Fremantle is a port on the western coast of Australia, facing out into the Indian Ocean. Often referred to as Freo, it's not just a suburb or outgrowth of Perth, but a city in its own right - it's where Western Australia got started. Later on the action moved upriver to Perth city centre, which meant that Fremantle missed a lot of modern development, and retained its charming character.
Fremantle has long been the first port of call in Australia for ships from Europe - by the Dutch in the 1600s then by the English from the early 1800s. At first it competed with Albany WA as a shipping port, then overtook it to become the premier west coast port, both as port-of-call and as definitive destination for the growing region. This brought a motley population of itinerants, workers and settlers, especially the convicts who from 1850 were transported here from England to ease a labour shortage, at a time when transportation had ceased elsewhere in Australia. Fremantle is therefore well endowed with historic buildings and streets redolent of that era, and the story is well-told in the museums and prison. This heritage escaped 20th-century demolition as the CBD moved up to central Perth. Nowadays it's protected, and facilities were especially spruced up for the 1987 Americas Cup yacht races.
Fremantle remains an important port for freight (especially minerals and livestock export) and is a frequent port of call for cruise ships. It's also the closest point for boat trips to Rottnest.
Take Leach Highway west, Stirling Highway southwest or Canning Highway west. From the south, take Rockingham Road. From the north coast, West Coast Highway and the Curtin Avenue lead to the port. From Perth City, Fremantle is about a 30-minute drive using the Kwinana Freeway (Hwy 2) and then exiting onto either Leach Hwy (Hwy 1/7) or Canning Hwy (Hwy 6).
Commuter trains run from platform 7 of Perth railway station (the above ground one, not Perth Underground). They leave every 15 minutes and make the 25-minute trip to Fremantle via Perth's western suburbs, culminating in a fine view of beach, ocean and port. The standard 2-zone fare is $4.80 (as of July 2018).
Fremantle station is just north of the town centre, within easy walking distance. It is also a bus station for bus routes serving the southern suburbs, so a journey onwards to Woodman Point, for example, is not difficult. See the TransPerth Journey Planner for more info on trains and buses.
- 1 Fremantle railway station, Phillimore Street.
There are many Transperth buses that arrive and leave Fremantle. Routes 998 (clockwise) and 999 (anti-clockwise) are quick and frequent services that lead to Fremantle. They terminate at the Fremantle Railway Station.
All cruise ships berth at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal on Victoria Quay. The terminal has a café and licensed bar area and public conveniences.
You can get around most of central Fremantle for free on the (Central Area Transit) CAT Buses which run every ten minutes during daylight hours. There is one route, the Blue CAT. Most buses used for the service are painted orange with a large black cat on the side. Look for the CAT symbol at bus stops, and maybe even paw-prints on the footpath. The CAT Bus is wheelchair and pram accessible, including kneeling (automatic lowering suspension) and ramp access.
Fremantle is mostly flat, relatively compact in size and good for walking. It is well worth seeking out information and interpretation - as not all of Fremantle history is that obvious in its current state. Fremantle for its size has a range of subjects that can be understood with some
- The Fremantle City Council has a set of self conducted walk pamphlets about the features that can be found in a short walk in Fremantle.
- Also at local bookshops, David Hutchison's Fremantle Walks has 9 walks well described and explained.
- The annual Fremantle Heritage festival usually has walks as part of its programme.
- Guided walking tours from operators like Two Feet & and a Heartbeat.
If, the passion is high enough and spare time available, and there is a need for information beyond the easily available - The Local History Collection at the Fremantle Library is an excellent way to gain more detailed information.
Walking areas - either from the Fremantle Walk Book, or other sources - these areas are well worth getting out of the car and having a closer look:-
- Arthur Head - a small area on top of a limestone ridge, great views and history
- Cappuccino Strip and Market Street - plenty of places to stop for a drink or eat
- Esplanade and Boat harbour - a large space for children to play and a great place to look at boats from fish and chip outlets
- Memorial Park and Monument Hill - a great view of Fremantle and the ocean
- Victoria Quay - a great place to check out markets, maritime museum , and watch the ships - also a place to catch a Rottnest Ferry
- West End - really old building now part of Notre Dame University - and interesting shops and places tucked away
- 1 Fremantle Prison, 1 The Terrace St, ☏ +61 8 9336 9200. Open every day of the year except Good Friday and Christmas day. The convicts who were transported to Australia from the UK built it in 1851 to house themselves. Following the end of convict transportation in 1868, Fremantle Prison served as Western Australia's main maximum security prison until its closure in 1991. Today it remains as a world heritage listed building as part of the Australian Convict Sites and is used for several purposes including as an art gallery, museum and a conference center. Basic tours run throughout the day, and a 'Torchlight tour' runs on Wednesday and Friday nights, which explores the history of prison hauntings. For the really adventurous, there is the tunnels tour which will take you through the tunnel network underneath the prison. $18.50 (basic), $59 (tunnel tour), less for students and children.
