Perth, Australia was founded on June 12th, 1829 (my birthday…not year though!) by Captain James Stirling as the center of the Swan River Colony, and has developed into a clean, friendly, easily accessible, beautiful city, right on the ocean. To me, it embodies everything that defines Australia—rugged yet sophisticated, modern but rustic, relaxed but bustling. Fewer people venture here because it’s further from main attractions on the East Coast, making it a great spot to immerse yourselves into the local flare. The city is now a hub of activity and growth thanks to mining and off shore oil drilling, but has gotten a little pricey over the last few years. It’s my favorite city in Australia and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Hostel prices – Hostel dorm rooms start around 20-35 AUD per night, with private rooms in hostels starting around 60 AUD. This city is one of the more expensive cities in Australia due to the high cost of living from all the mining money in town. Good, central, and cheap accommodations are hard to find. If you’re looking for a good time and solid value, check out The Witch’s Hat.
Budget hotel prices – Expect about 90 AUD for a single room and around 110 AUD for a basic double room.
Average cost of food – Restaurants in Perth are really expensive. Most main dishes are 20-30 AUD, though cheaper, less fancy restaurants are closer to $15. If you cook your meals, expect to pay 100 AUD per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic food stuffs. Grab and go places cost around 8-10 AUD for sandwiches. Fast food is around 15 AUD for a meal. The best value food are the ethnic restaurants where you can get a really filling meal for 10!
Transportation Costs – Bus and train fare is about 4 AUD one way. The city is very spread out and not very walkable, so you might have to resort to paying a bit. Taxis are crazy expensive so if you aren’t going to walk, bus, or train it, use UberX. It’s much cheaper. An Uber to the airport is 20 AUD versus 35 with a taxi!
Read more on the costs of traveling around Australia.
Money Saving Tips
Budget for a Sunday Session – On Sundays, Cottesloe fills with young adults engaging in one of the country’s favorite tradition. Aussies love to drink and love Sundays, so a Sunday Session is a great combination. Save some money so that you can partake in all the local rituals.
Watch for sales – Airfare to Perth is usually very expensive, which is why so few people are able to visit the city. Tiger Airways has great fares from the east coast – check mid-week when fares are the cheapest.
Take the ferry – If you are going to Fremantle, take the ferry, which while slower, is also cheaper than the train. Bonus—it’s also much more scenic.
Clean for your room – Many hostels offer travelers the chance to work for their accommodation. In exchange for a few hours a day of cleaning, you get a bed. Commitments vary, but most hostels ask you to stay at least a week.
Top Things to See and Do in Perth
Take in the history – The Perth Royal Mint provides a fascinating demonstration of how to pour liquid gold and transform it into solid gold bars. You’ll also learn the story about how the notorious gold fields in Western Australia were discovered, including the harshness of those early Gold Rush days.
Head to the Art Gallery of Western Australia – This gallery was founded in 1895 and houses the state’s most distinguished art collection. It includes post-WWII works, as well as Indigenous pieces.
Hang out in Northbridge – Northbridge is the hub of nightlife here and is also home to amazing restaurants and clubs. It’s a great place to eat but an even better place to party at night.
Visit Kings Park and Botanic Garden – After a day in the city, hop on the free Cat Bus up to Kings Park with its 990 acres of landscaped gardens and bushland. You can get impressive views of the city and river, walk through the eucalyptus tree canopy, explore native habitats, and take in the rich bird life. Kings Park is also host to many music and theater events, so be sure to look out for for what’s going on.
Visit the Perth’s Cultural Center – The center contains an art gallery, museum, the state library, and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. On a rainy day, the museum has a very engaging exhibit on the history of the area.
Head to the famous beaches – Perth has a number of good beaches—Cottesloe Beach (one of the most popular), Swanbourne Beach (nude beach), City Beach (also very popular), Scarborough Beach (great for surfing), and Trigg Beach (can’t get enough of surfing). These beaches alone are one of the top reasons visit Australia.
Have a Sunday Session – The Aussie tradition of a “Sunday Session” (Sunday drinking) is at its finest in Perth. Perth’s Sunday Sessions are famous throughout the whole country- people get dressed up like they are going out on a Saturday night. Make sure you go to the Cottesloe Hotel for the best scene in town.
Take a day trip to Fremantle – Fremantle makes for a great day trip from Perth. It’s only an hour by train and the city has great restaurants, a beautiful water area, and nice parks. Make a visit to Fremantle Prison, where the convicts constructed this beautiful pale limestone structure. Moreover, Fremantle is home to Little Creatures, one of the best micro-breweries in Australia.
Climb the DNA Tower – From this tower, you can get panoramic views of the city skyline, Swan River, Darling Scarp, and Indian Ocean. It is the highest point in Kings Park. You only have to walk up 101 steps for the view!
The Aquarium of Western Australia – This is a good stop on a cloudy, rainy day. They have a very extensive collection of fish from this area, as well as sharks, tropical fish, and sea cucumbers. If you are going to dive or go to the reefs, this is a good way to learn about the different species you will see prior to heading out. A week day is the best time to go if you want to avoid a mass of people and children.
Bibbulmun Track – Stretching over 600 miles long, this trail is one of the world’s greatest through karri and tingle forests, down misty valleys and along the coast. Trails vary from one day long to several weeks for the whole hike—cabins are offered along the entire way for a pit stop!
Mandurah Estuary and Peel Inlet – Just an hour south, Mandurah is a hidden gem perfect for boating, fishing, dolphin watching, and crabbing. Be sure to check out the Mandurah Crab Festival if you’re in town during March.
Learn about the Aboriginals – Take a tour of the outback with the indigenous people to learn about their history, culture and way of life. Casual bushwalks are offered by many different companies, as well as 4WD tours.
Rottnest Island – This is one place that virtually everyone will tell you to visit. Just an hour from town, it is the perfect spot for a day trip. In addition to awesome beaches and the native Quokkas, there is snorkeling, bike rentals, camping, restaurants, and plenty of activities for children. Just make sure to avoid “schoolies week” in late November, early December when the island becomes a drinking festival for 18 year old Aussies who just graduated from school.