Heading to Perth? We hope you’ve got some spare time up your sleeve, because once you hear about the seaplane daytrips to Margaret River, the heli-skydiving over Rottnest Island and the open-sea swimming with wild dolphins, you might be tempted to miss the flight home.
1. DROP IN TO PERTH’S COOLEST BAR AND RESTAURANTPRECINCT
Designed by the founders of Little Creatures as their ode to the craft beer industry, Petition Beer Corner, smack bang in the heart of the city, will enlighten connoisseurs with its ever-changing lineup of 18 tap beers. Matched with beer snacks, there are brews sourced from far-flung locations, limited editions and wondrous experiments. Next door, Petition Wine Bar and Merchant has a similarly curated compilation of wines, including drops from small batch local wine wizards that you won’t see elsewhere. When you’re done, explore the neighbouring restaurants and bars, all part of the State Buildings precinct.
2. BECOME A WA FISHERMAN FOR A DAY, EATING LOBSTER FRESH FROM THEOCEAN
Always wanted to help pull a pot of live rock lobsters from the ocean? You can double as a cray fisherman for a day by joining the family behind WA’s Lobster Shack processing facility. If you’re keen, they’ll also cook your catch for lunch. Their seriously pimped vessel, Shack Attack departs from Cervantes, about two hour’s drive north of Perth, and also offers adrenalin-rich game fishing charters. If you cast just right, you might hook a dhufish, baldchin groper, or pink snapper.
3. SNAP A SELFIE WITH THE WORLD’S HAPPIESTANIMAL
The cheerful quokkas inhabiting Rottnest Island, only 19km over water from Perth, have to be seen to be believed. These furry natives appear to smile, and provided you’re mindful of their personal space, they’re rather partial to starring in a quokka selfie. Your grin might rival theirs, if you’ve taken the option of skyfalling onto one of the isle’s beaches via an exhilarating heli-skydive. The new experience has you launching out of a chopper at 10,000ft for an epic tandem freefall.
4. TAKE A TRACTOR TOUR THROUGH A RURALCIDERY
The Perth Hills are only a 30 minute drive away, but feel like provincial France. Core Cider, in Pickering Brook, makes the most of its rolling hills etched with rows of apple, pear, plum and other fruit trees. Spring flowering, when petals scatter like snow, is breathtaking. Lean on the bar in the wooden tasting room or settle in at the open-air restaurant, where you can match the menu to your libations. Farm tractor tours, seasonal pick-your-own activities and a weekend fruit market add to the fun.
5. VISIT THE BIRTHPLACE OF LITTLE CREATURESBREWING
Anyone who’s ever savoured a Little Creatures craft beer needs to see where it all began. Head to Fremantle’s fishing boat harbour and explore the home of WA’s most famous microbrewery, which was started by a bunch of mates in an old crocodile farm in 2000. Tour the stainless steel beer vats on a brewery tour ($12 per person; departs on the hour between 12noon and 3pm, daily) and chase it with a free sample of everything on tap.
6. DINE AT PERTH’S HOTTEST NEWRESTAURANT
Anyone who’s ever been to Bali will know about Ku De Ta, the sexy bar-restaurant overlooking the ocean in Seminyak. The brand has opened its only outpost – in Perth – and its fun fine-diner, Ku Dining, is where you’ll want to be at sunset. Set overlooking the Swan River, somehow the beers and bubbles taste fresher and that lacquered six-spice duck will linger in your memory for a wistfully long time.
7. TASTE AUSTRALIA’S BEST HANDMADE VODKA ANDGIN
Meet the craft brewers redefining WA’s drinking scene on the new Cider and Ale Trail in the Swan Valley, 30 minutes drive from central Perth. There are nine excellent breweries along the loop route, cleverly leveraging WA produce. While in the hood, stop at WA’s youngest gin and vodka distillery, Old Youngs. Its Pure No 1 vodka was named best in Australia two years running; try it, and the cold-drip coffee blend.
8. STAY IN THE WORLD’S SECOND BESTHOTEL
Sleep on the spot that marks Perth’s geographical centre, known as ’point zero’. It happens to be the location of the world’s second best hotel, as voted by Conde Nast Traveler. Como the Treasury’s 48 suites, pool, spa and restaurants are housed in 1870s heritage buildings that have been restored and elegantly reimagined with a respectful nod to the past. Tip: the mini bar is free.
9. DRIVE THROUGH THE PINNACLES BYSUNSET
The aged, yellow spires of the Pinnacles resemble a bizarre alien landscape. An easy two-hour drive north of Perth, thousands of these eroded limestone formations poke like fingers through the earth, surrounded by sand dunes and ocean glimpses. A looping sandy track (fine for 2WD) snakes between them, giving a safari-style experience of these natural curiosities that reach up to 3.5m tall. Their sundown glow is magical.
10. THROW A POOL PARTY BESIDE THE OPTUSSTADIUM
Make it an occasion with a poolside wind down at the flash new Crown Towers lagoon, right next door to the Optus Stadium. With the water set to 30 degrees C, hosts delivering drinks to your TV-equipped cabana and the most extravagant hotel ever constructed in Australia as your backdrop, you’ll feel like a VIP. Nip up to the complimentary Crystal Club lounge for an eyeful of the Swan River and city skyline. All of it awaits you, less than ten minutes from the airport.
SWIM WITH WILDDOLPHINS
There’s nothing like seeing a wild dolphin zoom through the water in your direction, eyeballing you as it glides past with what you’d swear is a cheeky grin. More than 200 playful bottlenose dolphins frolic in the waters off Rockingham, 45 minutes south of Perth, making daily interactions a cinch. Rockingham Wild Encounters can sort out your wetsuit and snorkel gear, and take you to where the dolphins are bobbing. Either get to the departure jetty under your own steam, or catch the shuttle from Perth.
Available September – June
SEAPLANE TO MARGARET RIVER WINECOUNTRY
Reckon Margaret River is out of your short-stay reach? A new seaplane, peeling off from the Swan River in full view of Perth’s city skyscrapers, will get you in and out in a day with Swan River Seaplanes. The low altitude scenic flight over sparkling coastline, patchwork farmland and vineyards delivers you to the bucolic getaway in less than an hour. There, the characters at Top Drop Tours (twice awarded Australia’s best tour operator) will take you for all-inclusive wine tasting, winemaker meeting and dining. Wing your way back for a gentle splash landing.
For years, Perth has been hovering under traveller's radars, keeping its pristine beaches, hip small bar scene and festival fun to itself. Not anymore. Local travel journalist Fleur Bainger blows the lid on the places you shouldn’t miss.
The big thing visitors don’t realise is that Margaret River offers much more than our world-class wine and food. The outdoor activities are now just as significant, not to mention the diverse arts and crafts scene. These are some of my favourite things to do that can be packed into a weekend escape to Margaret River from Perth.