Weekend in Perth – How to Spend 48 Hours in the Western Australian Capital
A weekend in Perth obviously isn’t enough time in the sunny Western Australian capital but it will give you a taste of Australia’s most far-flung capital city, famed for its fantastic beaches, fabulous food and wine, and enviable lifestyle.
A weekend in Perth is well worth your time and the effort it takes to get there. Located in the south west of Australia, Perth has a Mediterranean climate, stunning sandy beaches, an attractive riverside setting, and eternally clear blue skies – or so it seems.
A big part of Perth’s charm is its vibe – casual and easygoing, even when going glam, it’s an unpretentious city whose inhabitants prefer beachside barbecues and picnics in its many parks to fancy fine dining meals.
Perth still has a sophisticated side – evidenced in its swanky new high-end hotels – and it’s surprisingly cosmopolitan, given its remoteness from… well, everywhere. But it’s Perth’s outdoors – and the locals’ love of the outdoors – that is a big appeal.
With a compact city centre, Perth is easy to navigate and get around, provided you do a little a planning. Here’s our itinerary for a weekend in Perth to help you.
Weekend in Perth Itinerary for Two Days in Western Australia’s Sunny Capital
If this is your first time spending a weekend in Perth, stay in the city centre, which is home to some of Perth’s best restaurants, cafes and bars, along with Perth’s transport hub, so you can easily access the city’s gorgeous beaches and the beautiful Swan River with ease.
Western Australia’s mining boom may be barely rumbling these days, but Perth’s hotel scene has exploded. Look out for our upcoming post on Perth’s Best Boutique Hotels, but until then, these are the lodgings you’ll want to check into:
The just-opened QT Perth has a playful sense of style and casual glamour that will be right at home in laidback Perth. Drawing inspiration from the rugged beauty of Western Australia’s landscapes, flora and fauna, there’s wildflower printed wallpaper, Jarrah floorboards and a colour scheme that gives a nod to the gemstones and minerals that made the state so wealthy. That design carries through beautifully to the hotel’s Santini Bar and Grill (pictured above) and the stunning rooftop bar with Swan River vistas.
Pssst… Luxury Escapes currently has an offer (ending in 5 days!) for 2 nights at the QT Perth for AUD$399 for two per room including daily breakfasts, a room upgrade, a welcome bottle of wine, and a QT gift! Check availability and book QT Perth here.
COMO The Treasury
Located in the remodelled 19th century State Buildings, Singaporean hotelier Christina Ong’s COMO The Treasury was designed by Australian architect Kerry Hill. The 48 enormous, elegant, light-filled rooms and suites are minimalist in style, with lofty ceilings and balconies with views over Stirling Gardens or Cathedral Square. The rooftop restaurant Wildflower offers Swan River views and cuisine driven by delicious Western Australian produce while downstairs is David Thompson’s buzzy Thai food eatery, Long Chim (see below).
Kick off your weekend in Perth with drinks at one of Perth’s rooftop bars. If you’re staying at QT Perth, you don’t have far to go. Slip up to The Rooftop and sink into a sleek low-slung chair to drink in sweeping views of the city and Swan River and outstanding cocktails. Order the Concrete Jungle with Bacardi 8 Rum, Campari, charred pineapple syrup, fresh lime, and pink grapefruit soda. Henry’s Rooftop Bar at The Reveley (Eastern Promenade, 901 Riverside Drive, Perth) on Elizabeth Quay offers river vistas and its white wicker chairs make for a fine spot to gaze at the sunset as you savour some freshly shucked oysters or munch on Shanghai fries with togarashi salt and yuzu mayo. After, hike up back up to Prince Lane (356 Murray Street, Perth), a three-storey pub with each floor boasting a different personality, and zip up to the Rooftop Bar, which feels like a friend’s jazzed-up back yard with its sofas strewn with cushions, garden benches and potted plants. The Lamington Martini with Malibu, Kahlua, cream, dark chocolate, and toasted coconut is an apt choice.
Book a table at Long Chim (Corner St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street, Perth) for a feast of the best Thai food you’ll find outside Thailand. Located in the cellar of the State Buildings, with murals by the likes of Thai street artists Alex Face, Gong and Diamond One enlivening the walls, David Thompson’s authentic Thai street food, craft beers, a long list of local wines, and killer cocktails. Try the mandarin and lemongrass negroni. If you’re two or more, order the Maa Long Chim menu – a selection of salads, soups, curries and stir fries with rice to share – or sample some of Western Australia’s finest produce, grilled over wood and charcoal, such as Fremantle octopus, Exmouth prawns, Busselton squid, or whole Geraldton Silver Whiting. On Fridays from 6pm to late, there are DJs and Thai eats in the Long Chim courtyard.
