Western Australia’s capital is flanked by the Indian Ocean and the Darling Range. This city of 1.5 million has plenty of cultural attractions including museums, art galleries and theatres; but very few people visit Perth for culture and the city lacks the urban vibe of other cities of a similar size. However the weather is fantastic and it’s a great city to be outdoors. It has some of Australia’s best city beaches and southwest of the city centre is Kings Park, which is an attractive picnic spot overlooking the city. Perth has an excellent zoo on the south shore of the Swan River and it is just a short ferry ride to Rottnest Island.
Many people find that Fremantle, Perth’s port, has more life than the city centre. It boasts a convict-built police station, courthouse and prison. During the 1980s, the port took on new glamour when it became the centre for the America’s Cup regatta. Nowadays, the sea air, weekend markets and outdoor cafés draw the crowds from elsewhere in Perth, particularly at the weekends.
Transperth operates Perth’s public transport network, which is comprised of buses, ferries and trains. It is a good value way to get around the city and there’s even free transport in the central area.
Buses form the backbone of Perth’s transport system and it is inevitable that you’ll ride them at some point or another, particularly if you want to get to the beaches.
Buses are free within the central area, although with regular buses it can be difficult to know which rides are free and which ones you have to pay for. Fortunately there are a couple of frequent bus routes confined to the free central area that are extremely popular with travellers. The Central Area Transit (CAT) buses run four routes – the Red CAT runs an east–west route in the city centre, the Yellow CAT goes between the city centre and East Perth, the more useful Blue CAT connects the hostels in Northbridge with the city centre and the Green CAT runs from Leederville (which is outside the free transit zone, although still free with the Green CAT bus) to the Esplanade Busport. The only problem is that the CAT buses stop running shortly after 6pm.
There are also two CAT bus routes in Fremantle and three CAT bus routes in Joondalup.
Perth’s bus network covers a large area with buses running as far afield as Rockingham and Mandurah.
Perth’s rail network consists of five lines. The most useful is the Fremantle line, which runs from the city centre to Fremantle via Cottesloe. Trains run approximately every half hour.
City West, Esplanade, Perth, McIver and Claisebrook stations lie within the Free Transit Zone.
Perth has a limited ferry service between Barrack Street Jetty in the city centre and Coode Street and Mends Street Jetties in South Perth. The Barrack Street Jetty to Mends Street Jetty ferry is a popular route for travellers visiting Perth Zoo. Ferries run around every 20 minutes.
Perth’s public transport network is great value, especially considering that there is free transport in the central Free Transit Zone. Even travel outside this zone is reasonably priced when compared with other cities in Australia.
Like many other public transport networks, Perth is divided into different fare zones. Most attractions are in zones one and two; although the transport network extends as far as zone nine. A Perth to Fremantle train trip requires a two-zone ticket, as does a trip between the city centre and the domestic airport terminal.
A one-zone fare is $3 ($2.25–2.55 with a SmartRider card) and a two-zone fare is $4.60 ($3.45–3.91 with a SmartRider card).
If you’re planning on using a lot of public transport you may want to invest in a DayRider ticket that allows unlimited travel on Transperth buses, trains and ferries from 9am on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays. A DayRider costs $12.40.
The SmartRider card is a prepaid contactless ticking system that is Perth's equivalent to Melbourne's Myki, Sydney's Opal and London's Oyster card. Travelling with a SmartRider card saves you between 15 and 25% off the standard cash fare and you need to use a SmartRider card to take advantage of free rail travel in the free transit zone. A SmartRider card costs $10 and must be purchased with a minimum $10 value. You can buy SmartRider cards from Transperth InfoCentres at Perth Station, Esplanade Busport and Roe Street Bus Station as well as many larger newsagents.
The SmartRider card can also be used on local bus services in Albany, Bunbury, Busselton, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie.