At a mere 240 km, it may not be one of the great rivers of the world but Perth's Swan presents many faces as it winds its way from east of the Darling Scarp down to the sea at Fremantle.
In its uppermost reaches it is known as the Avon and here it passes through what is mostly farming country, with several small tributaries feeding into it. Once it reaches the scarp face it falls through deep wooded gullies until it opens out into a wide fertile valley. This is wine growing country and, just 45 minutes from the centre of the city, is a favourite getaway place for a day of wine tasting and enjoying a meal at one of the many excellent restaurants that have sprung up in the area.
Moving on towards the sea, as it reaches the city, the river becomes a drowned estuary. Here its twists and turns have flooded out into bays big enough for the yachts that race on its waters at weekends and cruise quietly at twilight. Now it is tidal, the water brackish and dolphins are regular visitors. Finally it narrows again to move through the wharves of Fremantle Harbour and out to sea.
The river really is Perth's favourite playground. Shady lawns, little sandy beaches and safe, quiet waters make it an ideal place for small children. Fishermen have their favourite spots, and when the prawns are running an evening's trawl will net a fine catch. Yachts, powerboats, jet- and water skiers all have their allocated areas. The paths that run beside it are always busy with walkers, joggers, cyclists, etc and there are several riverside restaurants and cafes that offer good food and beautiful views. The river really does offer something for everyone and no visit to Perth is complete without an exploration of one or two at least of its many facets.
River cruises on Swan River are a great and relaxed way of getting a different view of the city. Boats run on a regular timetable from Barrack Street Jetty in Central Perth to Fremantle and back. The cruise takes about one and a half hours each way. I'd recommend going one way by train (Fremantle Line) to save some time.
Photographers: Take the cruise back to Perth in the afternoon for the best light. If you are lucky you'll even catch the magical reflection of the low standing sun on the glass facades of the skyscrapers.
The cruise takes you along the wealthiest quarters of the city. The houses on the hilltops overlooking the winding river must be worth several millions. Well, I would not mind living in one of those villas. Everyone seems to own a yacht or at least a sailing boat, the river is full of yacht harbours and mooring places. After every river bend you'll get new views.
There are two companies offering boat cruises: Captain Cook and Oceanic. Check their websites for timetables, fares and package offers.
Travelogue page with more photos
We stayed at City waters where a 2-min walk will lead us to the Swan River. You can see herons sitting on the rafts and beautiful flowers at the park. Just married couples celebrating with their families and friends, tourists from all around the world watching and taking photos, people leaving the Cirque du Soleil....
My collegue and our boss and I took one Saturday off to take a wine tasting cruise. Here we are afterwards, feeling no pain. If you want to check it out, watch the videos I took of dancing on the boat on the way back. Pretty cool.
The Narrows Bridge was built during the 1960's and provided quick vehicle access to Perth City across the Swan River. This resulted in the areas south of Perth being rapidly developed into residential and associated business districts. In particular South Perth rapidly expanded with the construction of high rise apartments. Without this bridge vehicle traffic within Perth would come to a grinding halt as with this bridge the Kwinana Freeway commences and continues for 20 or more kilometers into the southern suburbs and industrial area.
When visiting South Perth go to the Mends Street Jetty and view the Decoy paddle steamer, it is a beautiful old boat mainly used for functions. However from November to May they have a Sunday afternoon Riverboat Jazz Cruise from 1 to 4pm open to the public and what a fantastic way to travel the Swan River and view the city and riverside homes and parks.
Public ferries operate regularly from Barrack Street Jetty, Perth to South Perth and return. South Perth is a residential area with many high rise apartments with views over the Swan River to the city. It is a favoured residential area for young professionals who prefer to leave their car at home and commute to work by ferry. The ferry trip takes 10 minutes and it is an easy walk to the city shopping malls or South Perth restaurants, Perth Zoo, and the riverside parklands. Fares are cheap.
A very clean and beautiful river in Perth City. If you have the time, you can take a one hour and fifteen-minute cruise from Oceanic Cruises at the Barrack Street Jetty to Fremantle for AUD$16 one-way.
Taking a cruise up the Swan River is a lovely way to spend a relaxing three hours. You'll get to see some beautiful (and very expensive) houses along the way as well as landmark Perth locations.
It is one of my tradition when I discover a great river, I should do a cruise. So everybody on board and just enjoy the view... or/and the bar ;-)
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