Perth has a temperate climate and its locals are very active and outdoorsy so soaking up the sunshine and gazing up at those clear blue skies should figure heavily on the first day of your weekend in Perth. Focus exploring Perth’s historic city centre and nearby Northbridge, just across the railway bridge. You could simply wander around the city centre, taking in bucolic Stirling Gardens, part of Western Australia’s first botanical park, and sprawling King’s Park, perfect for a long leisurely stroll. Down on the Swan River, you could hop on a ferry from Barrack Street Jetty to Mends Street Wharf where South Perth’s Sir James Mitchell Park has stunning vistas of Perth’s skyline.
Or you could sign up for a guided city walk, such as the Perth City Walking Tour, a Morning Tea Tour, or an Art and Cultural Walking Tour. Alternatively, go self-guided and do a Perth self-guided audio tour or use our self-guided walk around Perth. This starts in the heritage area, taking in handsome buildings dating back to the mid 1800s, all beautifully preserved or restored, such as the Perth Town Hall (dating to 1867), known for its clock tower, the Central Government Offices (1874), Government House (1859), the Supreme Court (1902) and the adjacent Old Court House, dating back to 1836. Our walk then takes you across the railway line to Northbridge, where you can grab some lunch.
Perth’s entertainment district and arts hub, Northbridge is also home to Perth’s Chinatown, centred along William Street, which is peppered with Chinese restaurants, Korean BBQ joints, Vietnamese noodle houses, and Asian supermarkets, grocery shops, and bakeries. Look for the glistening roast ducks (prepared hourly!) in the window at Good Fortune Roast Duck House, where we recommend you order the classic Peking Duck, served with the crispy skin and succulent meat on pancakes, with spring onions, cucumbers and Hoi Sin sauce. If you’re hungry, also try the Peking Duck San Choy Bow – crispy lettuce cups filled with shredded duck.
Browse Northbridge’s vintage clothes stores and bookshops on your way back toward the city to the vibrant arts precinct, centred on and around James Street Mall. Home to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Western Australian Museum and the State Library of Western Australia, it’s also the address of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, which houses the world’s finest Aboriginal art collection. You can easily spend an hour or two here taking in the breathtaking art. Even better, take one of the art gallery’s guided tours; have an early lunch as most are offered from 1-2pm and the subject changes daily.
A weekend in Perth requires at least one picnic in a park. Before you leave Northbridge, drop into Kakulas Bros (183 William Street, Northbridge), established in 1929, and pick up some olives, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. Then head to Vintage Cellars (891-893 Hay Street, Perth) for some takeaway craft brews or a bottle of Western Australian wine, and hop on the free Blue CAT bus to Kings Park. The bus stops right outside King’s Park from where it’s just a few minutes’ walk to a plethora of perfect picnic spots. With its abundant lawns, lofty trees, plenty of birdlife, beautiful wildflowers, and sweeping views of Perth’s stunning skyline and the picturesque Swan River, Kings Park is a wonderful spot to toast to a perfect day to start your weekend in Perth. You can grab a back bus to the city centre from just down the hill on the opposite side of the road.
A weekend in Perth wouldn’t be complete without a meal at the city’s beloved Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House (Lower ground level, 77 St Georges Terrace, Perth), a local favourite widely considered by many to be Perth’s best restaurant. This modern Italian restaurant has a seasonal menu, inspired by head chef Alexandra Haynes’ travel through Italy. Order the chef’s ‘il Capo’ (‘let us feed you’) menu, a series of six sharing plates of seasonal specials, which usually features a handmade house pasta and exquisite Western Australian produce, such as Shark Bay king prawns, Wagin quails and Hamlet Farm’s beautiful Berkshire Pork.
It’s not a weekend in Perth without a morning in historic, waterfront Fremantle – or ‘Freo’ as it’s affectionately called by locals. You could catch the train from Perth’s city centre to Fremantle, but it’s more fun to arrive by boat. Take the Swan River one-way cruise from Perth to Fremantle, departing from the Barrack Street Jetty. It’s a very pleasant way to spend 70 minutes, especially on a sunny Perth day.
Once at Victoria Quay, head across the railway to the heritage district and along High Street, Market Street and South Terrace or ‘Capuccino Strip’ – named after the Italian cafés dotting the main drag – to the lively weekend Fremantle Markets (South Terrace, Fremantle; Sat & Sun 8am-6pm), in a Victorian-era market hall dating to 1898. Some 150 stalls sell everything from fresh local produce (and picnic supplies) to homemade confectionary, handicrafts and gifts, such as scented candles, natural soaps etc.
