Perth. That Australian city on the far western edge of a continent, out there all by itself. Is it on your bucket list for family travel destinations? Well, it should be.
Perth may not have the cafe culture of Melbourne, or the glittering landmarks of Sydney, but I would argue that it rivals and even beats the beaches of the Gold Coast, and the weather is far nicer than Queensland.
From the hills to the south, to hip inner city life, and all of the wide sandy beaches along the entire length of the city, Perth is an amazing family vacation spot. It’s beautiful, sunny and warm, and importantly – not humid, which makes for spectacular scenery and perfect conditions for getting outdoors.
Perth is a city that is heavily invested in making itself a brilliant city for residents and tourists alike, which is great for travelling families. Big blue skies by day and blankets of stars at night make it an ideal winter sun getaway for Northern Hemisphere natives, and it’s accessibility (and cheap flights) to Asia mean you can get to Perth easier than Sydney or Melbourne.
But what makes Perth great for family holidays? Here are the Top 10 Family activities in Perth.
Hands down, Perth has some of the most spectacular beaches in all of Australia. Fluffy white sand and crystal clear blue waters make beach life a part of every day living in Perth. What’s better, is that the beaches are patrolled by Australia’s famous volunteer surf lifesavers, and the natural landscape is well protected, meaning they’re clean and safe.
As you travel north through Perth, the coast road follows the endless stretch of white sand and natural sand dunes along the changing beach landscape.
Each beach has its own amenities. You can find cafes overlooking the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean at City Beach, Scarborough Beach, Trigg and Hillarys. Join your grommets for a surf lesson with GoSurf at Brighton Beach, or the famous Trigg Beach. Build sandcastles and play in the waves at Cottesloe. Go swimming in the freshwater pool at Scarborough Beach, or swim within the state of the art shark net at Sorrento. Grab your mask and snorkel to explore the reef at Mettams Pool. For the little tots, pitch your beach blanket at the ultra calm, ultra toddler friendly beach at Hillary’s Boat Harbour.
Almost every beach has a covered playground, so when your kiddoes get tired of the water, there’s alternative sandy entertainment right there.
Elizabeth Quay is the focal point of riverside Perth. It’s where the city meets the river, and it’s been transformed from just a ferry port to a brilliant place to meet friends for a drink and a view, cool off in the late afternoon ocean breeze, and soak in the city. The kids will love the splash pad where they can challenge themselves to run the gauntlet of water spouts bursting from the ground. Parents will love the thoughtful design – sails for sun cover, benches all around, but clear of splashing water, and an adjacent cafe. When you’re ready to dry off, take a stroll along the waterfront promenade, cross the stunning Queen Elizabeth Quay bridge, climb the bell tower, or check out whatever festival Perth has on at the moment (there always seems to be something going on!).
Keen to head out of the city? Try island life at Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Perth. There you can swim in pristine blue beach coves, see pink salt lakes, have an ice cream, and say hello to a quokka. What’s a quokka?? It’s a little marsupial that looks a bit like a miniature wallaby. Rottnest is one of the very few places in the world that they can be found, and quokka sightings are a highlight of every trip to Rotto. It’s also home to sea lions and seals, and whale sightings aren’t unheard of. Rent bicycles (or take your own on the ferry) to get around the island. There are hiking trails, biking trails, and secluded beaches around this 19 sq km island, and it’s easy to explore it all in a day. If you book ahead (like months in advance) you can stay in one of the bungalows overlooking the sea near the only village on Rottnest. To get there, catch a ferry at Fremantle (South – 25 minutes), The Barrack Street Jetty (Central – 90 minutes) or Hillary’s Boat Harbour (North – 45 minutes). There are no cars on Rottnest, and it’s protected nature reserve status keeps it a special place to visit, and one the whole family can enjoy!
This brilliant science based children’s museum and planetarium is right up your alley for inquisitive kids, and some entertainment in the air conditioning! Just a small selection of the hands-on exhibits include playing with static electricity, vacuum tubes in a black lighted room, building race cars, physics experiments, and even a live bee colony. There are areas geared toward small children, toddlers and even pre-teens and teens. Knowledgeable staff (mostly Physics students from the local universities) are on hand to answer as many questions as the kids can throw at them. When you need a break from excitedly dashing from one exhibit to the other, then everyone age 4 and up can take a guided trip through the universe at the planetarium, with permission to ask as many questions as you can imagine!
King’s Park might just be one of the most beautiful parks in the world. It’s located on a bluff overlooking the Swan River and the shining skyscrapers of Perth city. It’s main boulevards are lined with enormous gum trees, each one dedicated to someone who died in service of their country.
But it’s the overall design of this park that makes it a memorable destination for families in Perth. It’s designed with it’s users in mind, and makes the most of the diverse Australian flora to provide a uniquely Australian experience.
