From overlooked to overbooked – yes, I did just start this blog off with a pretty big statement, and, I’ve probably blown your mind considering I’m talking about Perth in Western Australia. In the past, Perth has been seen as the little sibling to its well-known bigger family on the east coast: Sydney and Melbourne. However, move over those out-dated perceptions because Perth (once overlooked) is evolving and has undergone big developments in its recent years (soon to be overbooked). Finding interesting AND affordable things to do in the places you travel is key as a backpacker. Join me as I guide you through free things to do in Perth.
1. Kings Park botanic gardens walk
Perth’s Kings Park is one of the biggest inner-city parks in the world. Admit it, I’ve impressed you already. Apart from the large variety of flora and fauna that call the botanic gardens home, the park is also situated on top of a hill, boasting panoramic views of the Perth city and its skyline. Learn about the flora and fauna on one of the volunteer-led guided tours departing three times a day. Be sure to take the Lotterywest Federation Walkway to experience the glass tree-top high bridge.
2. Movies in Northbridge Piazza
Free movies? That can’t be right you say… well, it is! Pack a cute picnic or grab some tasty treats from one of the many nearby restaurants/takeaways that inhabit this trendy area and pull up a beanbag to relax and watch a film. Generally, you can catch the more children-friendly movies on Saturdays, and date night movies mid-week on Wednesdays. It’s seasonally based so check out the screen guide to see the low-down when you’re in town.
3. Coastal walks
You’re probably very aware by now that Australia has some of the world’s most picturesque beaches, and what’s better is that we have paved walking paths that sit side by side to some of our most famous beaches. Doing at least one coastal walk while on your trip to Perth is a must. You can set the pace and decide how much ground you want to cover, it’s up to you. Some of the walks I would suggest are: Leighton Beach to Cottesloe Beach, Fremantle Harbour to South Beach and City Beach to Scarborough Beach.
4. Fremantle Markets
For all the market lovers out there, give our trustworthy Fremantle Markets a visit. Built in 1897, you can find over 150 shops with most homewares, pottery, jewellery etc located in The Hall. Plus, a food lover’s dream in The Yard with an array of goodies from fruit to cupcakes.
5. Dolphin watch on the swan river
Dolphins – they’re crowd favourite. Seriously, these majestic creatures love to put on a show for us Perthian’s and travellers alike. I believe the best time to watch these animals is in the evenings, during their feeding sessions. The best spot around the Swan River is Blackwall Reach, as it’s close to the river mouth and is deep enough to allow the dolphins to herd large schools of fish in the area, making it a feeding favourite for our bottlenose friends. Matilda Bay is also popular amongst our aquatic mates and a variety of jetties are also frequently visited as well, especially around dinner time.
6. Hike up to Kings Park
A great way to sneak in your daily exercise while doing some site seeing, try tackling the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk. For my history fans out there listen up; this walk was made as a tribute to the Australian WWII troops who fought in Papua New Guinea between 1942 and 1943. Fitness fans – the walk has 150 steps to concur at an incline of 62 metres. For the average joes (like myself) out there, you’ll be rewarded by a pretty neat view. Once at the top, keep the legs moving and follow the plaques to the State War Memorial.
7. Enjoy scenic lookouts
A nice way to recoup after a busy day or a night on the town is to chill out at a lookout point and enjoy scenic views. My favourites include The DNA Tower, a 15m high staircase (spoiler alert) mimicking the shape of DNA. Located within King Park, it’s the highest viewing point in the park that has panoramic views on display for you at the top. You can also find a lot of lookout points along the beaches, especially as you start heading out of the metropolitan area. Another favourite of mine is Reabold Hill; rich in cultural history and the highest natural point (85m to be exact) on the Swan Coastal Plain you won’t be disappointed, and better yet its only 15 minutes west of Perth.
8. Take a photo at the giant cactus
Everyone seems to know Australia for its beaches, laid-back lifestyle and over-use of the word ‘mate’, but not many are aware of the bigger things (pun intended). Australia has accumulated many big statues over the years. In the heart of the city, just opposite the Perth Underground station (Fremantle exit), you’ll find a giant cactus. So, why not drop by and get a quick selfie when you’re out adventuring.
9. Watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Chasing sunsets in Western Australia is always a great idea. Sunsets are even more special where the clouds and sun work cohesively to complement each other in a synchronized form, which is often over this part of the country. There really isn’t a bad place to view coastal sunsets, but if you’re looking for a centralised spot, Cottesloe Beach is my recommendation. Close to Fremantle Harbour, there are often boats on the horizon that add to your picture-perfect sunset. Adding to the boats, Cottesloe is one of Perth’s most popular beaches for surfing and kite-surfing, which adds a bit of entertainment to your sunset.
