Australia, also known as the Land Down Under, is so massive that a flight from one end to another can take over five hours! Amid the massive scale, the country is blessed with jaw-dropping nature and wildlife anywhere you go – kangaroos skipping at car parks, dolphins swimming near jetties and the occasional giant spiders in your room.
Western Australia’s city of Perth has undergone a renaissance in recent times blending cool urban spots with unrivalled natural beauty. The public transport network is amazing but with car rentals as low as AUD20 (RM58) a day, choosing the latter would make life easier.
However, a city so big begs the question:
Where to go in Perth?
Believe it or not, you don’t have to spend hours on the road as most attractions in Perth are nestled in the central business district (CBD) and surrounding suburbs about an hour away from the city.
Here are the interesting spots you should seriously consider:
Day 1 – Getting to Rottnest Island
First thing to do in Perth is to visit one of its biggest attractions – Rottnest Island.
To ensure you get to enjoy the island all to yourself, avoid the crowds by starting your day early. Catch a 7.30am Rottnest Express ferry at B Shed Ferry Terminal in Fremantle. Going early also means you can park easily since space at the port is limited. You can book the ferry trip and bicycle rental in advance since you can only get around the island by hopping on a tour bus, or by walking or cycling.
For urban dwellers, the half-hour ferry ride treats you with views rarely seen back home – crystal clear waters as far as the eye can see. What surprised us was the fact that we were in the middle of a busy shipping lane filled with massive tankers but the waters are just beautiful. Either Australia has a solid environmental policy or the country’s blessed with a healthy marine ecosystem.
There’s plenty of things to see and experience on the island. A selfie with adorable quokkas, dubbed the happiest animal on earth, is definitely a ‘uniquely Australian’ shot for the ‘gram. For a dash of aquatic adventure, get on the ‘Seabob’ which is the advanced version of personal propulsion device you may have seen in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game. If you’ve always wondered how it feels to swim fast especially in open waters, this is the perfect solution!
Among the things you can do on Rottnest Island are sightseeing, joy flights, skydiving, surfing, museums and galleries and parks. A day trip may not be enough! So, for those who want to experience Rottnest Island at night (clear skies, starry lights the whole natural shebang), accommodations are available like camping grounds, cabins and the island’s latest offer, glamping behind the dunes of the iconic Pinky Beach.
Day 2 – Return to Fremantle
Take a stroll along the Fishing Boat Harbour. If you have people back home raving about Perth’s fish and chips, this is the place to be. There are plenty of restaurants offering fresh seafood with amazing views of a working harbour where you’ll see seagulls, pelicans and even dolphins near the shore, seriously it’s pretty.
Enjoy Brunch and Tour at Little Creatures Brewery
Yeap, who would’ve thought you could dine at a brewery, but that’s what Little Creatures pulled off. Other than the wide selection of food from wood-fired pizzas and kangaroo satay, rest assured the drinks especially their craft beers are served fresh. They brought in hops from the US (which involved a mountain of paperwork, according to the tour guide) to introduce pale ale to Australians and the locals have been hooked ever since. Launched in 2000, the site used to be a crocodile farm and if you tour the brewery, you’ll see how they have kept some of the original infrastructure like the metal fence. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and mineral water are also available.
Get Spooked at Fremantle Prison Tunnel Tour
How often can a law-abiding citizen enter a prison complex? Fremantle Prison is the place where you can live out all those prison shows you see on TV, minus the inmates. Guard towers, prison cells, recreational areas, you name it, the prison built in the 1850s still has it all. The labyrinth of limestone tunnels carved by prisoners weren’t used for escaping, but to provide water to Fremantle for three decades. You’ll descend 20 metres underground using three sets of ladders to explore the tunnels by foot and even kayak along submerged passageways. If you’re feeling brave, join the ‘torchlight tour’ (prison tour at night), who knows you might get to see a former inmate roaming around the block.
Day 3 – Swim with the Dolphins in Rockingham
Located 50 kilometres away from the central business district, make your way to Rockingham Wild Encounters for a half-day tour swimming with wild Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. Rockingham Wild Encounters is the sole operator on the sheltered waters of Rockingham’s bays and islands so you won’t be surrounded with a dozen other tour boats searching for these playful creatures. The dolphins are not lured with food, instead the skipper cruises around the area while guides observe the dolphins’ behaviours before taking visitors for a swim. The best time to swim with them is when the group is socialising. The dolphins here are labelled as groups instead of pods because they mingle freely to different pods in the vicinity. These creatures are free spirits, there’s nothing to bind them in a specific pod. When it comes to swimming with them, the only times when the friendly dolphins aren’t interested with human contact are when they’re feeding, fighting, travelling and mating. These creatures are wild, you can watch them underwater, but petting is highly discouraged. If Animal Planet photographers can refrain themselves from petting wild animals, so can you!
