Sitting on the banks of Swan River, Perth is blessed with a long stretch of picturesque white sand. It’s the sunniest city in the country, giving you more time to bask in the sun, get a tan, and enjoy a range of water activities. This Western Australia capital may be isolated from the rest of the country, with the closest major city being thousands of miles away, but its tourism continues to rise each year, thanks to its scenic spots, spectacular parks, diverse wildlife, and thriving culture and art scene.
The city’s aviation world and the rich history of maritime, performing arts, and even prison life are all captured and displayed in many of its unique museums. There are also awe-inspiring street art across the city, art galleries, and registered Aboriginal heritage sites that link the past to the present and are of great spiritual and cultural significance.
Whether you’re a solo traveler or visiting with family and loved ones, exploring Perth’s art centers, galleries, and museums is one of the incredible things to do in the city. But remember that not all these places allow large pieces of baggage into their facilities. That’s why it’s best to store your bags at a reliable luggage storage facility in Perth for a convenient and stress-free adventure.
Army Museum of Western Australia
The Army Museum of Western Australia is currently housed in an artillery barracks site in Fremantle. It used to be located in the 19th-century building in Bulwer Street, which the army had used since 1952 until it was relocated to the heritage precinct in 1995.
The Army Museum has gone a long way since its establishment in 1977. It now features six galleries and permanent exhibitions of military vehicles, artillery guns, and heavy mortars from various periods. It also has an array of photographs, army memorabilia, letters, and different items related to the army history of Western Australia.
Visiting this museum can be a rewarding and learning experience for kids and adults. It is open from Wednesdays through Sundays, from 10:30 am to 3:pm, but the last entry is at 1 pm. If you want to book for a group or class, teachers, supervising parents, and assistants are free.
WA Maritime Museum
The Western Australia Maritime Museum represents Fremantle’s history, present, and future. It offers visitors an opportunity to explore the state's legendary relationship to the sea through its collection of vessels and historical objects that highlight its sailing heritage and adventure through the years. Various artifacts and items in the museum also embody Perth's maritime past as a coastal city.
Here, you’ll find iconic ships, handcrafted sailing boats, leisure boats, and even commercial pearl luggers. You can check out the HMAS Ovens, an authentic Oberon-class submarine of the Royal Australian Navy, and unveil Fremantle’s wartime history. It also features special tours and events, like on-site and virtual tours and daily screenings. Additionally, it has over eight million objects across its impressive collections, from corals and fishes to birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Keep an eye out for the Dutch vessel Batavia, which sank off the Western Australia coast in 1629. It was lifted from the seabed in the 1970s, and much of the ship is on display at the museum.
The Maritime Museum is open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm and 1-5 pm during ANZAC Day. If you're visiting with your family, you'll love that children and teens up to fifteen can enter the museum for free. We've written a guide on more free activities in Perth; take a look here.
WA Museum Boola Bardip
Close to Perth Station, the WA Museum Boola Bardip is the city’s cultural jewel and the state’s premier cultural organization. It houses an impressive scientific and cultural collection presented to the world through public programs, exhibitions, events, and research. Moreover, it hosts paid exhibitions and special events, most of which are educational and immersive.
Although the WA Museum Boola Bardip just opened its doors in the Perth Cultural Centre in November 2020, it’s already steeped in history. Its origin can be traced back to when the Old Perth Gaol was converted into a geological museum. The site has then tripled in size, and now the building has eight permanent galleries.
Entry to the museum is free, and it’s open every day from 9:30 am to 5 pm. You can book a ticket online or call their hotline number. You can also walk up any time, though you may experience a wait time, especially during busy periods.
WA Shipwrecks Museum
Delve deep into the state’s rich maritime history and explore the country’s oldest shipwrecks. The WA Shipwrecks Museum has played a critical role in maritime archaeology and shipwreck conservation, featuring relics of sunken ship, vessels salvaged from the ocean, and shipwreck galleries that display artifacts from local shipwrecks. With informative exhibits, programs, and activities, there is always something new to learn for everyone.
You’ll find the museum in the converted heritage Commissariat buildings on Whadjuk Nyoongar land. These buildings are some of the first sites in Western Australia built using convict labor. The museum opened in 1979 and has become the delegated authority to manage the relics and historic shipwrecks in the state.
Another reason to love this museum is its free entry, though your donation is always welcome. It is open daily, except on Christmas, New Year, Boxing Day, and Good Friday. You can visit from 9:30 am to 5 pm and 1 pm to 5 pm on ANZAC day.
Aviation Heritage Museum
If you love aircraft and are looking for a family-friendly activity, the Aviation Heritage Museum should be on top of your to-visit list. It offers fun learning opportunities through virtual reality experiences and aircraft and cockpit tours. Kids and even adults will love the chance to get inside the aircraft to see the control panels and discover the uses of various elements inside the plane.
Located in Bull Creek, just a twenty-minute drive south of Perth, the Aviation Heritage Museum boasts an impressive collection of over 26 aircraft. These include the Avro Lancaster, a heavy bombing aircraft, Dakota C47, Wirraways CA-5, and many others that remind us of the long aviation history in the country. Since its establishment, it has provided a home to airplanes and an array of artifacts that make up the state’s rich aviation heritage. Through its tours and displays, it allows visitors to have a unique civilian and military aviation experience you won't have anywhere else.
