The Swan River is 60 kilometres long located in the south west of Western Australia. Its estuary flows through the city of Perth, making it a popular destination for both residents and visitors to the area. The Swan River is known to local Aboriginal Noongar people as the Derbari Yerrigan, and represents a snakelike being that travelled over the land in the Dreamtime creating rivers. Now, the Swan River and its rich shorelines offer a variety of attractions and activities.
- Towns – There are three main towns along a 29 kilometre stretch that make up the Swan River region: Bassendean, Bayswater and Belmont. The city of Belmont, a common starting point for visitors, is home to the airport as well as a beautiful river foreshore area that includes a number of riverside parks and trails. Bayswater, known as an area rich in heritage, is renowned for its gardens and features over 100 playgrounds in its many parks and reserves, along with the famed Riverside Gardens. The town of Bassendean, sometimes called the Home by the Swan, is more of a historic exploration, with a chance to see the Railway Museum, and the 1929 Heritage Gates on the Steel Blue Oval.
- River Cruises – River cruises are a popular activity on the Swan River, with a large number of different cruise options on offer. These cruises, which operate both during the day for lunch and sightseeing tour options, as well as at night to see the lights of Perth, offer a chance for visitors to get a new perspective on the city. The cruises also make it easy to see more of the famed Swan River, and will give you an idea of just how big the waterway is.
- Walking and Cycling – For those visitors planning on exploring the Swan River region on their own steam, there are a large number of dual-use walking and cycling tracks in the area. The most popular cycle track, the Swan River Windan Bridge Loop, is an easy 3 kilometre exploration of the area that takes just one hour, with sights of Heirisson Island, East Perth and manicured parklands. Walkers are spoilt for choice when it comes to walks in the area, many of which are graded as easy to accomplished and suited for both adults and children.
- Watersports – Another popular pastime in the Swan River area are the watersports. These include sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Watersports equipment can be hired from several locations along the Swan River foreshore, and oftentimes, hire outlets will also include lessons or training along with their equipment, or for a marginal extra fee.
- Wildlife – The Swan River is, unsurprisingly, home to a number of black swans, which have become something of a regional mascot. Although the swans are usually not a threat to visitors, remember that they are wild animals and should not be approached unnecessarily. At times, dolphins are seen in the waters of the Swan River as well as keen fisherman on the banks looking to catch breams, herring, flatheads or mulloways.
- Eating and Drinking – The Swan River area is well known for its many cafes and restaurants, as well as local pubs and taverns. Visitors should have no problems finding somewhere to eat during their time exploring the area. In addition to paid establishments, visitors will find a number of free BBQ facilities available at most parks and reserves, although these can get busy in the finer seasons.
- Nearby Attractions – The Swan River is located just five minutes from the Perth CBD, making it an easy starting location for a range of other Perth attractions. Nearby attractions to consider include Perth itself, the port of Fremantle, the island of Rottnest, and the Swan Valley region, all of which can be explored on the same day as trip around the Swan River area.
- Walk: The Swan River is located five minutes from Perth’s CBD.
- Ferry: The Barrack Square Ferries, located about 10 minutes walk from the centre of Perth via William Street and Barrack Street, is a good place to start if you’re planning to take a ferry along the Swan River.
- Car: The three main towns of the Swan River (Bassendean, Bayswater and Belmont) can all be accessed via car, with all being between 15 – 30 minutes drive from the CBD.
The Swan River was originally named Swarte Swaene-Revier by Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer who came to the area in 1697. He named the river after the famous black swans, but only sailed as far as Heirisson Island before turning around. Before the British arrived in the area to colonise, Swan River was also sailed by a French expedition, led by Nicholas Baudin, in 1801.
When Governor Stirling established Perth around 1829, he intended for only a small part of the watercourse to be known as the Swan River, with everything downstream of the Heirisson Islands to be known as Melville Water instead.
As the colony began to form, the Swan River underwent a number of significant changes as a result of efforts made to intentionally reshape the river. There were a number of reasons for this, including to reduce flooding, improve boat access with deeper channels, remove marsh land that attracted mosquitos, and to enlarge the agricultural and building lands.