The top places that usually come to mind when someone mentions Australia as a holiday destination: Melbourne (for the hippie laid back vibe and strong café culture), Sydney (for the hustle and bustle and the iconic Sydney Opera House), Gold Coast (for the beaches/theme parks) or Tasmania (for the Southern Lights).
So, when I told people that I was going to Perth, the bemused reactions ranged from “Why not (insert aforementioned places)?” to “What can you do in Perth? (insert disdain)”. Well, after spending 7 days in this state often overlooked by many, we are here to correct the misperceptions that there is nothing to do in Perth/Western Australia. In fact, there are so many great places that we’ll just make your lives easier by shortlisting the top 3 places you should not miss if you find yourself questioning whether you should put Perth on your road trip list.
With only 7 days, we chose to explore the south of Perth – so this is truly a non-exhaustive list!
1. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse at Dunsborough
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, a 20-metre lighthouse that dates back to 1904, marks the start of the famous Cape to Cape Walk Track (The other Cape, is Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse at the southern tip). 20-metres means it’s an easy climb, and while the view may not be the most impressive, the drive from Dunsburough and its surroundings is pretty beautiful.
Getting there: Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse opens every day from 9am to 5pm. 30-minute guided tours are offered at AUD$14 (Last tour at 4.30pm). The drive from Perth will take about 3 hours (you will pass through Bunbury and Busselton and can also choose to spend the night in either, which was what we did).
2. Caves Road
Chances are if you are travelling down South Perth, you will hit Caves Road. The scenic 111-kilometre-long drive through picturesque Karri forests (Boranup Forest) includes some winding turns – scope out some good (and safe) spots to stop your vehicle as it will definitely make for some Instagram-worthy photos. This drive will also take you through the famed Margaret River region which boasts hundreds of wineries and farms, including gems like Vasse Felix and the famous Margaret River Chocolate Company.
After having your fill at the tastings (always have a designated driver!), head towards Redgate beach for a great sunset over the Indian Ocean, and be mesmerised by the dramatic waves crashing on the rocky outcrops and boulders.
The adventurous might want to take the chance to camp outdoors for the night. Set up your tent or your campervan/station wagon at designated campsites like Boranup or Conto campsites and see if you can spot the milky way amidst a sky full of stars! Even in winter and the heaviest of wind and storms, we managed to catch the most magnificent sight.
3. Rottnest Island
A short ferry ride away from Perth lies Wadjemup, more commonly known as Rottnest Island. One of the few places in the world where you can find the quokka, this place is worth a trip just for the sight of these rare animals that look like a cross between a rodent and a marsupial. See if you can score a selfie with the world’s happiest animal! If you are one for heritage, spend the night in the original lighthouse keeper’s cottage at Bathurst point where you can almost imagine yourself back to the 1900s.
To kickstart your tour around the island, you can take the Island Explorer bus. For those who are up for some physical activity, rent a bicycle or just embark on a casual stroll – the roads are clear as cars are mostly restricted on the island save for key services, but warning: some parts can get hilly. More opportunity to train those legs, we say! Challenge yourself on the road to Wadjemup Lighthouse, and treat yourself to the splendid view at the top.
Sunsets are beautiful from almost angle on Rottnest Island – try Longreach Bay, The Basin or Pinky Bay (where Bathurt Lighthouse stands) for the best views.
Getting there: Rottnest Island ferry companies provide transfers to the island from these areas in Perth:
- North Fremantle (North Port – Rous Head) – 25 minutes
- Fremantle (B-Shed – Victoria Quay) – 25 minutes
- Hillarys Boat Harbour – 45 minutes
Bonus tips (if you made it to the end of this post):
- Check out The PinarooValley Memorial Park if you want to get up close and personal with wild kangaroos (selfie not recommended);
- Visit Kings Park Botanic Garden in the morning and make use of the golden hour for the best photo opportunities
- Drive to Fremantle to soak in the old town and indulge in some fish and chips.