Being the capital of Western Australia, Perth is a buzzing cosmopolitan hub of food, fashion, culture and adventure.
With a range of things to see and do that will satisfy even the most seasoned of travellers, a trip to Perth often brings along with it the questions of ‘where should I go?’ and ‘what should I see?’.
While there are ample things that can easily and quickly fill up your travel itinerary, be it for a few days or a few weeks, there are certain attractions and experiences, both natural and man-made, that are considered the ‘must-sees’ in the city and in its surrounding regions.
If you’re in the middle of planning a trip to the WA capital then you’ll most likely be sifting through articles and forums listing things you should see and do during your time here, but we’ve collated all of our knowledge to compile the perfect list of unmissable experiences and attractions in Perth.
Image: Rockingham Wild Encounters
10. Cruise to Penguin Island
Location: 700 metres from Rockingham
Penguin Island is made up of pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and, as the name suggests, penguins. Located in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park and reached in just under an hour from Perth (by road & boat), Penguin Island is a wonderful natural attraction boasting impressive views and local wildlife.
Once you’re on the island you’ll be impressed with all of the things to do! You can swim and snorkel straight off the beach to explore the underwater wonderland, enjoy a picnic on the white sandy beaches, lace up your hiking shoes and explore some of the island’s scenic nature trails, or watch the penguin feeding sessions by the Island Rangers at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm daily.
Local operator, Rockingham Wild Encounters, operate cruises out to the island on a daily basis, with ferries departing hourly from 9 am to 3 pm.
Please note the Penguin Island Jetty has been damaged and repairs are expected to be complete by September 23, therefore boats are currently unable to dock or unload at the island.
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Image: The Bell Tower
9. Barrack Street Jetty
Location: Barrack Square, Esplanade Reserve
A hub for dining, relaxation and sightseeing, Barrack Street Jetty is the place to go on an evening in Perth. If you’re not visiting to catch a ferry or charter to a nearby island, then you’ll be going to take advantage of the wide variety of cafes, restaurants and bars in the vicinity.
You’ll find eateries serving a variety of cuisines such as Long Chim, Aqua Bar and The Lucky Shag, just three of the options to grab a bite to eat or a drink between strolls along the waterfront.
In addition to the food, Barrack Street Jetty is famed for its iconic Bell Tower, a popular tourist attraction in the city and a centrepiece of the waterfront precinct. You can admire the tower from the ground by looking up or you can climb it to enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding Perth region.
The open air Observation Deck is open to the public from 10 am until 3:45 pm and costs $9 for children, $16 for seniors and $18 for adults. The tower houses a number of historic bells including the oldest one in Australia which dates all the way back to 1550. While you’re at the top, you’ll be able to ring a bell with an interactive demonstration, record and send a free video postcard from the top and take in the spectacular views.
A must-see when in the region, even if you don’t venture to the top of the tower, you should make visiting the Barrack Street Jetty a priority during your visit.
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8. Relax at Cottesloe Beach
Stretching a kilometre on the West Australian coast line, Cottesloe Beach is a white sandy beach contrasted by vibrant turquoise waters, or in other words, it’s paradise.
One of the most popular swimming and relaxing beaches for locals, visitors to the area will often hear the words “Cottesloe Beach” echoed on a beautiful sunny day in Perth. Drawing large crowds in summer, spring and every other time the weather is ideal, Cottesloe isn’t one of those quiet, isolated beaches, but it all adds to its appeal.
Reached in just a 30-minute drive from the Perth CBD, you can drive yourself, catch a bus or train or embark on a day tour. Either way you choose to get there you’ll most likely never want to leave once you lay your eyes on its natural beauty.
Once you’ve found a spot on the beach between the crowds and you’ve then waded into the picturesque waters you’ll want to keep your eye out for the marine life that also frequents the area. On the northern end of the beach, snorkelers have often been joined by leafy sea dragons, making for an exciting visit. Other highlights once you’re in the water include the iconic floating bell which people use as a diving platform just off shore.
