Ah, Perth. It’s not quite the bustling metropolis that is Sydney, nor does it boast the quirkiness of Melbourne’s coffee connoisseurs and music lovers – but don’t be too quick to brush it aside. The laidback capital and largest city of Western Australia has its own quiet charms, endearing characteristics and, of course, one of the best climates in the country.
If you’re not yet convinced by the short five-and-a-half hour flight time and affordable fares to hop on a plane, check out our list of the Top 10 things to do in Perth.
#1. CHILL OUT AT COOL CAFÉS
Yes, the indie café culture is very much alive in Perth – all you brunch fanatics and coffee devotees can breathe a sigh of relief. If you’re looking for a slice of homely goodness, visit the quirky, family-run Piccolo’s Corner; or go for a modern twist at Architects & Heroes, which boasts silky smooth coffee blends, funky murals and delish pastries. Fancy an industrial chic vibe (complete with brick walls and exposed light bulbs)? The laidback Sixteen Ounces is the place to be.
This next one’s for the ladies (or anyone who loves flowers, really): Rose Heritage Café. Plopped on top of a hill, the cosy space may be slightly pricey, but the stunning view of Melville Nurseries’ floral gardens make it worth the trip. And Tuck Shop Café, with its clean and bright décor, is known for its affordable prices, big serving portions and amazing sweet and savoury creations. Other honourable mentions include Sayers, Lowdown and Little Willy’s.
#2 HAVE A SPLASHIN’ GOOD TIME
There are countless beaches in Perth for you to get your tan on or engage in water sports (just keep in mind that summer season brings with it the constant buzz of houseflies) – some of the more popular spots include Cottesloe Beach and its crystal clear waters, Scarborough Beach for a bout of surfing, Turquoise Bay for snorkeling, and others like Cable Beach, City Beach and Shoalwater Marine Park, where you can dive among shipwrecks and underwater creatures.
#3. GET YOUR RETAIL THERAPY FIX – IT’S SHOPPING TIME!
Forget big brand names – get dressed at charming boutiques filled with Aussie labels instead. Like Department, a trendy space that stocks up on sleek and sophisticated apparel by labels like Nicolangela. There’s also Peachy, a boutique opened by a pair of Perth fashion bloggers, featuring clothes and accessories in styles from minimalistic chic to eclectic prints; and the more high-end Love Story, for those who prefer feminine, casual pieces.
For more shopping goodness, wander through Claremont Quarter to check out the huge selection of shiny stores, or dig through racks of secondhand clothes for vintage gems at Mount Lawley.
#4. ENJOY FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
Plan a trip to some of the quaint islands surrounding Perth, such as Penguin Island, to encounter the adorable creatures and sign up for adventure cruises to spot dolphins and sea lions. The delightful flora and fauna at Rottnest Island are worthy of exploring, as well as the beaches and activities there – plus, you’ll be surrounded by oh-so-cute, friendly quokkas.
For more fun times, plunge into rides filled with thrills and spills at Adventure World, head to the Perth Zoo to get up close and personal with your favourite animals, slide down the famed fluffy sand dunes in the town of Lancelin, or chill out at Hillarys Boat Harbour.
5. APPRECIATE BEAUTIFUL HISTORY AND HERITAGE
Embark on a journey of discovery with Indigenous Tours WA or immerse yourself in history at the Fremantle Prison, a maximum-security-jail-turned-tourist-attraction. If you’re the arty-farty type, visit the Western Australian Museum, The Art Gallery of Western Australia or the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. You can also drive out to New Norcia (Australia’s only monastic town) and admire the gorgeous architecture there, or feast your eyes on the colonial buildings of York. Planning a trip around Feb or March? Get your dose of arts and culture at the annual Perth International Arts Festival and enjoy music, theatre, visual arts and dance performances.
6. KEEP ON MUNCHIN’
What’s a vacay without good food? The top restaurant everyone heads to is definitely the award-winning Nobu (yes, the Japanese one with a worldwide presence) for signature plates like the black cod miso, but other notable Jap places include Ha-Lu (try the Fremantle octopus) and Nao (for amazing ramen). If you love your beer, the homegrown Little Creatures Brewery offers a rowdy good time with a wide selection of brews alongside must-tries like mussels and their selection of wood-fired pizzas.
