Travel & Touring | WA Destinations

There are some good reasons why The New York Times declared Perth a 'hipster haven' and CNN labelled it Australia's 'capital of cool'.

When you take a good look at the bustling heart of our capital city and the pristine regions surrounding it, many holiday experiences you might leave home for are right here.

Within about an hour of the city, you could be swimming with wild dolphins, exploring a food and wine trail, standing in front of a towering waterfall or drifting over a peaceful valley in a hot air balloon.

To the west, we have a stunning stretch of beaches that are the envy of many who visit, including the renowned Sunset Coast from Scarborough to Two Rocks. To the east is our beautiful hills district with national parks, restaurants, wineries and orchards. There are quaint heritage towns in the Avon Valley region and a significant marine park on our southern coast.

Seasonal highlights

Summer

Hire a kayak and explore the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, go on a 'catch and eat' seafood tour in the waters off Mandurah, or hit up the Sunset Markets at Scarborough.

Autumn

Explore historic buildings, museums and galleries in York, or take a bush tucker tour in the Swan Valley and learn how to cook with the foods you forage.

Winter

Have a cosy lunch in the Perth Hills, and ride in a hot air balloon over the rolling green hills of the Avon Valley.

Spring

Visit a national park to see wildflowers and waterfalls after the winter rains, and follow a migrating humpback whale off the Perth coast on a whale watching tour.

Places to visit

Mandurah and Peel

The sheltered waterways of Mandurah have made it a favourite family holiday spot for many decades. The vast Peel-Harvey Estuary (twice the size of Sydney Harbour) draws a diverse array of wildlife including more than 130 different species of native and migratory birds. The waters here are also home to about 120 bottlenose dolphins. Mandurah Cruises runs a dolphin spotting tour that takes visitors through the wetlands and out to the man-made Dawesville Cut. Director Myrianthe Riddy says tours are also tailored to make the most of the region's importance as a fishing hub. You'll learn how to pull up a lobster or crab pot before sampling some of the freshest seafood you're ever likely to eat.

Mandurah has plenty for landlubbers, too, with a great dining scene, safe swimming beaches, and lovely walks. Enjoy fish and chips at Dolphin Quay as you watch the boats come and go.

Rockingham

More than 200 bottlenose dolphins call Rockingham home and they welcome visitors. Perth Wildlife Encounters carry everything you need for an extraordinary aquatic adventure. Simply suit (and snorkel) up and get in the water with these beautiful creatures - you may even catch them napping.

Just a little further south lies Penguin Island, home to the world's smallest (and cutest) penguins. Part of Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, it's a short ferry ride from the mainland. Bring a picnic, wander the nature trails, or just laze on the beach. More active explorers can paddle a kayak around Penguin and Seal Islands. Penguin Island is open from September through June but closes in bad weather.

RELATED: 7 of Perth's best marine wildlife encounters »

Dwellingup

Surrounded by towering jarrah and marri forests, Dwellingup is one of five townsites along the Bibbulmun Track, WA's world-renowned 1,000-kilometre long walking trail. Its bush surrounds are also popular with mountain bike enthusiasts, while kayakers and fishers head to the Murray River and Lane Poole Reserve, and thrill-seekers soar across the forest on a zipline. For a trip back in time, get on board the vintage steam train at Hotham Valley Railway.

Perth Hills

A sanctuary where you can trek for hours through national forest or cosy up with a picnic, the Perth Hills are also alive with the sounds of happy foodies tucking into fruit plucked fresh from the trees and enjoying award-winning wines. Book a guided trip with Hidden deTours along the Bickley Valley and Carmel wine route, visit boutique wineries and cideries and linger over lunch.

Set on 59 hectares of Australian bush in Roleystone, Araluen Botanic Park is home to a jaw-dropping array of camellias and vintage roses, and an annual festival showcasing more than 100,000 tulips.

At Perth Observatory, in Bickley, take a guided tour of Worl Wangkiny Aboriginal Astronomy Centre, which celebrates 60,000 years of Noongar astronomy, then peer through WA's largest public viewing telescope.

And for spectacular views during the day, catch Lesmurdie Falls in full flow within Lesmurdie Falls National Park.

Mundaring

A hub for artistic types, with art studios and galleries galore, Mundaring is also a nature lover's paradise. It's an easy two-kilometre return walk for a picnic by National Park Falls or Hovea Falls in John Forrest National Park. WA's first national park also offers more challenging trails for serious bushwalkers. Keep an eye out for flora and fauna; western grey kangaroos are common visitors.

RELATED: 5 national parks that are closer to Perth than you think »

For a slice of local history, step into No 1 Pump Station Museum at the foot of Mundaring Weir to learn the story behind this engineering marvel.

Kalamunda

With its village feel and bush setting, Kalamunda (meaning 'a home in the forest' in Noongar) really lives up to its name. Start your visit at the ZigZag Cultural Centre, where local knowledge and artisans go hand in hand. It's also a short stroll from Kalamunda History Village, the State's largest folk museum.

Active visitors will be drawn to the myriad of walking and mountain bike trails, and the Zig Zag trail (which reopens later in 2020) offers great views over Perth for scenic drives or walks.

Don't miss the 'parmi' at the Kalamunda Hotel, where are friendly ghost is rumoured to reside.

Avon Valley

A potpourri of historic country towns, farming communities and natural wonders, the Avon Valley also offers plenty of adventure - and not just in the annual white-water rush, the Avon Descent that runs from Northam to Perth. Take in the rural landscape from a hot air balloon or go hang gliding. An easy day trip from Perth, it's also worth setting up camp in one of the charming Avon Valley towns and exploring at a more leisurely pace.

