Heading to Perth for a holiday? Then be sure to pack binoculars and a camera with a good zoom lens.
Perth is a great base for whale watching – either from the land or on a whale watching tour boat.
There are many opportunities to observe these gentle, playful creatures as they cruise down the West Australian coastline on their annual migration. They stop off in Perth waters for a rest en route.
No one has actually counted the whales, but it’s thought around 30,000 humpbacks do the journey, and the population is growing. Increasing numbers of Southern Right whales and Blue whales are also seen.
One thing is for sure: these giants are hard to miss – especially when they goof around, breeching, playing, and showing off.
The whale watching season kicks off around mid September and goes until early December. During this period, family groups with new calves leave the warm waters of their breeding grounds up North to return to their summer home in Antarctica.
Whale Watching Boat Tours
There are so many whales swimming and cavorting along the West Australian ocean highway that tour operators can guarantee sightings. On those rare occasions when none are seen, there’s a free tour to try again.
The beauty of going on a boat is that you get nearer to the whales. Many people report having startlingly close encounters, with whales playing around boats and making eye contact with the occupants.
There are various kinds of whale watching boat tours out of Perth and Fremantle, including whole boat charters and eco tours.
Land-based Whale Watching
Whales can be seen from land along the entire WA coastline, with prominent headlands the best vantage points. Keep an eye on local media for the locations of the latest sightings.
Keen whale watchers head to beautiful Kalbarri, several hours south of Perth, to take up whale watching positions at Natural Bridge, Eagle Gorge, and the coastal cliffs of Red Bluff.
Whale Watching Facts
The whales make the 13,000 kilometre round-trip between March and December. They follow the continental shelf, staying close to shore.
From June to November, head to the Kimberley to spot whales in Pender Bay, Camden Sound, and the tranquil sea off Broome – this is where females give birth.
Between June and September, whales hang out in Flinders Bay Augusta.
From September to December, Dunsborough and Busselton are good places in WA to watch whales.
From July to October, they be seen frolicking in Albany’s King George Sound.
Albany’s old whaling station is now a whale museum with excellent interactive displays.
The ideal time for seeing whales is around noon, when the sun is directly overhead.
To find out more about whale watching in WA, go to Tourism Western Australia.
A trip to gorgeous Rottnest Island, just 19 kilometres off the mainland, is a must-do for Perth locals and visitors to the area.
The easiest way to get to this island paradise is on a Rottnest Island Ferry.
As well as being a fun adventure in itself, the leisurely boat ride is quick. It takes just 25 minutes from Fremantle, 45 minutes from Hillary’s Boat Harbour, and an hour and half from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty.
Choose your Rottnest Island Ferry
There are two ferry companies offering transfers to Rottnest Island, with several departure points.
If you’re in Perth City, your best bet is to jump aboard a Rottnest Island Ferry at the Barrack Street Jetty. While, Hilary’s Boat Harbour is the most convenient departure point if you’re in North Perth. If you want to leave from Fremantle, you have two options: embark either at Fremantle’s Victoria Quay, or Rous Head in North Fremantle.
Rottnest Island ferry timetables vary according to the season. Bookings are a must, so try to book as far ahead as possible at busy times of year, like school holidays.
Rottnest Express departs from Perth City and both Fremantle terminals.
Rottnest Express has three modern, high-speed, ocean-going boats designed especially to deal with the crossing from Fremantle to Rottnest. This route is famous for being one of the Southern Hemisphere’s roughest!
Rottnest Fast Ferries depart from Hillary’s Ferry Terminal at Hillary’s Boat Harbour.
Rottnest Fast Ferries operate a high-speed, ocean-going ferry that is also engineered to cope with any rough conditions encountered during the crossing.
Rottnest Island Ferry Extras and Tours
Both Rottnest Island Ferry companies offer a range of packages and tours, such as whale watching.
One of the options you might like to consider is the romantic Twilight Cruise offered by Rottnest Fast Ferries. Just take their afternoon ferry over to Rottnest Island and depart in the evening for a trip home along the magical Sunset Coast.
Another great option is Rottnest Express’s seasonal 90-minute eco-adventure. This tour takes you right around the island to explore its remote coastline and gives you the chance to see rare wildlife and secluded bays.
You can book your Rottnest bike hire at the same time you book your ferry tickets, saving you time and hassle, and leaving more time for fun when you reach the Island.
For more information, check out the Rottnest Island Ferry websites.
Want to feast your eyes on a jaw-dropping treasure trove of precious metals? Then visit The Perth Mint for bullion by the truck load.
At The Perth Mint, bullion is manufactured from pure gold and silver, ranging from investment bullion coins to minted and cast bars. This historic refinery and mint processes most of Australia’s massive gold output, making it one of the top four producers in the world.
Located in Hay Street, a short walk from the city centre, it is an exhilarating place to visit, with the opportunity to buy Perth Mint bullion direct from the source.
Buying Perth Mint Bullion
Buying Perth Mint bullion direct from the manufacturer is considered the best way to invest in gold and silver. Weights and purity are guaranteed by the Government of Western Australia.
So you can be sure that your Perth Mint bullion purchase is the real deal – be it a small souvenir of your visit, a special gift, or a weighty investment to squirrel away for a rainy day.
Perth Mint bullion trading is conducted 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday at The Perth Mint shop.
Visiting The Perth Mint Bullion Refinery
You’ll be blown away by the dazzling demonstrations, displays and collections – including the world’s biggest stash of investment gold bars.
There are several fun activities, too, such as engraving your own medallion and finding out what your weight is worth in gold.
Things to see and do at The Perth Mint
Start with a guided tour of the beautiful and impressive heritage building, the vault and the original melting house. Along the way you’ll be told some great stories from Australia’s golden past and learn about The Perth Mint’s bullion production.
One of the highlights is seeing gold being heated and poured to the traditional method at the historic melting house. Make sure you take a good look at the brick walls – they glitter with gold dust from years of refining.
You’ll also get to ogle Australia’s largest natural nugget collection, including Newmont’s Normandy Nugget – the second to biggest nugget ever found. It weighs an incredible 25.5 kilograms.
Another record-holder on display for your viewing pleasure is the world’s biggest and most valuable coin – the Australian Kangaroo gold coin. This baby is worth over $50 million, making it one of the star attractions of The Perth Mint bullion collection.
Located at picturesque Hillarys Boat Harbour, 20 minutes north of the city, Perth Aquarium of Western Australia is a wonderful place for children and international travellers.
Overseas visitors get a kick out of seeing all the marine creatures found in this part of the world, including big sharks, sea turtles, juvenile crocodiles and thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish.
The small ones love it as they can easily see everything. Displays have inset stools so shorties can step up to get a good look. There are also magnifying glass for inspecting tiny fish and sea horses. The touch pool is a huge hit with children as it allows them to pet tiny sharks, stingrays and many other slimy, finned and scaled critters.
Exhibits at Perth Aquarium of Western Australia
Perth Aquarium of Western Australia specialises in marine creatures that inhabit the state’s coastline. So there’s loads to look at and lots to learn, with more than 400 species, displayed in 40 exhibits, grouped in five different environments.
The biggest and most spectacular environment is the Shipwreck Coast aquarium. It’s 40 metres long and has an awesome underwater tunnel. Walking through this clear acrylic tunnel is the next best thing to actually being in the water with big sharks, turtles, stingrays and octopus.
The Coral Reef exhibit is also pretty cool, with masses of gorgeous live coral and colourful reef fish.
Scary creatures are found in the Danger Zone. Here you can see deadly blue ringed octopus, cone shells, stone fish, sea snakes, lion fish and other nasties.
Underwater Adventures at Perth Aquarium of Western Australia
Fancy coming face to face with a toothy shark? For a fee you can. Snorkelers and qualified SCUBA divers can go with the aquarium’s dive master for a thrilling close encounter with the big sea animals cruising around in the Shipwreck Coast aquarium.
From October to April there’s also a Reefwalker adventure for good swimmers over the age of 12. Using a special SCUBA unit, you go with a dive instructor on a fantastic underwater stroll through the Coral Reef.
Perth Aquarium of Western Australia is open daily 10am to 5pm.
Find out more and book your tickets at Aquarium of Western Australia.
Looking for a big, fun, family day out in Perth? Then head to Adventure World Perth just 20 kilometres from the city.
This amusement park is packed with all-age activities, rides and attractions.
Make sure you get here early – it opens 10am – as there is a lot to see, do and experience. Pack sunscreen, hats, cossies and rashies, towels, and dry clothes for the trip home.
Adventure World Perth is closed during the winter months. It reopens late September in time for the school holidays.
Things to do at Adventure World Perth
There are 35 rides, including a roller coaster, sky lift and 16 water rides. They’re grouped by ‘scare factor’ so you can pick and choose according to children’s ages or daredevil levels.
Extreme Rides at Adventure World Perth
Two of the most popular rides are the Tunnel of Terror – a fully enclosed water chute – and the Bounty’s Revenge – a swinging boat ride that works its way up to 75 degrees. Neither of these are recommended just after a big lunch.
The three other extreme rides are the Power Surge, the Rampage and the Freefall.
Thrilling and Fun Rides
The Grand Prix Race Track is a huge hit with adults and kids alike, with speeds of 25 km/h on the authentic replica race track. Speed Slides are also a must. Lots of fun! You can get up to 66 km/h before splashing into the pool at the bottom.
