How To Visit Perth, Western Australia Without A Car
Australia has always been on my travel wish list. But as American readers can attest to, it’s just so far away from the States. Taking a trip from the US to Australia requires a fair amount of time and money, so a vacation there was always on the back burner for me. Now that I’m based in Vietnam, Australia is much closer. However, I didn’t choose Sydney, Melbourne, or even Brisbane for my first visit. Instead, I decided to check out the city of Perth, the capital of Western Australia (WA)!
So why did I choose Perth? For one, Air Asia offers some surprisingly cheap flights between Vietnam and some of Australia’s smaller cities such as Perth and Darwin. But more importantly, I met a backpacker from Perth while I was in Sa Pa who had only good things to say about the city. That piqued my interest, and once I read a few more blog posts about it (like this one), I decided to bite the bullet and check out Perth for my first major vacation since I started teaching in Vietnam this May.
A trip here is actually a three-for-one deal: spend a day or two in the city of Perth itself, but don’t miss the quaint suburb of Fremantle or the stunningly beautiful beaches on nearby Rottnest Island. Since there’s so much to mention for each of these three distinct destinations, I’ll be writing a separate post about Fremantle and another about Rottnest Island. Don’t forget to check those out, too!
In this post, I’ll focus on the city of Perth. Despite being quiet and relaxing, the capital of Western Australia has no shortage of fun sites to check out. Every attraction mentioned here is accessible by the Transperth Trains network (the city’s metro system). Since Australia isn’t the most budget-friendly destination, public transportation can be a huge help in keeping costs down while you explore the area.
Why Visit Perth?
Before going into the details of how to get around the Perth metropolitan area without a car (click here to skip to that section), I’m sure you’re wondering what the city has to offer. Read on to see just some of the city’s parks, restaurants, bars, and beaches that are easily accessible by public transportation!
The Quay is basically Perth’s compact downtown waterfront. It can be explored easily in half an hour, and my favorite parts of it were this funky pedestrian bridge and the views of the skyline. There’s also a few cafes and bars nearby as well as a little water park for kids.
This truly massive park offers the best views of the city as well as the Swan River (Perth’s major waterway). Although it’s a bit of an uphill walk from downtown, it’s worth the effort.
In addition to being a great place for views, the park itself is really nice. It’s full of uniquely Australian plants and birds, and the expansive green lawns are beautifully maintained.
Two things I missed in this area were the DNA Tower and the Blue Boat House. The latter is a Perth icon and is located on the far end near the neighborhood of Crawley. If I had known at the time that they were there, I would’ve walked over to check them out. Don’t forget them if you visit Kings Park!
Take a quick look at the map of Perth and its surroundings. You’ll notice that the city is incredibly close to miles of coastline. These sandy beaches along the Indian Ocean are simply stunning, but most of them (especially to the north) aren’t accessible by city train. If you’re looking to spend an afternoon by the water, the most convenient one to get to is Cottesloe Beach.
The color of the water is incredible here, but I also liked the tall evergreens along the shore. They give the neighborhood a unique vibe that will remind you more of the Pacific Northwest than say, Florida or the Caribbean.
The Central Business District (CBD)
Perth’s downtown is pretty standard as far as city centers go, but you’ll likely pass through it on your way to the other points of interest mentioned above. One nice place to walk is the area near Murray Street Mall and Hay Street Mall. These few blocks are basically an outdoor shopping center with various stores, street art, restaurants, and bars.
Speaking of restaurants, Perth is home to a lively culinary scene with cuisine from all over the world. To learn more (including what it was like to taste kangaroo for the first time), read on!
Some Dining Ideas
You could stay in Perth for weeks or months and still not have time to try all of the city’s top-rated restaurants. The city is famous for high-end Asian cuisine, but since I live in Vietnam, I tried to seek out some more local options. The first place I’ll mention is a modern Australian restaurant that didn’t disappoint…
This large eatery with three distinct sections (the restaurant itself, a wine bar, and a beer “corner”) is housed in a centrally-located historic complex called the State Buildings. I went for an early dinner on a weeknight, which is why it was so empty, but the dining experience was so good because most of the ingredients they use come from Australia. The oysters and cheese plate shown below were both sourced locally. Petition is also a great place to try a glass of wine from Margaret River, a region of WA famous for its vineyards.
