History takes many forms, and these days it’s not confined to hushed, dry museums. It’s possible to access the stories of Perth – from its rich indigenous history to colonial settlement and more recent tales – at various places across the city. There is a myriad of ways to get a sense of the things that have shaped Perth.
The incredible WA Museum Boola Bardip opened in November 2020 and is the State’s premier cultural organisation. Boola Bardip means many stories in Whadjuk Nyoongar, and the museum is certainly that; it’s eight permanent galleries sharing stories about West Australian people, our places, and our role in the world. The exhibitions celebrate the diversity of our people, the richness of our landscape and provides a gateway to our incredible state through collections, science, stories, culture and magnificent biodiversity. Woven throughout are the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, recognising the primary rights of Australia’s first peoples in practicing and expressing their cultural heritage. The Museum is free to enter and is open daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm.
Perth Cultural Centre, Perth
It’s set on the water’s edge in Victoria Quay Fremantle, so the architecturally striking WA Maritime Museum is a fitting place to absorb Perth’s strong affinity with the sea. Beneath soaring ceilings, sea submarines and other iconic vessels, including winning America’s Cup yacht, Australia II. Several galleries house hand-crafted vessels, commercial pearl luggers, and the paraphernalia that makes up the state’s fascination with all things maritime. The WA Maritime Museum is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm and entry is $15 for adults, child 0-15 free, Concession $7.50 and a family pass is $30 (2 adults 2 children). Carers are free.
Victoria Quay, Fremantle
Shipwrecks loom large in the maritime history of Western Australia. The Shipwreck Galleries tells those tragic stories so well, it’s considered the best maritime archaeology museum in the southern hemisphere. The gorgeous 1850s stone building is part of the appeal, but inside is a treasure trove. There are timbers from the Batavia, one of the state’s most famous shipwrecks, plus artifacts and relics from Dutch explorer ships that came to grief on the treacherous coastline in the 18th century. Shipwreck Galleries is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm, and it’s free entry. A suggested donation is $5.
47 Cliff Street, Fremantle
Once a jail for early settlers in the 1800s, the Roundhouse is the oldest public building in Western Australia. It’s now one of Fremantle’s tourist attractions and sits high on Arthur’s Head overlooking Bathers Beach. Walk into one of the cells flanking the circular limestone structure, and imagine how tough things were before the genteel Fishing Boat Harbour vista was there. Open daily 10.30am to 3.30pm, and entry is a recommended gold coin donation.
15 Captains Lane, Fremantle
The World Heritage listed Fremantle prison has stories aplenty: riots, escapes, lashings and hangings. As a result, there’s plenty to see and experience at the prison that operated until as recently as 1991. Tour the underground tunnels in small canoes, or take a torchlight tour of the creepy cells by night. Multiple interactive options bring the sometimes ghoulish history of this striking building to life. Open daily 9am to 5pm. Check the website for the various tour options and prices.
1 The Terrace, Fremantle
Located in the historic Artillery Barracks at Burt Street, Fremantle, the Army Museum exhibits takes visitors through a rich, historical story of Western Australians in the Australian Army from the early colonial times and conflicts to the Boer War and Afghanistan. The exhibits display the history of involvement in World Wars 1 & 2, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan and the hardships of prisoners of war, worldwide peacekeeping activities together with exhibits of Heraldry and Traditions. There is also an extensive display of tanks, artillery and military vehicles. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10.30am to 3.00pm (last entry at 1pm). Visits take approximately two hours. All adult visitors to the museum must have the appropriate photo ID.
Artillery Barracks Burt St, Fremantle
The Aviation Heritage Museum provides a unique museum experience of civilian and military aviation through its extraordinary aviation displays, helpful guides and special tours. The Museum’s talented volunteers have designed, donated and built a truly amazing array of aviation displays that include 30 aircraft and thousands of artefacts. From the helpful gift shop attendants to the meticulous restorers, the Museum’s hundreds of volunteers have truly built one of the most unique museums in the Southern Hemisphere. The Museum has special tours available on request. One is the “Inside Lancaster Tour” which consists of a personalised tour of the inside and outside of the restored Lancaster bomber. The museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Visit the website for the various entry and tour option prices.
Air Force Memorial Estate, 2 Bull Creek Drive, Bull Creek
Giant old 16th century church bells gifted from London are encased in the striking, modern bell tower near Elizabeth Quay in Barrack Square. Filled with fascinating historic content, The Bell Tower includes the twelve bells of one of London’s most famous churches, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and are recorded as being in existence from before the 14th century and recast in the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I. The bells have rung out to celebrate many historic events such as England’s victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, The World War II victory at El Alamein in 1942, and has celebrated the coronation of every British monarch since King George II in 1727. There’s a range of rare and interesting artifacts displayed on gallery walls, and you can even learn the art of chiming a bell in a guided interactive tour or learn about the 6,50000kg ANZAC Bell in a small group ANZAC Bell Tour. Into the bargain, the bell tower affords great views from up high. The Bell Tower is currently open from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. Visit the website for the various tour options and prices.
Among the permanent displays here is material from the State Library and the State Records Office. It’s part of the Museum of Perth’s dedication to documenting the changes that have happened throughout Perth’s history. A mix of society, culture, politics and architecture gives a sense of the changing face of the city. Open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Free entry and donations are welcome.
8-10 The Esplanade, Perth
The Old Court House Law Museum is one of only a few law museums in the world. The museum is housed in the City of Perth’s oldest building, constructed in 1836, next to the Supreme Court of Western Australia. The museum promotes an understanding of the law, legal issues and the legal profession in Western Australia’s community and preserves the history of the law and the legal profession in Western Australia. It’s open from Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.
Supreme Court of WA, Perth
The Wadjemup Museum on the beautiful Rottnest Island is a place for visitors to learn about the Island’s rich and fascinating history. Explore the newly renovated museum and discover a range of exhibits including 40,000-year-old artifacts, vintage postcards, contemporary artworks, and incredible outdoor sculptures. The Museum shares the history of the Island through stories about Aboriginal imprisonment, natural history, arts, and culture. Open daily from 10am to 3.30pm. Entry is free.
The Settlement, Rottnest Island
Perth’s first maternity hospital displays many facets of medical history including nursing, dentistry, early medicine and the famous Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Museum occupies the heritage-listed Harvey House, which became Perth’s first maternity hospital in 1916. The Museum is open Wednesday 10.30am – 4pm and the second Sunday of every month from 2pm – 4pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children.
Corner of Barker and Railway Roads, Subiaco.