Travelers were once put off by the vast distances required to see Western Australia, but with direct flights from London to Perth, don’t go boarding a plane direct to the east coast, stay a while to see Perth and its surrounding attractions.
If you’ve only got a short time, here are some excellent day trips to see Perth’s surrounds.
Around 100mi (160km) north of Perth, Nambung National Park is a great mini-road trip destination as part of the bigger Indian Ocean Drive. The Pinnacles are an otherworldly landscape littered with tombstone-like limestone formations stretching into the distance. Surrounding The Pinnacles, pure white sand dunes glimmer like misplaced icebergs and, if you visit in the evening, the spectacular sunsets of the west coast turn the landscape into a sea of reds, orange and yellow. While striking rock formations can be found throughout Australia, The Pinnacles feel wholly unique, their eerie forms more Martian monument than national wonder.
The wilderness of Wedge Island Nature Reserve lies just off the coast and can be reached by swimming or walking at low tide. It’s a popular holiday spot for lovers of fishing, snorkeling, and 4WDriving, and is lined with beach shacks. If you do venture out to Wedge Island, be prepared to rough it, there is no electricity or running water, but a number of beachside shacks are available to rent.
On the nearby mainland, visitors enjoy the sand dunes and tracks and having a 4WD vehicle is essential. It’s also a great spot for sand boarding and surfing.
Drive east from Perth, 60mi (96.5km) inland to York. Well known for its heritage buildings, visiting the town is a journey into Australia’s meticulously preserved past. If you don’t have a hire car, coaches, operated by Transwa, depart from East Perth Station each day.
On the return journey, camp by the shores of Lake Leschenaultia just outside of Mundaring, before stopping at John Forrest National Park, home to the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail. Cycle or hike the 36mi (59km) trail in full or stages, a highlight being a trip through the Swan View Tunnel. If you need an excuse to spend another night among the Jarrah trees of the Perth Hills, Beelu National Park is well worth a visit for its hiking trails, campsites and mountain biking tracks.
A three-hour drive south from Perth, Margaret River wine region is great for surfing, beautiful beaches, and rolling farmland, as well as award-winning wineries. You might want to stay overnight to see it all and so, on the way down, be sure to check out the seaside towns of Bunbury and Busselton, the beaches of Dunsborough and Yallingup, or the vibrant esplanade of Rockingham.
Margaret River is home to dozens of wineries, breweries, artisan shops and farms. Be sure to visit the award-winning Colonial Brewery, just out of town. Closer to town, numerous events and festivals are held throughout the year, ranging from pop-up food tents to wine tastings. The world-famous Gourmet Escape is held every year in November, hosting the world’s finest culinary producers and chefs. The staple Margaret River Farmers’ Market satisfies stomachs and noses, while live music is held in dozens of venues throughout the year, culminating in the Western Australian Circus Festival, held every January.
Just south of Perth, Fremantle’s cafe and restaurant scene
Rottnest Island lies 11mi (17km) offshore of Fremantle and is home to sea lions, seals and the adorable quokka. Accessible via ferry, there is also an annual Rottnest Channel Swim to the island from Perth’s Cottesloe Beach. Rent a bicycle to explore the island, as only the only motorized vehicles allowed are for emergencies. Relax on the dunes of Pinky Beach, or seek quieter sands in Salmon Bay or Henrietta Rocks. There are plenty of lookouts and trails, along with a historical lighthouse and scattered remnants of WW2-era gun batteries.
The Swan River is popular for kitesurfing, paddle-boarding, and canoeing, and with several cafes and restaurants scattered along its banks, It’s a great destination for a lovely, lazy afternoon.
If you tire of the river and beaches, the GDC Observatory, an hour’s drive north of the city, takes advantage of Australia’s clear skies, making for a fascinating experience.
Check out Mundaring Weir Dam (an hour east of the city) and Walyunga National Park (18mi/30km northeast of Perth), for forest camping and rewarding hikes with views across the Avon Valley. The Swan River also runs through the park, and a number of rapids, pools and wider stretches of water perfect for canoeing, kayaking or swimming.
Perth is home to a number of centrally located hostels, try City Perth Backpackers or The Hive, ideally located close to the lively inner city suburb of Northbridge, a popular hotspot for food, drink and vibrant nightlife. For those working in the city, rooms and apartments can be affordable, but be prepared to house share if you’re on a budget. Transport in and out of Perth is cheaper if you use a Transperth SmartRider card, especially if you are likely to be staying for a while.
Having access to a car will open up a vast array of destinations and sites that otherwise may be beyond the reach of public transport. Car hire is available at Perth International Airport, as well as a throughout the city. Perth is a sprawling city and distances can be deceiving, but the simple and convenient transport system makes it fairly simple to get around.
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