The stereotype of laid-back Australians is nowhere truer than in Perth, where the wonderful weather and beautiful beaches positively demand a relaxed approach to life. Perched on the banks of the wide Swan River, between the Indian Ocean and the sands of the Nullarbour Desert, 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 a place with its finger on the cultural pulse, boasting a vast choice of big-city attractions, including museums, theatres and nightspots. It’s also teeming with natural beauty, with pristine parkland, native wildlife and rolling hills aplenty. In a nutshell, this is a city that encapsulates why so many people fall in love with Australia.
No surprise, therefore, that Perth is one of the country’s most popular stop-offs with tourists, even in spite of it off-the-beaten-track location. And those who do come are likely to find many opportunities for enjoying unique activities and experiences. Here are some of our favourites.
Perth’s idyllic coastal location inevitably means that much of life for its inhabitants revolves around the sea. One of the most popular of the city’s shoreline attractions is Hillarys Boat Harbour, which offers an array of recreational activities for people of all ages, together with a picturesque setting overlooking the Indian Ocean. For sailing fans, there’s a state-of-the-art yacht club with opportunities to take boats out onto the region’s pristine waters, or for a more sedate aquatic experience you can visit The Aquarium of Western Australia. Other notable amenities include a bustling shopping precinct, luxury rental apartments, landscaped parklands and swimming coves. It’s an ideal escape from the hubbub of urban life, and once you’ve had your fill, you can be back in the city centre in less than 30 minutes.
2. Aviation Heritage Museum
With such vast distances between cities, aviation has always taken on a greater importance in Australia than in many other countries. Indeed, air travel in Australia dates back to the earliest pioneering days of manned and powered flight. The country’s rich history in this field is celebrated at the Aviation Heritage Museum in the suburbs of Perth, which chronicles the evolution of civilian and military aviation through innovative displays, as well as guided tours. The museum’s centre-piece is its collection of 30 aircraft, including some restored from their original glory. For fans of the iconic British-made Lancaster Bomber, the “Inside Lancaster” Tour offers visitors a personalised tour of the restored airplane, which was flown by the No. 460 Squadron, a Royal Australian Air Force, during World War II.
3. Fremantle Markets
For those seeking an authentic local experience on their travels, this is a great choice. Far more than just a conventional bazaar, Fremantle Markets is a fully fledged entertainment hotspot, with live music and performances to complement its vast array of fresh produce and fascinating bric-a-brac. Located in the city of Fremantle, within Perth’s metropolitan borders, it places a strong focus on locally sourced products and independent sellers, and boasts a reputation that extends across Western Australia. Its vibrant atmosphere and high quality of items for sale ensures it attracts both locals and outsiders. Whether its food, art or souvenirs you’re seeking – or just a fun time among a friendly crowd – Fremantle market is likely to be a pleasing experience.
4. Adventure World
When it comes to adrenaline-fueled fun and excitement for all the family, there’s little to compare with a theme park. Adventure World is a theme park and water park all in one, boasting some great rides, including the dauntingly named “Kraken”, which is claimed to be the steepest, tallest and longest funnel waterslide anywhere in the world, while Abyss has been described as “Australia’s best Roller-coaster”. In total, the park features over 25 rides and attractions, with a diverse range of both water and land-based offerings ensuring that every taste and preference is catered for – including those who favour a more sedate experience. Fancy getting wet and wild? Then the Kahuna Falls with its water slides and giant 1000 litre tipping bucket will be right up your street. Prefer to stay dry but enchanted? Then the Dragon’s Kingdom is just the ticket. Adventure World is open from September to April each year.
5. The Perth Mint
As one of Western Australia’s leading tourist attractions, The Perth Mint offers a unique combination of activities, exhibitions and demonstrations, enabling visitors to experience the astonishing allure of gold. Established as a branch of Britain’s Royal Mint in 1899, The Perth Mint’s primary function is to refine gold from Western Australia’s eastern goldfields and strike gold coinage continue to this day, with precious metal coins struck onsite at the Mint, and gold refined at The Perth Mint Refinery, situated near Perth Airport. Conveyed through its visitor experience, The Perth Mint also issues the nation’s official bullion and commemorative coin programmes, and offers a variety of investment bars and other precious metal products.
6. Didgeridoo Breath
Located in the town of Freemantle, part of Perth’s metropolitan area, is Didgeridoo Breath – Australia’s largest specialty didgeridoo store – dedicated to the quirky instrument made famous in the UK by entertainer Rolf Harris prior to his recent fall from grace. Didgeridoo Breath runs lessons and workshops for beginners through to advanced players. If you’re looking for a party piece or a talking point on dates, then there can’t be many better things to learn than how to play a Didgeridoo!
7. Oasis Supa Golf & Adventure Putt
On a sunny day in Perth – and there are plenty – a leisurely game of golf could very well appeal. But unlike most golf courses, the Oasis Supa Golf & Adventure Putt course is designed with kiddies in mind, making it the perfect family attraction. Situated in the Swan Valley and less than a 30-minute drive from Perth city centre, the creators of the 18-hole course have thought of everything to guarantee that age is no barrier to fun, using over-sized clubs and larger balls over a shorter distance than a normal course. There’s also plenty to keep the adults happy – especially those with a competitive spirit – including hazards such as water traps and bunkers. And once you’ve shown the litte’uns how it’s done, you might want to explore the beautiful environs of the Swan Valley itself.
8. Rottnest Island
When it comes to attractions near Perth, the idyllic Rottnest Island is up there with the best of them. 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. With no cars on the roads, it only adds to the feeling of being in a far-away sanctuary, and for extravagant types, you can even opt to arrive in style by helicopter or air taxi.
9. Ballooning in the Avon Valley
Located just an hour’s drive east of Perth, the Avon Valley is an idyllic place to experience the enchantment of hot air ballooning. The rural landscape, with its rolling hills, lush green fields, and meandering streams provides a picturesque setting for the oldest and purest form of flight. Visitors should bear in mind that hot air ballooning in Western Australia is seasonal, with flights operating during the cooler months from early April to late November.
10. Araluen Botanic Park
Araluen Botanic Park boasts 59 hectares of developed gardens featuring a diverse range of exotic and native species of plants. Internationally recognised Camellias, tea roses and tulips can all be found here, flourishing among a backdrop of Eucalyptus, Marri and Blackbutt. The park’s spectacular gardens, nestled in a valley of native Australian bushland, acts as a backdrop for concerts, gardening events and children’s activities.
11. Fremantle Prison
A short drive from Perth city centre, Fremantle Prison was literally built by and for convicts. Work began on the prison in 1852, finishing in 1859 when Australia’s large population of immigrant convicts began populating the vast building. Inmates were said to have been subject to inhumane conditions, many of which would endure until it closed in 1991. To gain access to the infamous prison and its grounds, you have to take a tour, and there is a choice of four available, each one delving into a distinct aspect of one of Australia’s most notorious institutions.
12. Caversham Wildlife Park
This diverse wildlife park showcases many of Australia’s unique native animals, including koalas, wallabies, possums, Tasmanian devils and wombats, providing visitors with the opportunity for a close-up encounter with some bona fide Australian icons. Included in your admission fee, guests can hand-feed kangaroos, have a photo taken with koalas, or watch a keeper talk and get involved in immersive, interactive shows.