When it comes to traveling Australia, Perth is not high up on most travelers’ lists. It doesn’t get a lot of visitors or backpackers when compared to the east coast.
Located on the West Coast (and far from everything), that’s partially understandable. It’s not an easy place to get to.
However, those travelers are missing out. To me, Perth embodies everything that defines Australia: rugged yet sophisticated, modern but rustic, relaxed but bustling.
The city was founded in 1829 by Captain James Stirling as the center of the Swan River Colony. Since then, it has developed into a clean, friendly, beautiful city right on the ocean.
Today, it’s a hub of activity and growth thanks to mining and off-shore oil drilling. It may not be as big or have as many things to do as the places on the east coast but there’s still a lot to do here – from beaches to breweries to great restaurants to museums and day trips around. Perth has a lot.
This Perth travel guide can help you plan the best trip to the city.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Perth
1. Wander Kings Park and Botanic Garden
2. Enjoy the beaches
3. Visit Rottnest Island
4. Explore Fremantle
5. Visit Mandurah Estuary and Peel Inlet
Other Things to See and Do in Perth
1. Take in the history
The Perth Mint provides a fascinating exhibit about how the notorious goldfields in Western Australia were discovered, including the harshness of those early Gold Rush days. They distribute over 18 billion dollars worth of gold and other metals each year and even have a demonstration on how gold bars are made. Tours are available daily. Admission is 19 AUD ($14 USD).
2. See the Art Gallery of Western Australia
This gallery was founded in 1895 and houses the state’s most distinguished art collection. It includes post-World War II works, as well as Indigenous art pieces. There are also rotating exhibitions, so be sure to check the website for the most up-to-date information. Admission is free but donations are accepted.
3. 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!
4. 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.
5. Climb the DNA Tower
From this spiraling staircase (located in Kings Park) you can get a panoramic view of the city as well as the Indian Ocean. It is the highest point in Kings Park, requiring you to walk up 101 stairs before you can take in the view. Bring a camera — the view is worth it!
6. Hike the Bibbulmun Track
Stretching over 590 miles (950km), this long-distance hiking trail is one of the world’s greatest. It winds 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 pit stops and rest breaks. There are 9 main sections to the trail and it takes most people 6-8 weeks to do the whole thing.
7. Visit Caversham Wildlife Park
Caversham Wildlife Park is a family wildlife park with the largest collection of native wildlife in Western Australia. It’s incredibly interactive and the animals are well cared for. It’s home to dingos, llamas, echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, and more. You can even feed the kangaroos and wallabies! Admission is 30 AUD ($23 USD).
8. Go wine tasting in Margaret River
Margaret River is just three hours south of Perth, and it’s world-famous for its wines and locally produced food. You can explore here on a tour and visit some big names like the Leeuwin Estate Winery and also smaller vineyards. A half-day wine tour will cost you about 90 AUD ($68 USD). (Though if you can, it’s better to spend a night or two out there so you can relax and enjoy a lot of wine.)
For more information on specific cities in Australia, check out these guides:
Perth Travel Costs
Hostel prices – 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. You can find beds in dorm rooms that sleep 8-12 people for 20 AUD ($15 USD). Smaller dorms will be closer to 25 AUD ($19 USD). Private rooms start at 60 AUD ($46 USD). Free Wi-Fi is standard and a few hostels in the city also include free breakfast.
If you’re traveling with a tent, you can find basic plots without electricity for around 14 AUD ($11 USD) outside the city.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotel rooms start around 120 AUD ($92 USD). These hotels usually have AC, a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and occasionally free breakfast.
On Airbnb, private rooms start at 50 AUD ($38 USD) but average closer to 100 AUD ($75 USD). For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 110 AUD ($84 USD).
Average cost of food – Restaurants in Perth are expensive. Most main dishes at restaurants serving traditional Australian cuisine cost between 20-30 AUD ($15-23 USD). Grab and go places cost around 10 AUD ($7 USD) for sandwiches. Fast food like McDonald’s is around 12 AUD ($9 USD) for a combo meal. The best value food are the Thai/Chinese/Indian spots where you can get a really filling meal for under 20 AUD ($15 USD).
A beer costs around 10 AUD. A cappuccino or latte costs closer to 5 AUD. Expect to pay around 3AUD for a bottle of water.
If you cook your meals, expect to pay 90 AUD ($65 USD) per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foodstuffs.
Backpacking Perth Suggested Budgets
On a very strict backpacker budget, you can do it for 70-90 AUD per day. You can get by on this budget if you stay in large hostel dorms or camp, cook most of your meals, limit your drinking, take part in free activities, and use public transportation.
On a mid-range budget of 230 AUD, you can stay in a budget hotel or Airbnb, eat fast food or takeaway food for most meals, rent a car to get around, do some day tours (like wine tasting on the Margaret River), and enjoy a few drinks out at the bar.
On a “luxury” budget of 430 AUD per day or more, you can stay in a four-star hotel, eat out for all your meals, rent a car to get around, and do more day trips and tours, including a trip to Rottnest Island. The sky is the limit!
Here’s a chart with suggested budgets to help you plan. Prices re in AUD:
Perth Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Perth is one of the most expensive cities in Australia but there are a few ways to save money as a traveler if you know a few little acks. Here are some ways you can cut down on costs in Perth:
- Watch for sales – Airfare to Perth is usually very expensive, which is why so few people are able to visit the city. Jetstar is your best bet so sign up for their newsletter to find deals.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation in Perth is pricey. If you plan ahead, you can usually find a Couchsurfing host. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
- Take the ferry – If you are going to Fremantle, take the ferry. It’s slower but cheaper than the train.
- Work 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 free bed. Commitments vary but most hostels ask you to stay for at least a week.
