10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Perth & Easy Day Trips
Flush with mining money, Perth frequently scores top billing on lists of the world's most liveable cities. This vibrant capital of Western Australia defies its remote location on the southwest coast of this vast state by boldly flaunting its riches, both natural and material. Sprawling King's Park is a focal point of downtown, fine restaurants and boutiques brush shoulders along the busy streets, skyscrapers bristle in the city center, and an air of general ebullience prevails.
Work hard and play harder could well be the mantra here, and the winding Swan River and string of pearly beaches provide the perfect playground. Sailing, swimming, fishing, and boating are all popular things to do. A short hop from the city, visitors can escape to idyllic Rottnest Island and wildlife-rich national parks. At the mouth of the Swan River, the historic port of Fremantle is the namesake of the famous Fremantle Doctor, a cool sea breeze that blasts the summertime heat from this effervescent and affluent city.
1 King's Park and Botanic Garden
Boasting beautiful views of the Swan River and Darling Range, Kings Park and Botanic Garden is an oasis of peace near the heart of the city. Almost two-thirds of this sprawling 1,000-acre park is natural bush, which harbors a diversity of native plants and birds. Dedicated to conservation, the botanic garden spotlights plants from Western Australia and other Mediterranean climates such as South Africa and California. Highlights include an acacia garden, the peaceful Place of Reflection, and a water garden that recreates a Darling Range creek.
Atop Mount Eliza, with stunning views over the city, the King's Park War Memorial is a poignant tribute to servicemen from Western Australia. Walking trails, ponds, play areas, and viewpoints abound throughout the park, encouraging visitors to explore. After a stroll through the park, pop into Aspect of Kings Park, a retail precinct of gift shops and galleries highlighting local artists. Fraser Avenue Lookout dishes up delicious views of the city, and, at night, the park is the perfect spot for a romantic stroll with twinkling views of the city lights.
Hours: Open daily, year round
Address: Fraser Avenue, West Perth
2 Swan River
Local Aboriginals believe the rainbow serpent, "Waugal" created this winding river. To Perth locals and tourists alike, it's the perfect setting for outdoor fun. Visitors can picnic in the riverside parks, bike or hike along the many trails, cast a fishing line, sail, swim, or kayak. To see some of the posh houses of the riverfront suburbs, hop aboard a relaxing river cruise between Perth and the historic port of Fremantle. Another popular day trip is a cruise upriver to the fertile shores of the Swan Valley, Western Australia's oldest grape-growing region. Here, foodies can sample fresh local produce and scrumptious artisan foods at the highly acclaimed restaurants. Most ferries and river cruises depart from Barrack Square Jetty.
Sun lovers can choose from a bevy of beautiful beaches in and around Perth. Less than a 15-minute drive from the city center, pine-fringed Cottesloe is one of Perth's most popular strands with its clear waters and thriving café culture. Port Beach is also a favorite, and City Beach has a children's playground and plenty of picnic nooks. For families, the sheltered inlets on the snaking Swan River such as Como, Crawley, and Point Walter are top choices as well as Rockingham Beach, and the sheltered shore at Hillary's Boat Harbour. Trigg Point has one of Perth's best and most reliable surf breaks and Scarborough is another top spot to ride the waves. Further afield, the shores of Rottnest Island and Penguin Island offer excellent snorkeling and are great for fun family day trips.
4 Perth Zoo
About 3 km from the city center, Perth Zoo has been delighting animal-lovers since 1898. International visitors can experience some of the country's unique wildlife in the Australian Bushwalk and Wetlands exhibits. All the favorites are here: kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. Other exhibits take visitors around the world to different ecosystems - feed giraffes at the African Savannah, ogle orangutans in the Asian Rainforest, enjoy an elephant show, or peer at a pygmy marmoset in the South American primate exhibit. The zoo is easily accessible by bus, car, train, and bike, and visitors can also hop aboard a ferry from Barrack Street jetty.
Hours: Open daily 9am-5pm
Admission: Adults $24.50, children (4-15 years) $12.30, concession and seniors $20.50, family (2 adults, 2 children) $64.25, children (under 4) free
Address: 20 Labouchere Rd, Perth
5 Hillarys Boat Harbour
About 20 km northwest of central Perth, Hillary's Boat Harbour is an expansive marina with restaurants, shops, and family-friendly attractions. The Aquarium of Western Australia is a top tourist draw here. Sightseers can stroll through a glass underwater tunnel and observe more than 200 species of marine animals, including stingrays, manta rays, dolphins, and sharks. Bike paths, walkways, parks, and sheltered beaches make this a favorite spot for a fun family day out. Ferries to Rottnest Island also depart from here.
Address: 86 Southside, Hillarys
6 Aviation Heritage Museum
Even those who are not interested in aircraft will be surprised by the fascinating displays at the Aviation Heritage Museum, about 15 km south of Perth. Exhibits of more than 30 aircraft and thousands of artifacts cover civilian and military aviation and trace the evolution of aircraft from two-winged WWI planes to present-day passenger jets. For an extra fee, visitors can also book a personal tour of a Lancaster bomber or a Dakota C-47 and Spitfire Mark XXII.
