One of the most isolated cities in the world, Perth is a green, clean and spacious city on the banks of the wide, blue Swan River. The city is about three times the size of Greater London (with an eighth of the population), contained by coastline to the west and the low Perth Hills of the Darling Range to the east. Although it is about the same age as Adelaide, there is little evidence of its past. History and culture are not major preoccupations of the ‘sandgropers’, although the city hosts an excellent international arts festival. It’s a sparkling, modern place, reminiscent of American cities with its freeway, flyovers and dependence on the car. 

Perth’s best asset is an incredible climate. The sun simply never stops shining and each perfect sunny day is taken for granted. The endless expanse of blue sky and sea is a constant reflection in both the city’s skyscrapers and residents’ sunglasses. This makes for a city lived in the outdoors where the beaches, ocean, river and parks are the favourite haunts of the friendly, laid-back people of Perth. 

The city centre is often criticized for being soulless by day and empty by night and it is true that it suffers from a lack of inner-city residents. The action in Perth is to be found out in the central and coastal suburbs, where you can watch the sun set into the Indian Ocean, see a film outdoors, go sailing on the river or stroll the café strips.

Perth: our highlights

Art Gallery of Western Australia

The gallery forms the southern point of the Cultural Centre triangle of public institutions. The main gallery was built in 1979 to house the State Art Collection and the clean lines of its featureless exterior walls conceal cool white hexagonal spaces inside. The ground floor is used for temporary exhibitions and this is where the state’s most prestigious visiting exhibitions are shown. The central spiral staircase leads to the Aboriginal Art and Contemporary Art collections on the first floor. The gallery’s collection of Aboriginal Art is one of the most extensive and impressive in Australia, encompassing bark paintings from Arnhem Land, dot paintings by Central Desert artists and works by WA artists such as Jimmy Pike and Sally Morgan. This collection is enhanced by detailed explanations of each painting and biography of the artist. The Contemporary Art collection also includes the best of craft and design in ceramics, glass, furniture and metalwork. More traditional work can be seen in the Centenary Galleries in the elegant former Police Court building. The emphasis is on Western Australian art from colonial times to the present but also includes painters such as John Glover, Eugene Von Guérard, and Frederick McCubbin’s iconic Down on His Luck, 1887.

Kings Park

This huge playground for the city and central suburbs is just about everything you could want a park to be. A large area of natural bush, threaded through with unsigned bush walks, is bordered to the south and east by broad bands of carefully manicured lawns and gardens, these in turn encompassing the excellent Botanic Gardens. From many of these are tremendous views across to the city centre and Barrack Street jetty, particularly beautiful at sunset, and very popular with picnickers. The main visitor area is at the end of Fraser Avenue, opposite the State War Memorial, one of many memorials in the park as well as one of the best city-viewing spots.


Best known for its restaurants, bars and clubs, it is also home to a good cinema and some interesting small specialty boutiques. Perth’s Chinatown can be found here and there are an astonishing variety of Asian restaurants and grocers. Northbridge has undergone urban regeneration in the last few years to make it a safer place to visit and to promote Perth as a 24-hour city. The Northbridge Piazza, at the corner of Lake Street and James Street, is a community space where there is free Wi-Fi access, outdoor furniture and a big screen. Since its unveiling in 2009 the Piazza has played host to Perth’s New Year celebrations, the Summer Film Festival, and has become a popular place for screening live sports.

South Perth

Just across Perth Water, South Perth has the best city views and a lovely foreshore. This is a great place for sailing or waterskiing and there are hire outlets here during the summer. Several cafés and restaurants are located right on the riverbank and although you might pay a little more for the view, it is a pleasant place to spend a few hours. Alternatively, just head for the eastern end of the foreshore where there are also plenty of good places to picnic, BBQ and walk by the river. In South Perth, the incongruous Old Mill tucked under the freeway, is an unusual survivor from the early days of the Swan River Settlement in the 1830s. An exhibition in the whitewashed miller’s cottage explains the history of the mill.

Beach BBQ

One long, sweeping beach extends all the way from Cottesloe to Scarborough. This whole stretch of coast is a favourite of surfers and windsurfers alike. Mid-way are two small developed enclaves, and these make two of the best spots on the Perth coast if you want to get away from the serious crowds. City Beach has an extensive grassy foreshore hard up against a very broad section of beautiful white-sand beach. Facilities for BBQs and picnic tables can be found in various locations.

Hillarys & Sorrento

The beach suburbs of Hillarys and Sorrento have put themselves well and truly on the map, particularly for families, by building Hillarys Boat Harbour. Primarily containing private moorings the harbour does have a few commercial operations, but has become better known for the shops, restaurants and activities on and around the mall-like Sorrento Quay, a pier which almost bisects the harbour and ensures a very well-protected beach. The harbour and quay really hum on a weekend and during school holidays, particularly as the harbour also protects a sandy beach.

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