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Perth or Adelaide: Western or Southern Australia?

Adelaide East
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If you’re stuck between Perth or Adelaide for your next trip abroad, or even a big move Down Under, it’s not going to be an easy choice. These cities might be almost 3,000 kilometers apart, that’s 30 hours of driving time, but they’re more similar than you might think.

Western Australia’s capital is a slow-paced, sun-soaked gem. Hot, dry summers and mild winters make the outdoor lifestyle the focal point in Perth. Isolated natural beauty and sandy suburbs perfectly epitomize barefoot Aussie life. Still, Adelaide also boasts that big country town feel and you’re never too far from the beach, or an East Coast capital. 

So what makes these cities unique, and more importantly, which is better? This guide puts Perth and Adelaide head to head, comparing everything from the lifestyles to the locations and the costs of living, to find the one that’s right for you. Will it be the West Coast or South coast that reigns supreme? Let’s find out. 

Perth or Adelaide: Lifestyle

Perth suburbs
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When it comes to lifestyle, this is where Perth and Adelaide are most similar. Forget claustrophobic and tourist-choked capitals, both Western Australia and South Australia are all about the laid-back living that is so commonly associated with life Down Under. 

The two cities take pride in not being one of the large capitals on the eastern sea-board, therefore being much more liveable. Sydney and Melbourne’s residents might disagree and both Perth and Adelaide have garnered reputations for being too slow, quiet, and backward for some. However, short commutes, friendly suburbs, cheaper living costs, and small populations make them perfect stomping grounds for young families and those who want to enjoy a slower pace of life. 

A regional, country town feel is also characteristic of both Perth and Adelaide. You can get out of the city you live in and enjoy the surrounding state without having to drive for hours through dense traffic and neverending suburbs. Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne are clustered in comparison, but Perth and Adelaide are arguably further from the action even though their own states are easy to explore.

So where do Western and South Australia differ? Adelaide is marginally smaller than Perth and easier to get around. Perth has a compact center but the city is dispersed and the suburbs spread beyond the river to the beach fringed coasts. Without a car, you’ll struggle to see much of the city, but there’s more going on in the central districts than in Adelaide. Still, if it’s calming and chilled vibes you are after, without the adrenaline rush of the East Coast capitals, both cities make a good choice.

Winner: Draw

Perth or Adelaide: Location

Barossa Valley wine country
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They might offer similar lifestyles, but their locations could make all the difference. Depending on whether you want regional town living or the option to escape to the big cities, Perth and Adelaide vary in this regard.  

Perth is often regarded as one of the most isolated cities in the world. Over four hours by plane to the East Coast, you can reach Bali quicker from Western Australia than you can reach Sydney. In fact, Adelaide is the nearest capital to Perth and it’s still 30 hours of driving away. Western Australia has a lot to offer and road trips from Perth to the rest of the state are very popular with travelers. Check out the Margaret River surf spots, Busselton, Albany and the kangaroo beaches of Esperance, but you should expect lots of detours down red, dusty roads.

Adelaide might be in the south and have all its own regional and rural charm, but it’s much easier to reach the bustling eastern states from the city. You can fly to Sydney in just two hours and Melbourne in less than an hour. You can even drive to Melbourne in a day and Sydney with a night’s stop off on the way. The minimal half-hour time-zone difference with Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, although unusual, also means it’s easy to communicate with people in the east. 

Perth is two to three hours behind the east coast, depending on daylight savings, which can be a hassle when conducting interstate business. There might be more happening in Perth, but you have to travel much further and at a higher expense to visit anywhere on the east coast. Whereas you can get to Sydney for events without much trouble from Adelaide, and Adelaide’s music festivals are also popular with Melbournians and Sydney-slickers. 

Adelaide is also within easy reach of Australia’s best wine country. The Barossa Valey is a 50-minute drive northeast of Adelaide. This region is internationally acclaimed and a huge pull factor to the South Australian capital. Adelaide offers the best of both worlds when it comes to location. Explore the state and surrounding regions, with the convenience of visiting Australia’s most famous coastline. 

Winner: Adelaide

Perth or Adelaide: Beaches

South Australia beach
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Beach lovers will feel at home in both of these coastal cities and Perth and Adelaide put up a good fight when it comes to their beaches. Perth and coastal living go hand in hand. The sun-bleached sands are among the best in the country and on either side of the city you’ll find 80 kilometers of unfurling coastline. The turquoise seas are inviting, the powdery white sands are pristine and you can swim, snorkel, and surf on any of the 19 urban beaches within easy reach of the city. 

Cottesloe Beach, Leighton Beach, and Mettams Pool are highlights in this region. The beaches on the West coast can feel far more tropical than the Mediterannean-Esque east and the 200 plus days of sunshine make the ocean as much a part of life as in Adelaide. However, thanks to Adelaide’s elongated shape, you’re never further than five to 25 minutes from a beach wherever you live. Long white sands, scenic jetties, bustling promenades, and surf clubs draw the perfect balance between seaside action and relaxation. 

You can swim at many of the beaches that are close to the heart of the city and there are over 20 beaches along Adelaide’s metropolitan coastline. All these public sands experience great sunsets because of Adelaide’s westward-facing location, just like Perth’s. 

Untrodden and tranquil, versus pristine and popular, Perth and Adelaide have beaches to precede the dark-orange, tourist-choked hotspots in the east and both deserve a visit. 