While the day time views of the beach are incredible, as the sun begins to set the beach takes on a whole new look and transforms into a sunset hotspot. Looking out over the Indian Ocean you can watch the sky change colours to hues of yellow and orange with a drink in hand, there’s really no better way to finish off a day in this beautiful region.
Make sure you bring your swimmers, a towel, sun-safety gear and your patience, as the crowds can get a little crazy at times, but it’s all for the fun of it.
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Tarlin the Echidna | Image: Alex Asbury
7. Visit Perth Zoo
Location: 20 Labouchere Rd, South Perth
Forget the idea that zoos are just for children, Perth Zoo is the zoo for all and a haven for animal lovers of all ages. Home to over 1000 animals, Perth Zoo is sure to put a smile on your face with their resident cuties. With a number of native Australian species as well as exotic animals from around the world, you’ll be in a wildlife heaven from the moment you arrive.
The 17-hectare zoo is set out in three main sections; the African Savannah, the Asian Rainforest and the Australian Bushwalk, so you’ll be able to plan your route for the day based on what animals you want to see. As you wander around the zoo you’ll see giraffes, lions, elephants, orangutans, tigers, koalas, wombats, dingoes, emus and crocodiles. Some of our favourite Perth Zoo locals are Alia the quokka, Tarlin the Echidna and Frankie the Numbat – so cute!
To add to the praises of Perth Zoo, it is a sustainable zoo who aims to lessen their environmental footprint in all aspects of their operation and all of the staff are also really passionate about animal conservation.
Getting to the zoo is easy as it is only a 5-minute drive from the city centre. Other modes of transport include a ferry ride from Barrack Street Jetty, bus and train services, taxis, ride shares and bike and foot paths.
Perth Zoo is open every day of the year from 9 am until 5 pm, so no matter when you’re planning to visit Perth you’ll be able to pay a visit to the friendly team at the zoo and their beautiful animals.
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Image: Explore Tours Perth
6. Travel through the Pinnacles Desert
Location: Pinnacles Drive, Cervantes
Though it’s located a fair way out of Perth – around 2 hours 20 minutes – the Pinnacles Desert is still considered one of the must-see sights when visiting the region hence the reason it attracts around 250,000 visitors a year. Known for its irregular geological formations that reach up to 5 metres in height, the Pinnacles Desert is spread out over 190 hectares of land.
Reached by car or bus tour, it will take you around 2 -hours to drive around the viewing trail and take in the sights from the lookout point.
Local operator, Explore Tours Perth, runs tours to the Pinnacles Desert, the Swan Valley and Caversham Wildlife Park with lunch and hotel transfers, making this trip as easy as can be! If visiting with the tour you won’t have to worry about paying the entrance fees upon arrival to the desert ($12 per passenger vehicle)
Providing you with some incredible photo opportunities, these formations have been in the making for at least 80,000 years and are worth the 2 hours drive out of Perth to visit.
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5. Browse the Fremantle Markets
Location: South Terrace & Henderson St, Fremantle
Perfect for souvenirs, clothes and accessories, fresh produce and everything in between, the Fremantle Markets – though located around 30 minutes south west of Perth itself – are one of the must-do things when visiting the region.
In operation since 1879, the markets have become a staple of the region and a great way to spend a weekend in the Perth region. With vendors selling a range of goods including clothes and accessories, souvenirs and homewares and fresh produce and ready-to-eat food, you’ll be able to find something to take home as a keepsake for your visit.
In addition to the lively, local stall holders, the markets are frequented by buskers who provide a nice bit of entertainment for the day.
The markets are split into two sections, The Yard which is open from 8 am to 8 pm on Fridays and 8 am to 6 pm on Saturdays & Sundays, and The Hall which is open from 9 am to 8 pm on Fridays and 9 am to 6 pm on Saturdays & Sundays.
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4. Relax in Kings Park
Location: Perth CBD
For impressive views of Peth city and a relaxing atmosphere, make sure you head to Kings Park and Botanic Garden. Covering 400 hectares of land and nestled right in the city, Kings Park is one of the biggest inner-city parks in the world!