- 2 Shipwreck Galleries (Located near the Fishing Boat Harbour.). Recognised as the foremost maritime archaeology museum in the southern hemisphere. The Museum is housed in 1850s-era Commissariat building and has since been restored to its historic glory. Steeped in history, the galleries house hundreds of relics from ships wrecked along WA’s treacherous coastline, including the original timbers from the Batavia (wrecked in 1629), the de Vlamingh plate, and also countless artifacts from the Dutch shipwrecks Zuytdorp, Zeewijk and Vergulde Draeck. Entry is free, gold coin donations appreciated..
- 3 WA Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay (go to the end of Cliff Street, head for the waterfront and turn left, you can't miss it -- a large white building with curved lines suggesting a hull), ☏ +61 8 9335-8921. Daily 9:30AM–5PM. A wonderful collection of vessels, including the winged-keel Australia II, which won the America's Cup. You'll also find a full history of marine activity on the West Australian coast. A tour of HMAS Ovens, a retired Oberon-class submarine, is well worth the time. Museum $15, museum and submarine $25.
- 4 Round House (Arthur Head.). Western Australia's first permanent building. Built as a prison in the 1830s, the Round House now serves as a small, but informative museum, that focuses on the convict lifestyle of the 1800s. Now restored and updated with more detailed information, maps and volunteer guides (although the tour of the building is mostly self-guided). Entry is free, gold coin donations encouraged..
- 5 Whalers' Tunnel (under the Round House). The Whaling Tunnel was built to provide easy access between the original Bather's Beach port and the town of Fremantle. The tunnel has been restored, and has detailed explanations of its construction and local artifacts, making it a worthwhile self-guided tour.
- 6 Cantonment Hill (take the 998 bus from Fremantle station and get off at the last stop before the bridge over the river). A terrific view of Fremantle Harbour and beyond. The Signal Station at the top is now home to the Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue (the building is not open to the public). The Army Museum is at the foot of the hill as well and is easily visited at the same time. free.
- Army Museum of Western Australia. 10:30AM to 3PM with last entry at 1PM. Adults $10, seniors and children $7, and family (2+2) $20.
- 1 Fremantle Arts Centre, 1 Finnerty Street (free cat bus service across the road). A museum for Contemporary Arts with a shop and a cafe. In summer free Sunday music sessions in the courtyard. Free entry.
- 2 The Moores Building, 46 Henry St (5 mins. walk from the city center.). Part of Fremantle Arts Centre, a Contemporary Art Gallery. The Moores has six individual exhibition spaces and a cafe. Free entry.
- 3 South Beach. including Wilson Park with lots of shade. Besides the kiosk for food and drinks, it also has changing facilities and showers and large grassy picnic area with BBQ's. Take the free blue CAT bus to get there.
- Watch Fremantle Dockers playing an AFL game. Aussie Rules is a unique sport that's only really played Down Under. Though "Freo" (as they are sometimes known) play their games mainly in central Perth, where the stadium is bigger, there are a few smaller sides playing in the state league too dotted around.
Like all good port towns of the world, Fremantle has a bustling nightlife and is a favorite place to go out for many people who live within the Perth metropolitan area. Unlike Northbridge, Fremantle does not seem to attract the same level of bad behaviour so is quite a safe place to spend an evening. Some places to go out include:
- Newport (On the Cappuccino Strip). Famed for its 'backpacker and student' Wednesdays, it plays hosts to a range of bands, international DJs and other music genres in "The Bandroom". Continuing onto the weekend, Newport offers those interested the chance to catch their favorite sport in "The Atrium". Or if pool is the better option then the "Front Bar" is also available. No entry charge.
- Metropolis Fremantle. A club located on Marine Parade. It is one of the biggest and busiest in Fremantle. Metros is divided into different sections, offering RnB, bands belting out 1980/90s hits, house and electronic music on different nights. On the plus side, it is loud, busy, and the place to be seen. On the downside, there is a $10 cover charge before midnight and a $15 charge after. Get there early or expect a long line to get in.
