Although Perth has a fairly extensive and reliable public transport system, really the city (like the whole country) isn’t geared up for non-drivers. Even although you may be able to travel to other places reasonably easily on bus or train, you may well find there is no transport to take you around the local attractions once you get there.
This is one of the main drawbacks with Australia. For people like me who really don’t like driving (or people travelling solo for whom it isn’t economically viable to hire a car) it can be hard to get around and so you end up hopping from city to city and missing many of the wonders in between.
The alternative is to take an organised bus trip. I took one up to the Pinnacles (since there was no other way of getting there without a car) and really I wasn’t impressed. The place was amazing but we were so limited on time that I really didn’t get to see it.
Since travelling so much on my own I now have such a limited tolerance for other people. Everyone seemed to need to linger so long over lunch that it made us run late. A large group of women were always late, saying ‘oh we haven’t finished eating yet’ when the driver tried to get them back on the bus. I desperately wanted to say ‘well stop talking so much and eat your food then. You have plenty of time to talk to your friends but this is coming out of our time at the Pinnacles’.
Yes, you can see why I’m better off travelling solo, can’t you?
Anyway, by the time we got there, there was just time to snap a few photos and then we were back on the bus. I didn’t take any more organised bus trips after that. I like to travel to my own timetable.
So here are some day trips that kinda work for us non-drivers, using the trains and buses.
1. Kings Park
If you really don’t want to leave the city at all, then you’re in luck because there is this massive (more than 400 hectares) city park consisting of a botanical garden, war memorial, park and scrubland. There is an Aboriginal art gallery, you can climb the lookout tower (known as the DNA tower because its structure resembles DNA) or just take one of the numerous walks or cycle trails.
This is one of the easiest. You get the Fremantle line from Perth and sit on it right to the end. It takes around 30 minutes.
When you get to Fremantle there is plenty to do, from visiting the prison, walking along the coast or drinking coffee in Cappuccino street. You can read my suggestions for Fremantle by clicking here.
You can get around using the buses, including two free Cat buses (the red cat goes around the main sights of Fremantle and the blue at goes down to the South beach).
Best days to go are Friday, Saturday or Sunday, when the market is open.
Good for history, shopping, art or just walking around admiring the lovely Victorian architecture.
Rottnest is an island just off of the coast. It got it’s name from Dutch explorer William de Vlamingh, who named it ‘rat’s nest’; he had mistaken the sweet little quokkas that roam the island for giant rats.
The island is car free, except for buses and the odd service vehicle. It is a great place to rent a bike and discover all the little heavenly coves and lakes (no traffic makes it great for nervous cyclists like me), or if you don’t want to cycle there is the bus ploughing its way around the main parts of the island.
It’s not a cheap day out; the ferry costs AUS$22 each way from Fremantle, twice that from Perth and then there is a AUS$18.50 fee to get onto the island. They do have special deals on the ferry ride from time to time, particularly mid-week, so you need to start stalking the website for a month or so before you want to go.
There are buses and trains to travel to Bunbury; I opted to take a bus because I was already South of Perth and so could save time and money by getting on the bus at Cockburn in South Fremantle instead of traipsing into Perth. From Cockburn it is only another two hours. From Perth it is around 2.5 hours by train, 3 by bus.
When you arrive at Bunbury there is then another bus to take you from the terminal to the main town. There are not many of these buses so you may need a taxi.
Bunbury was nice, although unfortunately it was very windy the day I went, making the walk around the sea front a little uncomfortable (and reminding me of childhood trips to the English seaside).
Dolphin spotting is a popular Bunbury activity (apparently they come right into the beach), however it was a little early in the season, and far too cold, for dolphin spotting when I went. Without the wind I’m sure the beaches would be incredible.
There are some great cafes and restaurants in Bunbury, some fab street art and even a small (free) art gallery, and if you stay longer there is an arts centre with a programme of theatre, music, cinema and such.
Guildford is reachable on the Midland train line. It is the start of the swan valley wine region, although you need your own transport to reach the wineries.
You can, however, walk around Guildford town and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon looking at the old colonial houses; there are handy notices everywhere giving out information and a great suggested walk around the town.
There are some interesting junk shops to poke around in. Also there are plenty of little cafes, or you can save a bit of money and bring a small picnic and head to one of the many parks on the swan river.
Take the Mandurah line right to the end, then bus 588 or 589 will get you to the main part (there may be other buses too; I find the Movit app works well for Perth).
Mandurah makes a great little day trip. There are pretty canals to walk along and the Indian Ocean is just nearby. Again there are plenty of little cafes to stop off if you, like me, (once again) forget to pack the picnic.
I finally got to see the dolphins that I missed out on at Bunbury go frolicking by; much to the annoyance of some people on a dolphin-spotting boat who couldn’t get close enough to see them. I was walking along the shoreline and they just came by and put on a little show before disappearing off again, so it’s worth watching the shoreline carefully if you like dolphins.
7. Penguin Island
Penguin island is just off the coast of Rockingham. You can get the Mandurah line to Rockingham and from there go to stand 9 or 10 to find buses to the ferry crossing. It costs AUS$27 to go across on the ferry. You can walk across if you time it to low tide, there is a sandbank to walk along, however there have been drownings when people misjudge the tides and also shark attacks are a possibility. Trust me that’s all I need to hear to put me off; if there is any chance of a shark in the vicinity then I’m not getting in the water. End of discussion.
Penguin island, as the name suggests, is home to around a thousand little fairy penguins. The penguins, however, are nocturnal and unlikely to emerge whilst there are people around. Your best chance of seeing a penguin is at the visitor centre, where they look after injured penguins or others that wouldn’t survive in the wild.
There is lots of other wildlife to see on the island though, notably birds.
8. Hillary’s boat harbour
This requires getting on the Joondalup line to either Stirling or Warwick and then getting a bus from there. There is a safe little artificial beach (along with some real ones just nearby), a little shopping complex and plenty of restaurants and cafes. You can even get the Rottnest ferry from here, but it is a long way.
This part of the coast gets some amazing sunsets. Just a little further down the coast is popular Scarborough beach. This is easy with a car, however on public transport you have to get back on the bus to the station and then get another bus out from there.
This is one of the easier trips to do. Cottesloe is on the Fremantle line. Around a ten minute walk from the station will get you to the beautiful beach.