Where to Stay in Perth

SD › Best Places in Perth
Updated: October 19, 2022
By Santorini Dave

The Best Areas to Stay in Perth

Bathers Beach in Fremantle, Perth

Fremantle is a great place to stay for first-timers to Perth, with its numerous bars, microbreweries, restaurants, nightlife, markets, and walking/cycling paths. It also features the small Bathers Beach.

The country’s fourth-largest city is the capital (and home to 80% of the total population) of Western Australia, which covers about one-third of this enormous country. Equally close to Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) as Canberra (capital of Australia), Perth doesn’t feel that isolated, yet seclusion from the vastly more populated east coast does ensure that locals have a pride, resilience, and independence not seen elsewhere in the nation.

For tourists, the range of attractions is truly extraordinary. Often rated among the world’s most livable cities and attractively nestled alongside the mighty Swan River, the center of Perth is an appealing blend of old and new. Within a short trip from downtown using the excellent public transport are one of the world’s largest inner-city parks, a historic port, and nineteen suburban beaches. All pleasingly not overbuilt, the beaches offer legendary sunsets, white sands, water sports (such as surfing, fishing, and boating), and a laid-back holiday vibe not possible in the bustling downtown. And around Perth and its suburbs, families will love the theme parks, outdoor activities like cycling and bushwalking, and cruises for spotting whales and dolphins.

Featuring more sunshine per day on average than any other Australian capital, Perth is also a perfect base for day trips to regional areas with world-class wineries, quaint hillside villages, botanic gardens, wildlife sanctuaries, and islands such as Rottnest, home to unique and adorable animals called quokkas.

Most visitors stay in the city center because of its fantastic public transport, a wealth of amenities, and attractions that include Elizabeth Quay, where a couple of luxury hotels have recently been built. Within walking distance of downtown and easily accessible by free and frequent buses are quieter and more fashionable districts adjoining the edges of the city center: West Perth, which offers a likable suburban vibe; East Perth, alongside the river, packed with gardens, and close to two major sporting arenas; and Northbridge, a cultural hub very handy to public transport.

Conveniently between the city center and domestic and international airports, Burswood is attractively positioned at a hairpin bend of the river and mostly known for its sprawling casino complex of hotels, restaurants, and bars. The rejuvenated old port and seaside district of Fremantle is a must-see even if not staying there. An enjoyable thirty-minute trip by train from downtown, Freo (as it’s lovingly called) is home to the cruise ship terminal and port for ferries to the remarkable Rottnest Island. Among the nineteen stunning beaches, all simple to reach by bus or train from the city center, Scarborough is regarded as Perth’s very finest. Although only about ten miles from the city center and well connected by public and shuttle buses, some hotels near the airport cater almost exclusively to airline passengers, while other hotels at Guildford in the Swan Valley are more appealing and just as convenient for passengers.

The Best Places to Stay in Perth

Novotel Perth Murray Street hotel in Perth CBD.

The Novotel Murray Street is a luxury hotel in Perth city center.