In spring the countryside is carpeted in wildflowers and canola turns fields into a sea of yellow. There's a public canola field viewing platform in York (otherwise all canola fields are on private property).

York

Soak up the glory of yesteryear at York's Town Hall, built in 1911 and also home to York's Visitor Centre, or kick off the cobwebs with a 1.5-kilometre walk across York's swinging bridge and along the Avon River. Find out more about the region's history at the Residency Museum, the only remnant of the former convict depot.

Motor enthusiasts will head straight for York Motor Museum, while foodies can learn the finer points of olive pressing at York Olive Oil Company. Look out for the giant Australian fauna sculptures woven from local wheat straw - a highlight of the York Festival.

Northam

The State's largest inland town boasts more than 185 heritage-listed buildings, including a pub that dates back to 1859 and a guest house used as a makeshift hospital during the influenza epidemic in 1919.

Also centre stage is a culture with far deeper ties to the land. The state-of-the-art Bilya Koort Boodja Centre shares rich Noongar history and knowledge through a series of interactive exhibitions. Northam is also a stop on the PUBLIC Silo Trail, a 1,000-kilometre journey through Australia's largest art gallery, where grain silos are transformed into stunning artworks.

Stay overnight at the historic Farmers' Home Hotel and soak up the serenity with an early morning hot air balloon ride over the valley between April and November.

Toodyay

Pack a picnic, pull on good walking shoes and hit the Bilya Walk Track in Toodyay. This 5.6-kilometre trail along the Avon to the Nardie pioneer cemetery is clearly signposted but takes at least two hours one way, so allow plenty of time (and energy). For a less strenuous expedition, drive up to Pelham Reserve for lovely views over the town and beyond. History buffs should head straight for the Newcastle Gaol Museum Precinct and Connor's Mill Museum, which turned 150 this year.

After hiking, head to WA's largest festive shop, Christmas 360, where you can cover your Christmas needs year-round. In May, the Moondyne Festival transforms Toodyay into a colourful village.

Swan Valley

Boasting vineyards dating back to 1829, the Swan Valley is Australia's second-oldest wine region. With its colonial buildings and convict past, Guildford is a charming place to revisit history, meet local artisans and fossick for antiques.

At Caversham Wildlife Park, animal lovers can get up close with wombats, quolls and pythons, to name a few, while farm hands demonstrate whip cracking and swinging billy tea. The Park is on the Kids in the Valley Trail, one of seven trains to award-winning attractions, including providores, galleries, wineries and micro-breweries.

If you fancy a few drinks, pick a skipper, or leave the driving to someone else and savour a Taste of the Valley with Captain Cook Cruises, which includes a river cruise and coach tour of wineries and other providores. Head a bit further afield on a fruit picking tour to Golden Grove Orchard in Chittering and enjoy super-fresh produce straight from the tree.

The Sunset Coast

Fall back in love with Perth's glorious coastline with more than 50 kilometres of pristine beaches buzzing with marinas, beachfront esplanades, alfresco cafes, restaurants and shops, walking and cycling trails.

You can see WA's unique marine life at AQWA, then don a snorkel at Mettams Pool to see it in the wild. Head further north to discover Yanchep National Park's extensive caves and local Aboriginal culture.

Fremantle

Take a different path to our port city with a cruise down the Swan River. You'll have ample time to explore the historic streets on an eye-opening walking tour, stop for coffee on the Cappuccino Strip, explore Fremantle Markets, marvel at the WA Maritime Museum, or hook some seafood at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour.

Make a night of it with a torchlight tour at Fremantle Prison and hear ghostly tales, then stay at the recently refurbished National Hotel. Built in 1868, the grand old dame now boasts a rooftop bar with the best view to watch the sun set over the harbour.

Rottnest

Those who've played in Thomson Bay since they were nippers need no convincing to go, but Rotto has upped the luxe factor with Discovery Rottnest Island, an eco-resort for glampers, and the luxury Sapphire Resort, opening in October 2020. No matter where you stay, it's impossible not to relax into the Rotto rhythm.

Did you know it was once part of the Fremantle Fortress that helped protect the port during World War II? It's just one of the stories you'll hear as you zip around on a Segway. Segway Tours owner Owen Williams says the guides tell a good yarn, so the tour is as enjoyable as it is informative.

To hear Noongar stories of Wadjemup (Rottnest), join Go Cultural Tours on a guided walk, starting with a traditional sand ceremony.

Perth city

Perth has been home to the Noongar people since the Dreamtime, and sacred sites still exist amid the glistening city skyscrapers. Join Noongar elder Walter McGuide on a Go Cultural Aboriginal tour of Elizabeth Quay and beyond, to hear Noongar hunting and celebratory songs, learn about the six Noongar seasons and try out ochre paints and traditional tools. Or listen to cultural stories of Kings Park and South Perth from Kerry-Ann Winmar of Nyungar Tours.

For a new view of the city try a walking tour with Oh Hey WA, Eat the Street or Two Feet and a Heartbeat, or take a water bike out on the river.

Planning a visit

Getting there and around

Although highways, freeways and major roads out of the Perth metropolitan area are well signposted for local destinations and attractions, make sure you've planned your route before you leave. If visiting wine regions, have a designated driver or consider booking a tour. There are also free bus and CAT services in both Perth and Fremantle.

Related road trip

10 unique day trips from Perth

Ask a local For more information about attractions in the Perth region and the location of local visitor centres, visit Experience Perth.
Ready to hit the road exploring Perth? RAC members get 4 cents off per litre at participating Puma, Better Choice and Gull service stations

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Last updated September 2020
Image credit: Michael Evans