Perth City Skyline by Dave Castro

The notion that Perth is a boring city is far from the truth. Yes, it’s remote, yes it can be seen from Space and yes there’s no gridlock (yet) are all true statements. But boring? Nah!

You just need to get out and about on foot or on bicycle and start exploring, especially spots that are away from the tourist trail.

Perth is different

You probably know that Perth is set on the Swan River, but you may not know that in 1697 it was named after the native black swans by Willem de Vlamingh, Captain of a Dutch expedition.  You’ll find modern hotels and fine restaurants, Perth isn’t the poor relation to Sydney or Melbourne, but it is different.

Weekends are a good time to visit because many hotels drop their prices when the corporate guests have returned over east or to their homes overseas. You’ll find some of the best and great deals for hotels and other special offers online.

There is so much to do, that a day is hardly enough time in which to do it all, especially if you enjoy walking and bicycling, so put on your walking shoes or biking helmet and come with me as we enjoy a scenic bike ride and an alternative day out in Perth together. If we’re lucky we’ll spot some art, there’s always something going on.

Perth Art FestivalArtwork by pop artist, Choi Jeong Hwa at the Perth Art’s Festival

15,000 pink plastic kitchen baskets assembled using 150,000 plastic kitchen ties – the baskets will be recycled.

Get out and about

A great place to start is on what I like to call the ‘Exercise Highway. This is a bike and walking trail that runs from Perth central and Riverside Drive all the way to Applecross  (the late actor Heath Ledger once lived there) and beyond. It hugs and loops along the banks of the beautiful Swan River, and you’re never far from the water.

It’s a flat, picturesque bike trail, tranquil as long as you stick to the byway laws and keep to your lane giving a good heads up at intersections where the professional bike riders can, and do whizz by like bees.

After riding  down the hill from our hotel we’ll come to the Barrack Street jetty and the bustling waterfront where the fascinating Bell Tower rises high above some fountains. On the river pleasure boats bob in the water ready to depart for Fremantle or Rottnest Island, some might be lunch or wine tasting cruises. We’ll carry on along the waterfront and then duck under a couple of bridges that rumble overhead with the traffic that’s heading south on the Kwinana freeway. Then we’ll turn off and loop down to South Perth, where we’ll have a coffee at one of the  al fresco cafes under the lofty trees . Or perhaps you’d like a mango mango smoothie (yum), which is no doubt full of sugar, but boy it will taste good on this hot day!

We’ll watch the South Perth world go by, it’s relaxed here, not like the city at all. In fact South Perth feels like a sleepy village. The pace is slower this side, and we’ll just imagine the lights of the city and the high rise skyscrapers lit up and twinkling across the river when the sky turns a velvety black at night.

Perhaps we should visit Perth Zoo, or wait we’ll come back later and have a sundowner at the The Windsor Hotel? For now though … Come on, it’s helmets on again, as we continue our ride.

Windsor Hotel, south perth, by jo castroThe Windsor Hotel, South Perth

Water Birds and Weddings

We’ll pass the South Perth Ferry terminal at Mends Street Jetty – a few people might be waiting for the boat to arrive, be careful just in case a child runs out in front of us –  then as we find our balance and rhythm once again we’ll find that the cycle track is quieter this side of the river, the bike enthusiasts have either gone home or have migrated elsewhere.

Pelican, south perth, by dave castro

We’ll  come to a wetland where water birds reside. A pelican might fly onto a nearby branch and pose in a tree for us, with the sleek cityscape as a backdrop. We’ll listen to the crazy squawking of Gallas and Parrots, no honking of car horns or revving engines here.

There may be a wedding on the banks  of the Swan River today in McCallum Park, for it’s a Saturday. Like me will you have a few maternal l tears in your eye as we hear the celebrant ask the groom today, “Do you take Sarah to be your wedded wife?”

Kayak or canoe, the choice is yours

A little further along we might be greeted by a hive of red, blue and yellow activity as a rowing regatta is in progress and the waterfront will be busy with children, canoes, dogs and families. There are lots of places along the river where you can easily park your car, unhitch your canoe and away you go like Robinson Crusoe.

Winding further around the pretty banks of the river towards Burswood Entertainment Centre we’ll pass by green parks and maybe there’ll be a vintage car show today? Such a relaxing sight  – people sitting around under trees, picknicking, and idly wandering around antique cars. A Buick Here an MG there, visions of days gone by when the world turned slower.

