If you’re travelling to Western Australia your trip is likely to begin in the state’s capital city, Perth. Perth is a great stopover to break up your journey to Australia – with flight durations from Europe being about 3 hours shorter than to Sydney.
Although it may not have the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Perth makes a great starting point to explore the vast state of Western Australia – home to incredible marine life, world-class wineries and dramatic natural scenery.
For me, the city was the starting point for my one year working holiday in Australia. The airport is around a 20 minute drive from the CBD, so around $40 dollars by taxi. If you’re travelling alone, or want to save a few dollars, try the Perth connect service which will take you into the CBD for $15 dollars per person. If you’re very cash-strapped and time is not an issue (like me), go for the public bus - it takes up to an hour but will cost you less than $5.
In terms of accommodation, Perth has offers everything from luxury 5* hotels to some well-established backpacker hostels. If you’re starting a working holiday visa or travelling alone, a hostel is a great choice. The information you can glean from fellow travellers can be invaluable and most hostels also offer job boards to help you get you started if you’re yet to arrange work.
Both times I stayed in Perth I chose to stay in Northbridge which is a few minutes’ walk from central Perth and close to the big malls and Kings Park and you can take a wander down to the river. Northbridge itself has lots going on, with great bars, restaurants (gourmet to street food) along with parks and the fantastic WA Museum.
I stayed at the Emperor’s Crown Hostel. Being in my 30’s, I now check accommodation reviews and pick hostels that aren’t party places (I am getting old) and also have a reputation for being clean. I still have nightmares about hostels on the East Coast of Australia that kept me awake all night with their nightclub on the ground floor, and where staff lost the will to clean because the rooms got trashed every day. The Emperors Crown is like a breath of fresh air - clean, well-organised and with a 10:30 pm noise curfew.
I can also recommend renting an apartment if you’re travelling with friends. We booked a 2 bedroom place in the City Stay Apartments in East Perth (serviced by the free CAT bus service – more on that later) which was a real bargain for $140 per night. The apartments sleep up to 4 people, so for a group, it works out at $35/night – just a fraction more than a dorm room bed.
What Perth may lack in iconic attractions, it certainly makes up for with practicality and value, especially for the budget traveller.
Perth has a fantastic free (yes free!) inner-city bus service called the CAT. You’ll see the bus stops all over the city – each has a picture of a CAT and a colour that denotes the route. They depart about every 15 minutes during the day and about every 45 minutes in the evening.
Perth also provides free Wi-Fi to many public places all over the city including some public parks and the main mall area. Compared to the UK, Australia in general is pretty behind when it comes to Wi-Fi (and many hotels/hostels elsewhere charging a large fee) so a stopover in Perth is bliss for the budget traveller.
If you’re staying for a few days, you’ll have time to enjoy the city itself and its surrounds. Spend a day shopping the malls, find a nice spot for lunch, or head to Kings Park with a picnic and enjoy the views over the city.
I’d recommend a trip over to Freemantle (or Freo) as the locals call it. Spend a day enjoying the eclectic cafes and pubs (the Sail and Anchor is my favourite and has great live music). Or head down to Hilary’s harbour for a boat cruise along the Swan River. The beaches in Fremantle are fantastic too, so well worth a dip to cool from the sun.
If you have a week or more, I recommend extending your stopover by hiring a car or campervan to explore some of the nearby regions.
I recently spent a long weekend in Margaret River, less than a 3-hour drive South from Perth. Margaret River is a beautiful region full of towering Karri Forests, brilliant beaches with fantastic surf breaks and of course many, many wineries. We used the little surfing town of Yallingup as our base – it has campsites that are just a short stroll from the beach so it’s the perfect place for a morning dip or to take in the sunset.
If you’re driving yourself, it’s a good idea to book into a winery tour and then take the bus round several wineries with the freedom to sample as much wine as you like. We booked a full day with the fantastic Bushtucker tours and returned home very merry from the samples and feeling somewhat the wine experts!
Heading North, another great destination is the small fishing town of Cervantes, about a 3-hour drive. Here you’ll find the magnificent Pinnacles desert, which seems to pop up out of nowhere and transport you to somewhere more like the Sahara.
You can drive through the Pinnacles – you’ll need to allow about an hour for exploring and taking photos, so you can easily do this as a day trip by hiring a car, or joining a day tour if you’d prefer to sit back and enjoy the journey.
Once back in Perth, the world is your oyster in terms of flight connections. The airport is a great hub for onward travel in Australia, Asia and beyond. If you’re looking to explore overland as I did, you should consider travelling up the West Coast. It is home to some amazing beaches and some of the best marine life I have seen, including Ningaloo Reef, where I spent most of my year working. Western Australia can be so much more than a Perth stopover!
If you’d like to fly to Australia and fancy a stopover in Perth, or you’d like to explore more of Western Australia, we can help! We can find you campervans in Australia, or pick great accommodation and tours to help you explore. Simply call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.