Things to Do in Perth
The liquid heart of Perth, the Swan River touches many of the city’s neighborhoods on its way to the Indian Ocean. The river passes through the Swan Valley wine region, Perth’s Central Business District and affluent suburbs, and the port city of Fremantle, and there are lots of recreational opportunities on the banks and in the water.
Although otherworldly in appearance, the Pinnacles Desert is 100 percent on planet earth, located along the Indian Ocean's Coral Coast in Nambung National Park in Western Australia (WA). This vast sandy expanse is filled with towering limestone pillars, and at only a few hours' drive from the city of Perth, the site makes for a popular and totally doable day trip.
Fringed with rocky coves, white sandy beaches, and sun-soaked shores, Rottnest Island’s natural pleasures are numerous—whale-watching, snorkeling, hiking and wildlife spotting along the coast, and taking in the ocean sunsets. At less than an hour from Perth, Rottnest Island, or “Rotto,” makes for an idyllic retreat from the city.
Right on Perth’s doorstep, Swan Valley offers an idyllic retreat from city life. Renowned as one of Western Australia’s oldest wine regions, its expanse of vineyards and scenic waterways are home to numerous wineries, breweries, and distilleries, and an excellent selection of artisan shops and gourmet restaurants.
A large granite rock formation shaped like an ocean wave, Wave Rock is located in Western Australia’s Golden Outback region and situated in a bushland environment. Standing nearly 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 360 feet (110 meters) long, the formation is part of a geological area dating back more than 2.5 billion years.
Perth’s sprawling Kings Park crowns a hilltop of natural bushland on the city’s western border. Taking up 1,000 acres (400.5 hectares) of parklands, botanic gardens and bushland, the park was established in 1872.
Western Australia is known for its superb array of wildflowers and flowering trees, and Kings Park is one of the best places in the state to see them.
Visit during September for the spring wildflower display, or year round to take the elevated Federation Walkway across the treetops.
Take a free guided walk, or follow the signs to see the state’s iconic trees, including karri, jarrah, native Christmas trees and pines. The restaurants, cafes and kiosks in the park offer a range of meals and refreshments to recharge your batteries.
A visit to Western Australia wouldn’t be complete without an adrenaline-infused ride across the Lancelin Sand Dunes. Rolling hills of textured, white sand provide the landscape for your next sand surfing adventure. Thrill seekers rejoice, these dunes span more than a mile (2 kilometers) — the largest in Western Australia! Navigate the steep sand bumps and curves in a dirt bike, off-road vehicle or sandboard. Once you make it to the peaks you’ll bask in panoramic views of Lancelin, including vast farmland, sweeping sand dunes and refreshing coastline. Visit during dawn or dusk for killer scenery.
When it opened in 1899, the Perth Mint was the third branch of Britain’s Royal Mint in Australia. Today it produces gold, silver, and platinum bullion coins and bars. Visit to see exhibitions about Western Australia’s gold rush history and collections of rare gold nuggets and coins.
Located directly on Perth’s Turquoise Coast, the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA) is home to marine animals from all along the 7,500-mile (12,000-km) coastline of Australia’s largest state. The family-friendly attraction boasts a wide array of species from this diverse area, ranging from tiny fish to large rays.
Home to the historic Swan Bells, Perth's Bell Tower dominates the city skyline and makes for a fun Perth activity. Housed in a 271-foot (83-meter) tower, 12 of the existing 18 bells originally hung in London's St Martin-in-the-Fields church, where they announced events for centuries.
Now that the bells have found their way to Perth, visitors can learn the art of bell-ringing on guided tours, or simply stop in to hear the bellringers practice their art of chiming on Monday, Thursday or Sunday from noon to 1pm. For the opportunity to chime a bell yourself, book an interactive bell-chiming demonstration and receive an official certificate as proof of your new skill.
Travelers can also head up the towering glass-and-copper spire to its three observation decks and look out over much of downtown Perth and the Swan River (the sixth-floor deck offers 360-degree views). The famous tower can also be admired from afar, perhaps as part of a photography tour that wanders the streets of Perth.
More Things to Do in Perth
Set on the Swan River’s north shore, Elizabeth Quay is a waterfront entertainment hub filled with green spaces and esplanades, eateries, and public artwork. The quay is located in Perth’s central business district, and is a great starting point for exploring the rest of the city.
Near the Western Australian city of Perth, Hillarys Boat Harbour is a seaside destination popular with locals and travelers alike. Not only a boat transport hub for trips off the coast, it’s also home to Hillarys Yacht Club, the Aquarium of Western Australia, the Sorrento Quay Boardwalk, and a calm, safe cove for ocean swimmers.
With its lush wetlands, limestone caves, and wildflower-filled plains, Yanchep National Park makes an attractive retreat from nearby Perth, and at less than an hour’s drive from the city, it’s a popular choice for a day trip. Established in 1957, Yanchep is also one of Australia’s oldest national parks.
The Margaret River region is Western Australia’s food, wine, surfing, and leisure playground. It’s also one of the most scenic and lush regions in the state, graced with a mix of coastline, forest, vineyards, and farmland. Wine-loving visitors have more than 140 Margaret River wineries to choose from—its vintages are compared to those of Bordeaux in France—and the area also attracts surfers, whale watchers, spelunkers, and beachgoers to its nearby coastal landscapes.