Parks a plenty

The river snakes to our left now and closer to the Burswood we might see a four piece Scottish band practicing under a eucalyptus tree, their bagpipes ringing out loud and clear. We’ll be transported to another place and time, where the skies are not often a powder blue colour, and the temperature is not summer hot as it is here today.

But we’re in Charles Paterson Park and for us the sky is bright blue, washed clean by the storm last night, which has cooled the summer temperature from a high of nearly 40 degrees centigrade yesterday to about 31 today.

Further on we’ll pass a sign that declares we are in the City of Vincent and we shall cycle to a dam. It’s pretty here, and we may wonder where the city actually is – although at this point we’re only about 3kms from Perth CBD. There are attractive apartments built out over a golf course, and lots of greens spaces leading down to the river, that ever present river where we shall look out for native Black Swans.

black swans by dave castro

A little like Venice

We’ll move on now towards East Perth and come to some boardwalks and canals that resemble a little Venice. Here we’ll find a hotel by the waterfront,  overlooking  Claisebrook Cove where we can sit and enjoy a  beer or maybe some tapas and a glass of wine, and watch the world go by.  Here it doesn’t matter if we’re a Windsor or a Jones, we can just be us, a little bit raggle-taggle in our cycling gear.

East Perth by jo castroEast Perth by Claisebrook Cove

Then we’ll head back into Perth CBD and stop first in Queens Gardens, a beautiful lung near the heart of the city where we’ll find a beautiful  lily pond that was once a clay pit. This green space has been a garden since the late 19th Century, when people of high standing would come  to see and be seen and have high-tea parties with their friends. We’ll admire the flowers in the gardens and the shady trees under which modern day families play with their children.

The actual time spent  riding our bikes has bee 2 hours 15 minutes, and we’ve travelled 43 kilometres without having had to get on a road with cars. No bad for a city!

Now it’s time for a rest and a shower at The Ambassador Hotel before we take a walk into the city later for dinner. Just Perfect.

Tomorrow we might hire a car with discount coupon codes and drive to the Swan Valley. But that’s another story.

Riverside Drive, Perth by Dave Castro

10 alternative things to do in Perth

  1. Get hitched on the banks of The Swan River
  2. Put your canoe in at any number of places
  3. Cycle one of the many bike loops and be gone for hours
  4. Attend a vintage car display
  5. Visit the pretty little Venice area around East Perth and Claisebrook Cove
  6. Have an al fresco coffee in a quiet South Perth café
  7. Take photos of grand water features, sleek skyscrapers and palm trees on Riverside Drive
  8. Count how many native Black Swans you can see in a day
  9. Have a picnic in a park by the river
  10. Take the ferry to South Perth  and then when it’s dark, look back to the CBD, and fall in love with the city lights.

Where have you been, and what do you like doing in Perth that’s off the beaten tourist track?


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  1. I love your term “Exercise Highway”! And of course you’re absolutely right, Perth is not as boring as we like to make it out to be.

    My secret tip is to visit the Karakamia Sanctuary in the hills. I always take foreign visitors there for a night time animal trek. It’s gorgeous. (I haven’t been for a while but assume they still run them.)

  2. I never thought Perth was Boring…. but then again, I am originally a Darwin Girl :O) But your article has inspired me to go out and explore our wonderful city!!

  3. Thanks for your reply Jess. I’m longing to explore your home town, Darwin, too. I hope you enjoy getting out and about around Perth some more when you have time 🙂

  4. Thanks for your comments, Amanda, and for your tip to visit the Karakamia Sanctuary. I love hearing about new places to visit. I’m definitely going to check it out.