If Fremantle Markets has inspired you to do some shopping, stroll through the backstreets to Fremantle’s West End, where, amongst the handsome old façades and big corner pubs with wrought iron balconies, you’ll discover chic boutiques, bookshops, concept stores, antique shops, and art galleries worth a browse. See this Fremantle post for more West End tips.
Feasting on fish and chips overlooking the water is another quintessential weekend in Perth experience. Fremantle’s fishing boat harbour is home to over 400 working vessels and leisure boats, along with seafood restaurants, fish and chip shops, cafés, and bars. Joe’s Fish Shack, Cicerellos and Kailis Fish Market, founded in 1928 by the current owners’ grandfather, get busy on weekends, so arrive before noon to snag a table. If you’re out of luck, duck into nearby Little Creatures for pizza and Australian craft beers. Alternatively, gather picnic supplies at Freo Markets and the Fremantle branch of Kakulas Sister (29-31 Market Street), and amble over to Esplanade Park, near the fishing boat harbour, to enjoy lunch under the Norfolk Island pines.
You could easily spend the afternoon in Fremantle, visiting the excellent museums, including the fascinating Round House, superb Western Australian Maritime Museum and Shipwrecks Galleries, and spooky Fremantle Prison. Or you could head over to lovely Rottnest Island – or ‘Rotto’ as the locals call it. For many, a weekend in Perth isn’t complete without some time in the sunshine on Rotto. Return to Victoria Quay to board the Rottnest Island high-speed ferry for the 30-minute ride to the island. We recommend buying your Rottnest Island round-trip ferry tickets from Fremantle here in advance to avoid missing out, especially during the spring and summer months.
While we’re suggesting an afternoon on Rottnest Island, if you have more than a weekend in Perth, you could spend a whole day on the stunning island discovering its shimmering salt lakes and dramatic coastline, punctuated by quiet rocky coves and tranquil turquoise bays (20 of them) skirted by crescents of sandy beaches (a whopping 63). Rotto can be explored on a bus tour, or by boat, or by bicycle or on foot. The walking and cycle tracks are shaded by Morton Bay figs and Aleppo pines and there are just a few vehicles on the island, so whichever way you choose to explore it will blissfully be car-free.
There’s an endless array of things to do on Rottnest Island: swimming, surfing, snorkelling, diving, and fishing are all favourite Rotto pastimes of Perth’s locals. Or you could be content with a stroll, some beachcombing, and snapping some pics with the cute, friendly quokkas — miniature marsupials unique to Western Australia – as you sip an icy cold beer at Hotel Rottnest, overlooking the aquamarine sea.
If you wished you had more time on Rotto, don’t worry, we’re not letting you finish your weekend in Perth without another quintessential Perth experience – beachside sundowners. All of Perth’s city beaches are beautiful – in fact, Western Australia’s beaches are some of Australia’s most beautiful – but today Cottesloe Beach is calling. From Victoria Quay, cross to Fremantle Train Station to take the train to Cottlesloe Train Station, from where it’s a 10-minute walk to Cottlesloe Beach – or jump in taxi for a faster journey.
Cottesloe Beach is picture perfect, with white sands, parkland shaded by magnificent Norfolk pines, and plenty of cafes and bars. And that’s where you’re going to enjoy the last of the gorgeous late afternoon light and wait to watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean – with a drink in hand. The Cottesloe Beach Hotel, which dates to 1905, has three fine bars. For a little sophistication (i.e. no flip flops or singlets) slip into Cott & Co. The Beach Club is a bit more relaxed, but the Verandah Bar is best if you spent the afternoon on the sand, and it also has the best vantage point for savouring sunset. Take a taxi or bus #102 back to the Elizabeth Quay Bus Station in the city (35 minutes).
Sunday Drinks and Dinner
It’s the last night of your weekend in Perth so make it a special one. Book a table at the new QT Perth’s gorgeous Santini Bar and Grill (above), which boasts a modern Italian menu by QT creative food director and Aussie Italian cuisine legend Robert Marchetti and Perth-born executive chef Nic Wood. But first, slip up to the stunning rooftop bar – the city’s highest – to clink glasses as you absorb the gob-smacking views. When you’re ready to dine, order some freshly shucked oysters while you decide what to eat from a menu bursting with the best of local produce, from hand-dived scallops to dry-aged steaks. And make sure you wash it down with a bottle of something from the Margaret River. There’s no better way to wind up a weekend in Perth.
Book Perth Tours and Activities
If your weekend in Perth inspired you to linger longer in Western Australia, see our posts on doing a slow Swan River cruise to the Swan Valley wine region, where to eat in Perth, driving from Perth to Margaret River and exploring the Margaret River Region.
Image of QT Perth courtesy of Luxury Escapes.