For the main dish, I went with their beef cheek, which was excellent. It was so tender and the shaved sprouts on top added the perfect amount of crispy texture and variety to this filling dish.
Mary Street Bakery
There’s no other way to describe this place than as a really good bakery. There appears to be a handful of locations throughout the city, but I went to the one in the CBD one morning. I tried one of the rosewater and pistachio donuts pictured below, which was so rich and delicious. Don’t forget to order a coffee as well to wash it down!
This restaurant is connected to the CBD’s Hilton Hotel, and honestly has that “hotel bar and grill” kind of vibe. However, I came here on a mission: to try kangaroo for the first time. I didn’t actually see it on their menu, but I read online that they offer it and asked my waiter before sitting down. He confirmed that they do; this is what it looked like.
At least here, it’s served sort of like a steak with mashed potatoes and a side of cranberry purée. While it was definitely an interesting experience that I recommend trying in Australia, I can’t say that kangaroo is my new favorite meat. That’s largely because it’s supposed to be served quite rare due to the fact that it’s so low in fat. Apparently, overcooking it even a little totally ruins it. However, that left me feeling like I was eating an almost raw, unfamiliar red meat. I honestly walked away with fingers crossed that I wouldn’t get sick (luckily, I didn’t).
I’d be willing to give it another chance eventually, but once was enough for this trip. If you want to try it, Adelphi Grill does a set meal which includes the sides pictured above as well as a salad bar buffet for 48 AUD.
Amberjacks in Cottesloe
The fish was good and fried upon ordering, so it’s piping hot when you get it. The whole thing comes wrapped up in a big paper package that looks like it could be sent in the mail. They also have great views of the ocean across the street if you decide to dine in. My only complaint was that they charge extra for ketchup and tartar sauce.
Okay, so disclaimer: Nando’s isn’t Australian at all (it’s actually South African), but if you’re from a part of the world that doesn’t have it, by all means, take the opportunity and get it in Perth! I tried their famous Portuguese peri-peri chicken and instantly became a fan. Their fries are also to die for. I’ll be sure to keep my eye out for Nando’s on all future travels!
Perth clearly has a huge number of options for food. And as you might guess, the city has an equally impressive and diverse bar scene. To get a sense of what’s out there, I’ve mentioned a couple of the ones I liked below.
Most bars in Perth have a specialty or theme. They might serve a huge selection of a specific liquor such as rum or gin. Others have a more comprehensive menu but have tried to cultivate a unique vibe.
You might be thinking that this all sounds sort of expensive. And in general, it is. It’s hard to find a cocktail for under 12 AUD (approx. 8 USD), and it’s not uncommon to find drinks for as much as 20 AUD. But if you’re willing to spend the money, checking out even one or two bars can be a fun and memorable experience.
The Flour Factory
This local favorite (located here) is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but it was a unique bar. I popped in a Monday afternoon, so it was almost empty. I’m not much of a gin person, but the bartender did a great job of explaining what makes a certain bottle or distiller unique. It was clear that she had a passion for gin, but she knew how to make the experience accessible to those (like me) who don’t normally drink it.
A gin and tonic is a drink I tend to avoid, but I really enjoyed the two I had at the The Flour Factory. The first one pictured below was smooth and floral and the second was spicy and well… ant-y! That’s right, you can even try a gin flavored with green ants at this bar! If you’re curious how that’s a thing, click here to learn more.
All in all, The Flour Factory was probably my favorite bar in Perth. Give it a try even if you don’t love gin. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
This bar was probably the most upscale that I visited on this trip. It’s dimly lit and technically in a basement, but don’t let that scare you away. Bobèche seemed to be the hottest spot for after-work happy hours among professionals in the CBD, so cocktails are even more expensive here than at the other bars mentioned.