- Drink goon (box wine) – Goon is infamous on the Australian backpacker hostel trail. This cheap box of wine is the best way to drink, get a buzz, and save a lot of money at the same time.
- Cook often – The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. ALDI is the cheapest supermarket in the country, followed by Coles and then Woolworths. Book a hostel or Airbnb with a kitchen to save money.
- Take a free walking tour – Volunteers from Visit Perth lead a variety of free walking tours, including an orientation tour and a street art tour. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the city! just be sure to tip your guide!
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and is the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi.
- Get a reusable water bottle – The water in Perth is safe to drink so bring a water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw makes reusable bottles that also have built-in filters so you can be sure your water is always safe and clean.
Where To Stay in Perth
Perth has some excellent accommodations. Here are my favorite places to stay in Perth:
How to Get Around Perth
Bus – Perth has a great public bus system run by Transperth. To use it, you’ll need to buy a Smartrider card for 10 AUD ($8 USD) and then load it with a 10 AUD ($8 USD) minimum. You can pick one of these up from most convenience stores, newsagents, and some bus and train stations. Fares are between 2.20 AUD ($1.68) per ride when paying cash and 1.76 AUD ($1.35 USD) with the Smartrider card.
A single-day pass with unlimited travel is 13.10 AUD ($10 USD).
There’s also a free bus service (the CAT bus) in the city center and in Fremantle, that drives multiple loops. They stop at many of the city’s attractions and are handy for getting between Perth or Fremantle’s downtown hotels and sights.
Trains – Perth’s train system is great for getting around the city and beyond, especially into the suburbs. They work alongside the bus system, so you can use your Smartrider card as you would for the buses. Two of the biggest stations are Perth Station and Elizabeth Quay Station, from which you can get just about anywhere.
Ferries – With your Smartrider card you can take the public ferry across the Swan River from Elizabeth Quay Jetty. It leaves every 15-30 minutes and takes 8 minutes.
You can also take a private ferry to visit Rottnest Island. The Rottnest Express costs 70 AUD ($54 USD) while the SeaLink Ferry costs around 50 AUD ($38 USD) return.
Bicycle – Since Perth is so sprawled out, renting a bicycle is a great way to get around if you want some freedom and flexibility. However, rentals aren’t cheap – most start at about 25 AUD ($19 USD) per day.
Car Rental – If you want to do some exploring around Perth, a car rental is a great option. You can rent a small vehicle for about 75 AUD ($60 USD) per day.
Taxi – Taxis are crazy expensive so if you aren’t going to walk, bus, or train it, use Uber. It’s much cheaper. An Uber to the airport is 30 AUD ($23 USD) versus 50AUD ($38 USD) with a taxi!
When to Go to Perth
September to the end of November are both excellent months for visiting Perth, as winter is transitioning into spring. The weather is comfortable, the wildflowers are in bloom, and the skies are always clear. Temperatures average between 53-73°F (11-23°C), and there’s very little rainfall.
December through February is Perth’s summer, and the temperature can soar as high as 100°F (38°C)! If you want a beach vacation, however, this might work for you. June through August is Perth’s winter, which is the low season with chillier temperatures (as low as 46°F/8°C) and lots of rain. It’s also the cheapest time to visit, as tourists tend to avoid the city this time of year.
How to Stay Safe in Perth
Perth is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel. There’s very little crime here. Use caution like you would any other big city but there’s a slim chance of anything going seriosly wrong.
When in doubt, always trust your instincts. If a taxi driver seems shady, get out. If your hotel or accommodation is seedier than you thought, go somewhere else. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID, before you travel in case of an emergency.
Most incidents here tend to occur because visitors are not used to the country’s unique climate and wilderness. Be sure you have plenty of sunscreen and stay as hydrated as possible. Be on the lookout for snakes and spiders, and if you’re bitten, seek immediate care. Furthermore, if you’re swimming, heed the red and yellow flags. Yellow flags indicate swimming conditions may be dangerous; red flags mean the beach is closed.
As a general rule, if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Perth. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of safety advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Perth Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Perth. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings!
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Perth Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Perth Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one of the most prolific and recognized names in travel writing. This book chronicles a journey through Australia and takes you from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. Bryson includes lots of trivia in his tale as he travels around in awe — and sometimes in fear (thanks to box jellyfish, riptides, crocs, spiders, and snakes) — of this enormous country. This is the book that inspired me to go to Australia.
A Long Way From Home, by Peter Carey
Irene Bob loves to drive fast, and her husband is the best car salesman in southeastern Australia. Together they decide to enter the 1954 Redex Trial — an endurance drive that circumnavigates the entire country. Willie Bachhuber, a failed schoolteacher, joins them. If they win their lives will be forever changed – but first they’re led out of the comfortable Australia they know so well and into an unexpected adventure full of twists and turns. Peter Carey is a two-time Booker Prize winner, and one of Australia’s most well-known writers.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, by Robyn Davidson
This is Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her incredible journey 1,700 miles through the Australian desert to the sea, accompanied only by four camels and a dog. Davidson fends off sweltering heat, poisonous snakes, and dangerous men — all while wrangling her temperamental camels. It’s definitely one of those transformative stories that allow you to get super invested in the author as well as the severe Australian desert landscape. It has also been made into a great documentary!
The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
You can’t come to Australia without learning a little bit about the country’s Indigenous Australians. This is part travelogue and part autobiography, and one of Chatwin’s most famous books. Here, Chatwin searches the Australian Outback for the source of the Aboriginal “dreaming tracks,” the invisible pathways from which the Aboriginals’ ancestors sang the world into existence. The Songlines was an instant best-seller when it was published, and nowadays it’s a classic.
Australia Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Australia travel and continue planning your trip: