Perth is the sun-soaked capital of Western Australia, established where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean. The traditional owners of this land are the Whadjuk Nyoongar people. The modern city is known for pristine beaches, a cosmopolitan charm, and relaxed vibes. It holds the rather unique title of being the most isolated city of its size on the planet. It's also the city of arrival for the longest flight available from London Heathrow, the Qantas QF10. That flight is how I first landed in Perth, and I hope this guide shows you the vibrancy of a city you should add to your bucket list!
Savvy travelers have been coming to Perth for a long time and I think it's on a par with other big Australian cities. What got me excited was not just the city, but the proximity of natural wonders in Western Australia: from the sapphire waves of the Indian Ocean to the abundance of eateries and wineries of Margaret River and Swan Valley. You might spot some kangaroos in the wilderness, or find a quokka, Western Australia's cutest inhabitant, on a day trip to Rottnest Island. Prices for hotels and food in Perth will stretch your Aussie dollars a little further than Sydney, particularly by using this guide to book ahead. For me it was also the first and last stop from/to Europe. In this guide, I've got specific advice for solo travel, digital nomads and LGBTQ+ visitors. I think most people will find Western Australians to be a welcoming bunch!
In this Perth Travel Guide, I'll uncover what this sunny city has in store for you, and how to plan your visit for the most memorable experience. Jot down some must-see landmarks and get out of your comfort with Perth's hidden gems. All you need is a sense of adventure, a hat, sunblock and water, so start your journey in Western Australia's capital city!
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN PERTH
1. Discover Kings Park and Botanic Garden: As one of the world's largest and most beautiful inner-city parks, Kings Park is an absolute must-visit in Perth. It feels like nature is welcoming you with panoramic views of the Swan River and Perth skyline, along with an impressive collection of Western Australia's native flora. It's likely to appeal to most people, from the immaculate botanical gardens to the War Memorial, treetop bridge, and indigenous art. This is also the perfect spot for a peaceful picnic (and it's free)!
2. Visit Fremantle and its Historic Prison: The eclectic, bohemian seaside town of Fremantle, or ‘Freo' as the locals call it, is not far from central Perth. I took a train and bus to find my way, but if I were to go again, I'd seriously shortcut the journey time with this half-day Perth/Fremantle tour. The star attraction in Fremantle is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison, with its intriguing glimpse into Australia's convict past (some of the stories of fellow Irishmen were spine-tingling). After exploring the prison, enjoy Fremantle's celebrated market, microbreweries (you might want to avoid this one), and maritime museum.
3. Explore the Swan Valley: Western Australia's oldest wine region is a short trip from the city, a perfect day tour for tasting fine wines and artisanal foods. You should do this by booking a trip (not least to save on driving when so much great wine is on offer). There are some good options: this half-day wine tour from Perth, a Swan Valley cruise with tastings and lunch, or this super popular no-boat full-day wine tour with food (and chocolates). If you travel solo like me, these excursions are a fun way to meet other visitors to Perth.
4. Relax on Cottesloe Beach: Perth is famous for its sun-drenched coastline, and Cottesloe Beach is one of its finest stretches of sand. This spot is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, picnicking or an evening walk to watch a stunning Western Australian sunset. Pack ALL the sun-cream and bring snacks and water.
5. Visit Busselton & Margaret River: friends advised me to drive out from Perth to visit Margaret River, an area known for its eclectic food scene and some seriously good wines. On the way down, I stopped into Busselton (see the photo above). What a beautiful town and I loved this barramundi I had for lunch. This trip was all about the food: I tried out the wine and tapas vibes at Morries in Margaret River, as well as a great dinner at Arc of Iris.
6. Journey to Rottnest Island: Catch a ferry from Fremantle and visit the home of the world's happiest animal, the Quokka, on Rottnest Island. You can rent a bike and tour the island, exploring its beautiful beaches, snorkeling spots, and historical sites. This special “skip the line” ticket buys your Rottnest Island ferry & bike package from Fremantle.
7. Experience Perth's Cultural Centre: The Cultural Centre really is a hub of activities, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Western Australian Museum, State Library, and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. Apart from wandering through the buildings, there's much here to enrich the mind and soul. The fact that everything is together is ideal for travelers. Check out their website – watch out for the rotating schedule of events (many events are free entry).
8. Dive with Sharks at the Aquarium of Western Australia: AQWA offers a unique experience but the prices are an investment: diving with sharks starts just north of $150 AUD. If you're not that adventurous, you can still get behind the scenes of how AQWA operates. The best way to see such a concentration of Australia’s diverse marine life, including tropical fish, stingrays, and turtles, is through the underwater tunnel.
9. Stroll along Elizabeth Quay: This modern development on the Swan River includes public art, eateries, and sweeping views of the city's skyline (it's also the photo at the top of this page). I found the area perfect for a stroll and I brought my sketchbook and charcoals to capture the moment. There's heaps of places for a coffee or snack too – I tried and enjoyed Little Angel.
