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 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 to offer anyone who visits — no matter their interests!
This Perth travel guide can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this off-the-radar destination!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Perth
1. Wander Kings Park and Botanic Garden
Kings Park, with its 400 hectares (990 acres) of landscaped gardens and bushland, offers impressive views of the city and river. Walk through the eucalyptus tree canopy, visit Giga Jumulu (the giant boab tree), explore native habitats, and take in the rich bird life. There are also a lot of live events held here too as well as a wildflower festival in September. Admission is free.
2. Enjoy the beaches
Perth has a number of good beaches. Cottesloe Beach (one of the most popular for water activities ) is top of the list. If you’re visiting in March, don’t miss the Sculpture by the Sea Festival right on the beach. Other notable beaches include Swanbourne Beach (nude beach on the north side), City Beach (quieter with great restaurants nearby), Scarborough Beach (great for surfing and easily accessible by public transport), and Trigg Beach (known for its white sand and yes, you guessed it, surfing). These beaches alone are one of the top reasons to visit Australia. Pack your sunglasses and sunscreen and enjoy the waves!
3. Visit Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is the perfect spot for a day trip. In addition to awesome beaches, there’s snorkeling, biking, camping, and plenty of family activities. Avoid “schoolies week” in late November and early December when the island becomes a drinking fest for 18-year-old Aussies. You can also rent a bike and cycle around the island if you don’t want to lounge on the beach. Since COVID, face masks have become mandatory on ferries and public transport to the island. Be sure to do your research and check for the latest updates before traveling. For a full-day guided cycling tour, expect to pay around 120 AUD per person.
4. Go Stargazing in the Pinnacles
Two hours south of Perth are the Pinnacles, limestone formations located within Nambung National Park. One of the most popular activities in the city is to head out on a sunset and stargazing tour. Away from the light pollution of Perth, you’ll have the chance to see an incredible starry sky. After admiring the sunset, use a telescope or astro-binoculars to take in spectacular views of the Milky Way, planets, and the moon. Stargazing tours start from 175 AUD per person and usually include food or drinks.
5. Visit Mandurah Estuary and Peel Inlet
Just one hour south of Perth, Mandurah is a hidden gem perfect for boating, fishing, dolphin watching, and crabbing. Known for its wildlife and wetlands, there is plenty to do and see here. Head to Dolphin Quay at the Mandurah Ocean Marina and stroll the Mandurah Boardwalk. Be sure to check out the Mandurah Crab Festival if you’re in town during March. There are also tens of thousands of birds here to see and admire as you explore. Get Your Guide offers dolphin-watching tours for just 32 AUD.
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 (the early gold rushes were in the 1880s and 1890s). 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.
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 and is also home to amazing restaurants and clubs. It’s a great place to eat with Chinatown nearby 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 950 kilometers (590 miles), 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. Visit their website for tips and info, including a planning guide.
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. Spanning 2 hectares (5 acres), you can even feed the kangaroos and wallabies! Admission is 32 AUD.
8. Go wine tasting in Margaret River
Margaret River is just three hours south of Perth and is 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 costs around 90 AUD. (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.)
9. Explore Fremantle
Fremantle makes for a great day trip from Perth. It’s only an hour by train and the city has great restaurants, a growing arts scene, a beautiful water area, and nice parks and markets. Make sure to tour the Fremantle Prison, listed as a World Heritage Site, and Little Creatures, one of the best microbreweries in Australia. It costs 5-8 AUD to get there.
For more information on other cities in Australia, check out these guides:
Perth Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms that sleep 8-12 people start around 20 AUD per night. Smaller dorms are closer to 25 AUD. Private rooms start at 46 AUD but most are closer to 80-100 AUD. 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 tent plots without electricity for around 15 AUD per night outside the city.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotel rooms start around 100 AUD. These hotels usually have AC, a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and occasionally free breakfast.
On Airbnb, private rooms start at 46 AUD but average closer to 100 AUD. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 100 AUD but typically closer to 200 AUD.
Food – Food in Australia is diverse, with each region having its own specialities. While you can find cuisine of all types in Perth, popular traditional choices include BBQ meat (especially sausages), meat pies, fish and chips, seafood, and of course the infamous vegemite on toast.
