Looking south over King's Park in Perth, Australia.
Looking south over King's Park in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Is Perth, Australia, Worth Visiting?

Looking south over King's Park in Perth, Australia.
Getty Images/iStockphoto(Photo)
Greg Melville

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Perth was thrust into the public consciousness recently for being the home base of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean. But this city of 1.7 million people with a Mediterranean climate on the remote southwestern corner of Australia has hardly been a secret to adventure travelers. A surprisingly electric beacon of culture and young, active professionals on the Swan River, it just might be the premier urban destination for outdoor sports Down Under. Here’s what to do during a short visit.

Road Cycling: You can get just about anywhere on a bike in Perth, thanks to its hundreds of miles of bike paths and lanes. Start in King’s Park, which covers a swath of green space about the size of New York’s Central Park. From there you can follow the long, flat routes that parallel the banks of the Swan River. Find excellent descriptions of several different riding loops here.

Mountain biking: For fat tire rides, the favorite destination among locals are Kalamunda Mountain Bike Trails about a 40-minute drive outside the city. Twenty-two miles of narrow singletrack wind through a thick, hilly woods next to a camel farm. The Perth Mountain Bike Club provides a list of local trail networks on its website.

Sand: The Perth metro area’s 19 beaches on Western Australia’s sprawling Indian Ocean shoreline are as spectcular as any you’ll find on the continent, and the farther from the city you go, the less crowded they become. The northern suburb Scarborough Beach is a quintessential shore town, complete with bars, cafes, souvenir shops, and otherworldly sunsets.

Surfing: The prime surfing spots lie 90 minutes north, surrounding the the fishing town of Lancelin. The wide, breezy bay there also attracts kitesurfers and windsurfers from across the country. The Surf Boardroom in Perth can point you in the direction of the best waves.

Diving: Lancelin’s rocky shores have been a graveyard for ships for centuries. The wrecks and clear, shallow waters make for an unparalleled dive site in the Perth area for experts. Diving Frontiers leads dives.

Sailing: The steady breezes and protected waters of the wide Swan River create ideal conditions for sailing within the city itself—as you’ll notice by the scores of boats that take advantage of beautiful weekend afternoons. Funcats rents 14-foot catamarans ($37), sit-on-top kayaks ($18), and stand-up paddleboards ($18) at an hourly rate.