Where to Stay in Perth for…

  • Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: City Center
    While there are a few sights in downtown, such as His Majesty’s Theatre, the main reasons to stay in the city center are the shopping (see below), proximity to nearby flourishing suburbs, and access to the excellent public transport. Within walking distance of the city center (or use the free CAT bus service) are Northbridge, a quiet cultural hub; West Perth, beside the amazing Kings Park; East Perth, the finest area for admiring the Swan River; and Elizabeth Quay, a revitalized waterfront district with cafés and cruises. And within an easy bus/train trip from downtown is the historic port of Fremantle and Scarborough, one of many sublime inner-city beaches.
  • Best Neighborhood for Beaches: Scarborough
    Scarborough is regarded by locals as Perth’s finest beach for many reasons. The wide expanse of white sands lacks shade but is still lined with sun-bathers and the clear water is ideal for swimming. Waves are also suitable for surfing and several specialty shops in the backstreets offer lessons, repairs, and gear for hire/purchase. Adding immensely to Scarborough’s appeal are all the cafés and bars along the charming esplanade, an abundance of amenities designed for children (see below), various water sports (see below), and the markets held Thursday evenings in summer.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Outdoor Activities: Scarborough and East Perth
    As well as being Perth’s most popular beach (see above) and the center for surfing, Scarborough is also wonderful for snorkeling, paddle-boarding, and kite-surfing. If the waves are too rough or the water is too cold, the Scarborough Beach Pool is heated for year-round use and located alongside the sea. Families will also love all the special facilities for youngsters (see below) and locals enjoy walking, jogging, and cycling along the beachside path that extends about 13 miles in both directions. Some water-based activities such as wind-surfing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding are also available along the expansive Swan River, particularly at East Perth.
  • Best Neighborhood for Malls and Department Stores: City Center
    While several mega-malls can be found in the sprawling suburbs, tourists are more likely to focus on the convenient and compact area in downtown. Two parallel pedestrian streets – Murray Street Mall and Hay Street Mall – are packed with fashionable boutiques, department stores, and shops selling internationally-known and locally-produced products, and also offer useful amenities like moneychangers and a tourist information center. Connecting these two streets are distinctive arcades of speciality shops (e.g. Aboriginal art galleries) and, nearby, Raine Square is a massive triple-level complex that includes cinemas.
  • Best Neighborhood for Markets: Fremantle
    While the city center offers appealing arcades and some suburbs have massive malls, the historic port and seaside district of Fremantle is home to artists, jewelry-makers, and fashion designers who often sell their products at Perth’s finest markets. Fremantle Markets is in an enchanting corner building over 120 years old and is equally popular with locals and tourists. The E Shed Markets are part of the bustling cruise ship terminal and renowned for its food court. (Both markets are open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.) Art-lovers will flock to the Fremantle Arts Centre and the cluster of studios at J Shed.
  • Best Neighborhood for Families: Scarborough
    Scarborough is the prime inner-city beach for swimming, surfing, and other outdoor activities (see earlier) – and some of its numerous amenities are specifically designed for families. If the waves are too rough or water too cold, the Scarborough Beach Pool features two heated pools – one for laps and another shallow enough for children. The young ones would also relish the adventure playground, basketball court, climbing wall, and skate park, all alongside the beach. And parents may appreciate the free barbecue facilities and extended seaside paths ideal for walking and cycling.
  • Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: Fremantle
    With so many affluent residents among a vast multicultural population, the range of eateries and cuisines across Perth is extraordinary and includes all sorts of Asian and contemporary Australian food. One of the most appealing places to wine and dine is the revitalized port of Fremantle. Many of the waterfront bistros compete to win the coveted ‘Best Fish and Chips’ award, while others serve mouth-watering seafood synonymous with Western Australia: e.g. barramundi, tiger prawns, and marron (crayfish). Other options are the Italian-influenced cafés along the Cappuccino Strip and the abundant food stalls at the markets (see above).
  • Best Neighborhood for Bars and Breweries: Fremantle
    As well as being renowned for its range of food and restaurants (see above), Fremantle is also known for the several microbreweries lovingly crafting their brands of beers and ciders that are served locally and exported across the country and globe. Visitors and locals can also enjoy a drink or three at several 100-year-old corner pubs offering entertainment, food specials, happy hours, and tables along the sidewalk. Other bars are part of bistros at Bathers Beach and overlooking the marina, especially along the rejuvenated Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour precinct.
  • Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Northbridge
    Rivaling Fremantle for bars and the city center for bands is the compact hub of Northbridge, a short stroll across the railway tracks from the city center. Northbridge is dotted with vibrant bars, nightclubs (some sleazy), and music venues, but what makes this likable suburb even more appealing are the many events held at numerous cultural centers, such as the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, State Theatre Centre of WA, and The Blue Room Theatre.
  • Best Neighborhood for Transport: Northbridge
