Officially Australia’s sunniest city, Perth also boasts over 19 beaches within easy reach of the city. Each one has its own special characteristics. All offer dazzling white sand and ridiculously clear blue water.
Cottesloe Beach is the most famous, a popular swimming and picnicking spot backed by a grassy hillside, Norfolk pines, and an impossibly picturesque pavilion. You can spend an entire day snorkelling, surfing or swimming here, before retiring to a restaurant to watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean, a glass of Margaret River’s finest in hand.
Just south of Cottesloe you’ll find Leighton Beach, a longer, less crowded beach that's popular with kite surfers and dog owners. Mettams Pool is the best place to don your snorkel. The platform reef just offshore is home to fish, octopuses, starfish, sea fans and grasses.
With its vast parks, nature reserves and beaches, it comes as no surprise that wildlife is never far away in Perth. Take a stroll through any city park and you’re guaranteed to be ‘serenaded’ by flocks of raucous colourful rosellas, galahs and cockatoos.
Wildlife abounds on the islands around Perth too. Heirisson Island, an island in the Swan River between the suburbs of East Perth and Victoria Park, is a nature reserve where kangaroos roam freely. Penguin Island, just off the coast, is home to 1,200 little penguins as well as dolphins and stingrays. Easily reached by ferry, it is a popular place to swim with dolphins.
A little further away is Rottnest Island, home to the world’s largest population of quokkas. A small short-tailed wallaby with a small face and round ears, it is one of the cutest animals in the world and something of a worldwide Instagram star. They are best seen in the late afternoon or at sunset.
Animal lovers with a spare day or two can volunteer at Native Animal Rescue, north of Perth, which takes in sick, injured and orphaned animals, returning them to the wild when possible.
The Noongar people are the traditional owners of Perth, and the Swan River is a sacred place for them. They have many stories of the Wagyl, a water-serpent understood to be responsible for the creation and maintenance of the river and most of the water features around Perth. Wagyl is said to have entered the ground near Kings Park and emerged at the foot of Mt Eliza to create the river.
The Kings Park Indigenous Heritage Tour is a good place to start exploring the city’s heritage. Your guide will retell the Noongar people's creation Dreamtime story and explain the medicinal, nutritional and cultural values of the surrounding flora, fauna and landmarks. Indigenous Experiences Australia, meanwhile, offers a Derbal Yerrigan Cruise, a two-hour sailing trip along the Swan River, exploring the ancient culture of the Whadjuk people.
Perth’s food scene is one of the most vibrant in Australia with new bars, cafés and restaurants opening constantly. Taking advantage of the sunny Western Australian climate, it has the highest concentration of rooftop bars and alfresco eateries in the country.
Not surprisingly, the seafood is sensational. Your plate will be filled with marron from the south-west of the state, barramundi from up north, lobster from Geraldton, oysters from Albany, prawns from Exmouth and scallops from nearby Rottnest Island. All washed down with an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc from Margaret River, of course.
If coffee is more your thing, head to Fremantle’s famous cappuccino strip. Beer lovers will want to check out the Little Creatures brewhouse, overlooking the harbour in Fremantle, or the Old Brewery, which is perched beside the Swan River.
Bigger than Central Park in New York and altogether wilder, Kings Park is a 1,003-acre haven of parkland, botanical gardens and natural bushland, located right on the western edge of Perth’s central business district.
The park offers panoramic views of the CBD, Swan River and Darling Range, and is home to over 324 native plant varieties, 215 known indigenous fungi species and 80 bird species. You'll also find the State War Memorial Cenotaph here – one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – as well as playgrounds, a nature park, BBQs and picnic areas for families. Climb the spiral staircase of the DNA Tower for spectacular views around Kings Park and Botanic Garden, the Swan River and over to Rottnest Island.
The park also hosts a variety of concerts and festivals, as well as an outdoor cinema.