigenous artists from Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
For a truly unforgettable experience at the park, make time to visit the spectacular Botanic Garden within. The Garden features roughly a quarter of the 12,000 flora species native to Western Australia packed together in a flourishing display spanning 42 acres.
After a long day of exploring, grab a seat at one of the many cafes and eateries situated around the grounds. There are also gift shops and galleries brimming with artworks and trinkets, perfect as gifts or a memory from your day here.
Just 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island has the pristine beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and abundant marine and wildlife you’d not expect to find on a secluded tropical island.
Rottnest – which unflatteringly translates to “rats nest” – was named by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh in 1696 after he mistook the island’s wildlife for rodents. The animals he spotted were none other than Quokkas, the famous smiling marsupials adored by locals and tourists alike.
After getting that perfect quokka selfie, cool off in the clear waters along the island’s many beaches and bays. Popular water activities here include snorkelling, diving, kayaking and sailing. While the island is car free, a hop on/off bus service is available to take visitors around. If you’re looking to get the family moving, free guided walking tours and bike rentals are also available on the island.
It might seem strange to visit a former prison, but the unique history of the iconic Fremantle Prison makes it well worth your time.
Built by convicts in the 1850s, what was then known as the Convict Establishment played a fundamental role in the state’s growth throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It was the primary site of incarceration for nearly 140 years, complete with death row, gallows and solitary confinement. It is the state’s largest structure built by convicts and the first to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site – an important title that has helped boost Perth tourism.
The prison was opened to the public after being decommissioned in 1991 and became a fascinating portal to the state’s past and a reminder of how criminals of the past were treated. Passionate tour guides reveal fascinating insights into the history of the prison by day and lead spine-chilling torchlight tours by night, with special tours of the prison’s ‘extreme heritage’ tunnels also available.
If a tour inside is not for you, there’s still plenty to see outside at the Gatehouse, with the Convict Cafe, gallery, museum, gift shop and convict depot all open to be explored at no charge.
Originating in 2011, Perth’s boldest and most daring festival, the Fringe World Festival, has grown rapidly to become the biggest summer celebration in Western Australia and the third-largest fringe festival in the world.
Every year, hundreds of artists from Australia and overseas gather from January to February to put their talents on show. From shameless comedy and circus acts to burlesque and theatre shows, the festival sees a quirky and eclectic celebration of all things alternative.
The best part? Many events during the four-week long festival are free, while ticketed events are usually well worth their price.
This world-class area is the city’s newest crown jewel. Opened in January 2018, the 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium is just a short walk from Perth CBD to the Burswood Peninsula where patrons can enjoy sprawling views of the city and Swan River.
With the city’s proud sporting heritage and modern facilities in the stadium, you’ll want to catch an AFL (Australia rules Football League) game – one of Western Australia’s most popular sport – or a soccer match here before you go. For those who aren’t a fan of sports, the stadium also hosts a variety of events, including performances by the biggest names in the music industry like Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and heavy metal supergroup Metallica.
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