10. Visit Pinnacles Desert: Although a bit further afield, a trip to the strange and beautiful Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park is well worth the journey. The landscape, filled with towering limestone formations, presents a striking contrast to the nearby turquoise sea. I'd advise you to go around sunset as the pinnacles appear to glow (on sunny days), and – as it gets dark – it's the perfect place for stargazing.
For further details on other cities to visit in Australia, check out my city travel guides:
GETTING HERE & GETTING AROUND
I flew directly to Perth from London, using Qantas QF10. When I booked that ticket, I also organised my onward flight itinerary, using the Qantas Explorer ticket for arriving international passengers (I'm not sponsored, but you need to know about this ticket as it gives a serious discount).
Darwin has plenty of options to get around this small but perfectly formed city.
Perth Airport is THE major gateway to Western Australia and offers domestic and international flights. Use Skyscanner to explore the options. Small regional airlines also operate out of the airport, providing access to more remote parts of the state.
The Transperth network services the city & suburbs with frequent trains. I used the air-conditioned train to Fremantle and Joondalup and highly recommend it. A new light rail system in Perth called METRONET is being rolled out. It'll transform public transport including for incoming visitors.
The Transperth ferry is a charming way to cross the Swan River. The primary service operates between Elizabeth Quay and South Perth, providing excellent views of the city skyline for avid photographers.
Renting a car in Perth does give you additional flexibility. I enjoyed the city by train and bus before picking up a car from a downtown rental agency to explore further afield. I tend to use Expedia to compare the main agencies.
Taxis and Uber are readily available in Perth and are a convenient but expensive option for door-to-door service. During peak times expect prices to be scarily high.
Perth has an extensive network of cycle trails, plus multiple places to hire bikes. I enjoyed this article about the trails available. Bikes can also be taken on trains and ferries outside of peak hours for longer journeys, but check ahead with the provider for exclusions.
PERTH DAILY EXPENSES & BUDGETING
Daily Expenses: Travel Costs
Accommodation: hotel prices in Perth might seem expensive to some Europeans, but are still cheaper than Sydney and Melbourne! Expect to pay around $50 AUD for the top hostel in town, from $150 AUD for a mid-priced 3-star hotel, and from $350 AUD for a 5-star hotel in Perth CBD. My hotel recommendations below will help you plan. Airbnb is widely available but if I'm blunt about it, I have started to question the value of it once you add in the service charges.
Food: Food options are certainly wide and varied in Perth, although I found much better value at lunchtime. For lunch, you're likely to pay $12 and up if you keep things simple. Expect to pay $20 AUD or more for a typical entree at dinner.
Tipping in Australia: while not expected, most people tip up to 10% of the bill especially if service was good.
As a solo traveler, I plan my outgoings as a “smart budget”, allowing for a decent hotel and meal per day, plus 1-2 excursions per location. By keeping general expenditure within a sensible range, my ‘smart budget' can adapt to incorporate once-in-a-lifetime experiences by managing down elsewhere.
For Australia, my suggested ‘smart budget‘ is $240 AUD per day for most solo travelers. That will be more than enough for most visitors to Perth, if you don't mind balancing your day between a mid-priced hotel, keeping food prices sensible and well-priced excursions. If you're a backpacker, put aside $80 a day for Perth, which means a hostel bed, self-catering, no alcohol and keeping excursions free or inexpensive. A luxury budget for Perth starts from $400 and up per day (typically $500 per day for Australia overall).
PERTH ACCOMMODATION & FOOD
Accommodation in Perth
If you're looking for well-priced hotels in Perth, the choices are overwhelming. Since the demise of the fantastically odd Miss Maud's Hotel, here's my top 5:
Best 5* Hotel ($$$): The Ritz-Carlton, Perth
Best Value 5* Hotel ($$$): The Westin, Perth
Best Budget 4* Hotel ($$): Crowne Plaza, Perth
Best Budget 3* Hotel ($): Metro Hotel Perth City
Best Backpacker Hostel ($): Spinner's Backpackers
Food in Perth
Perth, Australia offers an impressive panorama of culinary experiences, embodying the city's multifaceted heritage. Its rich Italian and Asian roots have cultivated a vibrant dining culture that ranges from top-notch refined cuisine to independent fast-food joints. Check out UMA, Restaurant 1903 and Aqua e Sale.
What you need to seek out are places with a keen emphasis on local West Australian products. A lot of Perth's food scene champions the local and sustainability and that seems to bring a zing of freshness to dining out: expect seafood from the Indian Ocean or artisanal cheeses from WA farms. You'll find a wider array of options in Perth city centre, particularly for vegans and vegetarians.
