As the capital of Western Australia, the city of Perth has a lot going for it. Founded back in 1832, there’s a whole lot of history to be found here, from the imposing town hall to the sprawling botanic gardens. But the state of Western Australia is Australia’s largest and there are endless weekend getaways Perth has to offer.
Today the Perth skyline is more skyscrapers than Victorian spires and it is Australia’s fourth-largest city, with a population pushing way past two million.
With the Indian Ocean on one side and a whole lot of land on the other, Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world. The nearest settlement with more than 100,000 residents is all the way in Adelaide – over 2,000 kilometres away.
That’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it just means there’s a whole lot of nature to explore in Perth’s back yard! There are deserts, coral reefs, uninhabited islands, whale sharks to swim with, dolphins to spot, white sand beaches, forests – and plenty of spots to base yourself in along the way.
From Perth, you have the option of exploring the South West or driving north along the Coral Coast to discover stunning coastlines, untouched national parks, and wildlife in abundance. You could head further afield to the epic Goldfields region, where there’s a distinct lack of people but bucketloads of natural beauty. If you like your adventures more bite-sized, Rottnest Island sits a stone’s throw from Perth, and Chittering Valley is just next door.
Whichever you choose, there’s no doubt that any weekend getaway from Perth is going to be well worth however long it takes to drive there. Without further ado, let’s take a more in-depth look at what makes some of these awesome destinations tick, and what you can discover once you arrive.
The South West of WA
Where is ‘South West’ Western Australia?
It’s easy to see the South West as just “one” place to go to, but trust us: there’s a lot going on here. This region is where desert meets Karri forest, where kwongan scrubland meets the sea. It’s diverse, it’s fun and, most importantly, it’s beautiful.
If you’re looking for an easy escape from Perth for the weekend, you should consider Margaret River. It’s just a three-hour drive from the Western Australian capital to this classic holiday spot, which is certainly something that makes it so popular.
Another thing that makes it so highly-rated is the wine. After all, this is the centre of the Margaret River Wine Region, something made possible thanks to the South West’s gorgeous Mediterranean climate. Those with a taste for fermented grape juice should make a beeline for this wine-loving area of Australia. Take your pick of vineyards here for tastings and tours, from Driftwood to the Brookland Valley Estate.
Don’t like wine? The surf’s good too! Other than hitting the beach or sipping fine wines, you can find plenty of things to do in Margaret River. The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park has gorgeous woodland to explore, and Mammoth Cave is well worth a stop.
On the way to Margaret River, you’ll find Bunbury. If you’re a dolphin fan, you’re in luck: bottlenose dolphins can be spotted playing close to shore here. Learn more about them at the Dolphin Discovery Centre, explore the mangroves of the Leschenault Inlet, or simply chill on Back Beach – it’s a coastal gem.
Nearby Busselton is a great pit-stop. Known for being home to the huge Busselton Jetty – said to be the world’s longest wooden structure – Busselton also has a super long beach, strewn with places to kick back beachside for a long weekend.
Further south is Albany. It’s a spot to uncover history, with many buildings dating back to the 19th century. Patrick Taylor Cottage, built in 1832, is the oldest surviving domestic dwelling in Western Australia. Elsewhere, Anzac heritage runs deep. Albany was the final port of call for ships taking troops to fight in World War I.
Things to do in South West WA
Where to stay in South West WA
There’s a decent range of places to stay in the South West these days and it’s come a long way from the beach shacks and cabins in the dunes of decades gone by.
At the high-end Pullman Bunker Bay is probably the most renowned hotel in the area while with beautiful Empire Spa Retreat just down the road a clear favourite for many.
As the name suggest 160 Steps…from Yallingup Beach is exactly that and is pet friendly as is Happy Dogs Cottage in Margaret River.
Two Blind Cows Glamping
Weekend Getaway Perth – Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is a great weekend getaway from Perth. It’s famous for its very own brand of marsupials – the very cute quokkas – and is so easily reachable from the city that you could even make this a day trip. But with plenty of places to stay overnight, why not make it a multi-day experience?
Where is Rottnest Island?
The island itself is just 19 kilometres off the mainland.
How do you get to Rottnest Island?
A ferry from Hillarys Boat Harbour in northern Perth will have you there in 45 minutes, or it’ll take 90 minutes on the ferry from Barrack Street Jetty. From Fremantle it’s a 25-minute ferry ride all the way there (especially good if you don’t quite have the sea legs for a long boat ride).
