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A Quick Holiday Guide of Perth, Western Australia

6 March 2009

WA Perth City Skyline, by Tourism Australia

I get lots of emails from my readers asking me: “What kind of things are there to do in Perth?”

And for ages, I’ve been thinking of posting a write up, featuring some highlights of Perth and beyond.

So when Tourism Australia asked me whether I would like to share about my home town, I was delighted to finally sit down and write it all up.

SHORT STAY IN PERTH – If you are only staying in Perth for a short while, here are a few places you should definitely NOT MISS.

Perth is well known for not having any famous buildings, and for being a bit quiet. But you see, that’s how we like it.

People who appreciate Perth, love it for its relatively slow pace, big blue skies, huge open spaces, and freedom of access to literally hundreds of kilometres of simply spectacular ocean and riverside.

Perth’s founding fathers were very careful to preserve free access to the Swan River, which dominates Perth, wandering slowly from the hills to the ocean, giving Perth an amazingly generous ratio of people to water aspects and parks. So make sure you bring a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sun screen!

1. Visit Kings Park
WA Kings Park, by Karen Cheng

King’s Park is on top of a hill, which looks down on the Perth skyline. It’s basically a huge bushland with lots of long walks and picnic areas, and it’s only a 5 minute bus ride from the centre of the city. It is also one huge war memorial, with each planted tree representing a fallen soldier.

Take a walk along the cultivated parks that overlook the city. It’s dotted with beautiful memorials, and depending on how keen you are on wildflowers and botanical gardens, a nice stroll and a stop for photos should take 1 hour.

In spring, the wildflowers are simply mind-blowing, and this is the only place in the world you can see so many unique, bizarre West Australian flowers in one place. You can even see the famous boab trees here.

The view of the city is great in the day. And very pretty and romantic at night! If you have only a few hours in Perth, Kings Park is an absolute MUST!

2. Go to South Perth
WA South Perth Foreshore, by Tourism Australia

From central Perth, you can walk to Barrack Street Square to look at the Bell Tower and the Wheel of Perth (50m ferris wheel). Take a three minute ferry across the Swan River, to South Perth.

Take a stroll along the shore, there are nice parks for kids. Sit in a cafe, buy an ice cream, stroll some more and take it easy.

If you are energetic enough, you can walk or cycle an amazing 10 kilometres of walkways and parklands in a loop along the rivers edge, enjoying ever-changing, fantastic views across the river to Perth City and Kings Park.

3. Go to Cottesloe Beach
WA Cottesloe Beach, by Tourism Australia

Cottesloe Beach is about 15 minutes drive, bus or train west of the city (halfway to Fremantle). It has a gorgeous aspect to it – lovely white sand, clean blue water, and lots of lawn areas and playgrounds for picnics. It is even lit up at night!

This is Perth’s equivalent to Sydney’s Bondi Beach – but much less crowded, and still untouched by tourism. It is absolutely iconic of the laid-back, easy-going West Aussie lifestyle.

Walk along the beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. Sit in a cafe and enjoy the view and the sea breeze. Cross the road, grab some fish and chips, plonk yourself on the lawn and watch the sun go down over the Indian Ocean. Cottesloe is amazing at any time of the day or early evening.

4. Visit Fremantle

Perth’s port city of Fremantle is 30 minutes drive from central Perth. Its old colonial-era streets are bustling with cafes, restaurants and shops that show off the huge benefit Italian and Greek immigration has had on Australian culture. There’s a fresh fruit markets and general markets for souvenirs and handmade goodies, not to mention an excellent strip of fashion boutiques along Market and High Street.

Make your way down to Fisherman’s Harbour to eat some fresh seafood, ice cream and have a stroll along the jetties. Crammed in next to the still hard-working port, you will find two excellent Maritime Museums, one dedicated to ancient ships, and the other, Australia’s more recent Maritime history.

5. Everything else!

But of course, there is so much more to do in the Perth metropolitan area.

Boutique and fashion shopping in Kings Street in the city, William Street in Northbridge, Oxford Street in Leederville, Subiaco and Mount Lawley.

You can see an excellent range of Australian wildlife at Perth Zoo – kangaroos, koalas, wombats and even giant crocodiles!

There is whale watching at Hillarys, river cruisers on the Swan River, wine tasting in the Swan Valley, helicopter rides over the river, jet skiing, scenic flights, art galleries, museums, etc, etc.

LONG STAY IN Western Australia – If you are staying more than a few days, there are heaps of great places to visit that are beyond Perth.

But be warned. Australia is VERY big, and Western Australia is the biggest part of Australia. It can take a long time to get places.

1. Margaret River
WA Winery, by Tourism Australia

For a romantic, relaxing and chilling holiday, I definitely recommend the Margaret River region in the South-West. This can be done with only a one night stop over, but is better with two or three nights away.

The South-West is a superb touring holiday opportunity. Just hire a car or hop on a tour and set off, with something always around the next bend.

There are award winning wineries to visit, great restaurants, chocolate factories, ice cream factories, cheese tasting and olive farms. Not to mention a cute little townships and pretty countryside to see. See giant trees and forests, rolling, rich farm country and spectacular, dramatic coastlines, with heaps of small, unique farm-stay and bed and breakfast accommodations.

And you can also enjoy spas and salons, all geared up for hours of indulging and pampering.

2. Great Southern Region

Southern areas such as Albany, Pemberton, Walpole, Denmark are really lovely places to visit. Depending on what you like to do, there are gorgeous forests, tree-top walks, tree climbs, lovely little towns to visit, cute farms, pretty beaches, and interesting local history.

Or there are 4WD off-road adventure tours, that take you to the dramatic Southern coastlines and sand dunes.

3. Monkey Mia
WA Monkey Mia, by Tourism Australia
For the more adventurous and outdoor sorts – Monkey Mia is a once in a lifetime trip.

Monkey Mia is in Shark Bay, some 8 hours drive north of Perth, and this huge area is full of beautiful white beaches and unique environments. You can feed wild dolphins, and take wildlife boat tours to see turtles and dugongs! It is a very long drive, and perhaps best done with a tour party, or you can charter a flight to make it all much easier.

4. Ningaloo and Coral Bay
WA Ningaloo, by Karen Cheng
My husband and my son walking along Ningaloo Bay at sunset.

If you are very keen, you can travel even further north to Ningaloo Reef and Coral Bay. Ningaloo is one of the world’s great secrets – a pristine coral reef hundreds of kilometres long, literally only a few meters from the deserted beaches. A mecca for divers and water sports lovers, as well as families who are accommodated by expert local guides. I have been scuba diving there, as well as whale spotting and snorkelling with whale sharks!

5. Broome
WA Broome, by Tourism Australia

Broome is so far north of Perth that it is literally back in the tropics.

Broome is the most multicultural town in Australia, which is often thought of as the most multicultural country in the world. Broome has a very special history, being one of the world’s most important pearling centres during the first half of the 20th century, and has a populations of made up of so many different races that it is simply called “the Broome mix”. They have their own food and festivals.

I have never been to Broome, the Kimberley Region and the Australian North West. I would love to go visit and see all the giant, bizarre scenery, amazing wildlife and plants, spectacular fishing and scuba diving. I can’t wait!

Photo credits: Tourism Australia and my own.