Restaurants in Perth are expensive. Most main dishes at restaurants serving traditional Australian cuisine cost between 25-35 AUD. Grab and go places cost around 12 AUD for sandwiches. Fast food like McDonald’s is around 13 AUD for a combo meal. The best value food is Thai, Chinese, and Indian, where you can get a really filling meal for under 20 AUD.
A beer costs around 10 AUD, a cappuccino or latte costs closer to 5 AUD, and expect to pay around 3 AUD for a bottle of water.
If you cook your meals, expect to pay 75-95 AUD per week for groceries that include pasta, rice, vegetables, and some meat or fish.
Backpacking Perth Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget, you can visit Perth for 70 AUD per day. You can get by on this budget if you stay in hostels, cook all of your meals, limit your drinking, use public transportation to get around, and stick to mostly free or cheap activities like walking tours and enjoying nature. If you plan on drinking, add 10-20 AUD to your daily budget.
On a mid-range budget of 200 AUD per day, you can stay in an Airbnb or private hostel room, eat out for most meals, take the occasional Uber, 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 390 AUD per day or more, you can stay in a 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. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
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 hacks. Here’s how to cut 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.
- Stay with a local – 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 share their insider tips and advice.
- 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 your own meals – The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. Book a hostel or Airbnb with a kitchen to save money. It’s not glamorous, but it’s cheap!
- Get a SmartRider card – To cut costs on transportation, purchase a SmartRider card from a Transperth Info Center. The initial cost is around 10 AUD but it will help you save money in the long run.
- 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 at the end!
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is 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 tap 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 a few budget-friendly hostels to choose from. Here are my suggested places to stay:
How to Get Around Perth
Public transportation – Perth has a great public bus system run by Transperth. To use it, you’ll need to buy a Smartrider card for 10 AUD and then load it with a 10 AUD minimum. You can pick one of these up from most convenience stores, newsagents, and some bus and train stations. Fares cost 2.30 AUD per ride when paying cash and 1.84 AUD with the Smartrider card.
A single-day pass with unlimited travel costs 10 AUD.
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.
With your Smartrider card, you can take the public ferry across the Swan River from Elizabeth Quay Jetty. It leaves every 30 minutes and takes 8 minutes.
You can also take a private ferry to visit Rottnest Island. The Rottnest Express costs 99 AUD while the SeaLink Ferry costs around 90 AUD return.
Trains – Perth’s train system is excellent 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.
Bike rental – 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 cost aroud 28 AUD per day.
Taxi – Taxis are crazy expensive here. Prices start at 5.80 AUD and go up around 1.75 AUD per kilometer. Avoid them if you can.
Ridesharing – Uber is available here.
Car rental – If you want to do some exploring around Perth, you can rent a small car for around 75 AUD per day. You don’t need a vehicle for the city though. Just remember that they drive on the left here.
For the best deals, use Discover Cars
When to Go to Perth
September to the end of November is an excellent time to visit Perth, as winter is transitioning into spring and the city is coming to life. The weather is comfortable, the wildflowers are in bloom, and the skies are clear. Temperatures average between 11-23°C (53-73°F) and there’s very little rainfall.
December through February is Perth’s summer, and the temperature can soar as high as 38°C (100°F)! If you want a beach vacation, however, this is the time to visit. Just be prepared for crowds and higher prices.
June through August is Perth’s winter, which is the low season with chillier temperatures (as low as 8°C/46°F) and lots of rain. It’s the cheapest time to visit, though, 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. Violent crime is rare. Petty theft is also rare, but keep your valuables secure when out and about just to be safe.
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.
Solo female travelers are generally feel safe here. However, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone at night intoxicated, etc.). For more information, check out one of the many solo female travel blogs that can help more!
If you’re worried about travel scams, you can read about common travel scams to avoid here. (There aren’t many in the city though.)
If you experience an emergency, dial 000 for assistance.
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
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- 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.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- 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.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- 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. It’s one of the best transportation websites out there!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
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, 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 TNN+, 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:
Australia Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Australia travel and continue planning your trip: