Well-known for its maritime history and the largest convict-built prison in Australia, Perth’s port city of Fremantle is also well-known for supporting the arts, from local to national (and some international) artists. Freo is a must-visit for all tourists and a popular choice for a day or night out among the locals.
The oldest building still standing in Western Australia today is the twelve-sided Roundhouse. The first permanent building to have been built in the Swan River Colony in the late 1830s, this building offers stunning views over Bathers Beach and the Indian Ocean. Initially built as a gaol, the Roundhouse has since been a police lock-up, accommodation for police and a storage facility, before opening to the public. Be sure to explore the tunnel built beneath the Roundhouse in 1837 by the Fremantle Whaling Company.
Holding a fascinating history built as a high-security prison by convicts, the Fremantle Prison is one of Western Australia’s most significant cultural attractions. Opened to the public in 1992, this building has since offered tours that will take you through the chambers and the history of this icon. In 2010, the prison was the first building in the state to be included on the World Heritage List. But fear not, you will not encounter any ghosts here, unless you go on a Ghost Tour…
Saturday to Tuesday and Thursday from 9AM to 5PM, Wednesday and Friday from 9AM to 9PM
Originally built as a ‘lunatic’ asylum in Western Australia, the Fremantle Arts Centre offers residencies, exhibitions, live music and art courses for locals and tourists. This historic building, located in the heart of Freo, has been a home for women, a naval base during both World Wars and a technical college prior to opening as an arts centre in the early 1970s. On offer are free exhibitions, fine handmade wares and an extensive live music program that not only features local bands but touring acts, such as Paul Kelly.
Fremantle’s legendary ‘Cappuccino Strip’ offers many outdoor cafes and restaurants for you to enjoy a locally brewed beer or Western Australian wine whilst people-watching. Located along South Terrace between Parry Street and the corner of Bannister Street, this strip is home to many restaurants, hotels and cafés that offer cabaret, live music and mic nights in the evenings and on weekends. Walking down the strip towards the Fremantle Markets lies an area where many ‘Fremantle-famous’ street performers have become local and international favourites – like John Butler and The Bad Piper.
Dating back to 1897, the Fremantle Markets have always served as a market, originating as a wholesale and produce market until the 1950s. This busy indoor market is a leading local and tourist attraction in the state, offering local produce, fresh food, clothes, handicrafts, and so much more, appealing to all ages. With over 150 stalls to discover, the markets are also dedicated to promoting Indigenous and independent arts and products, reflecting our multicultural history.
Friday from 9AM to 8PM, Saturday and Sunday from 9AM to 6PM
Pull out a picnic rug and basket and head down to Fremantle’s public reserve, The Esplanade Park. First planted in 1908, this park now features around 100 mature Norfolk Island Pines, making it a unique area to relax between the Cappuccino Strip and the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour. In 2013, a Tourist Wheel was added, offering views of the town and harbours from 40 meters in the air. This park is also home to many loved events throughout the year, such as the Winter Festival, BeerFest, Christmas on the Esplanade and events during the iconic Fremantle Street Arts Festival.
Western Australian Museum’s Shipwreck Galleries offers people of all ages the opportunity to delve into 100 years of exploration. This museum is known for housing hundreds of relics such as the original timbers from the Batavia, shipwrecked in 1629, and artefacts from many wrecked Dutch ships. Located within a restored Commissariat building from the 1850s, this museum has become the Southern Hemisphere’s leading maritime archaeology museum.
Symbolizing the unique maritime connection Fremantle has had in our past and present – and of course our future – as a coastal city and iconic port, the Western Australian Maritime Museum explores this relationship with the ocean. Home to many iconic vessels, leisure boats and sail boats from throughout the state’s maritime history – such as Australia II and Jon Sanders’ Parry Endeavour – this museum is a must for all visitors to Fremantle. Also situated on the historic WWII submarine slipway in Fremantle is the authentic vessel from the Cold War-era, HMAS Ovens, serving as a memorial to submariners who fought in the war.
The unique tourist attraction of the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour is another well-loved area by many locals due to the excellent seafood on offer in the surrounding restaurants. Offering high-speed jet boat rides and sailing tours, the harbour also boasts the Shipwreck Galleries and many local businesses like Little Creatures to choose from. Whilst relaxing along the harbour, you will be witness to some of the many passing fishing vessels continuing with their daily activities – after all, this harbour is home to over 400 fishing boats.
If, however, you’re in need of a quick island escape, then Western Australia’s favourite island getaway is only a quick boat road away from Fremantle. Departing from Fremantle’s B-Shed and Northport terminals, the Rottnest Express is the fastest way to get to this island adorned with stunning beaches, cycle routes, and many friendly quokkas.