Winner: Draw   

Perth or Adelaide: Things to Do

Adelaide Festival
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There is plenty of cultural events, city highlights, and surrounding natural beauty in Perth and Adelaide. Sitting on the Swan River, riverside parks like the Kings Park and Botanic Gardens on Mount Eliza are perfect places to enjoy the Perth wildlife and sweeping views of the city. The Perth Cultural Center is also the home of the state ballet and opera companies and houses a theater, art gallery, and library in its central precinct. 

Culture, history, and nature, it’s all there. Still, you’ll need a car to get around Perth and make the most of all that the city and suburbs have to offer. The frustrating layout of Perth is something visitors constantly complain about. The wide roads outside the center might be fun to drive around, but public transport is lacking. There might be a lot to do but it’s arguably less varied and efficient than Adelaide. 

Adelaide has its own fantastic Botanic Gardens and its ring of parkland on the River Torrens is renowned for its quaint charm and museums. You’ll find the Art of Gallery of South Australia here, where extensive collections of Indigenous Art are displayed, and the South Australian Museum, dedicated to the natural history of the region, also sits on the river banks. 

A huge draw factor of Adelaide is also its vibrant festival scene. The Adelaide Festival is an annual event in aid of international arts with the spin-off Fringe and film festivals. This time of year when Adelaide comes alive with festivity is called “Mad March” and visitors storm from the east coast for the best events of their kind in the country. 

Perth seems to host more international music acts in the way of concerts and DJs than Adelaide, but Perth is the epicenter of its state while Adelaide gives the option of flying to Melbourne for world-class events. 

Some of Australia’s best educational institutions are also situated in South Australia. This means Adelaide has a vibrant student nightlife with boutique bars, live music venues and nightclubs popping up all over the city. There might be more to do in the way of attractions and nature in Perth, but Adelaide is more exciting.

Winner: Adelaide  

Perth or Adelaide: Climate

Perth roads
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Both Perth and Adelaide benefit from Mediterranean climates with hot, dry summers and cooler, wet winters. From December to April you can expect the highest temperatures in both cities but Perth just steals the win on warmth with an average daily temperature of close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the peak of January, compared to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in Adelaide. 

Still, Adelaide is pleasantly warm for around nine months of the year. Perth might see highs of 90 from as early as November, but winters are characteristically rainy with tropical downpours and gloomy skies limiting outdoors fun. Temperatures are mild during winter in Perth, reaching highs of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and lows around 50. In contrast, winter in Adelaide is considerably cooler, rarely exceeding 60 degrees Fahrenheit from June to August, but with the same lows of 50 degrees as Perth. 

Adelaide might have cooler winters, but they’re drier than Perth’s. Perth experiences only two days of rainfall a month from December to April but this puts into perspective how rainy June to August is as Western Australia is wetter overall, receiving over 800mm of rain a year compared to 535mm in Adelaide. Still, Perth is one of the sunniest cities in the world with around 3,200 hours of sunshine a year. That’s more than any other major Australian city and for sun-seekers, Adelaide cannot compete.

Winner: Perth   

Perth or Adelaide: Cost of Living 

Perth suburb
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When it comes to the cost of living in Perth and Adelaide, it’s not so easy to compare. Both cities bring different things to the table, and have their obvious drawbacks, but depending on your lifestyle, the prices could be rather different.

On average, you’d need just over $6,600 AUD a month in Perth to maintain the same standard of living as you would with $6,500 AUD in Adelaide if you rented in both cities. A marginal difference right? Maybe not. With a rather intense mining boom, prices can be much higher in Perth from restaurants to property. The average property price in Perth is around $475,000 compared to $438,000 in Adelaide, but while Perth has seen a drop in price, Adelaide has seen growth and is set to overtake Perth in this regard. 

With Adelaide’s convenient elongated layout along the coast and smaller metropolitan area, you can buy a house within a ten-minute drive from the beach or 30 minutes from the Central Business District for $400k to $640k AUD. Whereas, you can’t guarantee a prime location in the more spread out and suburban Perth. 

However, Perth benefits from higher average wages and employment opportunities, particularly in mining positions, which offsets the expensive rent and actually makes the cost of living more reasonable. Consumer prices, without rent, are actually 1 percent lower in Perth than in Adelaide, and groceries are around 5 percent lower, too. You can expect a markup of as much as 14 percent for eating out in Perth, but this is because of the long distance that imported products have to travel, and purchasing power is still 10 percent higher in Perth than in Adelaide. 

If you plan to live, settle, and work in either of these cities, Perth might actually prove cheaper, whereas Adelaide is the more budget option for short-term rentals or weekends away.

Winner: Draw  

Perth or Adelaide: The Verdict

Both Perth and Adelaide are relaxed, liveable cities. They offer a chilled alternative to east coast capitals but there’s plenty going on to keep you busy and a lot to see regionally. Barefoot relaxation and quintessential Aussie vibes are characteristic of the coastal towns but Adelaide is better connected to the country at large with an easier layout to navigate and cheaper property prices. On the other hand, Perth is the epicenter of Western Australian life. It might be far from the east coast, but you can be in Indonesia in just three hours and there’s plenty of sun, fun, and outdoor living to soak up in the city itself. The differences are all relative, but Perth and Adelaide have more in common than not. So which will it be?