Hours: Open 10am-4pm daily, closed major holidays
Admission: Adults $10, children (4-16 years) $5, family (2 adults and up to 4 children) $25, students and concession $7.50
Address: Air Force Memorial Estate, Bull Creek Dr, Bull Creek
7 St Mary's Cathedral
Constructed over three centuries, St Mary's Cathedral is a grand neo-Gothic church consecrated in 1865 and renovated extensively over the years. The site for the cathedral was included in the first plan of Perth in 1838. Evocatively lit at night, the cathedral is a soothing spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Interested tourists can join a tour of the building every Tuesday at 10:30 am for a $5 donation. Tickets are available at the Church Office across the road.
Address: 17 Victoria Square, Perth
8 Art Gallery of Western Australia
In the Perth Cultural Centre, a one-minute-walk from the nearest train station, the Art Gallery of Western Australia houses a collection of both international and Australian art from 1829 to the present day. Special emphasis lies on works from Australia and the Indian Ocean Rim. As well as an extensive collection of traditional and contemporary indigenous art, the gallery displays works by eminent artists such as Hans Heysen and Frederick McCubbin
Hours: Open Wed-Mon 10am-5pm, closed Tuesdays, Good Friday, ANZAC Day, and Christmas Day
Admission: Free, donations welcome
Address: James Street Mall, Perth Cultural Centre, Perth
9 Western Australian Museum
Near the Art Gallery of Western Australia in the Perth Cultural Centre, the Western Australian Museum unveils the region's natural and social history with a range of exhibits designed to delight and inspire. Perhaps the highlight of the attraction is the large collection of aboriginal artifacts. Other exhibits range from diamonds to dinosaurs and butterflies to birds. Also within the museum complex, visitors can see the old jail, built by convict labor in 1853 and used as a prison and place of execution until 1888.
Hours: Open Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm, ANZAC Day 1-5pm, closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), New Year's Day, Good Friday
Admission: Free, $5 donation suggested
Address: James Street Mall, Perth Cultural Centre, Perth
10 Perth Mint
Perth Mint, where coins are struck and gold bars cast, welcomes visitors. In the Melting House visitors can watch pure gold being poured to form a solid bar. The original vault, from 1899, houses the world's largest collection of gold bars and natural nuggets.
Address: 310 Hay St, East Perth
Easy Day Trips from Perth
Steeped in maritime and convict history, Fremantle (or "Freo"), at the mouth of the Swan River, is the port of the Western Australian capital and a popular day trip from the city. To access Fremantle, sightseers can hop aboard a ferry and enjoy the scenery while cruising along the Swan River. In the city, fine buildings with richly decorated façades, such as the Italian-style Town Hall, bear witness to the town's late 19th-century wealth. One of the top things to do here, Fremantle Prison is the only World Heritage-listed building in the state. Sightseers can take a guided torchlight tour of its subterranean tunnels.
Built by convict labor in 1851 as a commissariat store and customs house, the Western Australian Maritime Museum houses the winning America's Cup yacht, Australia II, while the Shipwreck Galleries display relics of old ships that met their fate along the coast. Other highlights include the art exhibitions and concerts at Fremantle Arts Centre, heritage trails, and the Fremantle Markets, which began in 1897 and are still held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
For an idyllic island escape, hop aboard a ferry from Perth or Fremantle to beautiful Rottnest Island, a car-free nature reserve. Glittering reef-fringed bays and white-sand beaches are the top attraction here, but the island also has an interesting history. In 1696, Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island and pronounced it an earthly paradise. Confusing the little rock wallabies or quokkas for rats, he named the island Rottnest ('rats' nest'), a name which doesn't do this beautiful island justice. Built by convicts, the limestone cottages around the harbor are among the oldest buildings in Australia. Besides excellent swimming, snorkeling, and fishing, other top things to see include Rottnest Museum in an old barn and threshing mill, the Parker Point Marine Snorkel Trail, and Vlamingh Lookout. Stop by the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre for details on other things to see and do.
Yanchep National Park
Yanchep National Park, about 50 km north of the city, is a favorite weekend escape and the perfect spot for a family picnic. Catering to a range of abilities, scenic walking trails wind through the coastal plain and around the large lake. The park is also rich in wildlife. Nature lovers can wander along a boardwalk to view koalas in their natural habitat, photograph kangaroos, or spot the many species of birds that make their homes in the woodlands and wetlands. Other adventures include cultural tours of the park's rich Nyoongar aboriginal heritage and guided tours among the stalactites and stalagmites of spectacular limestone caves.
Caversham Wildlife Park
About a 30-minute drive from Perth, Caversham Wildlife Park is a great place to take the kids for a wildlife fix. All the loveable Aussie animals are in residence here, including koalas, kangaroos, kookaburras, echidnas, and wombats. At Molly's Farm, kids can pat a pony and feed an assortment of farmyard friends. Food is provided. Koala cuddles, keeper talks, sheep-shearing, and whip-cracking demonstrations add more fun to the mix.
Hours: Open daily 9am to 5.30pm, closed Christmas Day
Admission: Adults $25, Children $11, Students and concession $18
Location: Whiteman Park, Whiteman