Home to a number of cafes and restaurants you can come for a bite to eat or bring your own food and drink to enjoy a picnic on the wide-open lawn. In terms of activities, there are playgrounds for the young ones to enjoy and free guided walking tours. Within the park there is also the State War Memorial and the State Botanic Garden with its 1,700 unique native species, so you can make your visit an educational on at the same time.
If your visit falls in the month of September you’ll be able to take in the beautiful sights of the blooming wildflowers with the annual Kings Park Festival. Running for the entire month, the park transforms into a flourishing mecca for all things flora making it the largest presentation of wildflowers in Western Australia.
If you’re after a relaxing day out that doesn’t have to cost you a cent, you should definitely look at visiting Kings Park for the day!
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Image: Tourism Australia
3. Wine and dine in the Swan Valley
Location: Between Guildford & Bells Rapids
Home to more than 40 wineries, Swan Valley is the oldest wine region in Western Australia, so you can expect some high-quality wine, food and all-around spectacular experiences.
There are various ways to tour the Swan Valley, you can embark on a guided tour (recommended if you’re eager to taste your way around the region) of the region with one of the 20 operators offering day tours, or you can drive yourself to see some of the stand-out vineyards and eateries as it is located around 25 minutes from Perth CBD.
While you’re in the region you can take in the beautiful sites of the rolling vineyards, taste test some of the best products on the Swan Valley Food & Wine Trail or get active on the Swan Valley Heritage Cycle Trail.
Swan Valley Tours take their passengers on a journey into the heart of the valley to visit some of the best producers around. Their four tours will visit famous wineries, breweries, chocolate makers, cheese factories and more in just one day, ensuring you’ll be full and satisfied at the end of the tour.
Simply put, if you like award-winning wine, delicious food and incredible sights, then the Swan Valley is the place for you to be!
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2. Explore Rottnest Island
Location: Rottnest Island
By far one of the most talked about attractions in the Perth region, Rottnest Island is a hub for locals and visitors eager to escape the city life and embrace the beauty of island living.
Reached in just a short 45-minute ferry ride from Hillarys Boat Harbour or Fremantle, Rottnest Island is a haven for all things aquatic. With a vibrant coral reef surrounding the shoreline and reached by simply walking off the beach, a preserved military history, a laid back atmosphere, no cars and of course, the adorably photogenic quokkas.
From snorkelling and swimming to hiking and cycling, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! If you’re simply looking to explore the island you’ll be able to do so in a day with a morning ferry ride from the mainland, however, if you’re wanting to take your time and explore all the island has to offer you can spend one night and two days on the island (at least) to enjoy activities such as scenic cruises, Segway tours, tandem skydives and scenic helicopter flights!
One of the most talked about and photographed features on Rottnest is their resident quokkas. An animal native to Australia, the quokkas have a thriving population on the island and are protected by law. Visitors are asked not to feed or touch them, but you can still snap a few cute photos with these inquisitive animals.
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Image: Explore Tours Perth
1. Surf Wave Rock
Location: Lot 6359, LOT 4 Lovering Rd, Hyden
As the name suggests, this is a rock replicating the look of a wave. A natural phenomenon that has become a major drawcard for the region of Hyden and a common site on social media travel blogs and forums. Wave Rock is one of our top picks for the must-see sights in Perth and for good reason.
The hues of brown, red and yellow in the rock that is shaped like a wave make it a unique attraction that even the locals love. While only approximately 460 people live in the town of Hyden, the rock itself is visited by at least 100,000 people every year!
The rock formation is believed to have been formed around 2.5 billion years ago and has weathered erosion for many years to still stand tall today. Stretching around 110 metres in length and rising 14 metres high, the rock is a sight to behold. You can walk along the base to get up close and admire the colours or you can climb to the top of the rock to take in the impressive views of the surrounding Hyden region.
If you’re planning to visit the rock during the spring months you’ll be greeted by colourful paddocks of wildflowers, adding to the visual appeal of the attraction. Make sure you take your camera to snap a good shot of the wave before it crashes into the outback dirt.