A Guide To The Aquarium Of Western Australia – AQWA Perth Aquarium

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Last Updated on March 15, 2021 by Travels with Kids

A visit to AQWA, the Perth Aquarium should be on your list if visiting Perth!  This beautiful aquarium in Perth gives you a wonderful opportunity to get up close with much of Western Australia’s amazing marine life!  We love swimming off Western Australia’s coast, but to be honest, aren’t as familiar with what is under the water.  The exhibitions at AQWA really help with that knowledge.  Better still, if you like visiting the biggest and best, this happens to be the largest single aquarium in Australia!

A Guide To The Aquarium Of Western Australia - AQWA Perth Aquarium

As one of the Best Things To Do In Perth the Aquarium of Western Australia (formerly known as Perth Underwater World) is definitely high on the list and is a place for both little kids and grown-ups.   Our last visit was with a 3-year-old and a 78-year-old and I am not sure who enjoyed themselves more!

As Perth locals, we’ve visited AQWA a couple of times during the school holidays, and another time with friends visiting Perth.  I first went to AQWA Perth more than 20 years ago when it used to be known as  Perth Underwater World.  The walk-through underwater tunnel is still a total highlight.  It is often forgotten that this one was the first in the world, opened before Singapore’s and Sydney’s!

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A Guide To The Aquarium Of Western Australia - AQWA Perth Aquarium

Highlights Of A Visit To The Perth Aquarium

Perth Aquarium

The Shipwreck Coast And 98 Metre Long Tunnel

As mentioned previously, AQWA has the largest aquarium in Australia.  This area highlights the Shipwreck Coast, which is home to more than 4,000 marine species from corals and jellyfish, to large stingrays and sharks.  At the center of the Shipwreck Coast is the 98-meter long tunnel that allows you to walk through a tunnel with stingrays, turtles, and even SHARKS swimming over your head!  If you are a local you will particularly interested in exploring the five distinct zones of Western Australia’s oceans, the Far North, Coral Coast, Shipwreck Coast, Perth, and Great Southern.  Let’s face it from the icy Southern Ocean to the tropical wonderland of coral reefs around Ningaloo, Western Australia has a massive amount of diversity in its ocean life!

Aquarium of WA with Kids

The Touch Pool

The Touch Pool at the AQWA Perth Aquarium a definite highlight for the kids.  What a great way to get up close and touch sea stars, sea cucumbers, and other marine life.  There are also large viewfinders that magnify what you see under the water!  There are also a good number of tours and fish feeding throughout the day.  Check when you arrive at the Perh Aquarium for the day’s program.

Note – If you have a child who tends to get wet – then take along a change of clothes in case they end up wet after exploring the Touch Pool.

AQWA Perth Aquarium

Other Highlights

There are a number of fascinating different aquarium displays as you move around AQWA.  The sea horse and sea dragons are so fragile and delicate – and have such amazing detail in their faces!  Definitely not something you can expect to see when swimming in the ocean!

The jellyfish tanks are lit with UV light which allows you to see their mysterious, delicate, almost transparent structure with absolute clarity.  Our whole family spends a lot of time admiring them!

AQWA Perth Aquarium

Must-Know Tips For The AQWA Perth Aquarium With Kids

  • Location – It’s located at Hillary’s Boat Harbor which is about a half-hour drive north of Perth City.  Sometimes AQWA is referred to as Hillary’s Aquarium.  Given that the aquarium isn’t a full-day visit, you might like to wander amongst the moored boats, have a special meal or do some shopping at the boat harbor.  The kid’s eyes lit up at the sight of a ‘fun park’ but it is apparently closed in the winter months.
  • Time Your Arrival – Arriving in the morning on a weekend (approx. 11 am) it was packed full of people.  There was a queue to buy tickets and the viewing areas were very full of prams, people and noise.  It was also dark, so the little guy (aged 2.5 at the time) was overwhelmed while grandpa’s hearing aid was struggling with the acoustics.
  • Parking – There wasn’t a lot of parking near the AQWA Perth aquarium so be prepared for a reasonably long walk!
  • Do Not Miss – Everyone’s highlight (aged from 2 to 75) was the moving conveyor belt through a huge aquarium with sharks and manta rays!  We went around 3 times, but certainly, go around at least twice! We had some of the more exciting experiences the second time.  Also, it’s far more enjoyable if you go when there are fewer people.
  • The Playground – How many fish is too many fish?  The many tanks of fish can get overwhelming for little kids!  Outside and at the back of AQWA is a marine-themed playground which great for toddlers and preschoolers.  The kids loved playing in the boat and the folks had a rest!  After the kids burned off some energy they went back to the aquarium full of enthusiasm.

The AQWA Perth Aquarium With Kids

  • Pack Your Lunch – We took our own lunch and bought a treasure pack with an eye patch for the kids.  This saved us a bundle, considering this is already an expensive day.  The kids absolutely loved their treasure packs (containing juice and chips).
  • The Viewing Room – Almost serendipitously, at the end of the day near the playground and lift, we stumbled upon a ‘viewing room’ which has lounge chairs and big windows.  The aquarium was a like huge TV, fun to sit and watch.  Everybody was happy to sit and watch the fish float by.

A Guide To The Aquarium Of Western Australia - AQWA Perth Aquarium

Other Activities At The Perth Aquarium

The Perth  Aquarium has an impressive range of extra activities.  These seem to change and it would be worth checking directly with AQWA when you are going to visit what is on.

Snorkel Or Dive With Sharks

Available for people aged over 15.  There are two activities offered – either snorkeling or diving with the sharks.  You also come face to face with other amazing creatures of the deep like stingrays!  This is one awesome activity to check out at this aquarium in Perth.

