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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Guide to Perth, Australia

Alisha McDarris

Perth may be one of the most expensive cities in which to live in the entire world, but it's not all bad. There's plenty to do for free or very little in and around the city (including Fremantle, post coming soon!) so don't cross the Western Australia city off your list if traveling around Australia. It may be out of the way, but it has a completely different feel from many other Australian cities and is a great jumping off point for some good day and weekend trips.

Above: The view of Perth from King's Park can't be beat.

Getting Around Perth

Bus: Transperth, the bus system in Perth, is as good as you could expect for a city of its size (comparative to Brisbane, right down to the river running through the middle). Buses, trains and ferries get you just about everywhere you need to go and cost as little as $3.00 per ride with each ticket lasting two hours. If you're staying for more than a couple weeks it might be worth it to get a Transperth card and auto-reload it so you can get 25% off each fare. But the card costs $10, so it's not always worth it for shorter trips. Buses are free within the city center and there is also a dedicated free loop. Pick up a map at the visitor center or download one from the Transperth website.

Free things to do in Perth

WA Museum: Normally this is a great place to go and learn about science and history, but it's closed for major repairs until 2017.

The Art Gallery of Western Australia has a little something for everybody, including, while we were there, some great student art.

Perth Cultural Center: North of the CBD is the Perth Cultural Center where you will find several galleries, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, with both permanent and changing exhibits. Not all of it will be good (some of the worst "modern" art I've ever seen was in a university gallery in the district, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but plenty of it will be interesting. Of course there will be master works and aboriginal art, too.

Markets: Perth is home to several weekend markets in and around the CBD. Some are seasonal, so be sure to check the calendar before you head out. The Fremantle Markets are widely renowned as some of the best, but it's a trek from the CBD if you're taking the train.

The laneways of Perth offer all sorts of interesting diversions.

Wander the Perth CBD: In downtown Perth you'll find all sorts of things to occupy your time. Take you camera and snap some photos next to some street art (kangaroos, wobbly green lines, bronze men doing headstands...), wander the Murray Street Mall and do some shopping, or see if there's any live entertainment on at Elizabeth Quay.

Kings Park: On the free bus route is beautiful Kings Park, a winding park with bike and walking paths and a fantastic view of the Perth skyline. Bring a picnic and relax in the grass for a while or take a walk and enjoy the scenery.

The Beach: Western Australia is known for its pleasant weather and beaches, so hit up a few and relax in the sun. The most popular beaches in Perth are Cottesloe, Scarborough, Trigg and City Beach. Some offer snorkeling, surfing, or picnic facilities, so pick your poison and enjoy the day!

Festivals: There's always some sort of festival going on in Perth, many of which are free. Check the web to see what's on while you're in town and go watch sailboats, take in great art, or smell the roses.

Cheap things to do in Perth

The Rottnest Express offers a cheap option for travel to Rottnest Island on Tuesdays (Telethon Tuesdays).

The adorable quokka can be found all over Rottnest Island.

Quokkas are friendly marsupials who use their adorableness to get a free snack from visitors. But don't feed them! It could make them sick.

Rottnest Island: If you're in Perth, Rottnest Island shouldn't be missed, especially if you love a good coastal bike ride and cute and cuddly marsupials. The island is running over with the adorable quokka and there aren't any cars to speak of, so the only way to get around is by bicycle. You can rent one from the ferry operator or bring you own for a few bucks less. Normally the Rottnest Express from Perth is $100, but on Tuesdays you can head over for $59. The ferry is also significantly cheaper from Fremantle (like $20 cheaper), so it might be worth it to take the train to Freo then hop on there. Pack a lunch and save on the cost of food (and don't feed the quokkas). There are also free daily history and quokka walks, just check the schedule when you get there.

I have nothing against North American possums, but Aussie possums are super cute and fluffy. Visit one at Caversham Wildlife Park.

Get up close and personal with a (sleepy?) wombat at Caversham Wildlife Park.

Feed the roos at Caversham.

Caversham Wildlife Park: See Australian animals up close and personal at this wildlife park in Perth. Pet a wombat and have your photo taken with a koala. The emphasis is on education here, so cuddle a kangaroo while you learn about cassowaries and see sheep shearing in action as you're educated about flying foxes. Admission is $27 but you can often find a small discount in tourism booklets found at the airport or information center.

Day Trip: If you have a free day, hop in the car and head to some of the rural areas outside the city. Margaret River and Swan Valley are know for their wineries, cuisine, and relaxed atmosphere. Book a room at one of the quiet resorts or guesthouses for the night and make it a weekend trip!

Perth Zoo: This zoo participates in many successful endangered species breeding programs, making it a greta place to see rare animals big and small (including orangutans and echidnas). Take an afternoon and wander the zoo and keep in mind that there are often discounts in tourism brochures, which are all but necessary with a $29 admission price.

Outdoor Cinema: There are scads of places to see a movie under the stars in Perth. Some open air theaters only run during the summer months (December-April), but several go on all year. So see what's playing a head outdoors! Ticket prices vary from venue to venue.

Cheap Eats in Perth

I can't pass up a vegan donut. Grab one at Loving Hut in Perth.

Loving Hut: All vegan all the time, but omnivores won't miss anything. There are pies, salads, curry and desserts (so many desserts!), many for under $10 per person. It's also a little vegan grocery, so stock up on your snacks that are hard to find elsewhere (like Primal strips).

Lord of the Fries: Fast food for vegans and vegetarians. It's certainly not healthy, but when you want a burger you want a burger. They have veggie dogs, too, tasty sauces, and tofu nuggets that make a good afternoon snack, all under $10.

Annalakshmi: This is an eat all you wish and pay what you can kind of place. It's vegetarian Indian cuisine and proceeds go to the Annalakshmi Cultural Center. A great option when you're really hungry.

Govinda's: You may recognize the name from some of our other Australia posts, but this is an all you can eat vegetarian Hare Krishna restaurant. The buffet is $12, so it's a great place to go if you haven't eaten all day and just want to stuff five pounds of potatoes and lentils in your face.

Toastface Grillah: For Omnivores and vegetarians (not vegans), this place does some creative toasties (i.e. grilled sandwiches). And sandwiches are only $5-$7, so feast on and save room for dessert!

Ways to Save in Perth

Hello Perth: This website will show you discounts for popular local tours and attractions. We aren't big into that kind of thing, but if you must go up in the bell tower, you might as well score a discount.

Information Center: Grab a couple booklets from the information center or even the airport for lists of attractions and discounts.

TimeOut: Here you can search for events on while you'll be in town, including free ones. You might find all kinds of interesting stuff from glow yoga to live music.

Experience Perth: An event website, you can browse upcoming events and activities in Perth, from arts to festivals to fitness classes, including free ones.

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


  1. Living in Sydney, it might seem like there's a lot going on here, but I love visiting Perth when I can afford to get away from my self storage business precisely for the change in the pace of life there.

  2. Thanks for this list! Even locals could learn a thing or two from this list to be honest. It's all good solutions for a boring weekend at home if you've nothing better to do I think!


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