Hillarys Boat Harbour is a thirty-minute drive north of Perth, and is often packed out for one simple reason: locals always know the best places to go. Diversity is the key to Hillarys’ appeal: by day it boasts one of the safest swimming beaches in Perth, and offers family activities such as water slides and crazy golf on one side, and a boardwalk full of one-off boutique shops offering clothing and giftware on the other. You can stop in at cafes as you go (try the cakes at Toscanini’s or the churros at Chocolateria San Churro) and admire the luxury boats for sale, or, at the right time of year board whale watching trips (book through Mills Charters, from September to early December). WA’s aquarium, AQWA, is found here, and the marina regularly hosts weekend markets from psychic fairs to antiques stalls. If that’s not enough, the marina is also the jumping off point for diving trips, Harley tours and the Rottnest Island ferry.
At night, the marina’s fine dining restaurants all spring to life. Alternatively, you can eat and drink at one of the award-winning Breakwater’s four bar and lounge areas which overlook the water. And if you’re too tired to walk home, you can even stay in their harbourside apartments.
The marina can be quiet during the week, but really comes to life at weekends when locals can while away the hours there, and the car park is often bursting. If you’re after a quieter beach, head north along Whitfords Avenue and take your pick. And if you keep following the coast road (known as Sunset Drive) you’ll soo find another fantastic white-sand beach and tavern-cum-restaurant Mullaloo Beach Hotel at Mullaloo.
Getting there from Perth: By car, take the Mitchell Freeway north to Hepburn Avenue and follow the signs. By train during the week, take the Joondalup train and alight at Warwick, then catch the 423 bus. By train at the weekend, take the Joondalup train to Greenwood and catch the 456 bus to the boat harbour.