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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The outstanding Aquarium of Western Australia surrounds you with all the fishy creatures of the Southern Ocean. Innovative underwater tunnels and walkways get you up-close and personal with the turtles, fish, sharks and rays swimming overhead.
Other attractions include playful seals and reefs of coral, wiggly jellyfish and graceful sea dragons. If you dare, you can scuba dive with sharks in the Shipwreck Coast feature aquarium.
More Things to Do in Perth
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.
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.
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.
Built by the very convicts who would end up inhabiting its wretched cells, Fremantle Prison is Western Australia’s oldest standing building. Now designated as a World Heritage site, Fremantle Prison held convicts and criminals for nearly 140 years and is famously known for its deplorable conditions and brutal capital punishment. Flogging, for example, was legal in the prison until the 1940s, and lead prisoners to receive lashes with a “cat of nine tails” that ripped the flesh on their backs.
As the only prison in Western Australia with legal capital punishment, 43 men and 1 woman eventually lost their lives to the gallows inside of Fremantle Prison. Perhaps that’s why the building today is firmly believed to be haunted, with the ghosts of dozens of executed inmates still drifting amidst the cells. When visiting Fremantle Prison today, there are four different tours and ways to experience the historic, haunted prison.
Get up close and personal with kangaroos and koalas! Perth’s Caversham Wildlife Park holds the largest private collection of native wildlife in Western Australia, and attracts visitors from all walks of life. Enjoy the emus, discover dingos, walk around wallabies, peer into the life of a python, plus countless other wildlife activities. This family-owned and operated wildlife park has a humble, community feel yet offers an up-close look at more than 200 animal species for visitors to explore.
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.
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 picture-postcard Perth Old Mill is the city's oldest industrial colonial remnant, and a popular landmark. The classic whitewashed windmill was built in 1835, launching the colony's wind-powered flour milling industry. The mill fell into disuse after 1859, and was used for various purposes over the decades, from a dance hall to a chicken run. Now restored, today the Old Mill is managed by the National Trust and houses interesting colonial artifacts.