Try Diving

This interactive diving adventure takes place in AQWA’s custom-built learn-to-dive marina aquarium!  This is a great way for people aged 12+ to give diving a go.

Learning Opportunities

Homeschoolers will love the different education options at AQWA as there are a number of different options designed to meet the Western Australian curriculum.

The AQWA Perth Aquarium With Kids

Stay Overnight

Overnight Observer is an exclusive series of sleepovers just for year 3 students!  The kids get to sleep under the water, and learn about what happens in the water at sunset and after dark!

Other Activities

At the time of updating this post, these activities were not listed on the AQWA website, but we have seen them previously, so worth contacting them if these are things your kids are interested in.

  • A beginners snorkeling session for people aged 8 and over who want to snorkel in a safe environment.
  • Mermaid Encounters is a guided snorkeling adventure for children who wish to snorkel with a mermaid.  Suitable for children aged 8 and over.

perth underwater world

How To Get There – Aquarium Perth  (Formerly Perth Underwater World)

AQWA Perth Aquarium located at Hillary’s Boat Harbor which is about a half-hour drive north of the city itself.  By car, take the Mitchell Fwy north and exit at Hepburn Ave. By public transport, take the Joondalup train to Warwick Station and then transfer to bus 423.

Given that this Perth aquarium isn’t a full-day visit, you might like to wander amongst the moored boats or do some shopping at Sorrento Quay.  In summer pack your swimmers as the kids will be inspired to do some swimming at Hillary’s safe beach.

The AQWA Perth Aquarium With Kids

How Long Do I Need To Spend At AQWA Aquarium

The AQWA Opening Hours are from 10 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week including public holidays.  We think a minimum visit to the Perth Aquarium would two hours, but that would make it poor value for money.

Our suggestion is to look at the AQWA website for options like off-peak visits.  Also, if you are visiting during the school holidays plan your day around the activities and value add the visit.  Make sure to check out the AQWA’s What’s On section of their website for some ideas and tips.

AQWA Aquarium

AQWA Prices -Value For Your Money 

The Perth Aquarium is an attraction that every visitor to Perth should make sure that they see.  Admission isn’t cheap but it’s well worth it.

At $79 for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids, but only 2-3 hours of activities then this is a more expensive activity.  We strongly recommend looking at their off-peak pass, or visiting during holidays and planning to participate in activities to make the most of your money!  For comparison – the Perth Zoo is $75 for a Family of 2 adults and 2 kids and a really full day of activities.

For up-to-date information see the AQWA Website and also their School Holiday Program.

AQWA Aquarium

Things To Do At Hillarys Boat Harbour For Kids

Hillary’s Boat Harbour has a great vibe all year round, but it really comes into its own in the summer months.  The kids will be particularly interested in heading to the sideshow alley and fairground area that has different rides, like bumper cars and roller coasters.

Shopping at Sorrento Quay is lots of fun.  There is a great range of shops from clothing boutiques to shoe shops and the kids will love the sweet shops and the souvenir stores.

Hillary’s Water-Based Activities

Island Aqua Park is a floating fun park that my kids are super keen to try next summer.  Each session is 50 minutes and costs $25.  Kids put on lifejackets and then run and climb over the inflatable obstacle courses!  Suitable for competent swimmers aged 6 and over.  Check the Island Aqua Park website for up-to-date details.   If you are looking to make savings on the Island Aqua Park,  February mid-week sessions are only $20 per person, and have no time limit at all!

For those with younger kids, the harbor’s beach is very sheltered and is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers to get their feet wet.  The beach is also protected by a shark net and there are big shade sails protecting the beach playground.

In short, there are lots of watery activities at Hillary’s Boat Harbour that make the perfect complement to a visit to the Aquarium Perth.  The shallow, sheltered harbour beach is ideal for little ones to have a paddle and there’s lots of shade provided under big shade sails on the sand.  There’s also a hard surface path through the sand for beach wheelchairs and strollers to gain easy entry.  The beach features pontoons with slides for confident swimmers and a shaded beach playground on the sand for little ones.  The beach directly south of the southern carpark is also protected with a shark net.

Hillarys Boat Harbour Food Restaurants  

Food is a highlight of Hilarys Boat Harbor and there are lots of different restaurant options.  I’ve had lots of friends rave about 3 Sheets which has a kid-friendly menu including pizza, ribs, and chips.

For those looking for Hillary’s fish n chips, there are a couple of options for them.  As well as more common takeaways like Nandos and Subway.

For a sweet treat, you could opt for Bellissimo Gelato or Cold Rock Icecreamery.  Or, if you are feeling a little Latino, why not head for San ChurroDome offers its extensive crowd-pleasing menu and has lovely water views.

aquarium in perth

Visiting Perth – Check Out Our Other Resources

Going to be staying in Perth, Western Australia? Check out The TOP Rated Family Accommodation In Perth – Best Family Hotels With Kids.

Kings Park is an amazing park in Perth.  Read our post A Guide To Kings Park In Perth Western Australia.

If you are looking for destinations around Perth, read our post The Best Perth Day Trips.

Check out these Perth and Western Australia guidebooks below.  They are great for planning a visit.

Hillarys Boat Harbour For Kids

The Verdict –  Aqwa, The Aquarium In Perth

A visit to the Aquarium of Western Australia should definitely be on your Perth bucket list!  It offers an interesting and fascinating underwater world adventure for everyone.  We totally recommend making a family day out and visiting some of Hillary Boat Harbour’s other attractions like the Island Aqua Park or enjoying some of the delicious food on offer!

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Hi! We are a multicultural family from Peru, Nicaragua & Australia. We believe adventures can be global – and local – and are one part of our sustainable lifestyle, and raising children who are global eco-citizens.