Shops in Fremantle are generally open from 10AM-5PM.
- 1 The Fremantle Market. F 9AM-9PM, Sa Su 9AM-5PM. There are two connected sheds that houses fruit sellers and a variety of other shops, be it souvenirs or music CDs. Resembles a rather quaint and a much much smaller version of Covent Garden in London. Take your time to look through the markets, because you never know what you'll find there.
Catering for both males and females, and a big price range, there are several boutique shops dotted along South Terrace. Whether you are looking for that long dazzling gown or a tailored suit, you will be sure to find it.
Fremantle is one of the most popular cycling cities in Australia, with thousands of cyclist visiting daily and many socialising along the cafe strip. Fremantle has a host of shops catering for them. The two most popular "old school" shops (around since the 1980s) seem to be Mercers on South Terrace (which carries a full range of family bikes and offers repairs) and Ideal Cycles on South Street O'Connor (offers a wide range of road bikes, fixie bikes and accessories). Others include Ace Cycles, Bike Force, and Fleet Cycles.
Despite the wide availability of Italian food outlets, Fremantle offers other cuisines within different price ranges.
Fremantle is famous for having an array of Italian restaurants. Italians had a big influence on the Fremantle's culture in the 1880s.
- 1 La Sosta, 85 Market Street, ☏ +61 8 9335 9193. Open for lunch F-Su, open for dinner W-Su. Stylish Italian restaurant with the view to the Cappuccino Strip. Pasta, seafood, meat dishes and a large wine selection.
- 2 Gino's Cafe and Trattoria, 1–5 South Terrace (straight up Market Street from the train station, on the triangular corner where that street meets South Terrace), ☏ +61 8 9336 1464, email@example.com. 06:30 to late. One of the first cafes in Fremantle and the epicentre of the Cappuccino Strip, Gino's opened on 29 November 1983 when Gino Saccone (1937–2001) decided to turn his tailoring business on the corner of South Terrace and Market Street into a cafe. The coffee has been surpassed by other cafes in Fremantle, but the history cannot be. Offers a mean breakfast and a lunch and dinner menu. Hard-pressed to find a seat, if you do get one, you would be in for a treat with the selection of cakes and strong coffee on brew. Mostly al-fresco dining, it is the place to have a Sunday get together with friends and family. You order at the bar, and for coffees (not food) should stand and wait and carry it to your table yourself (no other cafes around here do it this way).
- 3 Sala Thai, 22 Norfolk St, ☏ +61 8 9335 7749. 6–9PM.
- Cicerello's, across the way from The Esplanade park, Cicerello's has been more or less an institution since the early 1900s, and is widely regarded as serving Western Australia's best fish and chips. Eat indoors in the pavilion, or outdoors on Fisherman's Wharf. Short walks to the Maritime Museum, Round House and the Crocodile Farm.
- Sandrinos is a pizzeria close to the Millennium Hoyts cinema serving delicious Italian food including the famous chilli mussels. A small section of al fresco dining is available, but its indoor dining provides the best of the smells of the kitchen and pizza. Good for dinners with friends or family or just a Sunday lunch.
- Ali Baba Kebabs is on the Cappuccino Strip. All sorts of wraps are available from chicken to vegetarian. It is open till late to accommodate all those nightbirds wanting a real cheap treat.
- Nick's Place (Shishkebab Cafe), 2/36 South Terrace (on the Cappuccino Strip), ☏ +61 8 9336 2391. Serving souvlaki (Greek-style kebabs) for well over 20 years, real fresh marinated lamb, chicken, pork and beef cooked on the BBQ. Also a selection of vegetarian dishes such as Greek vegetarian capsicum feta omelette, Greek pita wrap, green vegetarian spinach feta omelette, and the popular Falafel. Also a wide range of sauces and dressings and the usual accompaniments.
- 4 Culley's Tea Rooms, 116 High Street (In the High Street Mall.), ☏ +61 8 9335 1286, firstname.lastname@example.org. This famous cafe has been around since the 1920s and is notable for its selection of pies and pasties, as well as an old-style milk bar. Try the caramel slice while you're there. Be aware that it does get crowded around lunch time. If you cannot find a seat inside, take one of the outdoor tables (place your order at the counter inside and pick it up at the window, if need be). The air conditioning is always on.
- 5 Parlapa, ☏ +61 439 294 147. M-F 7:30AM-4PM, Sa 8AM-4PM, Su 8:30AM-2PM. A little unpretentious café with delicious food and friendly service. It's away from the main cappuccino strip. Can be contacted on Twitter @parlapafreo.
