The modern city of Perth lies on the west coast of Australia where the Swan River winds down from a plateau containing some of the oldest rocks on Earth and forms a broad estuary on the coastal plain. The climate is mild and the plant life diverse. Lines of reef and small islands help shelter a coastline of sandy beaches and low rocky cliffs from Indian Ocean swells.
The relaxed Perth lifestyle is bound to this natural setting and many of the best nature experiences in the Perth area can be found in national parks and other conservation reserves.
Explore the river, the coastal woodlands and lakes, the beaches or the hills and enjoy the nature of Perth.
The Swan and Canning rivers
No visit to Perth is complete without spending time on or near the river. The entire waterway, as well as many adjoining reserves along the river foreshore, make up the Swan Canning Riverpark.
The river is the city’s visual and cultural heart. Known as the Derbarl Yerrigan to the Whadjuk people, whose connection to the river spans some 40,000 years, it is today a focus of activity for walkers and joggers, cyclists and sightseers, paddlers, sailors and other recreational boat users.
Find your way to the river and explore the network of shared-use trails, enjoy water activities or find a vantage point to relax and take in the river’s natural beauty.
Relax at Matilda Bay Reserve or check out the black swans, pelicans, migratory waders and a multitude of other birdlife at Pelican Point or Alfred Cove in the Swan Estuary Marine Park or in the Canning River Regional Park.
Take a river cruise from Elizabeth Quay across to South Perth, down to Fremantle or upstream to the Swan Valley.
Lakes and woodlands
To the north and south of the river Yellagonga, Herdsman Lake and Beeliar regional parks feature a series of shallow freshwater lakes which are important wetland habitat for birds and other wildlife and have picnic areas and trails.
North of the city, Yanchep National Park has kangaroos, koalas and abundant birdlife. There are also extensive lawns with shaded picnic facilities, walk trails through natural bushland, cave and cultural tours, a golf course, visitor centre, tearooms, a campground and the Yanchep Inn.
South of the city and close to the coast, Yalgorup National Park features thrombolites and the Yalgorup lakes. The lakes are Ramsar-listed wetlands which attract migratory birds from around the world. Explore walk trails throughout the park or book a campsite at Martins Tank campground and share an overnight stay with kangaroos, possums and other wildlife.
Perth is blessed with almost 100km of fabulous Indian Ocean coastline.
With limestone reefs offshore, shallow seagrass-filled basins and plentiful white-sand beaches, Marmion Marine Park has excellent opportunities for all forms of water-based activities. Try swimming in the beach enclosure at Sorrento, snorkelling in the lagoon at Mettams Pool and surfing ‘between the flags’ on the patrolled beaches at Sorrento or Mullaloo.
Diving, fishing and whale watching charters are available at Hillarys Boat Harbour.
Shoalwater Islands Marine Park is just a short drive down the coast and perfect for a day trip. It has long protected beaches and great conditions for swimming, kayaking, snorkelling and diving, wind surfing and kite surfing.
Book a tour to see dolphins and sealions or take the ferry to Penguin Island and explore the boardwalks, lookouts and beaches and have a swim or snorkel. You can even buy a combined ticket that includes entry to the Discovery Centre. Pack your own food and drinks and enjoy lunch on the island at a beach or in the shady, grassed picnic area.
Perth faces west and watching a sunset over the water can be a perfect way to finish a day.
Several parks in the hills near Perth are within easy reach for scenic drives, picnics and short walks in natural woodlands.
About 100km south of Perth near Dwellingup, Lane Poole Reserve has picnic areas and river access for canoeing and kayaking. You can also book to stay overnight in one of the campgrounds.
Tips on the weather
Typical summer days begin with a beautiful clear morning and cloudless skies and end with a sunset over the water. Rising temperatures are usually followed by Perth’s famous ‘Fremantle Doctor’, a cooling sea breeze that strengthens from the middle of the day.
Be prepared for plenty of sunshine, warm to hot temperatures and windy afternoons. Unless you are sailing, wind surfing or kite surfing, plan most of your outdoor activity for mornings to make the most of cooler conditions and lighter winds, especially in the hills, on the water or at the beach.
Pack plenty of drinking water, apply sunscreen and always wear a hat.
- When planning where to go and what to do, visit Explore Parks WA.
- Find details about WA’s most popular trails at TrailsWA.
- Follow @ExploreParksWA on Instagram or Facebook and share your experiences, photos and clips using #parkexplorers.
- Download Park Finder WA from the App Store to find parks near you with the activities and facilities you like.
- To save time and money, purchase either a four-week Holiday Pass or an Annual All Parks Pass and save on park entry fees at shop.dpaw.wa.gov.au
- For details about campgrounds, camping tips and booking online visit parkstay.dbca.wa.gov.au.
- The best place to start for accommodation, tours and things to do on a Western Australian holiday is westernaustralia.com. More information can be found at Destination Perth and Trust the Tick.
- Keep an eye on the weather using your favourite weather app or bom.gov.au