  5. Great to be reminded of the fun things to do in Perth and they don’t all cost a lot of money – thanks !

  6. Hiya, I must admit, coming back to Perth from Sydney 10 years ago was daunting, i thought it was going to be bored, but to the contrary. It’s a lovely, fresh, groovy place, that has space. Mum took me to birthday spoil lunch at Matilda’s on the Swan River the other day, we were seated metres from the water, and as we were enjoying a lovely glass of wine, an enormous dolphin appeared in the shallows right in front of us. It was a ‘sign’ we thought! Still trying to figure what the sign is for, but! What a great spot to watch people ‘muckin about in boats’, people walking their dogs and kiddies frolicking in the water. LOVE PERTH Cath

  7. We tend to forget that Perth offers so much for free, dont we? Thanks for popping by Jacqui 🙂

  8. Thanks for dropping by Cath! I like your words ‘fresh, groovy place’, so true. Sounds like you had an awesome birthday lunch at Matilda’s (another new place for me to try out 🙂 ) and seeing a dolphin like that was definitely a sign – hopefully for a *Great* year ahead 🙂

  9. I am a Perth girl by birth but have lived interstate, and there is nowhere I would rather raise my children (and not only because my family are here). There are so many free or cheap things to do here, and everything is acessible and clean. A city is not so much what it can give you, but what you can make of it. People who claim Perth is boring are probably not trying hard enough, or looking close enough at the wealth of spaces and places we have.

  10. Great article that provides a nice wander through Perth CBD and more. Agreed. Biking and walking is the way to go to see the best of Perth. We are very lucky to have so many scenic cycle and walk trails in Perth.

  11. You are so right Shannon! My sentiments entirely. The wealth of spaces and places in Perth is amazing and Perth’s accessibility is something I’m always going on about too. I love your comment, “a city is not so much what it can give you, but what you can make of it.” I think that’s a quote you could modify for so many things. Definitely a “Tweeter”! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  12. It’s great to be putting Perth on the map. I live down south and often travel up on public transport. In the city, I have no problems with buses, trains and stacks of walk ways and bike tracks. A favourite trip is the ferry across to South Perth. . . the Swan River is a huge asset.

  13. Any place is boring if you allow it to be! Perth has so many opportunities if you get out there and look for them!
    Great post with some fab ideas for filling in a weekend in our spectacular city – best place 🙂

  14. I loved your description of Claisebrook inlet. It’s inspired me to visit and explore – probably this weekend!

  15. jenny@atasteoftravel

    Your ‘exercise highway’ is a great suggestion. There’s so many stops on the way,I’m sure I’d need the whole day! We used take the kids for a bike ride to Fremantle which they loved – or was it the icecream at the other end! Wherever you go, biking is a great way to do it- maybe we need some bike stations around the city similar to those popping up in other cities around the world!

  16. A lovely blog Jo … thanks for the info … Perth is a great city alright. I took visitors to Kings Park last week and as I hadn’t been there for a few years (unbelievable – right on my doorstep too) I was surprised at how much it has developed and expanded.

  17. Thanks for your reply Ingrid. I know, it’s easy to overlook things because they’re right on our doorstep, and we seek out the new or the exceptional only to revisit somewhere familiar to find out that it is just as exceptional as anywhere else and may often have changed (for the better) to offer new elements. King’s Park is such a wonderful place to gain some serendipity. I never tire of a walk and a cup of coffee up there.

  18. Hi Jenny, thanks for commenting. Bike riding to Fremantle when the kids were little was probably lovely – much quieter then, I’d imagine? Although I can just hear the pleas for ice-cream on a hot day! I cycled from East Perth to Freo and back which I think was about 50 – 60 kms – it was fine going, but coming back suddenly someone seemed to have put a lot more hills in! And people think Perth is flat! Anyway, afterwards I slept for about 13 hours solid, putting myself to bed at 5.30pm! Yes, wouldn’t bike stations be a great idea. Where did I see some the other day … I’m not sure it wasn’t in Albany?

  19. Thanks Ann. I’m glad you’re going to explore Claisebrook inlet. We were stunned that such a pretty place existed right on the fringe of East Perth and the city. It was just like stepping straight into somewhere in Italy (well, almost!)

  20. I so agree, Rachel. I’m still discovering Perth – there’s so much to see and write about. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  21. The Swan River is a wonderful feature to have slap bang in the middle of a place – you’re so right Mike. And yes, the good public transport (some free) is another wonderful thing about Perth. Thanks for commenting.

  22. Thanks, Nita! You’ve got some great articles about Perth on your site too. Well worth having a squizz for anyone wanting more info about Perth.

  23. Totally agree with your post and all the comments … I think anywhere is boring if you don’t get outthe door at see what’s out there. I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to (including read blogs)

  24. Life’s so busy – too busy a lot of the time! I know what you mean 🙂 but I think that someone somewhere seems to steal hours. So thanks for finding time to comment on Zigazag, Glennys.

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