How to spend the perfect weekend in Perth

Advice

Some might say Perth’s a late bloomer; others may suggest that she’s simply been biding her time. For locals, the secret is most definitely out.

Direct flights to Perth from London have thrown quite the spotlight on the Western capital, revealing a metropolis that basks in more sunlight hours than any other major Australian city, has the beaches to match, and is no slouch after dark. What’s more, Perth has its own island playground 12 miles (19km) off the coast, it lays claim to one of the largest inner-city parks in the world and is ringed with wineries.

Perth’s new accessibility adds to the allure: a flood of hotel and restaurant openings means more pillows for more heads, and higher standards to boot. Liveability has been simultaneously amped. The swish Elizabeth Quay waterfront provides a revitalised platform to the Swan River, while Yagan Square joins the inner city’s ying and yang sides the for the first time in a century: hello free-flowing foot traffic. Another big ticket arrival, the $400M (£227M) Western Australian museum, Boola Bardip opened late 2020, completing the bustling Perth Cultural Centre.

For further Perth inspiration, see our guides to the city’s best hotelsrestaurantsnightlifebeaches and things to do. If you’re planning a longer trip, see our ultimate itinerary for a two-week holiday in Western Australia.


Day one

Morning

Take a taxi to a breakfast den that’s a local’s hangout. Have the leek and parmesan croquette bowl at Sayers Sister then walk it off at nearby Hyde Park. Huge Moreton bay fig trees lean over pretty lakes – look for turtles beneath the surface. If you spot a queue curling around a white shopfront, that’s Chu Bakery. It’s worth the wait for literally anything inside, but we particularly love their filled croissants.

Walk for about 40 minutes or take a taxi to Elizabeth Quay, the waterfront development perched on the Swan River. From here, take a one-way Captain Cook Cruise to Fremantle. Make sure you sit on the right hand side of the boat so you can take in the city skyline, followed by the mansions lining the waterway. Australia’s richest woman lives here, and the cruise commentator will point her abode out. If you’re lucky, you may also spot dolphins in the water.



perth cruise


A cruise is the best way to take in Perth’s cityscape


Credit: Pailin S. Kulvong/Pailin S. Kulvong

Afternoon

The cruise will deposit you in Fremantle, Perth’s character-rich port town, loved for its serpentining streets, historic buildings and artsy vibe. Grab a bite at Moore and Moore, an eclectic café that shares space with a yawning art gallery. The healthful, vegan ‘bowl of Moore’ is very Fremantle.



Fremantle is Perth’s character-rich port town


Fremantle is Perth’s character-rich port town


Credit: Manfred Gottschalk mago-world-image/Manfred Gottschalk

Arrange a walking tour of Freo, as it’s affectionately called, with Two Feet and a Heartbeat. The Convicts, Culture & Street Art tour will get you up to speed on the harbour area’s early days, and includes a look at Fremantle’s Unesco World Heritage-listed prison.  When the tour is over, ask your guide to point you in the direction of the Bon Scott statue, at the Fisherman’s Wharf. The late AC/DC frontman grew up in Freo and is buried in its cemetery.

Afterwards, skip across the road to Little Creatures Brewery for a Rogers Amber Ale, best enjoyed out the back where you can watch working vessels and leisure craft bobbing in the harbour.

Late

You’d be silly to pass up dining at Bread in Common, a part-bakery, part-restaurant housed in an 1890s warehouse. Lamb ribs are the must-have dish – they haven’t left the menu since day one. Ask if you can see the restaurant’s herb garden; it’s impressive.

When you’ve finished, walk for about two minutes to the Fremantle train station and take it all the way back to central Perth. If you’re still keen for more, pop in to Varnish on King, an excellent speakeasy-style whiskey bar that gets better as the night gets long. For more suggestions of the best nightlife in the city, see our guide

Day two

Morning

While summer in Perth is all about crystalline Cottesloe beach, once the weather cools, locals seek out sunshine in more protected haunts. Take the commuter ferry from Elizabeth Quay across the Swan River to South Perth. Just beyond the arrival point, you’ll see Mister Walker. The window-wrapped café-restaurant offers excellent breakfasts with tranquil views – don’t miss the Uncle Benny (eggs Benedict). 

Belly full, you can either retrace your steps, then take a free public bus from Elizabeth Quay bus station to Kings Park, or simply take a 10-minute taxi ride to Perth’s vast bushland. Try and join a free walking tour (departures at 10am, 12 noon and 2pm) or simply roam through the Botanic Garden, pausing at the 750-year-old boab and crossing the tree canopy bridge.

If you’re in town in September, you’ll find the park splashed with masses of colourful, native wildflowers – a month-long festival offers extra guided walks, as well as open-air exhibitions, live music, wellness pursuits and more – it’ll keep you captivated for hours.