The Rio Tinto Naturescape is a new addition to the park, and is am amazing adventure playground just for kids. It’s built to blend in with the landscape, so expect so much more than your usual play area. It boasts rope climbing frames, wigwam building, a giant climbing python, tunnels, and a billabong for cooling off in. Kids can build their own wigwams, and interact with nature exploring the native bushland trails that lead from one activity to the next. You could easily spend hours just at this one section of the park.
There is also a special playground for the tots too, and older kids will enjoy testing their mettle on the glass floored Federation walkway. There are botanic gardens, picnic areas, historical monuments, bush walks, ponds, playing fields and cafes throughout the park, it’s so big and diverse, you could easily spend several days just in King’s Park.
Australians know how to throw a barbie, and a sunny afternoon will find the parks along the Swan River filled with families sizzling up a barbecue on one of the hundreds free public barbecues found all over Perth. If you need help finding one nearby, there is even this handy barbecue locator tool called Meat in a Park!l! That’s how serious Perth is about it’s barbecues!
Restaurants can be expensive in Perth, especially when you’re feeding a family, so head to your closest butcher or grocery store to pick up some sausages and fixings, grab a cricket bat and ball, and go do what the locals do — throw some meat on the barbie and eat up in a beautiful setting while the kids run free.
Feed a Kangaroo, Pet a Koala
The Caversham Wildlife Park is the place to go to get up close and personal with Australia’s most unique inhabitants. At this all access wildlife park, you can walk amongst the
kangaroos, cuddle a koala, meet a wombat, watch the penguins zip around, or take part in farm life. As with other family attractions in Perth, there is a splash pad and extensive playground for cooling off, and picnic areas are plentiful.
Hillary’s Boat Harbour
Want to eat, play and shop all in one spot? Hillary’s Boat Harbour is a restaurant and entertainment district built over the water to the north of Perth. It not only boasts the best kid’s beach in Perth, but is also home to restaurants and cafes for every taste, surf and souvenir shops, and even a small fun fair. Parents can sip cocktails while the sun sets over the sailboats, and kids can play in the calm, shallow beach, jump off the platform in the protected swimming harbour, or play in the covered kids playground right on the beach. As a port for the Rottnest ferries, and its location next door to Sorrento Beach, Hillary’s has something for everyone in the family.
Perth is cricket mad, and there is no better place to get close to the action than the WACA or the shining new Perth stadium. While a test match would be too much for a visiting family, a Twenty / Twenty Big Bash series match with it’s three hour duration will be enough to get the family’s cricket juices flowing. Perth’s Scorchers fans are an enthusiastic bunch, and the action moves quickly enough to keep everyone excited.
If cricket isn’t your thing, then take in an Australian Rules Football (AFL) game, a basketball game at the ultra-cool Perth Arena, or even an Australian Major League Baseball game. Top tip: you can’t take an Uber (or any private car) to the Perth stadium, and your train fare is included in the price of a ticket. Very modern thinking!
Take a road trip
Get out of the city and into the great outdoors by heading South through the world famous Margaret River Valley wine region, down along the coastline to Windy Harbour, The Gap, the cute town of Busselton and it’s famous long pier, walk among the treetops at the Valley of the Giants, visit Australia’s last Whaling Station, and pitch a tent at one of the many fantastically equipped campgrounds in Albany or Denmark. Take your 4WD to secluded beaches along the coast in the south of West Australia, and marvel at the fact that you’re staring straight across the ocean, uninterrupted all the way to Antarctica. The blue water, white sandy beaches and protective rock formations make it an ideal destination for families to get outdoors. If that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve gone “Down Under” then nothing will!
Eating and sleeping
Perth is a metropolitan city, and is chock full of hotels to meet every budget and style. But hotels can be cramped for families, so why not live like a local, and stay in a house or flat? You can cook breakfasts and make food for lunches, wash clothes, or have a garden space to run around in.
Perth’s neighborhoods each have their own personalities. Head to Cottesloe for beach life, Northbridge for Perth nightlife, Subiaco for hipsters, Fremantle for cafes and boardwalks, or Dalkeith and Mosman Park for high-end riverside life. Northbridge also has a wealth of backpackers accommodation if that’s more your style. Check out AirBnB, HolidayLettings, or hometogo.com for your Perth family accommodation.
Perth’s transport system is clean, efficient, and cheap, with train lines running the length of the city, a bus network to complement it and Uber filling in the gaps, you can manage the city without a car. The airport is only 20 minutes from the city
And remember…Slip! Slap! Slop! To stay protected from the sun in Australia (and everywhere else:
Slip on a shirt (called a rashie in Oz)
Slap on a hat
Slop on your sunscreen