You can visit the museum every day, from 10 am to 4 pm, but note that the last entry is at 3 pm. Allow a few hours for your visit so you have more time to explore its interesting displays and maximize the experience.
Museum of Performing Arts
Performers and theater lovers will undoubtedly enjoy visiting the Museum of Performing Arts in Perth. It opened in 2001 to honor the colorful history of His Majesty’s Theatre, which has become one of the most-loved heritage icons in Western Australia.
The Theatre has hosted numerous performances of various genres for over a century, from opera, contemporary, and ballet to musicals and even stand-up comedy. Thousands have also performed at the Theatre since 1904, significantly contributing to the state’s social and cultural livelihood.
The Museum of Performing Arts was born to celebrate and pay tribute to them and their performances over the decades. It houses over 45,000 cataloged items of theatre memorabilia. These include glamorous costumes, press clippings, scripts, photographs, and other unique pieces displayed in the museum for everyone to see. The oldest in its collection is a gorgeous silk program from a performance of amateur theatricals dating back to 1845.
Royal Perth Hospital Museum
For most people, going to the hospital is not a happy event. But for the Royal Perth Hospital Museum, it’s another story. Located in the heart of the city, the Royal Perth Hospital Museum contains a treasure trove of Western Australia’s medical history dating back to the 1800s.
At this museum, you can learn all about WA’s longest-serving hospital. You can also learn about how this particular hospital has globally helped advance medicine in certain fields, such as burn treatments, peptic ulcers, HIV, cardiology, and x-ray.
Entry to the Royal Perth Hospital is free for all ages. If you desire to visit as a group, an appointment is required.
Old Court House Law Museum
If you have plans to trail the Swan River, then you may want to consider dropping by one of the few law museums in the world. The Old Court House Law Museum is worth the visit if you also want to witness Perth’s oldest building, which was built in 1836.
Through audio, visitors are given an understanding of the law and are taken on a journey through the history of law in Western Australia. One of the unique things about this museum is that they offer virtual tours, which can be guided or self-guided.
Entering the Old Court House Law Museum is free. For virtual tours, you can visit the website anytime. But if you wish to drop by, the opening hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Young Australia League Museum
Situated across from the Royal Health Hospital and found in the heart of Perth’s CBD is a museum with over a century’s worth of history. The Young Australia League Museum contains an array of historical items given to the organization, some of which are unique and not found anywhere else in the world.
One example is US President Hoover’s inauguration wreath, presented to the YAL group that was touring during his inauguration in 1929. This museum takes pride in its organization’s history. However, besides their prized possessions, they value their purpose of journeying with the coming of age generations of Australia.
Fremantle Prison is one of eleven heritage sites that make the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. It’s the largest structure in the country built by convicts and the most intact convict establishment you can find in the southern hemisphere. It’s been welcoming visitors since 1850, giving them a taste of life behind bars. Join a guided tour and explore the tunnels twenty meters beneath the prison by boat or on foot.
If you’re curious about what it looks like inside a historic detention center, Fremantle Prison is worth your visit. It is one of the premier heritage attractions and fascinating cultural sites in Western Australia, delivering unforgettable experiences to visitors. Its collection consists of about 15,000 objects related to the prison site, its deep history, and the experiences of people who worked, lived, and were incarcerated there.
Fremantle Prison is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. It has a café ready to serve you between 9 am to 4 pm daily and is open until 8 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.
What are the best free museums in Perth?
Are you traveling on a budget? Thankfully, some Perth museums offer free admission, allowing you to discover many historical sites and spectacular attractions without breaking your bank account. Plan a trip to the Western Australian Museum and discover more than 4.4 million artifacts and objects, ranging from insect specimens and shipwreck sites to ancient fossils and toys from the 19th century.
But you don’t have to limit your visit to history museums, as there are also tons of free galleries and cultural centers around Perth to enrich your experience and satisfy your curious mind. Stop at the Art Gallery of Western Australia or drop by the Aboriginal Art Gallery to see displays of Aboriginal works and Indigenous arts and culture.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Perth?
The east end of Perth is home to a variety of historic buildings and museums, including the Old Court House Law Museum, the Government House, the iconic Perth Concert Hall, St. George’s Cathedral, and more.
You’ll also find the Museum of Perth, which records the city’s social, political, cultural, and architectural history through its displays and collections. The exhibition gallery also serves as a cultural hub, a retail space, and a place to meet and share stories.
Are there any cheap museums in Perth?
While not all Perth museums are free, many are still inexpensive to visit. Some even offer huge discounts and free admission for kids and teenagers below 15, like the WA Maritime Museum.
The Museum of Performing Arts is another budget-friendly museum you can go to with your friends. A thirty-minute tour to view the auditorium, hear the story, see the foyers, and museum memorabilia only cost under $5.
Discover Perth Museums
Perhaps you’re curious about the architectural and political history of the city or fascinated about the law and legal issues in Western Australia. You might want a glimpse of prison life or explore the country’s medical history. Regardless of your interest, you’ll find a museum in Perth that will attract your attention and complete your overall experience in this historic city. To learn how to make your way from museum to museum, see our guide on how to get around Perth.