Kings park


A trip to Perth without visiting Kings Park and Botanic Garden is a bit like going to New York City and not wandering through Central Park


Credit: Ric Jacyno/Richard Jacyno

Afternoon

Take another free public bus back to the city and walk up Barrack Street to the Perth Cultural Centre. It’s home to the Art Gallery of WA, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Urban Orchard, the State Library and, having opened in late 2020, the WA Museum, Boola Bardip.

There are a couple of pod cafés within the pedestrian centre; either grab a quick bite there or walk through to William Street in Northbridge, turn left and sit down at Bivouac Canteen & Bar for some excellent Middle Eastern-inspired fare. Roam along William Street, keeping an eye out for edgy street art between the small boutiques holding local fashion, quirky gifts, books and more. 

Late

Post 5pm, do a classy crawl through Cathedral Square, a revamped heritage precinct spread across Perth’s point zero – the place from which every measurement of WA towns and landmarks begins. Start with craft beer at Petition Beer Corner, started by the people who dreamt up Little Creatures (mentioned above), then pick a dinner venue depending on how flush you’re feeling.

On the rooftop of COMO the Treasury, Wildflower is Perth’s best and priciest fine diner, specialising in native flavours and sharp technique, while on the ground floor, Petition Kitchen  has a sassy, modern, great-value line-up and in the basement, Long Chim fires up the tastebuds with unblinkingly authentic (and moderately expensive) Thai cuisine. For more suggestions of the best restaurants in the city, see our guide



Long Chim


Long Chim serves fiery Thai street food in the gritty basement of a 19th-century building


Credit: Christopher Kennedy 2014

End the night with a door knock on Sneaky Tony’s unmarked iron gateway (38 Roe St). On Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll need to grab a password from their Facebook page, and the doorman will eye you through a medieval peep hole before granting you entry. Slick cocktails and towering candles await.


Where to stay

Luxury Living

A restoration of Western Australia’s grand 1890s state buildings has reimagined the disused Treasury, Lands and Titles offices and General Post Office as COMO the Treasury, an elegant haven you’ll never want to check out of. Ever. If you can’t bear to leave the hotel during your stay (and many don’t), you’ll be easily sated by its culinary spread and libations, ranging from fine dining on the roof to a charming taproom, to a buzzing basement restaurant delivering flavourful, authentic Thai.

Doubles from AUD $895 (£508) including breakfast



Como the Treasury


COMO the Treasury is understated yet refined, minimalist yet detailed and effortlessly elegant


Credit: Martin Morrell/Martin Morrell

Designer Digs

QT Perth is dark, sophisticated and slightly kooky. From soul beats, fluorescent splashes and snakeskin in the lifts to black wallpaper featuring melting steel wildflowers, there’s quirky DNA in this modern, centrally located hotel. Rooms are impressively spacious and make an impression with sleek bedside lighting and black marble bathrooms. Its flagship restaurant, Santini, has made a name for itself as one of Perth’s best.

Doubles from AUD $310 (£176)



QT Perth


QT Perth is dark, sophisticated and slightly kooky

Budget Bolthole

An anarchist of the hotel world, Tribe Perth does things (delightfully) differently. There’s no minibar, no concierge and no bellhop. Instead, this adult-friendly accommodation bears ultra-modern accommodation that is compact and smartly designed for sleeps and showers. Its focus on social spaces means its communal zones receive a lot of attention, with an excellent library of coveted hardcover books. The hotel also offers free-to-use retro-look bikes for exploring the neighbourhood.

Doubles from AUD $169 (£96)


Insider tips

Neighbourhood watch

William Street in Northbridge is a long strip of cafés, small bars, eclectic shops and local designer boutiques. Up the far end, William Topp is jammed with covetable gifts and Wines of While is one of the best bar-restaurants in town. Closer to the centre, dine at svelte Shadow Wine Bar or shop chic women’s garments at Chachi.

Attractions

Make use of the free guided tours of both Kings Park and Rottnest Island, provided by local volunteers. In the former, tours cover top view spots, an exploration of the botanic garden, spring wildflowers in the bush, and more, and depart daily at 10am, 12pm and 2pm. On the latter, yellow T-shirt-wearing guides are easy to spot. Join them on themed tours, finding quokkas in their natural habitat, learning about the island’s early inhabitants, watching fur seals or hearing about shipwrecks.

Did you know?

You don’t have to go far to find kangaroos in Perth. A collective of female roos reside on Heirisson Island, an oval of land in the middle of the Swan River at the eastern end of the city centre. If you go early in the day, or around sunset, you’re almost guaranteed to spot them grazing in the wetlands or grasses. They’re friendly, so you can gently approach them.



heirisson island


Find locals kangaroos on Heirisson Island


Credit: ©2016 John Crux/John Crux Photography

Hotels

All rooms at the Alex Hotel include an excellent continental breakfast for all guests, so if you book the four-bed bunk room, everyone staying gets to eat for the same nightly room rate. Alex also allows you to bring two friends up to its rooftop overlooking the nightlife hotspot of Northbridge, and the city skyline.

