Perth is an eclectic mix of big city life and laid-back coastal culture that will appeal to all types of travellers. Here's a checklist of top things to do in and around the city, thanks to TFE Hotels.
Pristine beaches, orange ocean sunsets, contemporary cuisine, boutique bars, popping street art, and a vibrant cultural scene are yours to be explored and adored in the Western Australian capital.
It’s a relatively long trip to Perth from most parts of Oz, so don’t cut yourself short by trying to cram everything into two or three days — particularly on a first visit. If you can afford the time, treat yourself to a stay of at least a week. Spend four days exploring the city and its surroundings, a day soaking up the splendour of Rottnest Island, at least a day getting to know Fremantle (‘Freo’ as it’s fondly known locally), and perhaps add a day trip to the Swan Valley or Margaret River wine region. You won’t be sorry!
Here are ten of the best things to do in Perth on a first visit.
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1. Do a tour
A great way to hit the ground running in a new city is to do a tour. From city sightseeing coach trips to guided strolls, Perth offers an array of tours — all of which will get you up to speed fast on the city’s history and cultural scene. You’re also likely to get the low-down from your guide on trending places to eat and drink. We like to kick things off with a hop on hop off bus tour — always a convenient and cost effective way to travel between key attractions. Back that up with a walking tour of the city’s characterful, street-art emblazoned laneways and arcades.
2. Get arty in the Perth Cultural Centre
Western Australia’s preeminent cultural institutions are conveniently grouped in one part of Perth, making the Cultural Centre in Northbridge a one-stop-shop for those looking to learn more of the state’s history, dive into its arts scene, or see a show. Having undergone a $400 million redevelopment, the WA Museum recently reopened as Boola Bardip (meaning ‘many stories’). It’s seriously impressive and will take you the best part of a day to see.
Across the way, the Art Gallery of Western Australia may look a little forbidding (it’s actually a very notable piece of Australian brutalist architecture), but don’t let that put you off venturing inside. The gallery’s collection of Indigenous art is ground-breaking and will shatter any preconceptions you may have about what Aboriginal creativity entails. The new rooftop sculpture walk yields incredible city views.
3. Explore Yagan Square and Elizabeth Quay
Perth has undergone a building boom in the past decade and has some world class civic spaces to show for it. Cradled within the arms of the Horseshoe Bridge, Yagan Square opened in 2018 to link the CBD and Northbridge. Its design honours the culture of the Noongar First People and references the wetlands that once covered this area. Native plants, water features, rust coloured structures, and public art all play a part in transporting visitors out of the city centre and into the bush. Even the digital tower has significance; the fourteen prongs at the top replicate bullrushes and the number of local Indigenous languages.
On the opposite side of the city, there’s another notable regeneration project to check out — Elizabeth Quay. It opened in 2016 to facilitate smoother travel on the Swan River between the CBD, South Perth, and beyond. Although there’s still some construction going on, the precinct has an easy-breezy vibe and offers plenty to do. Grab an ice cream at Gusto Gelato, ride the beautiful old-time carousel, be paddled along the river in a traditional Venetian gondola, or take the ferry to Perth Zoo.
4. Take in the epic views from Kings Park
It’s pretty much a given that you’ll visit Kings Park while you’re in Perth (along with the five million others who meander through the 400-hectare parklands every year). The park has a lot going on, but the one thing almost all visitors do is take a photo of the city skyline. The best view is from the Fraser Street Lookout (near the emotive State War Memorial).
Green thumbs and native plant lovers may like to join one of the free guided tours that depart from outside the Aspects of Kings Park gallery at 10am and 1pm daily. If you prefer to ride rather than stride, book a Segway tour.
5. Conquer the heady heights of Optus Stadium
Constructed between 2013 and 2017, likened to a giant cray pot, and accessible from the city side of the Swan by crossing the new Matagarup Bridge, Optus Stadium in Burswood has quickly become a much loved part of Perth’s urban landscape. The stadium hosts all manner of sporting and cultural events, and offers spectacular views from its soaring roofline. Join the popular Halo tour and walk a circuit of the roof, pausing to admire the CBD, bridge, and curving course of the river. If you’re really game, the Vertigo experience will see you leaning out over the turf — 40 metres below — backwards!
If you’re a wine lover you’ll be delighted to learn that apart from Vienna (Austria), Perth is the only capital city in the world to have a wine region right on its doorstep. Convenient! The idyllic Swan Valley is situated less than 30 minutes’ drive from the heart of the CBD and makes a great day trip. To get the most from your visit, book a wine tour with d’Vine and let someone else do the driving. You’ll sip vintages at classy cellar doors like Mandoon Estate, do a beer tasting at popular microbrewery Valley Social (formerly Elmar’s In The Valley), and sample gourmet produce and sweet treats along the way.
