Of all the capital cities in Australia that we’ve been to, Perth truly seems to have the most relaxed vibe. We spent most of our time in Northern Perth (funnily enough at the same caravan park that Marc’s parents stayed in during their big lap in the 1970s!), where there always seemed to be plenty of people out enjoying the sun or surf, but it never felt busy or crowded or rushed. While the majority of our time there was during the start of the Covid pandemic in WA, which meant we didn’t get to experience it as properly as we would have hoped, we still greatly enjoyed the city and had the chance to go out on some fantastic weekend road trips, most of which can be easily reached in a day.
No visit to Perth is complete without a visit to Kings Park. It is one of the world’s largest inner-city parks, has numerous walks and activities available, and offers great views over the city and Swan River. It makes the perfect spot for a picnic or stroll around the botanic gardens.
Our favourite local surf beach during our time in Perth was Trigg Beach, with its beginner-friendly small to medium sized waves as well as being a good place to have a coffee or picnic. Just a bit north of Trigg is Mettams Pool, an awesome little reef great for snorkelling. Being west facing, most of the beaches of Perth also make a good place to watch the sunset.
Just south of Fremantle, a mere 25 meters off the shore of Coogee Beach lies a shipwreck known as the Omeo wreck. Over 100 years ago, the Omeo got stuck in the sand here and has been simply disintegrating away over the years. It’s perfect for a snorkel thanks to its protected position along the coast and fairly well-maintained condition.
Rockingham Beach, a beautiful long stretch of white sand beach, was where we first tested out our new blow-up SUPs from Anaconda (which we absolutely love). We even saw a couple small rays as we were paddling around.
A bit further south from Rockingham is Penguin Island, a small island approximately 700 meters off the coastline still attached by a submerged sand bar. Depending on the tide and currents, you are able to walk across this sand bar to reach the island, or you can SUP/kayak or take the ferry. Once there, keep an eye out for one of the local Little Penguins tucked away in their burrows in the dunes or hiding from the sun in a cave an even under the stairs, as well as one of the many other seabirds that reside on the island. There are also dolphins and sea lions frequently seen in the waters around the island, known as Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
Having spent our Covid lockdown in the Swan Valley (#brookside4lyf), we have quite fond memories of this place. Swan Valley is WA’s oldest wine region and has more than 40 wineries, distilleries and breweries. Our favourites were the “black monster” at Lamonts, Fig Tree Estate for its tasty Boomer Lager and weekend wood-fired pizzas, and the Margaret River Chocolate Co for a sweet treat.
If you want to do something a bit more active, take a hike through Bells Rapids, a bushlands escape just out of the city. During the summer, the rocky riverbed is practically bone dry, but in the winter the rushing waters create rapids that form a leg of an epic yearly kayak race known as the Avon Descent.
Rottnest Island, or “Rotto”, is probably most well-known for its population of quokkas, a small marsupial deemed the “happiest animal on Earth” since they almost always look like they’re smiling! However, there is a lot more to Rottnest than just quokkas; there are plenty of beautiful beaches, fun cycling trails, and wartime history all across the island.
There are three ferry departure point to get to Rottnest: the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth, Hillary’s Boat Shed, or Fremantle. Fremantle is the quickest, but the Perth location has the added benefit of an extra cruise along the Swan River. There are no cars allowed on in the island; therefore, to get around you can either take the bus or bicycle (either bring your own on the ferry or hire them once you arrive). But be aware, much of the island is fairly hilly so cycling around will require a certain level of fitness! If you’re unsure if you’ll be able to make it all the way around, you can opt for the “bike and bus” option: hire a bicycle and when you’ve had enough, lock up the bike at the nearest bus stop and take the bus the rest of the way. And don’t forget your snorkel gear; the water is clear and calm and there are a plethora of options to check out the local sea life. Our favourite ones were Little Salmon Bay and Parakeet Bay, but there are so many other spots on the island worth exploring. It’s one of several places that we really wished we had had a boat to better explore it all!
We also opted to take the last ferry home, which worked out well in that most of the crowds had left by then, and with the quokkas being nocturnal, they were starting to become a bit more active by the end of the day, which gave us the opportunity to get some great last-minute shots, even a little Quokka kiss!
Rottnest can definitely be done as a day trip, but if you want to enjoy the island a bit longer, there is a variety of accommodation available to extend your stay.
Lancelin and Yanchep National Park
Yanchep NP is a unique park just north of the city, with many heritage buildings dotted throughout. Not only do countless grey kangaroos call it home, it is also one of the only places in WA where you can see koalas!
A further 72km north of Yanchep NP is the small fishing town of Lancelin, most well-known for its dunes. The bare white sand dunes make for a great natural playground that you can drive your 4WD around or hire a buggy or sandboard from one of the many vendors situated right at the edge of the sand…no matter how you experience the dunes, you’ll have a good time for sure!
Jurien Bay and the Pinnacles
Jurien Bay is a cute seaside community just over 200 kms north of Perth and is a popular place to see sea lions. Just south of Jurien Bay is a mysterious natural phenomenon known as the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. There is still a debate among scientists as to how these limestone formations have come to be, whether they’re a result of thousands of years of weathering, remnants of a petrified forest, or some other as of yet undiscovered process. Either way, it’s a fascinating and beautiful place to drive and/or walk through to admire the thousands of pinnacles with their various shapes and sizes. It also happens to be where we celebrated our first anniversary on the road!
If you’re after a free camp in the area, there is a great little one at Tuart Reserve for self-contained vehicles. Be sure to arrive early, the campsite really starts to fill up after about 4pm.
Being about 340 km east of Perth, near the town of Hyden, Wave Rock is a big day trip and probably better as a overnighter or as part of a longer road trip. The name Wave Rock pretty well describes what it is: a giant rock in the shape of a wave!
It stands 15 meters tall and is 110 meters long and has been shaped by years upon years of water erosion that have cut away at the base and left the overhang on the top. You can also walk around the top of the rock for a different perspective. There is an entrance fee at the carpark ($12 when we went in Feb 2020). Nearby is another impressive rock formation known as Hippo’s Yawn, which, you guessed it, looks like the mouth of a giant hippo yawning.
Just around the corner from these rocks is a salt pool known as “Lake Magic” that is supposedly 6-7 times saltier than the Dead Sea. When we were there in February it looked like they were in the process of building a resort around the pool, so it had this kind of weird, abandoned village vibe to it, but it was still well worth the unique experience of floating in this extremely buoyant water and probably the highlight of our visit to this area.
So there are our top spots from our time in Perth; of course there are many, many more to see but we think we picked some good ones on our travels! Have you been to any of these places or have any other favourite gems of Perth? Let us know below!