For more scrumptious times, chow down on fresh fish and chips at The Fish Shack or Sweet Lips, indulge in yummy tiramisu at Ciao Italia, get soulful with Southern-style American buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken at The Old Crow, savour meaty hunks of steak at Fibber McGee’s or pair your meal with innovative cocktails at The Classroom.
#7. BROWSE THROUGH MARKETS CHOCK FULL OF GOODIES
The weekend-only Fremantle Markets are known for hawking a wide array of indigenous and indie products, local organic produce and natural goods, all housed in a Victorian building and set to a festive atmosphere with live music performances and events – must-tries include their to-die-for crepes and ridiculously refreshing cups of orange juice.
Also on weekends, the European-styled Subiaco Markets offer healthy foods alongside baked treats, international dishes, gift and apparel shops, and even beauty services (plus, you can catch a live game at the stadium during footy season). For the not-so-regular ones, MANY 6160 opens its doors every weekend during winter to display indie labels and artworks, and the quarterly Perth Upmarket features handcrafted items, homeware, jewellery and skin care products.
#8. TAKE A WINE-TASTING TRIP
Spend a weekend at Margaret River (it’s about a three-hour drive from the city) and explore the beautiful local wineries for gourmet food and drink. Bigger ones like Vasse Felix are fascinating, but we’d recommend you go for smaller, more intimate ones such as Knee Deep, Windows Estate, Cape Grace and Juniper Estate. If you’d like to keep exploring, the area also has numerous breweries, natural attractions, galleries and even a chocolate factory.
In comparison, Swan Valley isn’t as big, but it’s only about half an hour away from the city. Swing by names like Lamont’s Winery or Pinelli Estate, and spend the rest of the day hanging out with adorable animals at the Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm, the West Australian Reptile Park or the Caversham Wildlife Park. There are also shops, heritage trails and museums in the area, but the one place you must stop by for grub is Alfred’s Kitchen. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming appearance – this roadside eatery has been around since 1946, and the burgers here are legendary.
#9. UNLEASH YOUR INNER WILD CHILD
It’s a common perception that Perth (and most of Australia) goes quiet after 5pm, but it’s actually pretty happening at night, when all the party-goers come out to play. Drink up at Helvetica, which boasts a sweet range of whiskies, or get boozy with the impressive selections at Mechanics Institute Small Bar, Lalla Rookh Wine Store and Clarences. Then hit up the ever-popular, two-storey Villa nightclub for a bout of late night dancing.
If you’re the type who loves a good rave, Metro City, with its 2,000-capacity venue, is for you (plus, it’s in Northbridge, where you’ll have no problem finding your pick of clubs). Otherwise, Geisha Bar’s intimate space is an elegant retreat into opulence and the Ellington Jazz Club offers up an evening of groovy live tunes.
#10. ADMIRE THE BEST OF MOTHER NATURE
Gorgeous seas? Check. Skies so blue, they look right out of a postcard? Double check. If you’re looking for spectacular sceneries, Perth has got it in spades. Start off by strolling through Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, where you’ll get a lovely view of the city skyline when you reach the top. Then strap on your boots for a hike on the Bibbulmun Track (it’s almost 1,000 km from the east of Perth to Albany, and you can stay overnight at some of the campsites provided), or ride on the Munda Biddi bike trail for a scenic trip.
Swan River is where most of the locals go running, as it offers undisturbed views of the cityscapes, but if you’d rather go on a road trip, head for the sightseeing scenic routes on Pemberton’s Great Forest Trees Drive or Mount Shadforth Scenic Drive.
About the writer:
Alicia Lee is a dessert junkie with a serious (and probably incurable) case of wanderlust. Never one to pass up on retail therapy, she loves a great bargain and can usually be spotted on weekends browsing through quirky shops or chillaxing at a quiet cafe.