Perth travel guide and things to do: 20 reasons to visit

1. DISCOVER: THE STATE BUILDINGS

Red hot right now is the newly refurbished State Buildings. These beautifully-restored old government buildings – the lovely Postal Hall is simply exquisite – is home to a clutch of high-end tenants. We love every one of the eateries, from the rooftop Wildflower, which offers destination dining with a side serve of lovely views, to the all-day diner, Post. The handful of carefully-curated shops is also worth a visit, particularly the outlets belonging to local designer Aurelia Costarella and florist extraordinaire, Flowers By Aneura. See statebuildings.com

2. *STAY: IN FIVE-STAR STYLE

There's a new place to stay in Perth, and it's a winner. The lovely COMO The Treasury hotel, also housed in the State Buildings, is not just the best hotel in Perth; it is the best city hotel in Australia. The elegantly understated interiors are supplemented by the superb service for which COMO is famous; and with so many great in-house dining options, it is tempting never to leave the premises. See comohotels.com/thetreasury

3. *ADMIRE: THE ART OF THE STREETS

Perth's street art scene is burgeoning, thanks to local arts organisation Form and its annual street art festival. Oh Hey WA leads walking tours that take in the most striking pieces in town, from the black and white stylings of local boy Stormie Mills to Amok Island's colourful creatures and the incredible stencil work of ELK. See ohheywa.com.au

4. EXPLORE: PERTH'S RIVERFRONT REVAMP

Perth's newest precinct, Elizabeth Quay, is bringing to life Perth's most neglected asset: its waterfront. New bars and restaurants have started popping up along the area's walkways, with plenty more to come. Expect plenty of fun events to be announced, including night noodle markets. The biggest news of all: the area is the new home of the Perth International Arts Festival. See elizabethquay.com.au

5. LINGER: IN THE LANEWAYS

Melbourne got in early, Sydney wasn't far behind; now Perthites are discovering the fun to be had in laneways. Start your evening in Howard Lane, blinged up with a row of chandeliers, where you can sink a drink at Helvetica (helveticabar.com.au), or top up on tapas at the basement diner Andaluz (andaluzbar.com.au). Wolf Lane is also home to a selection of bars and cafes – the eponymous, loft-like Wolf Lane (wolflane.com.au) is always a good bet – but the king of the laneways is Shafto Lane, packed with cafes, boutiques and bars. 

6. VISIT: ROTTNEST ISLAND

It is best known as home to the cute-as quokka, but there is a lot more to see on Rottnest Island, just a 40-minute ferry ride from Perth. Hire a bike at the wharf (Rottnest is a car-free zone) and head off to find your own secret spot: with 63 beaches to choose from, it's easy to escape the crowds. If that sounds like too much work, the Bayseeker Bus stops at various places around the island. There are some great snorkel trails as well. See rottnestisland.com

7. DRINK: LOCAL BREWS 

WA's superb wines have plenty of fans, but there are plenty of other local brews to sample. In East Perth, Whipper Snapper Distillery (whippersnapperdistillery.com) dishes up bourbon-style whisky; in the Swan Valley, the Great Northern Distillery (canefire.net) is known for its Canefire Rum, while Wild Swan Distilling (wildswandistillery.com.au) makes vodka and gin. If you prefer a cold beer, take your pick from the half-dozen boutique operators in and around town. Not sure where to start? Petition Beer Corner (petitionperth.com/beer) in the State Buildings has a rotating selection of 18 artisanal beers on tap.

8. EXPLORE: THE CULTURAL CENTRE  

Perth's most entertaining cultural institutions are conveniently grouped together in an area known as the Cultural Centre. Stop in at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (artgallery.wa.gov.au) to admire their Indigenous collection, or visit the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (pica.org.au), which hosts dance and theatre as well as visual arts. The Western Australian Museum (museum.wa.gov.au) often has interesting exhibitions, including the current blockbuster from the British Museum, A History of the World in 100 Objects.

9. LAZE: ON THE BEACH

Do the maths: 19 beaches + more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year makes Perth heaven for beach lovers. Whether you opt for the much-loved Cottesloe – with its terraced lawns, its buzzing boulevard and its crystal-clear water – or surfie hotspot Scarborough, where you can catch everything from music festivals to comedy shows, you will soon discover Perth's best party trick: enjoying sundowners as the sun sinks into the water. 

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10. EXPLORE: KING STREET

The south end of King Street may be all high-end labels, but down the northern end lies possibly the coolest couple of blocks in Perth. Varnish on King (varnishonking.com), a sleek basement bar, is the city's champion whisky bar – and was voted the best bar in Australia – while Old Faithful (oldfaithfulbar.com.au) serves up superb southern barbecue in a restaurant that feels like a food truck without wheels.  Uncle Joe's Mess Hall (unclejoes.com.au), a barber-shop-come-café, is hipster central, while La Veen offers some of the best coffee in town. 