Why is it called Rottnest?
Good question. Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh gave it that name when he mistook quokkas for giant rats during a six-day exploration of the island in 1696. But the island was already known to Noongar people for thousands of years as Wadjemup, “place across the water where the spirits are.” In fact, artefacts found on the island date from 6,500 to more than 30,000 years old.
Today, Rottnest is littered with colonial buildings, some of which are now used for accommodation on the island. These brick buildings are just one facet of a unique and awesomely ancient island. Aside from the history, you’ll find lakes, beaches, trails to hike, and plenty of quokkas.
Things to do on Rottnest Island
- Hire a bike and join a guided bike tour of the island
- Snorkelling at The Basin
- Catching a wave or two at Strickland Bay
- Chilling out all day on Catherine Beach
- Catching a glimpse of the dramatic Cathedral Rocks
- Learning your history at Wadjemup Lighthouse, Western Australia’s oldest
- Touring the old corridors of Oliver Hill Battery
Book a ferry and bike hire combo HERE
Where to stay on Rottnest Island
Being a small island there is a limited number of places to stay on Rottnest but don’t let that deter you.
Discovery Rottnest is an amazing beachfront Glamping site with standard and deluxe tents and great inclusions like breakfast.
Karma Rottnest is a good mid-range resort close to the ferry terminal and the main amenities.
Late in 2020, there is set to be a new addition to the landscape with the opening of Samphire Rottnest resort in Thomson Bay, right next door to the iconic Hotel Rottnest.
The Coral Coast of W.A.
Where is the Coral Coast of Australia?
Just two hours’ drive north from Perth, you’ll find the town of Cervantes. It’s here that the Coral Coast Highway starts in earnest – more than 1,100 kilometres of road leading north to Ningaloo and Exmouth beyond. It’s enough to rival any East Coast road trip.
It may be called the Coral Coast, but there’s much more to it than coral reefs. Along the way are plenty of inland delights to keep just about anybody suitably wowed as they journey north along this amazing stretch of coastline.
Take Cervantes, where it all begins. This town is famous for the nearby Pinnacles. Set in the sprawling Nambung National Park, walking among these ancient limestone pillars standing in the desert is like exploring something from another world.
Wildflowers bring the bush to life in places like Lesueur National Park, near Cervantes, and Coalseam Conservation Park further north. When can you see them? Beginning from June to July, you’ll have around a six-month window to wade through seas of wildflowers in various locations along the Coral Coast.
If you happen to be driving a 4WD, make sure you pay a visit to Francois Peron National Park. Practically untouched, this place is a playground of rocky red inlets and turquoise seas. It’s actually part of the larger UNESCO-recognised Shark Bay, an intricate coastline of peninsulas and islands that’s as famous for its dugongs as it is for its spherical stromatolites.
For a glimpse of the reefs promised by the name of this stunning region, try the aptly named Coral Bay, or drive on further to Ningaloo. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ningaloo Coast is host to an offshore reef that fosters an abundance of wildlife, from manta rays to whale sharks.
Things to do on the Coral Coast
- Snapping pics of the eerie Pinnacles
- Adventuring in the spectacular Francois Peron National Park
- Dive the Muiron Islands, heaving with sealife
- Spending a beachy day with white sands and great snorkelling at Five Fingers Reef
- Hunting for wildflowers in Coalseam Conservation Park
- Swim with the incredible Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Marine Park
- Glimpsing the dramatic scenery of Cape Range National Park
- Do a sunset cruise to take in the stunning western sunsets
Where to stay on the Coral Coast
Down at Coral Bay is Ningaloo Reef Resort, a perennial favourite for many years with stunning views across the sea.
The West Australian Goldfields
If you’re looking for wild, picturesque, untouched nature, look no further than Goldfields.
Where are the Western Australian Goldfields?
Encompassing a vast area of Western Australia much larger than the U.S. state of Texas, the Goldfields–Esperance – or simply the Goldfields – is a whopping 770,488 square kilometres of wilderness and coastline (with a few towns thrown in for good measure).
The region is located in the south-west corner of the state and is made up of the City of Kalgoorlie and the Shires of Coolgardie, Laverton, Dundas, Menzies, Leonora, Ravensthorpe and even Esperance, along the south coast.
All that space, yet it’s one of the most infertile places in Australia. As a result, the area has a very low stocking rate: one sheep per square mile is the recommended, sustainable limit. And the population? Around 60,000 people.