However, the drinks are also really good and the bartenders are clearly experts. I especially loved their “Aztec flip,” a mezcal-based seasonal drink with dark chocolate liqueur and a whole egg (pictured second below). It almost tasted like ice cream, but had the undeniable spicy aftertaste that only mezcal can provide. It made me nostalgic for Mexico!
Hula Bula Bar
If you’re in Fremantle and are looking for a tiki bar with a fun vibe and outstanding drinks, click here.
Last but not least, this Thai-inspired bar and restaurant has a hip vibe and is actually located in the same building as Petition, so it’s a great place to have a before-dinner cocktail. The drink menu is creative with a cohesive Thai theme. For example, the “floating market” I ordered (pictured below) was a frothy pisco-based cocktail that was undoubtedly interesting and tart.
They also have some delicious Thai-style wings as well as other appetizers. I would’ve loved to try a full dinner here, but there’s only so much you can eat in four days! I’ll have to come back and order a proper meal next time.
Clearly Perth is a little slice of heaven for foodies. However, don’t get too full within city limits: Fremantle has an equally lively food and drink scene, despite being a much smaller town. Click here to jump on over to my other post and learn about the equally enticing options in this waterfront suburb!
Well, there you have it; that concludes my list of things to see and do in Perth! Everything mentioned above is accessible by the city’s train system, so you won’t even need Uber to get to any place you’ve read about so far. To learn more about getting around Perth on public transportation, check out the section below!
How to Get Around Without a Car
One of my favorite parts about Perth is that it has a really great public transportation system, aptly called Transperth. If you tailor your itinerary and do a bit of planning, you won’t ever need to rent a car or even hire an Uber (althought you can if you want). Here are my suggestions.
Take Advantage of Transperth Trains!
Acquaint yourself with the commuter rail system. Just turn on the “transit” filter on Google Maps while looking at Perth, and you’ll see each metro line snaking out from downtown miles and miles into the suburbs.
As a visitor, you’ll probably spend most of your time along the blue line, which runs between Perth and Fremantle. Tickets typically cost between 2 and 5 AUD and depend on how far you’re going. Stations are clean and well-kept, and employees are helpful in case you have any questions.
Ride the Bus To and From the Airport
The only problem with the metro system is that it doesn’t connect to the airport (as of August 2019). However, bus #380 runs between the airport and downtown and is fairly straightforward. The bus fare is a few dollars, while an Uber for the same ride costs about 30 AUD. Ask airport employees if you need any assistance.
Use Uber Pool
In case you are headed somewhere that isn’t near a metro line, Uber is an option in the Perth area. As in the US, Uber Pool offers significantly discounted rates as long as you aren’t in a hurry to get where you’re going. I used Uber two or three times during my trip, but the vast majority of my commuting around Perth was by train.
Where to Stay
I recommend staying at an Airbnb somewhere between Fremantle and Perth within walking distance to one of the stops along that metro line. Lodging is cheaper outside of the city center, but you don’t really give up much in terms of convenience by staying in the suburbs. I stayed in the Subiaco area and paid 130 USD for four nights at a two-bedroom Airbnb shared with the host, which was overall a good experience.
Luggage Storage Downtown
I arrived to the Perth airport at 5:30 a.m. after an overnight flight, but I couldn’t check in to my Airbnb until the late afternoon. If you find yourself in a similar situation and need to store your bags for a day, there is a luggage storage venue called Citiplace Rest Center located right in the heart of downtown (next to Perth Station). They charged about 10 AUD for a very big storage locker for the entire day. Staff are on-site at all times and I recommend using them.
That's Not All, Folks!
If this post has inspired you to consider Perth for your next trip, congrats! You definitely won’t regret choosing this laid-back city for your next getaway. If you still need a bit of convincing, check out my posts featuring Fremantle and Rottnest Island, both of which can be done as day trips from Perth! In four or five days, you can see everything I’ve mentioned here as well as a quaint town with a rich history and an island with no urban development and unbelievable beaches. Thanks for checking out my very first post featuring Australia!