    Just a 10-minute stroll across the railway tracks from the city center, Northbridge is a quiet suburban hub of cultural activities (see above) and extremely convenient due to Perth’s excellent public transport system. Less than half a mile from several quality hotels more affordable than those in downtown are (1) Perth Busport, the highly functional underground terminal for bus services across the suburbs, including the fantastic Scarborough Beach, and (2) Perth Station, which offers trains to the historic port of Fremantle. Northbridge is also linked by the free CAT bus services to the city center and its adjoining districts of West Perth, East Perth, and Elizabeth Quay.
  • Best Neighborhood for Boat Trips: Elizabeth Quay
    Based around an inlet of the Swan River and less than half a mile from the city center is the magnificent precinct of Elizabeth Quay. As well as an abundance of waterfront cafés and bars and a couple of luxury hotels, numerous trips along the river and beyond are also available. From Elizabeth Quay, ferries head for short trips to South Perth (for Perth Zoo) and to Optus Stadium, the city’s major sports arena. Sightseeing cruises venture as far as the mouth of the Swan River at the historic port of Fremantle, while other boats head to the amazing Rottnest Island. Even trips on Venice-style gondolas can be arranged at Elizabeth Quay.
  • Best Neighborhood for Airport: Guildford
    The separate but nearby domestic and international airports are well-connected by public buses, taxis, ride-shares, and shuttle buses to the city center (7-9 miles) and the adjoining districts of Northbridge, East Perth, West Perth, and Elizabeth Quay. However, those with early departures, late arrivals, and short connections might prefer staying close to the airports. In suburbs like Redcliffe, Bayswater, Ascot, Belmont, and Midland, there are numerous cheap motels and a few more appealing hotels, but many are along noisy roads and few amenities are nearby. Still only about 4 miles from the airports are some pleasant, midrange hotels in Guildford, within the charming riverside region known as Swan Valley.
  • Best Neighborhood for Parks and Gardens: West Perth
    One of the largest inner-city parks in the world is Kings Park which dominates West Perth. The 400 hectares (nearly 1,000 acres) are an agreeable mix of untouched scrubland, immaculately-maintained botanic gardens, and family-friendly areas with playgrounds, free barbecue facilities, and shady lawns. Home to regular events such as the Moonlight Cinema in summer, the park is easily accessible via the free CAT bus services from the city center. Kings Park is also a substantial part of the fabulous 17-mile-long Perth Discoverer cycling/walking trail that also meanders along the city edges and foreshore of Swan River.
  • Best Neighborhood for Walking and Cycling: Fremantle
    The Perth Discoverer trail (described above) is fantastic, but walking and cycling is even more appealing around Fremantle. At this rejuvenated port and seaside district only 30 minutes by train from the city center are flat roads with comparatively little traffic and several places to rent bikes: for free from the visitor centre at Kings Square or for a modest cost from outside the Esplanade Hotel through the shared-bike company Spinway.
  • Best Neighborhood for Sports: East Perth
    Most locals are just as passionate about sport as the rest of Australia. Although home to teams competing in interstate competitions for basketball and soccer/football, the most popular sports in Perth are cricket in summer (November to March) and the unique code of Australian Rules Football (March to September). Most interstate cricket is played at the WACA Cricket Ground in East Perth, lovingly known as the ‘Wacka’, where a museum and guided tours are also available. Two Perth-based teams – the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers – are part of the Australian Football League competition that plays at the Optus Stadium. This massive arena (where some cricket games are also played) is about a mile on foot from East Perth via the pedestrian bridge across the river.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Elizabeth Quay
    The city center is noisy and crowded, West Perth and East Perth can be a little boring, Northbridge is sleazy in parts, while Fremantle and Scarborough are a little isolated. Less than half a mile from the bustling city center, Elizabeth Quay is a comparatively quiet and recently-developed precinct around an inlet of the Swan River. It offers numerous boat trips (see earlier), including on a gondola, and waterside bistros and bars with intimate tables and exquisite food. Elizabeth Quay is also very convenient for the public bus to/from the airport and for exploration of the city via the free CAT bus services.
  • Best Neighborhood for First-Timers: East Perth
    The downtown area is busy, parts of Northbridge can be sleazy, West Perth is mostly residential, and the port of Fremantle and beaches such as Scarborough can feel a little isolated for some. In contrast, East Perth is within walking distance (or use the free inner-city CAT bus) of all the amenities and attractions in the city center, West Perth, and Northbridge, and is much quieter than these areas as well. East Perth is also a historical suburb dotted with colonial-era buildings and is attractively nestled alongside the Swan River which is lined with parks and flanked by an extended cycling/walking path.
  • Safest Area: West Perth
    It is usually safer away from crowded and touristy areas (such as the city center and Elizabeth Quay) where petty crime is always possible, but very rare, and from suburbs where alcohol-fuelled nightlife is popular (such as Northbridge and Fremantle). West Perth is a shady and compact area of upmarket apartments and mid-level business buildings where most people are residents and workers rather than tourists. Alongside the magnificent Kings Park, West Perth does not attract big-spending visitors and the after-dark attractions are negligible, so it’s comparatively safer than other areas.
  • Unsafe Area: Northbridge
    Perth is no less safe than other cities in Australia but take the usual precautions, especially along crowded inner-city streets and at festivals, markets, and transport terminals where opportunistic petty crimes like bag-snatching and pick-pocketing are possible, though very rare. Unfortunately, physical and sexual assaults are not that uncommon where after-dark drinking is frequent, such as Fremantle and Northbridge. While the latter is, paradoxically, also the cultural hub of Perth, parts of Northbridge are also sprinkled with strip clubs, brothels, and boisterous bars packed with hard drinkers, so take care.