BEST TIME TO GO TO PERTH
Perth is lucky enough to have a Mediterranean climate, characterised by hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The summer months, from December to February, are hot and dry with temperatures often soaring above 30°C (86°F). To be honest, it can get a bit hot for my taste, but hotels and event spaces are generally air-conditioned (and it's a good time to do watersports to cool off). Autumn, from March to May, sees a gradual cooling, with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 25°C (64°F to 77°F). The parks are full of gorgeous foliage and the weather is generally steady, so it's a great time to explore Western Australia. Winter is colder and damper but Spring (September to November) is when you should try to visit Perth: it's warm but manageable, flowers are in full bloom and it's cheaper as Spring counts as the shoulder season for tourists.
SOLO TRAVEL TO PERTH
Solo travel to Perth can be a pleasure, as this is a friendly and laid-back place with both a vibrant arts scene and attractive natural surroundings on your doorstep, allowing you to enjoy company or get away from it! There's certainly a social scene, if that's your thing, diverse cuisine and a good array of events. Try out Fremantle Markets, the big ticket comedy shows, or pick from the many music festivals that pop up right through the year.
Perth is very walkable, particularly in the central city areas like the CBD, Northbridge, and the beautiful Elizabeth Quay. For greater distances, see my section on public transport above: it's efficient and the CAT buses are free. Like any city, keep safety in mind. I would seriously advise you to take a trip or two, perhaps to Pinnacles or Swan River wineries. Short trips like these are a safe way to explore with companionship.
DIGITAL NOMADS IN PERTH
Perth is a pretty solid choice for digital nomads visiting Australia (there's a but, though). There's a good blend of urban amenities, pleasant weather, and robust digital infrastructure. The city has a variety of well-established coworking spaces, as well as plenty of cafes with reliable high-speed internet. Check out LEVEL NINE, Cleaver St & Co or Flux for paid day memberships.
Pros: laid-back lifestyle, pristine beaches and sprawling parks. Great digital infrastructure.
Cons: living costs higher than some other nomad locations. Relative isolation to Europe and North America – makes digital co-working an issue if those spots are important to you.
LGBTQ+ TRAVEL TO PERTH
Like much of Australia, Perth is quite welcoming to LGBTQ+ travellers. It doesn't have the same high-profile scene as Sydney or Melbourne, but at least there's some options for LGBTQ+-focused and friendly events and venues.
With no specifically gay hotels, LGBTQ+ travelers should feel welcome in my any of my top 5 picks (above). Perth has a rainbow painted street in the CBD and Marcus Canning's iconic Rainbow sculpture (above) is one of the main welcoming symbols to Fremantle. PrideFEST takes place every year in November, running a series of parades, parties and cultural events for a couple of weeks.
For nightlife, check out Connections Nightclub, one of the oldest running LGBTQ+ clubs in the Southern Hemisphere. The Court Hotel (nearby) is popular with local LGBTQ+ peeps and allies with a big beer garden, decent food and a capacious beer garden. I've heard that The Bird (Northbridge) is gay-friendly as well as Lot Twenty for wine tasting.
HOW SAFE IS PERTH?
Much like the rest of Australia, Perth is very safe with low crime rates. Indeed, Perth has been ranked as one of the safest cities in the world. However, as with any city, it's still important to be cautious, especially at night or in less crowded areas.
Common crimes include petty theft. Always keep your belongings secure and stay vigilant, particularly in busy public spaces like the CBD or popular tourist spots.
Although Perth is mostly urban, it's still Australia, and that means potential encounters with local wildlife. If you plan on exploring the natural parks and beach areas, do remember to heed local advice regarding beach safety, jellyfish, and snakes.
Sun safety is crucial in Perth due to the strong Australian sun, especially in the summer months. Make sure you wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun during the peak heat hours, usually between 10am to 2pm.
Lastly, if you plan on swimming or surfing at Perth's beautiful beaches, always stick to patrolled beaches and swim between the red and yellow flags. The city's beaches can have strong currents. Lifeguards are there for your safety, so make sure you follow their instructions and warnings. With these precautions in mind, you're set to safely enjoy the wonderful city of Perth and the beauty of Western Australia. Happy travelling!
PERTH TRAVEL GUIDE: BOOKING RESOURCES
These are the companies that I use to make bookings when I travel.
- Expedia – this is the website I use most for looking at hotels. They've really worked on their ‘Filters' and I can set everything to look for options within my Smart Budget.
- Skyscanner – this is where I start every search for flights. Skyscanner searches the main airlines and a bunch of alternatives so you can find the best deal for your trip.
- Get Your Guide – this website is all about tours and excursions. I've used them a lot; GYG has multiple options for each place I'm visiting so I can usually find a short or longer excursion depending on my budget and wants.
- Viator – Viator is a big central marketplace for tours and outings. Using Viator gives you access to everything from tours to food tastings, group walking tours, history and culture.
- VRBO – I've used VRBO in the US and Mexico to book ‘whole properties' (no risk of accidentally booking a room in someone's house!). The pricing is very sensible and it's clear what you will get in terms of amenities.
- G Adventures – this travel group organises small group travel for solo travelers to some amazing places. Check out their regular discounts.
- Peak Design – I use Peak Design products for camera accessories and bags. Everything I've used is strongly constructed and hard-wearing.