Just 45 minutes from Perth, Penguin Island is an engaging ecotourism destination. Home to over 1,000 of the world’s smallest penguins, the island is teeming with animal activity. Attend a penguin feeding presentation, look to the skies for signs of seabirds, or search the seas for a glimpse of dolphins or a rare Australian sea lion.
Cottesloe Beach’s gentle waves and sugar-soft sand might make you forget that you're in the middle of a major Australian city. Cott, as it’s affectionately known, is one of Perth’s most popular spots for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, or sipping cocktails while watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Western Australia’s oldest buildings, Fremantle Prison is an important reminder of Australia’s convict history. Built in the 1850s by the very convicts who inhabited its cells, the prison was notorious for its deplorable conditions and brutal capital punishment.
While the Western Australian Museum is spread over six sites and houses a collection of over 4.7 million items, the Perth location is the main site. With an aim to reflect upon and document the rich cultural and natural heritage of Western Australia, the museum houses exhibits in the fields of zoology, earth and planetary sciences, anthropology, archaeology, and history.
Along with a diverse array of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Western Australian Museum prides itself on its research. Permanent exhibitions include WA Land and People, documenting Western Australia from dinosaurs to now; Katta Djinoong, depicting the culture and history of the Aboriginal people of Western Australia; and an exhibition investigating the biodiversity of life in the waters off the state’s coast.
Three of the museum’s six sites are located in Perth. The Perth branch is located in the cultural centre, and the Maritime Museum and Shipwreck Galleries are located to the north in Freemantle. The Maritime and Shipwreck Galleries, as the names suggest, are spaces dedicated largely related to life in or on the water. One of the most popular exhibits is the Australia II yacht, which famously won the Americas Cup in 1983.
Please note: The Perth location of the Western Australian Museum has closed. It is scheduled to reopen as the New Museum of Western Australia in 2020.
Covering more than 17,000 hectares, the massive Nambung National Park is one of Western Australia’s most popular attractions. In addition to the protruding limestone pillars of its Pinnacles Desert, the park boasts white sand beaches, rich plant life, and trails to please every type of adventurer.
After admiring the intriguing 13-feet-high Pinnacles in the desert, go for snorkel, swim or surf at Hangover Bay beach. History buffs will love exploring the thrombolites built by tiny micro-organisms at Lake Thetis, and finish with the mild loop trail bushwalk. The best time to visit the park between September and October, when the native vegetation is in full bloom.
Located in the lush surrounds of Whiteman Park, Perth’s Caversham Wildlife Park is home to Western Australia’s largest private collection of native wildlife. The park has more than 200 species of fauna, with a focus on native Australian animals such as koalas, wallabies, possums, Tasmanian devils, and wombats.
Perth is known for its dozens of gardens, and Supreme Court Gardens in the heart of downtown is arguably one of its best. Located on land that was once underwater and reclaimed from the Swan River shallows, Supreme Court Gardens is now the city’s premiere palm-lined gathering spot. Stretch your legs on a sunny day or admire the colorful flowers, and keep an eye out for kangaroos, which are sometimes spotted in the park. You’ll often find events here on weekends, or evening events around the holidays like opera or Carols by Candlelight.
Just steps away from Stirling Gardens and numerous government buildings, Supreme Court Gardens are also flanked by bustling Elizabeth Quay—home to The Bell Tower, Rottnest Ferry, and riverfront restaurants and shops. In 2016, the city spent over $2.5 million on renovations to the gardens, and the manicured walkways and open green lawns are popular stops on walking tours of the history and heritage of Perth.
The Perth Cultural Centre is the city’s main destination for arts and culture. The museums, theaters, outdoor spaces, and other venues that make up the Perth Cultural Centre feature exhibits and events throughout the year, including Aboriginal and European artworks, modern art installations, film screenings, live theater, and much more.
Often thought of as the main street of Perth, St. George’s Terrace is the major arterial road through the heart of the city.
Named after St. George’s Cathedral, the terrace was initially home to a number of the cathedral’s staff. These days, St. George’s Terrace is a must-see attraction for visitors to the city – both in its own right, and for the number of other attractions that line it.
Marked in the west by Barracks Arch, the terrace runs parallel to the Swan River. Historic buildings including the Old Treasury Buildings hint at the history of the streetscape. St. George’s Square, London Court, His Majesty’s Theatre, Stirling Garden, Government House, St. George’s Cathedral, and the Perth Concert Hall are just some of the key attractions that sit upon the terrace.
At just under 2km long, St. George’s Terrace is easily navigable on foot. The Eastern end of the terrace continues on to become Adelaide Terrace, or walk down to the Esplanade and the water of the Swan River to take in the rest of what the area has to offer.
The picture-postcard Perth Old Mill is the city's oldest industrial colonial remnant, and a popular landmark.
The classic whitewashed windmill was built in 1835, launching the colony's wind-powered flour milling industry.
The mill fell into disuse after 1859, and was used for various purposes over the decades, from a dance hall to a chicken run.
Now restored, today the Old Mill is managed by the National Trust and houses interesting colonial artifacts.