Budget-friendly things to do in Perth

A year-round destination, family-friendly Perth* in Western Australia is considered by many to be the most remote of the country's state capitals. But thanks to direct flights from Europe, and its relative proximity to Asia, it's one of the easiest Australian cities to get to.

How to explore Perth, Western Australia, on a budget
How to explore Perth, Western Australia, on a budget © Beau - Adobe Stock Image

Plus, it makes a great launch pad for trips south to the stunning Margaret River wine region or north for the Coral Coast and Ningaloo Reef. If you're visiting the city on a budget, here are some of the best free things to do.

Getting to Perth: find affordable holidays to Perth with Travelbag*, the experts in long-haul adventures from the UK.

Getting around

Perth is a relatively compact city. In the downtown Central Business District (CBD), you'll find free Central Area Transit (CAT) buses that will take you to the main attractions. If you're exploring further, it's worth hiring a bike, and there are plenty of trails in and around the city.

Hire a bike to explore Perth on two wheels
Hire a bike to explore Perth on two wheels © Anekoho - Adobe Stock Image

To get to the port city of Fremantle, or Freo as it's known to locals, you'll need to catch the train that runs along the coast, or the bus from one of the suburbs. One-day travel passes on the Transperth network, which includes buses and trains, cost AUD$10.30 (roughly £5.50).

See Swan Valley

It was while exploring Swan Valley in 1827 that British naval officer Captain James Stirling, captivated by its beauty, decided this part of Australia* would be a great base for a new colony.

Two years later, Australia's first convict-free colony was established. There were three separate settlements, which eventually grew into Perth, Fremantle and Swan Valley.

Today, the relatively rural Swan Valley has become one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Perth thanks to the abundance of wineries and small food producers in the region. You can join one of the pre-packaged tours from the city, but it's just as easy to do a DIY tour by bike following the Swan Valley Heritage Cycle Trail.

There are the photogenic rows of vines, of course, but you're there for the wines, and most wineries will offer free tastings of the basic range or charge a nominal fee that's offset when you buy a bottle.

If you're not packing a picnic, make sure you visit at least one of the bigger wineries, such as Nikola Estate and Mandoon Estate, where you can stop for a casual lunch.

Get to know Perth's CBD

Most of the development in Perth in recent years has been centred around the CBD, where skyscrapers and luxury hotels have replaced low-slung buildings. With this came public art that can be found in unexpected corners of the city.

Perth offers free tours led by volunteer guides that take you on a 90-minute discovery walk several times a week.

As well as ones themed on art, there are also ones focused on Western Australia's convict and colonial history, the gold rush that brought wealth to the colony and the people that shaped its development. Book these online or in person at Perth City Visitor Kiosk.

Alternatively, download the free Perth Trails App, which offers multiple self-guided routes for you to explore the city at your own pace.

Discover green parks & spaces

At 400 hectares, Kings Park is one of the world's biggest inner city parks and it's just a 15-minute bike ride from the CBD or around half an hour on the free bus.

There's no fee to enter, and the park has volunteers who offer free guided tours twice daily. These last for an hour and a half, during which time you'll be taken through the highlights, including an introduction to the history of Western Australia.

During the cooler months, between July and October, there are longer tours on specific themes such as wildflowers and native plants.

Big city views from the treetop walk, Kings Park
Big city views from the treetop walk, Kings Park © Dudlajzov - Adobe Stock Image

If you're short on time, the Botanic Garden is your essential stop. There are over 4,000 species of native plants here and the treetop walk is essential. And at Mount Eliza lookout, you'll be able to snap one of the best views of the city.

But if you have more time, it's well worth hiring a bike and exploring the bushland to get a feel for the wilderness of Australia beyond its cities.

Spy kangaroos & nature trails

You don't need to leave the city to see kangaroos; just head for Heirisson Island. It's part of the scenic Swan Canning Riverpark and about a 15-minute bike ride from the CBD.

As well as walking and biking trails, and picnic and barbecue areas, there's also a wildlife sanctuary that a handful of Western Grey kangaroos call home.

Entry is free and it's open 24 hours; go close to sunset to see the kangaroos at their most active and for a terrific view of the city from across the Swan River.

Look out, too, for Yagan's statue. The sculpture pays homage to the Noongar leader and warrior who led his people in resisting the colonisation of the land.

Voyage through maritime history

Walking through Freo will make you feel like you've stepped back in time because it's still dominated by heritage buildings such as The Round House, which was a prison during the early days of the colony.

This port city is also home to several other fascinating museums that shine a light on Western Australia's history. One of the best and most surprising examples is the WA Shipwrecks Museum. It's free to enter, but a donation is encouraged.

Entering the WA Shipwrecks Museum
Entering the WA Shipwrecks Museum © Rafael Ben-Ari - Adobe Stock Image

Inside, you'll find fascinating displays on early European exploration of Australia plus exhibits about trading ships that met their doom off its coast. Don't miss the remains of the Batavia, a Dutch East India Company merchant ship, wrecked in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands in 1629.

It's particularly notable for the tragedy that followed the shipwreck. Most of its passengers initially survived the accident but were later killed in a brutal massacre while waiting to be rescued.

Meet wild quokkas

No visit to Perth is complete without a visit to Rottnest Island, one of the few places where quokkas live in the wild. These cat-sized marsupials are best known for looking like they're smiling when eating.

Meet seriously cute quokkas on Rottnest Island
Meet seriously cute quokkas on Rottnest Island © Hideaki - Adobe Stock Image

You'll need to catch a ferry and pay a fee to get to Rottnest; fares start from AUD$78 (roughly £40) but once you're there, it's easy to do things on a budget.

There are pristine bays within walking distance of the jetty and you can snorkel right off the beach. Also close by is the settlement of Thomson Bay, where you can sign up for free tours of the island with volunteer guides at the Salt Store.

There are several tours to meet the quokkas each day and learn about the island's history.

Climate in Perth

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

The above guide shows the climate in Perth. Find out more about the climate in Western Australia in our complete guide to the region.

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Posted on Monday 1st July 2024 in: City Money saving tips Oceania

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