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IMG_4329 v2 © Arnie Papp/Flickr
IMG_4329 v2 © Arnie Papp/Flickr

An Alternative Guide To Perth And Its Best-Kept Secrets

Picture of Alexa Smith
Updated: 9 February 2017
Perth is the most geographically isolated capital city in the world, surrounded by miles of beautiful greenery, bright white beaches, and distinctly Australian bush land. These relatively untouched natural borders may make Perth less accessible than other major Aussie cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but they’re also part of the city’s unique charm and mystique. This vibrant hidden gem offers a rare blend of lush parks and vineyards, sunny seaside attractions, and cosmopolitan nightlife that can’t be found elsewhere on the continent. If you’re the type of traveler who likes to diverge from mainstream tourist itineraries, read on for seven treasures off the beaten track in this under-the-radar city.

Moore River

Cottesloe Beach is Perth’s most popular stretch of sand, with crowds rivaling Sydney’s Bondi Beach mobbing and clogging its shoreline every weekend. For a more serene shoreline, get out of the city and head north for an hour to Moore River. The river is separated from the Indian Ocean by a sandbank, and the picturesque view of multilayered, contrasting colors is a picture-postcard scene. But there’s much more to do than admiring the view: visitors can explore a panoply of walking trails in and around the river basin, while the river itself is open for idyllic days of swimming, kayaking, canoeing, cruising and fishing.

Watch out for: gorgeous sunsets on the shore

Moore River, Western Australia, Australia

Lotterywest Federation Walkway

Kings Park is the largest city park in the world and the green beating heart of the city. The park is notably divided up into various subsections, from the botanic gardens featuring unique Western Australian wildflowers, plants and trees, to the barbecue areas, the picnic spots and the Fraser Avenue Lookout Point. One decidedly underrated experience in the park is the Federation Walkway, a gorgeous promenade running for 620 metres through the botanic garden. This 40-minute stroll (give or take) allows for a spectacular view of the natural scenery, including the Swan and Canning Rivers, as well as the Water Garden valley. To ascend to the canopy, start the trail opposite Lord Forrest Statue roundabout on Fraser Avenue.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 9am – 5pm

Watch out for: the path up to the canopy

Lotterywest Federation Walkway, Kings Park and Botanic Garden Kings Park Rd, Perth, Australia

Swan Valley Wine Cruise

The rich land of Swan Valley turns the nourishing waters of the Swan River into a wine-making haven, as well as farmland for fantastic local crops and livestock. Award-winning wineries, breweries, bakeries and more have cropped up all over the alley, with over 150 venues ranging from small boutiques to renowned national brands doling out cheeses, wines, fruits, chutneys, olive oil, honey and craft beers to eager tourists. Of the area’s many tour packages, the Swan Valley Wine Cruise is a less conventional, more luxurious option for sampling in style: this seven-hour pleasure cruise combines riverside sight-seeing with stops at several local vineyards (and even one microbrewery), so you can take in everything ‘the Valley of Taste’ has to offer in the most tasteful transportation available.

Price: Adult – $145; Child (four to 14) – $110; free for infants aged three and under

Hours: sets sail 9:45am, returns to Perth 5:15

Watch out for: the multiple stops to go ashore for tastings

Swan Valley Tours, Midvale, Australia +61 8 9274 1199

His Majesty’s Theatre

Amid Perth’s numerous art galleries, museums and theaters, His Majesty’s Theatre stands out for its distinct historic character. An impressive, oddball architectural throwback to Edwardian London, ‘The Maj’ is now over 110 years old, yet remains stunningly well-maintained thanks to a series of painstaking restorations. The interior is a triumph of craftsmanship in intricately carved wood, plush velvet, fine marble, and rich red and gold mosaic work; they simply don’t make theaters like this anymore. The performance schedule is constant and extremely diverse, ranging across musicals, ballet, operas, plays, and standalone acts, though you can count on regular performances from the West Australian Opera and Ballet, which calls The Maj their artistic home.

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9am – 5.30pm

Watch out for: regal decor and a broad range of performing arts events

825 Hay St, Perth, Australia, +61 8 9265 0900

Fremantle

The bohemian Fremantle district (or ‘Freo’ as the locals affectionately refer to it) is a treasure trove for urban explorers. Located only a 20-minute train ride south from the city center, this coastal hideaway boasts a Cappuccino Strip of trendy coffeehouses to start your day with a buzz. From there, you can hop over to the famed Little Creatures Brewery for a taste of local ales, shop at the weekend Fremantle markets bustling with arts and crafts sellers, and make a stop at the old 1850s Fremantle Prison for harrowing tales of Freo’s sordid struggles and prison riots in the First Fleet area. Finish the day with a dusky stroll along the heritage-listed buildings of the Fremantle Marina, or dive into the local bar scene for an all-night adventure.

Watch out for: excellent finds at the weekend markets, and seasonal brews at Little Creatures

Fremantle, WA, Australia

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is a small, car-free island just 19 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, with regular ferry transportation from Perth and Fremantle. Off-shore snorkelers can find more than 135 species of tropical fish here, and Green Turtles wading just a few meters from the shoreline. Over on the more rugged side of the island you’ll find Rottnest’s most adorable signature species, the Quokka, as well as Fur seals lazing in the sunshine, and even Humpback whales can also be spotted during their annual migratory season between September and November. While there are a multitude of hiking tracks, the best way to explore the island is to rent a bike and take in the Rottnest’s golden coves at your own pace.

Rottnest Island, Australia

St Mary’s Cathedral

For those looking to slow down after a hectic marathon itinerary, moment of peace awaits you in the heart of Perth at one of the city’s oldest structures: St Mary’s Cathedral. Dating back to 1865 and renovated in 2009, the cathedral remains a quiet and contemplative oasis amidst the urban rush. The building’s intricately carved old stone is a testament to the beauty of Gothic design, while the nave of the cathedral has received a modern augmentation, with back-lit glass panels installed behind the altar and new supportive steal beams that seamlessly blend old and new. There’s also a lovely sprawl of surrounding gardens and lawns that make for a ideal picnic lunch spot, or a haven for lazing away with a good book in the sun.

St Mary’s Cathedral, 17 Victoria Square, Perth, Australia, +61 8 9223 1350