Perfectly Perth: What to See and do on Australia's West Coast

The capital of Western Australia has been called one of the most isolated major cities in the world. And that’s not a misnomer.

The closest city with a population of over 100,000 is Adelaide, which is more than 2,000 kilometres away. If you climbed onto a boat and sailed due west from Perth, the next time you’d see land would be the coast of Africa – 8,000 kilometres away!

But the kilometres that separate Perth from other large population centres in no way diminish how awesome it is. In fact, it’s like an oasis in the desert, and the 6 million visitors each year find no shortage of cool things to see and do. Here is a shortlist of some of the top activities.

Kings Park

Larger than New York’s Central Park, Kings Park and Botanic Garden is one of the crown jewels of Western Australia. Take in gorgeous vistas of the Swan River, Perth skyline and distant Perth Hills, all under a clear cerulean sky. Play areas and playgrounds throughout provide plenty of opportunities for kids to work off some of their energy. Take a walking tour and enjoy an Aboriginal cultural experience; you’ll get a deeper understanding of what Australia was like before European settlement. See the local flora and fauna and over 70 different bird species. Marvel at a 760-year-old boab tree. Climb the 101 steps to the top of the DNA Tower for a panoramic view of the area. Walk the trails through the native landscape; over half of the park is natural bushland containing well over 360 species of indigenous plants. Be sure to take a stroll on the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, where you can walk among the treetops and enjoy one-of-a-kind views of Perth and the Swan River.

Rottnest Island

Sitting 18 kilometres off the coast, Rottnest Island – “Rotto” to the locals – is a protected nature reserve and a favourite place for locals to escape the bustle of city life. Several ferries and boats regularly shuttle passengers back and forth throughout the day. Native animals include Australian sea lions and southern fur seals, but many people come just to see the adorable quokkas – small marsupials that are found only on Rottnest Island. You can’t drive a car on Rottnest; the best way to get around is by bicycle or by taking the bus. It’s easy to get from one point to another on two wheels as the island is less than eleven kilometres long.

A major draw for visitors is the island’s 63 pristine beaches and crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Snorkelling, swimming, diving, surfing and fishing are all popular activities. Lighthouse aficionados will be delighted to know that there are two historical lighthouses on Rottnest Island. Wadjemup Lighthouse, completed in 1896, is Western Australia’s fourth oldest lighthouse. Climb all 155 steps to the top, three metres above the ground. On the island’s northeast shore is Bathurst Lighthouse, a 19 metre structure built in 1900.

Swan Valley

Head north out of Perth along the Swan River for about 20 kilometres and you’ll come to the Swan Valley, one of the oldest wine regions in Australia. The area is home to about 40 wineries, but many other attractions and activities make the Swan Valley a fun place for the whole family. Trails, free tastings of locally grown foods, artisan cheeses, shopping, art and craft galleries, a water park, playgrounds, picnic areas, an animal farm, a reptile park, supa-golf, a horse-drawn wagon ride and a chocolate factory are just some of the things you can see and do in the Swan Valley. Plan to stay for the whole day and enjoy the beautiful countryside and fun attractions.


At the very western edge of the Perth metropolitan area, where the Swan River meets the ocean, is the port city of Fremantle. The area is known for its Victorian architecture and Fremantle Prison, a leftover from Australia’s days as a British penal colony. The prison was in operation from its opening in the 1850s right up until 1991. Today, one of the most popular attractions is Fremantle Markets, where locals and tourists alike browse over 150 shops full of local produce, souvenirs, clothing and food in a vibrant and bohemian atmosphere. Take a walk along the Fremantle Markets Heritage Trail to learn about the site’s fascinating history. Then stop by the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour - perfect for fish and chips, take a walk in Esplanade Park or simply soak up the sun on Bathers Beach.

The Beaches

A visit to Perth would be woefully incomplete without visiting some of the city’s awesome beaches. The long coast means there are plenty of places to put your feet in the sand, and the clear turquoise water rivals anything to be found in the Caribbean or South Pacific. It’s hard to pick the best beach, but some of the standouts include:

  • Cottesloe Beach, which has one of Perth’s most iconic and picturesque shorelines. Called “Cott” by the locals, this iconic spot is great for swimming, snorkelling and dolphin spotting.
  • Hillarys Beach, whose calm water make it a popular destination amongst tourists and families with great access to shops and food outlets in the surrounding harbour.
  • Scarborough Beach, which has a whale playground, skate park and bowl that is nearly four metres deep and the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset from sunset hill.
  • City Beach, closest to the city centre, it has plenty of open-air cafés and restaurants with great views of the Indian Ocean.
  • From Small Beginnings

    When British Captain James Stirling sailed his ship HMS Success into the Swan River in 1829, he immediately thought that it would be a good place for a colony. The newly established town was named after Perth, Scotland, but for many years it was simply known as the Swan River Colony. Fifty years later, the town’s population was just 8,500. The discovery of gold in Western Australia in 1881 led to a boom, and within 20 years the population had burgeoned to 61,000.

    Today, Perth is home to nearly 2 million people. True, the locals have to travel quite a distance to find the next major city. But why go anywhere? Everything you really need is in this beautiful jewel on the sparkling Indian Ocean.

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