A stone’s throw away from Rockingham Wild Encounters is where you’ll unleash the inner adventurer you thought you never had. Get on a jet pack, jet bike or flyboard with JetPack Perth where you can harvest the power of sea water to leap up to 10 metres in the air (if you have the skills for it). Safety is always a priority, and its owner Edward Murcia will only set the cool machines according to your swimming and balancing skills.
Once you’ve acclimatised to tumbling into the water, walk to the other end of the beach to try your hand at stand-up paddle-boarding. Although the activity is synonymous with images of surfer boys and bikini-clad girls, the average desk jockeys shouldn’t be discouraged as you’ll be surprised by your own abilities. All you need is basic balancing skills. Western Australia Stand-Up Paddle owner Rick Maxwell gives an amazing crash course that you’ll be paddling like a pro in no time. Heads up, you may come across some stingrays or jellyfish under your board, more reason not to fall!
Day 4 – Mandurah Eco-Friendly Excursion
After an adventurous day on and underwater, day four is more relaxed so you can recover from any muscle ache and pain. LOL!. An hour’s drive from the central business district to Mandurah will fill your day with boats, boats and boats – no licence required!
Grill and Cruise on Eco BBQ Boat
Founded by German electronics engineer Gerd Heinen, you can hire a donut-shaped fibre-glass boat propelled by an electric engine for a cruise along Mandurah waterways dubbed as the ‘modern Venice’ while grilling some amazing meat and seafood for your BBQ. The best part is you can drive the boat without a licence. Being your own captain, you can dock the boat at any restaurant along the canal for other tasty treats. Also, be on the lookout for the 85 resident dolphins in the area!
Catch Your Own Crayfish at Mandurah Cruises Wild Seafood Experience
Ever watched Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch where fishermen brave through the choppy Bering Sea hunting for Alaskan king crab? You can catch the same action – throwing hooks, pulling the line and running it through a winch known as the rope hauler – in calmer waters of Mandurah. Instead of crabs, you’ll be pulling overnight pots filled with Western Rock Lobsters, commonly known in Australia as crayfish. The three-hour cruise out to the Indian Ocean also promises a great seafood spread like your fresh crayfish catch, oysters, BBQ teriyaki fish fillets, blue swimmer crabs, salmon sashimi, marinated octopus and seafood skewers paired with local wines, beers and soft drinks. Don’t miss out on amazing stories from the experienced crew like the deckhand who spent years surfing the waves in Bali.
Live on Water with Mandurah Houseboats
Imagine a friend from home calling and asking what you’re doing and you replying nonchalantly: “Nothing big, just driving a houseboat in Australia, (mate).” How cool does that sound? Again, no boating licence required here. Simply rent a houseboat, a vessel complete with rooms, a kitchen and bathroom, everything that comes in a house, from Mandurah Houseboats at Mandurah Ocean Marina. Their wide selection of fleet fits from six to eight people and you will be your own skipper. They will provide a quick training on how to manoeuvre the vessel and off you go on your adventure along the magnificent waterways of the Peel-Harvey Estuary and the Murray River. The slow ride means you have room to relax, pick up some fishing skills or just enjoy the surroundings teeming with local and migratory birds (22 species of shorebirds also known as waders who cover a whopping 24,000 kilometres a year travelling the world), dolphins and blue manna crabs.
Mandurah Crab Scooping Galore
If driving a houseboat seems overwhelming, rent a pontoon instead from Mandurah Houseboats and cruise over to Peel-Harvey Estuary to scoop the famous local blue manna crabs. The scoops are available at tackle shops in town.
Day 5 – Return to the Central Business District (CBD)
No matter the season, a visit to Kings Park and Botanic Garden near the central business district is a must. One of the world’s largest and most beautiful inner city parks offers various look-out points that give visitors sweeping views of the city skyline as well as Swan and Canning Rivers. Other than stunning wildflowers, trees and birds, the park is filled with war memorials, statues as well as aboriginal stories about Perth and Western Australia. The Nyoongar community believes a male and female serpent called Waugal meandered through the landscape, creating rivers, waterways and lakes on their journey from the hills to the ocean. The male Waugal created the Swan River while the female, the Canning River. You have to be here to learn more.
Next stop is the Matagarup Bridge located about eight kilometres from Kings Park. This 400-metre-long pedestrian bridge that grants access to 60,000-seat Perth Stadium, or Optus Stadium, got its name from the Whadjuk community, The bridge’s name means a place where the river is only leg deep, allowing it to be crossed. With the highest arch standing at 72 metres above the water, thrill-seekers will have a whale of a time come 19 November 2019 as the place launches a bridge climb, using the same technology as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to its 65-metre arches. Bonus: You can opt for a high-speed zipline to the ground.
If you’re staying for five days, the rest of today’s the perfect time to get last-minute souvenirs. In case you’re staying a lot longer, stay tuned for ‘Part 2’ that will feature yet another five days of packed itinerary around Perth without the long drives!
We wish to thank Destination Perth for its invaluable support in producing this story.
GETTING THERE: AirAsia flies from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. Book your tickets now at airasia.com.