8. Try a distilled drop
The urban landscape also yields some memorable libations, including those crafted at the Whipper Snapper Distillery in East Perth. Drop by the distillery to do a tasting or sign up for the weekend Whisky Masterclass, which will see you sampling three core products and three small batch whiskies under the tutorage of an expert host. You may have the opportunity to try Australia’s first wheat whisky — recently named the world’s best single cask/single grain whisky at the 2022 World Whiskies Awards. Also look out for the distinctive red corn whisky — another Australian first.
9. Visit Rottnest Island
No visit to Perth would be complete without seeing wondrous Rottnest Island — 19 kilometres off the coast from the capital. For many visitors it’s all about snapping a selfie with the resident quokkas, who’ve well and truly gone global. But the island has so much more to offer. Rottnest Express operates a fast ferry service from Perth and Fremantle, and will see you post-haste frolicking in the azure waters or getting in some towel time on the impossibly white beaches. Bike riding, hiking, snorkelling, and even skydiving are all popular ways to while away a day on the island.
Rottnest hasn’t always been the holidaymaker’s utopia that it is today. Known to the Noongar as Wadjemup, the island served as an Aboriginal prison from the late 1830s for close to a century. Learn more at the recently upgraded Wadjemup Museum or on one of the island’s excellent (and free!) guided walking tours.
10. Learn to surf
Western Australia is blessed with endless beaches and epic surfing conditions, and the Perth metro area has more than one hundred kilometres of coastline. So, why not give surfing a go while you’re here? Scarborough Beach Surf School has been teaching dudes and dudettes to hang ten since 1986, and offers group lessons all year round.
Where to stay in Perth
Vibe Hotel Subiaco Perth
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the CBD is the only place to base yourself during a stay in Perth. Not so! Characterful neighbourhoods packed with period architecture, bustling cafes, popular pubs, and vibrant street artscapes fringe the city, and Subiaco is a textbook case. Just a 10-minute drive from the city centre, and in close proximity to Kings Park, this leafy enclave is home to the newly opened Vibe Hotel Subiaco Perth — a stylish accommodation option with a striking decor and full suite of amenities.
The guest rooms are tastefully furnished, with well appointed bathrooms anyone would be proud to call their own. Fast, efficient, complimentary Wi-Fi will keep you connected throughout your stay, while the pool and gym will ensure that any Swan Valley gourmet goodie blowouts are dealt with on the spot.
At nine levels the hotel is one of the tallest buildings in the area, and its rooftop bar and eatery — Storehouse — affords diners and socialisers an incredible view. But it’s not just the outlook that will wow you. Storehouse has earned itself a Good Food Guide hat rating and it’s not hard to work out why as you tuck into fabulous fare, crafted from the finest locally sourced produce. Push the boat out on the chef’s table menu and wash it all down with a sublime Velvety Blossom cocktail.
Rendezvous Hotel Perth Scarborough
Also waiting to woo you away from a CBD stay are the beachside suburbs that line Perth’s aptly named Sunset Coast. Ocean sunsets are a rarity for most Aussies, but Perthites get to bask in the glow of the sun slipping into the Indian Ocean on a daily basis. It’s reason enough to book a stay of at least a couple of nights by the beach.
Located 20 minutes’ drive north-west of the city, aforementioned Scarborough Beach is one of the WA capital’s best-known stretches of sand — and presiding over the recent $100 million foreshore redevelopment is the iconic Rendezvous Hotel Perth Scarborough. This high-rise hotel has grand proportions and an ethos of hospitality to match. Everything is generously sized: the lobby, guest rooms, bathrooms, balconies, the much-photographed pool area, and let’s not forget the vistas. Splash out on an ocean facing room and enjoy a ringside seat for sunset.
The foreshore boasts a host of amenities, including an ocean pool complex, skate park, bars and casual eateries, and a seasonal sunset market. Keep at least one night free to dine at the Rendezvous Scarborough’s Straits Cafe, which offers captivating oceanfront dining under the stewardship of chef Wendelin Ulrich.
Wrap up your evening with a nightcap or cocktail at the Lobby Bar, and tickle the ivories on the white baby grand piano that Michael Jackson had installed in the hotel during the Australian leg of his History tour in 1996.
Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Perth bus tours and guided experiences from many of the city's leading tour operators. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book with us, and if you find the same tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply*.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Perth on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. She also spent six months working on a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book, or zooming in on a beautiful scene.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.