Heading to Perth? Here’s a Must-Do List
Western Australia. It’s almost like the modern-day ‘Wild West’ down under—wild waves, unforgiving landscapes, predatory wildlife, and marvelous, uncharted places for the keen explorer. The activities to do in Perth, the capital city, are no exception.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find not only one of the most beautiful natural destinations in the world, but also one of the most character-filled cities with a plethora of activities and destinations to do and experience.
If you’re planning on visiting Perth, you’re going to need to make sure you hit the beaches, go for a surf, visit the hippest suburbs in town, stroll through the expansive botanic gardens, listen to some music, and even take a trip to jail (as a tourist, that is).
One clear image that comes to mind when you think of Australia is the golden beaches. In Perth, this is no exception, and you’re spoilt for choice—there are several great beaches within the city limits.
Getting some sun and swimming in is an absolute must when visiting Perth. With average yearly temperatures between 17oC and 30oC (63oF and 86oF), it’s a year-round beach destination.
Pack your swimmers and sun-tan lotion and come ready for a bathe and a dip. It’s one of the best activities to do in Perth.
The most iconic of Perth beaches is Cottesloe, a somewhat bohemian, definitely laid-back locale in the heart of the city. Golden sands and mellow waves make the beach a popular place for locals and visitors alike.
If you’re down for just a sunbathe and a swim, this is the place to go. Additionally, the place is renowned for being family-friendly. The beach gets year-round surf, too.
And, with beach bars and cafes a stone’s throw away, you can eat and drink your way around the suburb without a care in the world. Maybe even stop into one of the many shops and boutiques to pick up something new.
Cott (the local nickname for the beach) is a bona fide all-rounder (just like the city it’s located in). There’s literally something for everyone, and you’d be remiss to not check it out.
Equally as nice (and some might argue nicer) is Scarborough Beach, a location in the northern outskirts of Perth. It’s a close rival to Cottesloe due to their similarities, however Scarborough can boast a somewhat quieter reputation due to its location.
Farther afield? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. It’s not too far north, and actually boasts bigger surf than some of its counterparts. Head up there and escape the hustle-and-bustle of the more central-city beaches.
While Cott and Scarborough battle it out for the title of Perth’s best beach, City Beach sits humbly between the two. Also considered in the northern reaches of the city, it’s not as far north as Scarborough, and is an under-the-radar pick for those wanting a beach day.
The two aforementioned beaches get the style points, and generally attract droves due to their reputation, however City Beach might be the pick of the litter. It’s a prime location, and it could be said it’s the perfect amalgamation of the beaches to its north and to its south.
But don’t be fooled by the beach being less of a household name; it’s no poor cousin. In fact, City Beach is known for being nestled in an upscale neighbourhood. It’s worth a look.
Surfing in Western Australia
Australians are known for their surfing. Some of the world’s best are from the Land Down Under, and it’s deeply ingrained in the country’s culture. If you’re from a seaside location in Australia, chances are you’re a surfer (well, at least been surfing).
Perth is home to some amazing surf spots, with locations suited to all skill levels. The city’s beaches that we discussed earlier in this article are all top-notch, and on any given day can cater to all surfers.
Being out deep, especially for more experienced surfers, can increase the risk of interactions with marine wildlife. Rest assured that Western Australia has a stringent approach to safety in the water, but it’s best to stay alert and take heed of all water warnings.
That being said, the clear blue water, consistent breaks, beautiful weather, and accessibility to surf spots make surfing one of the best activities to do in Perth.
Shopping, eating, and drinking (in the coolest areas, of course)
Perth often comes out third best when talking about Australian cities. Sydney is renowned for its nightlife, corporate life, and cultural and sporting activities. Melbourne is the trendy counterpart; cafes, footy, and hipsters galore.
Perth has a sprinkle of both, but with a decidedly more relaxed vibe. You can get the good weather, beaches, and nightlife that’s akin to Sydney, but on a smaller scale. The place is full of great cafes, bars, and music, too (just like Melbourne).
The point of difference is how well Perth does at everything, without being over-the-top. The other two big cities are almost too predictable. Perth is a little harder to pin down, as it doesn’t have a reputation for anything in particular. Rather, it’s an all-rounder.
One element that contributes to this is the bustling scene of its trendy inner-city suburbs. These places have cool, underground spots (those places that are a ‘if you know, you know’ kind of vibe), and some flashier stuff too.
Some things to do in Cannington, a popular suburb in the south-eastern part of the city, include enjoying the parks and suburban life of a suburb that’s not in the hustle-and-bustle.
There’s also the Cannington Raceway, with events year-round that are sure to please the whole family.
Hip hotels, swanky eateries, and alleyway speakeasies abound in Northbridge, Perth’s most trendy suburb. Geographically, it’s a relatively small footprint. But, boy, does it pack a punch.
