Things to Do in Perth
Swan River carves its way through the middle of the city of Perth before joining with the sea.
Fed by the Avon, Canning and Helena Rivers, the Swan River itself is only around 60km long. Over 130 species of fish inhabit the Swan River, including bull sharks, catfish, rays and bream. Bottlenose dolphins are also regularly seen in the estuary.
One of the easiest ways to appreciate the beauty of the Swan River is simply to take a walk along its banks. Cycling and walking paths line the foreshore, and parklands along the water’s edge keep things interesting. Circuiting the river by the Narrows Bridge and the Causeway is a casual 10km walk well worth undertaking.
Cruises along the Swan River are also popular, often lasting a few hours – or simply take the ferry across the harbour for a cheaper option. Jet boating and parasailing are activities less suited to appreciating the quiet beauty of the river, but guaranteed to get your heart pumping.
It’s easy to indulge in gourmet food, great wines and river scenery on a great day out from Perth by taking a trip to the Swan Valley. Right on Perth’s doorstep, the Swan Valley kick-started the state’s flourishing wine industry.
The best way to experience the Swan Valley’s wineries, food outlets and scenery is by car or tour coach, following the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail.
Sample wines at award-winning vineyards, buy a beer at a boutique brewery, see heritage buildings and colonial history at Guildford, and experience life on the Swan River with a cruise.
Stationed along the north shore of Perth Water in the city’s central business district, the newly opened Elizabeth Quay is a 2.7-hectare inlet of entertainment, nightlife, restaurants and fun.
Travelers can venture to the Barrack Street Jetty and check out the Bell Tower or enjoy a fun-filled river cruise. Hire a bike and ride along the picturesque Swan River or stroll along the scenic promenade. Sample some of the city’s contemporary cuisine in one of the stylish alfresco restaurants along the water or relax and unwind with a leisurely picnic in the vast green space.
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.
Eighteen bells held high above the Swan River, the Swan Bells are Perth’s most unusual – and most magical – attraction.
The bells are housed in a specially made copper and glass shard that stands 82.5 metres tall. 12 of the bells are from St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London’s Trafalgar Square, and their history can be traced back as far as the 14th Century. Re-cast more than twice over their lifetime, the St Martin-in-the-Fields bells are one of the few sets of royal bells in existence – and the only ones known to have left England. Six new bells have been added to the collection to commemorate both Australia’s bicentenary and the crossing over into the 21st century. The Swan Bells are named for the Swan River, on whose banks they sit. Tours behind the scenes of the bell tower are incredibly popular, as visitors are afforded the chance to ring the bells, and stunning views over Perth and the river.
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.
The Perth Cultural Centre is a hotbed of activities, events, collections, art and all things cultural.
Clustered under one roof are a handful of different exhibition spaces and Western Australia’s key cultural institutions. Explore history, nature and anthropology at the Western Australian Museum, from dinosaurs to butterflies and humans. Browse one of the best collections of Aboriginal and early European artworks at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Watch cutting-edge video installations, sculpture and performance art at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. Finally, browse books at the State Library of Western Australia.
The Perth Mint holds a wealth of gold history in its vaults, with gold dust and many a miners’ yarns embedded in its 100-year-old walls. A guided tour of this grand heritage building reveals fascinating insights into the 19th and 20th century gold rushes that transformed Western Australia forever, and the immense booty of bullion that was mined. You’ll also see how gold is melted into bars, along with the mint’s rare collection of gold bars, nuggets and coins from around the world.
More Things to Do in Perth
London Court is an old-style open-roofed shopping arcade and an important tourist attraction in the city of Perth.
Built in 1937 for residential and commercial purposes, the Elizabethan arcade was constructed to look like an English street in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. A series of ‘small houses’ with window boxes, the structure of London Court is not the only element of the arcade hearkening to times past. Ornate entrances with wrought iron gates and giant clocks mark both ends of the arcade at Hay Street Mall and St George’s Terrace. The Hay Street Mall clock shows four mechanised knights jousting as the clock chimes every quarter hour. The clock at the St George’s Terrace entrance depicts a miniature scene of St George battling the dragon. Gargoyles, shields, wrought iron brackets, masks, gabled roofs and even weather cocks complete the Elizabethan theme.
An inner city suburb of Perth, Northbridge is known for its vibrant atmosphere. Northbridge is the ideal starting point for visitors to Perth. The area contains many fantastic restaurants and bars as well as including the city’s main nightlife district. Northbridge has a large cultural influence, with many Mediterranean, Greek, Italian and Asian cuisines featuring in the restaurants of the area.
Northbridge has a large café culture. Sitting outside a café and watching the world go by is a large part of the attraction of the area. The suburb is a cultural precinct, housing the Art Gallery of Western Australia – which holds exhibitions both celebrating local art and in conjunction with the New York Museum of Modern Art; Cinema Paradiso; the Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts; and The Bakery ARTRAGE Complex. Accommodation for all budgets is available in Northbridge, though there’s a slight weighting towards backpacker establishments.
The Art Gallery of Western Australia is a world class museum located right in the heart of Perth.
The gallery was founded in July 1895. Since its inception, the gallery has aimed to enrich Western Australia with great collections of art, bringing the art of the world to the state. In partnership with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the gallery is presenting six exhibitions of work drawn from MoMA’s extensive collection between 2012 and 2015. Despite celebrating art from around the world, the gallery places a large emphasis on the arts of Australia and the Indian Ocean Rim. Programs, exhibitions and events are influenced heavily by art both local and close international proximity. This includes the permanent State Art Collection, showcasing Indigenous art and Western Australian art and design.
The eerie limestone shapes of the Pinnacles are a popular day trip from Perth, rising out of the desert floor like something from a lunar landscape. The weather-worn pillars were formed by zillions of seashells blown here from the sea many thousands of years ago.
The surrounding landscape is made up of desert and dunes. Bottlenose dolphins can be seen in nearby Hangover Bay, and in the park you’ll also see gray kangaroos, emus, cockatoos and other birds. Learn more about the ecology and biodiversity of this country at the Pinnacles Desert Discovery interpretive center, with displays, information, shops and lookout. While you’re here, take the opportunity to swim and laze on white-sand beaches, try fishing or snorkeling, or bring a picnic and cook up a storm on the park’s barbecues.
Hillarys Boat Harbour is one of Perth’s most popular seaside playgrounds. Everyone here, from shoppers to whale watchers, can find an activity along the boardwalk that teems with hundreds of visitors. Enjoy the smell of salt on the breeze while cycling along the coast, or relax with a coffee at an outdoor café that looks out over the water. In spring, book a ticket on a whale-watching cruise to watch playful, aerial humpbacks, and birdwatchers can board the ferry to Rottnest Island during any time of the year.
Even if you don’t actually get on a boat, simply strolling the marina docks is a popular Hillary’s pastime. This harbor, after all, was built as part of the America’s Cup in 1988, and world-class yachts and finely polished sailboats still make the marina their home. On sunny days, leave some footprints in the Australian sand on the popular and sheltered beach, and there’s also a playground where families with children can relax along the coast.