Other thrilling rides include the Rail Rider, Water Mountain Mat Slides, Rocky Mountain Rapids, and Aqua Super 6 Racer – the longest and fastest in Australia at 110 metres.
For all the Family
Adventure World Perth offers 16 rides and attractions you can enjoy together, including ever-popular bumper boats, paddle boats, and the Sky Lift. Don’t miss the Aussie Wildlife Experience where you’ll see koalas, a wombat, a dingo and alpacas. You can hand-feed kangaroos with special food from the Gift Shop.
Fun for Little Kids at Adventure World Perth
Young kids will love the Kingdom Falls interactive aqua playground – it’s a great spot to cool down.
There are a number of fun, safe rides especially for young adventurers. They include the Dragon Express Rollercoaster and a journey through Dragon’s Kingdom in their very own safari car.
Fuelling the fun
Bring a picnic, water bottles and a stack of snacks from home so you can eat on the go and won’t have to queue for food and drinks during busy periods. Alternatively, you can get takeaways from the various kiosks and mobile carts, or sit down for a meal in one of Adventure World Perth’s cafes.
The last thing you’d expect to top the list of must-sees near Cairns is an old castle with amazing gardens set amidst lush rainforest.
This is a large part of Paronella Park’s magic: the beauty, history and architecture of this ‘secret in the jungle’ are all delightful surprises.
The Paronella Park Story
120 kilometres South of Cairns, Paronella Park at Mena Creek is one of Queensland’s most beloved treasures and a fascinating place to spend a day.
Visitors report being spellbound by Paronella Park, and greatly moved by the inspiring story of its creation.
The park was the life project of ‘The Spanish Dreamer’ – José Paronella. This gifted, artistic engineer and visionary came to Australia from Catalonia in 1913. He purchased the Park’s five hectares in 1929 and set about designing and building pleasure gardens, the castle, swimming pool, waterfalls, and a stone house for himself and his wife.
José even installed a hydro electric generating plant – the first in North Queensland – so the property could be self-sufficient for power. This fabulous relic is once again up and running after 40 years of neglect unemployment.
Paronella Park was opened to the public in 1935. Over the years, it became a premier attraction. However, a series of disasters, including cyclones and a catastrophic fire, caused extensive damage and Paronella Park fell on hard times.
The current owners purchased Paronella Park in 1993 and have worked long and hard to return it to its former magnificence.
Paronella Park is listed by in the National Trust. It holds numerous Regional and State Tourism Awards, and a GECKO Award for Ecotourism. It is frequently named in lists of top things to see and do in Queensland.
Because it is privately owned, the park relies on entry fees and donations to stay open and continue conservation work.
Things to see and do at Paronella Park
Paronella Park has a number of heritage structures, and there’s a wonderful array of fauna and flora, with new species being discovered and added all the time. Fish, turtles and eels hang out in the Park’s creek and are a big hit with children.
You can take a self-guided botanical walk, armed with a booklet packed with information about the Park’s flora, including the many different types of trees.
However, many visitors recommend taking a guided tour. The day walk is 45 minutes and there’s one departing every half hour. There’s also a guided night walk – the Darkness Falls Tour – which offers great opportunities for creative photography thanks to the Park’s atmospheric lighting.
The only living thing that is visible from space, Australia’s breathtakingly beautiful Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
It is Earth’s largest and most spectacular coral reef system, with around 2,000 individual reefs, and 900 tropical islands – many of which can be explored.
This vast World Heritage-listed paradise has the planet’s largest concentration of marine life. There are 1500 species of fish, 350 types of coral, and a plethora of sea creatures such as dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles, dugongs, sharks, monster gropers, gorgeous giant clams, and whales during the migration season.
It’s easy to discover the Great Barrier Reef if you’re based in Cairns, as it’s close to the city.
Great Barrier Reef Must Do’s
Diving into the Great Barrier Reef is number one on the list.
Getting out there for that scuba dive, snorkel or swim is half the fun. Spoil yourself with a trip on a luxury private charter. Jump on a beautiful yacht, or a cruise boat with a glass bottom. Take the kids and Grandma on a snorkelling excursion aboard a big catamaran. You can even venture forth on a semi-submersible submarine.
Take reef shoes if you expect to go ashore at an island. Remember your sunscreen. And don’t forget your shark repellent.
People come from all over the world to dive The Great Barrier Reef. Divers love the warm water, and visibility is awesome most of the year.
It’s especially good for learners as Cairns’ tightly regulated dive industry has high standards of professionalism and safety.
Cairns has numerous dive shops, learn to dive schools, and dive expedition operators. Prices and inclusions vary, but generally, learn to dive courses offer exceptional value – especially if there’s an overnight boat trip included.