City hack

Perth enables free public transport within the Central Area Transit zone, covering the CBD, parts of Northbridge, West and East Perth as well as South and central Fremantle.. Look out for the CAT buses, covered with black panther-like wraps. All the public buses running along St Georges Terrace are also free, including those that stop at Kings Park.

What to take home

If your holiday budget allows, purchase a bottle of Kevin John Chardonnay by lauded Margaret River winery, Cullen Wines. Nigella Lawson raves about the family-owned, biodynamic label’s orange wine, but we think this one’s even better. Find it at good wine stores, including Petition Wine Bar.

Your walls will treasure a genuine piece of Aboriginal art created in Western Australia, especially when you can be sure the proceeds go back to the artist and their community. Find a reputable, certified dealer such as Japingka Aboriginal Art in Fremantle and do your homework before purchasing.



Japingka Aboriginal Art


Your walls will treasure a genuine piece of Aboriginal art from Japingka

When to go

Given the size of Western Australia, it’s always warm and sunny somewhere. While most people visit during summer and stick to the south, if you’re there in winter, then travelling northward during its dry season is a good idea.

Summer

A certain fervour strikes as December 1 approaches. West Australians live for summer: it spells lazy days at the beach, balmy nights, cold beers, holidays and Christmas. It’s also when a whirlwind of festivals tear through town, with the quirky Fringe World colouring Perth in January, and the Perth International Arts Festival keeping the party going in February and March. Weekends allow escapes to Margaret River and Sunday afternoons are traditionally spent at the pub. Sure, it gets hot – temperatures can rise to 40°C and sunburn is an ever-present risk – but the mood is joyful. Head south to escape, when the mercury rises.

Autumn

March through May is a magical time in Perth. While the summer party is over and work has resumed its regular hum, the weather is still gorgeous enough for beach-going, yet the crowds have departed the holiday hotspots of Margaret River and Denmark. That said, Cottesloe’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition packs out the beach in March. From April, temperatures become more pleasant as you head to northern parts of the state, such as the Pinnacles Desert and Ningaloo, where whale sharks visit until July.

Winter

The atmosphere in Perth can slump in the colder months – locals lament any days where the temperature dips below 22°C and tend to hibernate (while rare, it can drop to 0°C overnight). Like migrating birds, many people flock north to blue skies and warm climes. You should do the same: it’s the best time to explore the miraculous Kimberley region, land of billions of years old rock formations, waterfalls and Aboriginal rock art.

Spring

Come September, thousands of wildflower species bloom across the state, a perfect time for road trips and hikes. The valid ‘cheats option’ is the annual wildflower festival in Kings Park, which colourfully reveals WA’s floral diversity in dense beds and walkways. The months-long whale migration also draws visitors to the cool south – some 40,000 cetaceans cruise, breach and slap their way along the immense coastline. By October, when Margaret River’s edgy Fine Vines wine festival is held, days are warming up again.


Need to know


Emergency services:
 dial 000. From an international mobile phone the number is 000 or 112

Tourist information: The Western Australian Visitor Centre is at 55 William Street, Perth (wavisitorcentre.com). For more information, see: westernaustralia.com

Currency: Australian dollar. Prices are rounded off to the nearest 5c (1c and 2c coins are not used in Australia). ATMs are commonplace and accept Cirrus, Plus, Visa, and MasterCard. Money exchange booths with competitive rates can be found in Perth’s two city malls, in London Court and on St Georges Terrace

Time: +8 hours

Travel times: flying time from London to Perth is around 17 hours. Flying time from Sydney to Perth is around 4 hours

Tipping: not necessary, but always appreciated. Locals tend to reward good service by rounding up the bill – be it at a restaurant or in a cab – to the nearest A$5 or A$10 mark

Getting around: Uber is available in Perth. There is also free public transport (see the insider tip above)

British Consulate-General: 00 61 8 9224 4700; british-consulate.net, Level 12/251 Adelaide Terrace, Perth WA 6000

Local laws and etiquette

  • Be aware that there is no mobile phone or internet service throughout many parts of country WA. Telstra has the widest coverage.
  • When you’re heading out bush, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and bring plenty of water, food and spare fuel – getting stranded or lost in outback Australia is no joke. At dawn and dusk, keep a lookout for wildlife such as kangaroos and emus crossing the road; in the vast landscapes of the Pilbara and the Kimberley, cattle and goats are often unfenced and may wander across the tarmac. If you’re travelling through remote parts or during the north’s wet season, check route conditions with the Department of Main Roads (00 61 138 138).
  • In the north, crocodiles are a very real threat: always obey warning signs and check with locals before swimming.

Author bio

Fleur Bainger is Telegraph Travel’s Perth expert. Drawn to Western Australia’s obscenely good weather, Fleur strongly suspects her adopted-home also bears Australia’s best beaches (and she’s not alone in her thinking). When not eating flappingly fresh seafood, you’ll find Fleur bar hopping in the city’s transformed heart, wandering between Fremantle’s quirky boutiques and hiking central Perth’s little-known lakes and bush tracks.

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