11. FEAST: AT LONG CHIM

For don't-miss dining, head straight for Long Chim: not just Perth's best Thai restaurant, but one of its best restaurants, full stop. Chef David Thompson's expertise in Thai cuisine has been recognised by the Thai government; his flagship restaurant in Bangkok, is considered one of the best in Asia. Long Chim's concrete walls are decorated with murals, and the menu of street food favourites is perfect for anytime-eating. Try the cocktails, too. longchimperth.com

12. DISCOVER: THE SHIPWRECK GALLERIES

More than 160 years before Captain Cook stumbled across the continent's east coast, Dutch navigators were regularly sailing up the West Australian coastline. Occasionally one ran aground, leaving behind a rich trove of artefacts to be discovered. These are on display at the Shipwreck Galleries of the Western Australian Museum, along with the reconstructed remains of the Batavia. Wrecked on its maiden voyage, the disaster launched a dark saga of mutiny and murder. Also on offer: a behind the scenes tour focused on maritime archaeology and conservation. See museum.wa.gov.au/museums/shipwrecks

13. STROLL: KINGS PARK

How long will it take to walk through Kings Park? How long have you got? Spanning 400 hectares, there is plenty to see in these lovely parklands, starting with views both of the city and the river. There are 3000 native species on display, including a mighty baobab tree from the Kimberley. One of the most interesting ways to explore the park is with an Indigenous guide, learning about bush food and medicine, as well as Dreamtime stories. Bookings at indigenouswa.com

14. ADMIRE: HIS MAJESTY'S THEATRE

A theatre with four artificial waterfalls and a sliding dome that lets the audience sit under the stars sounds like something you would find in Dubai. In fact, these were just some of the attractions of His Majesty's Theatre when it opened in 1904, back when Perth was still a frontier town. Even today, with the waterfalls gone and the dome no longer sliding, the Edwardian baroque interiors remain worth seeing. If you can't catch a performance, sign up for a guided tour. See wa.gov.au/venues/his-majestys-theatre

15. *VISIT: FREMANTLE

The port city of Fremantle has a distinct personality of its own, thanks to its Victorian streetscape and its thriving creative community. It is hard to know where to start your explorations: browsing the local markets, still going strong after 100 years; indulging in some people-watching along South Terrace's so-called Cappuccino Strip; or diving into history at the World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison.

16. TASTE: SUE LEWIS CHOCOLATES

It's what chef turned chocolatier Sue Lewis leaves out of her chocolate that makes it special. Unlike most chocolate makers, who pack their chocolate with glucose for a high-powered sugar hit, Lewis adds as little sugar as possible. Instead, she adds flavour to her high-quality couverture with premium products such as fresh raspberries or fine Scotch whisky. Her preservative-free approach means you need to eat it quickly – but that's fine with us.  See suelewischocolatier.com.au.

17. EXPLORE: NORTHBRIDGE

Northbridge has long been one of Perth's most happening 'hoods; with the City Link project improving connection to the city, it's hotter than ever. Known for its cool bars and its irresistible dumpling joints, Northbridge now has a hip hotel all of its own. The Alex has compact but comfortable rooms – love those Italian sheets – but the focus is on the shared spaces, including a rooftop and a cool mezzanine space with an honour bar. The in-house restaurant, Shadow Wine Bar, is also worth a visit. See alexhotel.com.au

18. HOP: ON A FREE BUS

When it comes to public transport, Perth leaves most other cities for dead. Free CAT buses criss-cross central Perth, making it easy to explore areas such as the retro-tinged 'hood of Leederville. Browse shelves of vinyl records, perk yourself up with a full-powered espresso, or treat yourself to ocean-fresh oysters at Kailis Brothers Fish Market. See transperth.wa.gov.au

19. SWIM: WITH THE DOLPHINS

You can take your pick of wildlife encounters at Rockingham. The pristine waters of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park draw pods of wild dolphins; you can watch their antics from the deck of a cruise boat, or jump in the water with them. Pop over to Penguin Island, home to a 1000-strong colony of fairy penguins, as well as Australia's largest pelican colony. Still not enough? Over at Seal Island, you can watch the antics of the Australian sea lions aboard a glass-bottomed boat. penguinisland.com.au

20. CATCH: AN OUTDOOR MOVIE

Blame the balmy climate, but there is nothing locals like more on a summer evening than a spot of al fresco cinema. Our favourite option, Rooftop Movies (rooftopmovies.com.au) is decorated with palm trees and plastic flamingos, Astroturf and stripey beach chairs, all atop a car park roof. King's Park has its own outdoor cinema (moonlight.com.au/perth), while in Northbridge Piazza, a permanent LED screen shows a variety of short films. 

*Traveller top choice

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