The 9 Best Neighborhoods in Perth for Tourists

Esplanade Hotel in Freemantle, Perth

The historic Esplanade Hotel is a centerpiece of the pleasant seaside suburb of Fremantle.

1. City Center

Most visitors stay in the compact downtown area which stretches north to south along only four roads – Wellington Street, Murray Street, Hay Street, and St Georges Terrace – and is less than 1.5 miles from east to west. While there isn’t a huge amount of attractions other than a few historic churches and theaters, the city center is packed with shops and amenities like moneychangers, especially along two parallel pedestrian streets: Murray Street Mall and Hay Street Mall. And from the highly functional bus terminal and train stations in the city center are frequent services to Fremantle and Scarborough (see below). What’s more, other areas mentioned below – Northbridge, East Perth, West Perth, and Elizabeth Quay – are all within walking distance of downtown, or simply use the excellent inner-city CAT bus services.

2. Elizabeth Quay

A few minutes south of the Murray Street Mall in the city center, this rejuvenated waterfront precinct has recently been redeveloped. Elizabeth Quay is based around an inlet of the mighty Swan River, so all sorts of boat trips, cruises, and ferries are available along the water and as far as Rottnest Island. Other attractions of Elizabeth Quay are the remarkable Bell Tower; the numerous cafés and bars, many overlooking the water; and the extended paths very popular for walking, jogging, and cycling. Only two hotels are in the area – both ideal for a romantic getaway – but there are plenty more to choose from, of course, in the nearby city center.

3. West Perth

The center of this separate suburb is only 1.5 miles from the Murray Street Mall in downtown Perth, but most visitors and locals use the free CAT bus services. West Perth is surprisingly modern and quiet, and the wide shady streets are almost entirely lined with upmarket apartments and low-level buildings used by mid-sized tech and mining companies. The main attraction is the proximity to Kings Park, one of the largest inner-city parks in the world. The range of hotels isn’t extensive, but the amenities at the corner of Outram Street and Hay Street (which leads to downtown) are appealing, although they are designed for locals and not tourists.