If you’re in Cairns with young children, family, or friends who are older or less mobile, snorkelling is a fantastic way be safely immersed in the reef’s magical underwater world.
You don’t have to be a good swimmer – water is usually shallow and there are pontoons to swim between. Also, flippers and a lifejacket keep you afloat and moving.
Equipment and instructions are usually included in the ticket price.
Several operators have powered lifts for wheelchair passengers so they can float off their chair and into the sea.
Choosing your Great Barrier Reef Adventure
You might feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. Great Barrier Reef tourism is an important economic activity in this region, so there are heaps of operators offering all kinds of tempting adventures.
Find out which Great Barrier Reef tour operators are recommended by fellow travellers.
Although it’s just 100 kilometres from the city of Cairns, the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park seems like light years away from civilisation.
This vast, pristine wilderness – much of which is inaccessible – has existed for over 110 million years. A living ‘green dinosaur’, Daintree National Park is the oldest rainforest on the planet.
The Park features breathtaking mountain scenery and spectacular coastal landscapes. And it’s famous for its exceptional biodiversity: many rare species and massive populations of native birds live here.
Experiencing Daintree National Park
Daintree National Park is an iconic destination and one of Australia’s most exciting and thrilling natural attractions.
There’s loads to see, do and experience, including crocodile cruises, mangrove boat tours, 4WD adventures, heritage and nature walks, and bird-watching.
If you’re after action-packed adventures, then excursions to the nearby Great Barrier Reef, sea kayaking, horse-riding on Cape Tribulation beach, and jungle surfing are must-do’s.
Going to Daintree National Park
The ideal time to visit Daintree National Park is during the cooler, drier months from April to October, when temperatures and humidity are at comfortable levels. There are also fewer insects!
Summer is good, too, as there are still fewer tourists. However, it can get pretty hot at this time of year, and seasonal rain increases the risk of flooding. But on the up side, that means the amazingly beautiful forest swimming holes are at their fullest and most inviting.
Getting to Daintree National Park is easy. If you’re into doing your own thing, or on a budget, just jump in the car and drive there, armed with a guide book or one of the excellent apps for walks, talks and independent tours.
Keep in mind that the road can get a tad slippery when it’s wet, and there’s a ferry crossing over the Daintree River.
Once you’re at the Park, there’s a fantastic range of activities to enjoy. Your best bet is to do your research beforehand, plan your itinerary, and book your chosen tours and experiences before you set off.
Alternatively, you can take a guided tour from Cairns. There are lots of bus and 4WD tours catering to all budgets, with an excellent array of wildlife and cultural experiences to choose from.
For a great introduction to Daintree National Park, check out the award-winning Daintree Discovery Centre.
Located within the Daintree National Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage area, the dramatic headland of Cape Tribulation is stunningly beautiful, unspoilt and remote.
Although it’s located just two hours from Port Douglas by road, Cape Tribulation is considered to be off the beaten track. Little has changed for thousands of years in this coastal wilderness. You’ll see pretty much the same scenery as Captain Cook did.
Things to do at Cape Tribulation
Here, where spectacular ancient rainforest and mangroves meet the ocean, there are once-in-a-lifetime eco-adventures and outdoor activities to be enjoyed.
Walking is top of the list, with a chance you might not come across anyone else as you wander along the picturesque boardwalks, forest tracks and pristine beaches.
It’s safe to go unguided, provided you follow signs and markers. However, guided walks, including night safaris, give fascinating insights into Cape Tribulation’s unique flora, fauna and history. Don’t miss the awesome aerial walkway and canopy tower at the award-winning Daintree Discovery Centre in Cow Bay. And if you’re reasonably fit, climbing Mount Sorrow is a must.
Other adventures at Cape Tribulation include tours by 4WD or on horseback. You can also go jungle surfing, sea-kayak along the coastline, cruise by boat through the mangroves, and take a crocodile tour up the Daintree River.
Speaking of which – watch for signs warning of crocodiles.
It’s not safe to swim near the mouths of rivers at Cape Tribulation. Also, between November and May there are venomous jellyfish in the sea. Either buy a stinger suit in Cairns to protect yourself in the ocean, or take a dip in the freshwater swimming hole at Emmagen Creek.
There’s absolutely nothing to fear at the Daintree Entomological Museum 15 kilometres south of Cape Tribulation. Its amazing collection of beetles and butterflies includes many huge, rare and wonderful species that look like extras in a sci-fi movie.
Cape Tribulation to Great Barrier Reef
From Cape Tribulation you can head out to the Great Barrier Reef, which is just 30 minutes away by boat. Exploring, snorkelling and diving around the Reef out of Cape Tribulation is a great way to avoid the crowds.