A visitor’s guide to Perth

Don’t be surprised if you see a wolf on the loose on the streets of Perth. Or perhaps a giant mahi mahi, its scales dappled in different shades of green and yellow, or a series of somersaulting women, their full skirts billowing in the breeze.

These are just some of the striking works of street art that have sprung up across the city centre in recent years. Perth has become an open-air gallery, where you can walk around a corner and come face to face with works by acclaimed artists such as Amok Island, Stormie Mills and Daek William.

It is not what you might expect from Western Australia’s capital city, but that is precisely the point. Over the last few years, Perth has undergone a major reinvention, leaving visitors with more to explore than ever before.

Start your adventure in the CBD, where the city’s laneways are undergoing a Melbourne-style makeover. Shafto Lane is home to a range of boutiques, bars and cafes; other top picks include Wolf Lane and Howard Lane (look for the chandeliers at the entrance).

Other new developments worth checking out include the State Buildings, a collection of interconnected heritage buildings that are not only home to one Perth’s best hotels – the luxurious Como The Treasury – but also where you will find some of Perth’s hottest drinking and dining venues.

Try the rooftop Wildflower for a special night out, the basement Long Chim for authentic Thai food, or Petition, which is divided into a wine bar, a bistro and a craft beer haven.

Not far from the State Buildings is Perth’s up-and-coming waterfront district, Elizabeth Quay, where you can drop in for a coffee at Rubra on the Swan, or enjoy drinks and a bite to eat at The Reveley. You may decide to take the scenic trip downriver to Fremantle – ferries leave from the nearby Barrack Street Jetty.

Cityscape of Perth from the Elizabeth Quay Bridge

Fremantle remains one of Perth’s most-inviting neighbourhoods, with its mix of heritage buildings and buzzing cafes and boutiques. Depending on your taste, you may want to start by exploring the colonial-era Fremantle Prison, the Old Courthouse or the fascinating Shipwreck Galleries, which reveal the forgotten stories of the Dutch ships that regularly sailed along the West Australian coastline almost two centuries before Captain Cook charted Australia’s shores.

Freemantle Prison near Perth Western Australia

If you are visiting between Friday and Monday, spend some time browsing the stalls at the bohemian Fremantle Markets before stopping for a refreshment. South Terrace is known as Cappuccino Strip for good reason, while the fabulous food and hip vibe at Bread in Common on Pakenham Street has made it a local favourite. If you are looking for something a little stronger, head for the waterfront beer garden at Little Creatures Brewery, or choose from more than 40 beers on tap at the historic Sail & Anchor tavern.

Entrance to the Fremantle Markets

Perth’s other don’t-miss destinations include King’s Park, one of the world’s largest city parks, complete with manicured gardens and bushland trails, and the hip neighbourhood of Northbridge. Northbridge’s lively streets are home to many of Perth’s best restaurants and bars, including The Standard, known for its eclectic menu of small plates, and the brand-new Henry Summer, an inviting indoor-outdoor space that brings a garden vibe to the heart of the city.

Kings Park Bridge in Perth Western Australia

And then there are the beaches. With more than 60 beaches and 300 days of sunshine a year, it is always a good time to head to the beach in Perth. Try the ever-popular Cottesloe Beach or head to City Beach, where you can enjoy lunch with a view at one of its beachside restaurants (Odyssea is the pick for fans of perfectly-cooked seafood).

A sunny summer's day on the popular Cottesloe Beach near Perth Australia

Don’t stop your explorations at the city’s boundaries. Rottnest Island, lying just 18km off Perth’s coastline, is the perfect summer playground, with its car-free roads and its beautiful beaches. You can always find a deserted stretch of sand on this quiet island, but Pinkys Beach and Salmon Bay are particularly alluring.

Bay with crystal clear water and lighthouse on Rottnest Island

The translucent waters are great for snorkelling; bring your mask along if you want to follow the Parker Point Snorkel Trail, which features underwater plaques that fill you in on the marine plants and animals you are seeing.

Rottnest’s most-famous inhabitant is, of course, the cute quokka. Capturing a quokka selfie is high on many visitors’ lists. Equally appealing, however, is the colony of fur seals can often be seen frolicking in the water off Cathedral Point.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth Western Australia

Alternatively, head south to visit the Margaret River region, where bush, beaches and world-class wineries all compete for your attention. You might also want to drop in at the Margaret River Distilling Co or stretch your legs on a section of the scenic Cape to Cape Track, but be sure to include one or two wineries on your itinerary: perhaps Cullen Wines and Leeuwin Estate, which also has a museum-worthy collection of Australian art.

Grape vines at winery in the Margaret River region Western Australia

Indian Pacific’s all-inclusive journeys offer many ways to explore Perth, Sydney and everywhere in between. Stay in Perth and explore Rottnest Island, visit the Margaret River wine region and travel in luxury aboard the Indian Pacific.

Story by Ute Junker, Photos Getty Images