10. Visit the Bell Tower
The Bell Tower is home to the Swan Bells – one of the world’s largest musical instruments. Located in Barrack Square and reaching 82.5m in height, it’s hard to miss. This one is a must, even if you just go to get a picture of its unique architecture. Up top there’s an observation deck that allows visitors to experience the 360-degree views of the Swan River and Perth’s skyline. Entry to this deck is $8-9.
11. Heirisson Island – Kangaroos
Chances are if you’ve come all the way Down Under you’re probably wanting to see kangaroos. What if I told you Perth could tick this off your bucket list and, better yet, within walking distance from the city centre. Heirisson Island is situated at the eastern end of the Swan River and is home to lots of beautiful grey kangaroos.
12. Bus the city – Free CAT
The City of Perth offers free, yes you heard that right, free CAT buses around the central areas in Perth, Fremantle and Joondalup. Score! With these services on offer, there really is no excuse to not explore the ins and outs of Perth’s city. I highly recommend taking advantage of these buses and head out for a day exploring Fremantle’s history and its vintage architecture.
13. Take a stroll along Mounts Bay Road to the Blue Boat House
Mounts Bay Road is arguably the most scenic road within the Perth metropolitan area. The walk and bike lane positioned riverside gives visitors breath-taking views. Take a stroll along here, passing The Old Brewery & Riverside Brewhouse to the ever so Insta-famous Blue Boat House. En-route look out for Eliza – a bronze statue in the Swan River who enjoys getting dressed up to represent special occasions.
14. Perth Cultural Centre
Centrally located in the James Street Mall, the Perth Cultural Centre offers a variety of options when it comes to everything cultural and artistic. For those interested in exploring the area here is a list of the State’s key arts, cultural and educational institutes within the Perth Cultural Centre:
– Art Gallery of Western Australia
– Western Australian Museum
– State Library of Western Australia
– Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
– Blue Room Theatre
– State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
– Central Institute of Technology
– State Records Office
15. Free city walking tours
Icity tours offer free orientation, guided and self-guided tours around the city. Keen to share their knowledge, a group of trained volunteers are on standby to give you the low down on the city events, shopping and activities that you and your newly-found hostel mates can embark on.
16. Get your groove on in Northbridge
A night of boogeying AND a happy wallet at the end of the night? Sounds like a win-win situation to me. If you’re after a place to go out and have a good dance (for free), the suburb of Northbridge is a great option. Its centrality means it has great public transport, which is a must on a night out. As for the clubs, Mustang Bar is always a group favourite with its live band and outback-style pub-turned-nightclub vibe. Brass Monkey is another great option; spread across two levels, it offers different genres across its dance floors. My last suggestion is Paramount Nightclub -it rocks a pretty strong tropical vibe and also has a split level with different music genres across the two dance floors. Best of all, they’re all free entry.
17. Capture Perth’s skyline
Photography fanatics get your cameras out and head down to the South Perth Foreshore to capture the city’s skyline. It’s an easy boat trip over from Elizabeth Quay and you’re there. Watching the sunset behind the city’s ski-high buildings is a favourite amongst locals, who enjoy dinners at nearby cafes or picnics on the grass alongside the foreshore. Any time of the day a trip to South Perth to see the skyline from a different perspective won’t be wasted.
18. Explore the Architecture at The University of Western Australia
If you’re into architecture, then definitely make time to visit The University of Western Australia. Both rich and fascinating, it’ is the oldest university in the state. While exploring you might even run into some of the many ducks and peacocks that share the campus with the thousands of students.
19. Beachside work out
Cottesloe aka “Perth’s most popular beach”, obviously is a must see. A beach suitable for both surfers and frolickers, it’s a good time for everyone. If there was the perfect workout location competition, Cottesloe would take the gold. A path that spans kilometres – hugging the coastline, boasting panoramic views of the ocean – doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? But wait, there’s more… located along the paths are “work out” stations that provide a range of equipment, so you can perform those “impressive pull-ups” or just stretch it out, whatever tickles your fancy. For the hard-core fitness junkies, there’s always the option of soft sand running instead of the paved path. I recommend going early morning or sunset to beat the extremely hot conditions. Plus, what bad day ever started or ended with a dip in the ocean? None.
20. Explore Point Walter’s sandbank
At a sheltered spot tucked away on the southern shoreline of the Swan River you’ll find Point Walter. During low tide, the river reveals a large sandbank that makes a darn good Instagram photo shoot location. You’ll often find locals having a picnic or barbecue on the grass alongside the river, so grab some food and enjoy the river views after you’ve explored the bank and got your Insta-worthy snaps.
Check out our hostels in Perth!
Seeing more of Australia? Read our guide on the best places places to visit.
Thanks for stopping by and remember;
🌈 When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. – Walt Disney