Perched on the banks of the wide Swan River, between the Indian Ocean and the sands of the Nullarbour Desert, Perth is one of the country’s most popular stop-offs with tourists.
The stereotype of laid-back Australians is nowhere more true than in Perth, where the wonderful weather, rolling hills and beautiful beaches positively demand a relaxed disposition. Western Australia’s capital city is also a somewhat isolated place, perhaps contributing to a sense of detachment from the world’s troubles. But this is also somewhere with its finger firmly on the cultural pulse, boasting numerous big-city attractions, including museums, theatres and nightspots. Those who visit will find many opportunities for enjoying unique landmarks, activities and experiences. Here are 12 of our favourite.
Take in some culture
Established back in 1895, the Art Gallery of Western Australia is one of the region’s most eminent cultural institutions and is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in traditional, Aboriginal or contemporary art. Located in the heart of the Perth Cultural Centre, the museum’s vast collection of Western Australian art, craft and design from 1829 to the present day draws almost half-a-million visitors each year, and there are also frequent exhibitions to enjoy.
Perth Cultural Centre / Weds-Sun – 10am-5pm Closed Tues
One of the six main sites that make up the Western Australian Museum, the WA Museum Boola Bardip can also be found in Perth’s Cultural Centre and is designed to showcase the diverse stories of Western Australia, its people and its physical and natural environment. In the museum, heritage and contemporary structures complement each other, with preserved buildings including the Old Gaol dating from the mid-19th Century, the Jubilee Building built in 1899, the original Art Gallery built in 1908 and Hackett Hall – the State Library’s reading room built in 1913. The buildings are linked to create multiple visitor routes that connect exhibition galleries, event and program spaces.
Perth Cultural Centre / Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm
Attend a fun-packed festival
Widely recognised as the city’s premier cultural event, Perth Festival is the largest international arts festival in Australia. Founded in 1953, the event has developed a global reputation for its presentation of new works and high quality artistic experiences. Shows and performances take place at various indoor and outdoor venues across the city and span a huge range of artistic genres, including contemporary and classical music, dance, theatre, performance, literature, visual arts, and large-scale public works.
Venues across Perth
Climb an iconic bell tower
Perhaps Perth’s most distinctive landmark, the Perth Bell Tower is home to a collection of 14th-century royal bells that can be seen – and heard – during a unique 30-minute interactive bell chiming experience. Billed as the one place in the world to witness such a spectacle, visitors are afforded 360-degree views from the tower’s observation deck while they listen to the Carillion bells ring. The tower also has a gallery lined with an ever growing collection of antique bells, clocks, and bell-related material from all over the world.
Barrack Square, Riverside Drive / Thurs-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Weds. You can buy entry tickets for the Perth Bell Tower at GetYourGuide.
Discover a tranquil national park
The ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city, Kings Park is an enticing mix of grassed parkland, botanical gardens and natural bushland. One of the world’s largest and most beautiful inner city parks, it has an international reputation for scientific research, horticulture, conservation and public education, and is also home to a spectacular Botanic Garden, which displays over 3,000 species of the State’s unique flora. Amid these bucolic surroundings, visitors can enjoy sweeping views of the Swan and Canning Rivers, the city skyline and the Darling Ranges. Bushland walk trails, immaculate gardens and children’s discovery play areas also attract visitors from far and wide.
Fraser Avenue / Permanently open
Ride a river gondola
Perth may be a long way from Venice, but you can get a flavour of the iconic Italian city on the water by embarking on a charming Gondola ride right here on the Swan River. Available for half-hour, one-hour or extended family cruises, passengers traverse the gentle waters aboard handcrafted wooden gondolas that come complete with push velvet interior, Venetian drapes and a gondolier in traditional Venetian costume.
Head off to an idyllic nearby island
When it comes to attractions near Perth, Rottnest Island is up there with the best. Just a quick ferry ride from the city, it has the ambience of somewhere an entire world away, boasting a relaxed atmosphere, stunning scenery, dazzling marine life and some of the world’s finest beaches and pristine bays. Family fun in the form of golf, tennis, shopping and guided tours can also be found here, as well as a wide range of cafes and restaurants. Meanwhile tours on land and sea allow guests the chance to get up close and personal with wildlife including quokkas, seals, ospreys and whales, while history and cultural tours bring Rottnest’s colourful maritime, convict, colonial and World War II heritage to life.
You can book a tour to Rottnest Island at GetYourGuide. Tours run at 7.30am and 10am daily.
If you want to see lots of a city in a short space of time, then joining a guided tour can be the best way to do it. This private 3-hour Perth city tour lets you see Perth through the eyes of a local, covering all of the main city highlights such as the Town Hall, Cathedral Square and the Perth Cultural Centre, along with its lesser known gems, from colourful characters and unsightly sculptures to slices of Aboriginal history, all in the company of a friendly and knowledgeable guide. During the tour you’ll also get to stop off for a local culinary trat as well as a drink at a popular waterfront bar.
Catch a performing arts show
Housed within a vast and eye-catching heritage building, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts is at the heart of the city’s rich cultural scene. The venue runs a year-round program of curated exhibitions, seasons in contemporary dance, theatre and performance and a range of interdisciplinary projects, ensuring there’s always something to see whenever you’re in town. The institute also places a strong emphasis on providing a platform for new work by up-and-coming artists, giving visitors the chance to catch performers before they hit the big time.
Perth Cultural Centre, 51 James Street / Tues-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon
Learn about the history of Western Australian gold
The impressive limestone architecture of The Perth Mint stands out as a historic landmark amid the offices and apartments of East Perth. Opened in 1899, it’s the oldest operating Mint in Australia and holds plentiful stories of its rich history ready for visitors to discover. On the Mint’s daily guided tours, you can hear stories of the great gold rush in Western Australia in the 1890s, see the world’s largest gold coin – an amazing one tonne pure gold coin worth more than AUD$50 million – and experience the magic of a traditional gold pour. For jewellery lovers, The Perth Mint also has an impressive luxury jewellery showroom featuring an exclusive room of Argyle Pink Diamond
310 Hay Street, East Perth / Tues-Sat & Mon 9am-5pm Sun 10am-5pm
Marvel at an array of exotic animals
Located just five minutes from the Central Business District, Perth Zoo is home to diverse assortment of animals and plants from all corners of the globe. Visitors can go for a bushwalk and discover koalas, quokkas, emus, kangaroos and the zoo’s enormous resident crocodile, Simmo; explore the Asian Rainforest and see Asian Elephants, Sumatran Tigers, Sun Bears and gibbons; and wander through the African Savannah and encounter rhinos, zebras, giraffe, a lion and meerkats. There are also regular daily keeper talks as well as special experiences such as animal feeding sessions.
20 Labouchere Road / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Watch a sports game from a stadium roof
For a unique birds-eye view at one of Australia’s biggest stadiums, intrepid types can book themselves onto a Perth Stadium Game Day Rooftop Experience. Also known as Optus Stadium, the multi-purpose arena is primarily used for Aussie rules football and cricket as well as regular music concerts, and spectators can view the action from a truly memorable vantage point perched on the stadium roof and harnessed in for your safety some 42 metres above the ground.
Optus Stadium, 333 Victoria Park Drive, Burswood