Take a stroll from your boutique accommodation and peruse the best (and most unique) shopping the city has to offer. When you’re done, park up at one of the area’s well-established eateries or bars. Grab a drink and then head on to boogie the night away.
Once you’ve exhausted the options (trust us, this will be hard to do), you’re in prime location to explore the surrounding suburbs, much of which will offer the same kind of experience. However, Northbridge is the heart of it all, so we recommend heading here first.
Just to the west of the CBD lies Subiaco, a cool combination of pubs, bars, shopping, and residential areas. Leafy streets lead the way for bustling avenues, crammed with people and shops. It’s a healthy mix of homeliness and big-city energy, depending on what part you find yourself in.
It’s a sprawling suburb, so it’d be easy to find yourself aimlessly walking through the streets not knowing exactly where you are or where you need to be headed. There’s a new thing to see at every street corner in Subiaco. In fact, getting lost here doesn’t sound all that bad.
The major shipping port of Perth, Fremantle is a historian’s dream. Victorian-era architecture and other maritime and colonial pieces of history, such as the Fremantle Prison (more on this later), will provide endless fun and entertainment for the whole family.
It’s also a great spot for some trendy shopping and eating, with a prolonged gentrification paving the way to a now-eclectic nook of the city; heritage architecture alongside both historical and modern attractions.
You’re spoilt for choice in Fremantle.
Calling all wine connoisseurs! Swan Valley is a picturesque, quiet getaway from the city, teaming with vineyards, wineries, and other attractions for those wanting to relax.
There’s even wildlife parks you can visit, something that may appeal to many due to Australia’s reputation for fun and freaky animals.
All of this, and only 25 minutes from the city centre. Escape the city and get out there and amongst it.
Time for some greenery
All this talk of sandy beaches, bars and cafes, surfing, and shopping has got us thinking: What about some greenery?
Kings Park and Botanic Garden lies on the Swan River, and is essentially in the middle of the city. It’s one of the world’s largest botanic gardens and is super easy to get to and navigate.
The park and garden really is huge, and it doesn’t take long for the sounds of the city to satisfyingly fade into the distance. It’s an inner-city oasis that can provide much-needed respite to those who’ve spent some serious time shopping and eating in the city.
The flora and fauna are expertly landscaped and manicured, and there’s an abundance of nature to experience within the confines of the park. Take a rug for a picnic, if you wish. Otherwise just go for a stroll—and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
Perth’s music scene
Perth is the home of many world-famous artists: Tame Impala, Birds of Tokyo, and Troye Sivan, to name a few.
Maybe it’s the isolation of the city (Perth is, geographically speaking, much further away that the country’s other main metropolitans), but the music that comes from there is incredible. Many artists will leave the area for more connected cities like Sydney, Melbourne, or overseas.
However, it always seems as if artists from Perth are known for being from there. The city is filled with great venues, some of which in the suburbs previously discussed in this article, and it’s relatively easy to sniff out a good gig. This is true on a weekly basis.
A lot of the bands and artists lean into more alternative or psychedelic styles, but this isn’t a knock. Specifically, Kevin Parker (of Tame Impala fame) has put the city on the map due to his meteoric success in the festival and critical areas of the music industry.
Maybe it’s something in the water, but we’re here for it. Hit some of the trendier bars and you may see a flier for an up-and-coming band, and one that could make it to headlining one of the biggest festivals in the world one day. One can ponder.
As far as activities to do in Perth, this is an easy one.
Get yourself thrown behind bars at Fremantle Prison
Fremantle Prison, now a World Heritage Site, is a singularly cool experience for tourists and locals alike. Only properly decommissioned in 1991, the prison is now home to attractions such as tours and maze challenges.
For those who are keen on an adrenaline kick, the nighttime tours offer a spooky iteration to the regular prison tour, and are guided by experts that make the journey through the prison fun, exciting, and informative.
The most incredible thing about the prison might be the fact it was built by convicts themselves. It’s well-documented that Australia was the landing place for many colonial convicts in the 19th century, and Fremantle prison was home to a good chunk of them.
If you’re not too keen on the history of the prison, no sweat. Simply marveling at the architecture and surroundings are enough to experience for the keen traveler.
Still not convinced about Perth?
This would be truly a shock—we’ve gone over everything, from cultural attractions and historical sites, to gentrified neighbourhoods with hip boutiques and cool eateries, to picturesque beaches and awesome waves. It’s also considered a relatively affordable place, generally speaking. What more could you want?
In all seriousness, Perth is an incredible city, and is unfortunately not always thought of when visiting Australia. Sure, they have Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide to compete with. But no city has the same unique and balanced feel to it; beaches, shopping, eating, outdoors, and (almost) perfect weather.
We think that Perth is a no-brainer for tourists from near and far. Booking flights is easy, the hard part will be figuring out what to do—how can you make a decision when there’s so many incredible options? We have a solution: Stay a while. You’ll fall in love with the place. Perth’s ready and waiting for you.