There are no less than three deserts in the Goldfields area – the not-so-little Little Sandy Desert and the Gibson Desert to the north, and the Great Victoria Desert to the southeast. Dundas Nature Reserve is a similarly arid stretch of nature, as is the savannah-like Goldfields Woodlands National Park.
This only adds to the epic feeling of discovering the unexplored that you get when you visit this giant of a region. And although it’s easy to think only of the interior, the deserts, and the wide-open spaces, the coastline on offer in Goldfields is a stunner.
Cape Le Grand National Park is one such place. A smattering of islands sit in the glistening turquoise sea, the coast fringed with glorious white sand beaches. Hilly hikes lead to incredible viewpoints that look across the scene. It’s beauty by the bucketful.
Things to do in the WA Goldfields
- Experiencing the turquoise-and-white of Blue Haven in Esperance
- Driving the epic South Coast Highway
- Adventuring, camping, and 4WD-ing at Stokes National Park
- Hiking the epic hills of Cape Arid National Park
- Getting eco with a visit to Woody Island
- Chilling on the beach with kangaroos at Cape Le Grand’s Lucky Bay
Where to stay at the WA Goldfields
The historic Palace Hotel continues to produce happy customers after all many years. With a wide range of rooms from budget to family rooms and even a 5 bedroom apartment there is something for everyone and a drink at the Gold Bar is a must. Be sure to also see the famed Hoover Mirror, gifted to the hotel by American President Herbert Hoover!
For an authentic self-catering experience you can also rent this converted Miners Cottage that sleeps up to 7 guests in 3 bedrooms in modern comfort.
If the Goldfields sounds a little bit too much like the back of beyond for you, then Chittering Valley – around an hour outside of Perth itself – is a much easier, much more well-trodden, but no less beautiful place to visit.
Did anybody say wine? That’s certainly one part of what makes this part of Perth’s back yard a great place to visit. Combine this with rolling green hills and carpets of wildflowers in the right season, and you’ll find this is a pretty spectacular food-and-drive region.
Chittering Valley encompasses the general area around Chittering. That includes the loop made by Chittering Road and the Chittering Valley Road, the latter following the course of the Brockman River. It includes Chittering Lakes Nature Reserve and the sleepy town of Bindoon, which is a good place to get oriented about the area. Try the Chittering Visitors Centre.
How to get to Chittering Valley
Just one hour’s drive from Perth, the Chittering Valley is nestled in the northern hills of the Darling Range in the Avon Valley, north of the Swan Valley.
From central Perth you just need to take Guildford Road to the Tonkin Highway and head North to Bullsbrook. From there Chittering is about 10 minutes North East and is well signed.
Once you’re in the Chittering Valley it’s time to enjoy art studios and wineries, picturesque B&Bs and valley trails, orange blossom and wetlands.
This area is a favourite of foodies, with fresh produce available from roadside stalls (in season, of course), from avocados to mangoes. Wine plays its part, obviously, and there are many wineries and vineyards to visit. So much so that you may want to consider touring rather than driving – or basing yourself within walking distance!
There are a number of events that make planning a time-specific visit to the Chittering Valley worth it, too. If you’re travelling with kids, you may want to time a trip for Wear Ya Wellies (around May), an unstructured, very muddy affair that’s as entertaining as it is, well, muddy.
Otherwise, a spring trip is one of the most picturesque times of year to visit Chittering Valley thanks to the wildflowers that suddenly transform the green hillsides in the area into paintings.
Things to do in Chittering Valley
- Visiting in time for the markets, stalls and food-glorious-food of A Taste of Chittering
- Choosing a park, packing a picnic and enjoying family time in nature
- Sampling some wine (and more food) at Stringybark Cottage Winery & Restaurant
- Enjoying a scenic stroll along one of many trails, such as Bindoon Tale Trail
- Lapping up the spring wildflowers at Blackboy Ridge
- Eating at Bindoon Bakehaus, purveyor of delicious foods
- Explore the many, many producers, artisans and growers in the area using the local Tourist Guide.
- Visit the many wineries along the Perth Hills wine trail.
Where to stay at Chittering Valley
We also love this Chittering Heights cabin with is stunning views, indoor fireplace and big hot tub on the deck. In Bindoon you can also rent this stunning cabin in a citrus orchard with wonderful views across the valley.