4. East Perth

Just like West Perth (described above), East Perth is a separate suburb also only about 1.5 miles from the Murray Street Mall in downtown and accessible by the free CAT bus services. In contrast, however, East Perth is historic and home to several colonial-era buildings and attractions like The Perth Mint. Other reasons to stay here are its proximity to the Perth Concert Hall, stretches of greenery like Langley Park and the Queens Gardens, and two major sporting arenas: the WACA Cricket Ground and Optus Stadium. The downsides are that no boutique or budget-priced hotels here are worth recommending and the choice of bars and bistros is disappointing.

5. Northbridge

This very likable suburb is, as the name suggests, just north (about half a mile) of the city center via a bridge over the railway tracks. Northbridge has a split personality: it’s renowned for a range of cultural buildings such as the State Theatre and the major museum and library, yet along the shady streets are several strip clubs and sleazy bars. Nonetheless, the corner pubs (many with live music) and eclectic range of eateries are very appealing. The modest range of hotels is well connected to downtown by the free CAT bus service and within a couple of minutes’ walk of the highly functional bus and train terminals that provide services to Fremantle and Scarborough (see below).

6. Burswood

Conveniently between the airport terminals and city center and attractively positioned at a hairpin bend of the Swan River, Burswood is mostly known for the incredible Crown complex, with its 24-hour casino, 3 hotels, 30 bars and restaurants, and seemingly endless entertainment options. Other reasons to stay at Burswood are the award-winning Optus Stadium where major games of cricket and Australian Rules Football are played, and at Burswood Park which offers a walking/cycling trail, sculptures, playgrounds, and flourishing birdlife alongside the river. The limited array of hotels is easily accessible by train from downtown, by ferry from Elizabeth Quay, and by foot (1.5 miles) across the river from East Perth via the new Matagarup pedestrian bridge.

7. Fremantle

The oldest town in Western Australia and now beautifully restored, Fremantle is a major attraction for everyone visiting Perth, although, surprisingly, the range of recommended hotels is limited. Freo (as it’s more commonly known) offers so much to see and do. Many come to sip locally-brewed beer/cider while devouring award-winning fish and chips at a waterside bistro; others browse the historic markets and quaint art galleries. Cycling and walking is great fun, though the beach in the center could be better compared to Scarborough (see below). Still a busy port for cargo ships and terminal for cruise liners, Freo is also a major departure point for another must-do: Rottnest Island. Fremantle is an enjoyable 30-minute train trip from downtown Perth and also accessible on sightseeing cruises down Swan River from Elizabeth Quay in the city center.

8. Scarborough

Of Perth’s 19 suburban beaches, most city folk believe the finest is Scarborough, just 30 minutes by bus from downtown. Scarborough boasts a postcard-perfect stretch of white sand and clear water ideal for surfing and swimming – although some prefer the heated public pool alongside the sea. Visitors also flock there for the sunset markets (in summer), extended cycling/walking trail, various water sports, and range of bars and cafés, while youngsters relish the playground, climbing wall, and skate park. The range of hotels and apartments, some within meters of the sand, is limited, but all embrace the lovable holiday vibe.

9. Near the Airport and at Guildford

The domestic and international airports are only 7-10 miles by shuttle bus, public bus, taxi, and ride-share services from the city center and adjoining suburbs of Northbridge, West Perth, East Perth, and Elizabeth Quay. A few hotels near the airports cater almost exclusively for passengers with early departures, late arrivals, and overnight connections. Most of these hotels are cheap and along noisy roads in suburbs like Belmont, Ascot, Redcliffe, Bayswater, and Midland. Much quieter and more appealing are the moderately-priced hotels in Guildford, the main town within the enchanting Swan Valley and still only 4 miles from the airports.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loves Greece and Europe, travel and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers dedicated to providing the best travel content on the internet. We focus on Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece, offering recommendations for top hotels, neighborhoods, and family-friendly hotels worldwide. Dave can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.