- 6 The Attic, 16 Bannister Street (down a side street near the Market Street/South Terrace corner. It can appear closed as there is not much seating outside (look for the sandwich board on the footpath)), ☏ +61 431 750 800 (mobile). Daily 7AM-3PM, F Sa 6PM-late. A lovely cosy café in a building designed by Brian Klopper. Not the best in the heat of summer, but for a warm winter coffee (and wonderful food) this place is one of the best in Freo. Be sure to check out the brick-and-railway-steel construction. Approx. $15 for lunch.
- 7 Little Lefroy's, 310 South Terrace, South Fremantle (catch the Cat bus south along South Terrace and get off at the stop before Lefroy Road), ☏ +61 8 9430 4900. A nice little corner café with great coffee and pretty good food. Not much outside seating. Inside is nice, with tables probably more suited to groups than solo poets (although sitting at the long bench in the window is a great place to watch the passing world). Staff are friendly, and dogs are made welcome. c. $20 (coffee & cake for two).
- 8 B Shed Café, B Shed, Peter Hughes Drive (walk over the railway line from Fremantle station, past the E Shed Markets building, and on to the wharf). A great place to get a coffee while waiting for the ferry to Rottnest, but also a very atmospheric place to be when there is not a ferry expected (as it can get quite crowded) and watch the activity in the harbour. There are interpretive signs and photos around the walls explaining the history of the building and its role in immigration to Western Australia. The cafe is next to the Rottnest ferry operators' ticket counters.
- 9 Little Creatures, 40 Mews Rd (close to the Fishing Boat Harbour), ☏ +61 8 6215 1000. open all day, and for breakfast on weekends. Buzzy restaurant on the water. Opened in 2000, the huge shed that houses the current restaurant used to be a crocodile farm and was the birthplace of Little Creatures Brewing, whose is sold around the world. Try the Pale Ale, it's famous. It's still a working brewery: you'll be surrounded by beer mashing tanks and see the brewers going about their work. Just around the corner from the brewery, Creatures NextDoor is a cosy bar with great view of the Fishing Boat Harbour. There's an eclectic menu, but Little Creatures is famous for its wood-fired pizzas.
- 10 Chalkys, 4/1 High St. Nice cafe in the old tram barn at the end of High Street, right near the Roundhouse. Inside and outside tables. Interesting murals inside.
- The Sail and Anchor Pub Brewery. Serves unique beers, brewed on-site. If beer isn't your thing, you can quite easily get a local or international wine, cup of coffee or feed yourself at the al fresco Brewers Courtyard or on the balcony overlooking the famous Cappuccino Strip.
- Benny's Bar & Cafe, 10 South Terrace. Offers a large menu of cocktails and drinks accompanied with great band music on the weekends. Whilst there is something on 7 days a week, it is the weekend where you see this restaurant cum bar packed with eager party going people. Closing at 1AM, the band plays a range of genres with the top 40 hits in between sets.
- Little Creatures. Found inside a converted boat shed and crocodile farm, is a "cellar door" bar/restaurant. The beer is fresh (straight out of the conditioning vat, as fresh as you can get!), the food is great (dinner served until 11PM, wood-fired pizzas until midnight) and nothing beats watching the sun set through the masts of Fishing Boat Harbour.
- 1 Federal Hotel, 23-25 William Street, ☏ +61 8 9335 1645. midday–late. A modern pub, with accommodation above. Until 2016 this was the Irish pub Rosie O'Gradys.
- The Cappuccino strip is a section of South Terrace and surrounding streets and laneways in the centre of Fremantle where there are lots of cafés. It is easily accessible from the railway station. For more details, see the individual café listings under #Eat above.
- Beerpourium. W Th 4–10PM; F Sa 11AM–midnight; Su 11AM-10PM. This craft beer and pizza place is above the Dôme cafe on the Cappuccino Strip. It has a good selection of local craft beers, a great veranda, and wood fired pizza. ~$10 for a 425ml beer.
- 2 The Market Bar, 3/13 Essex Street (in an laneway that runs between Essex and Norfolk streets), ☏ +61 407 421 522. A nice cheery fresh place to have a pint, especially for the live acoustic music. There's almost always a busker playing good pub songs or a small band clustered around the grand piano later in the evening. Used to be located within Fremantle Markets, but was booted out in about 2015. Re-opened in 2018 in its present location opposite Luna cinemas, and has kept lots of the original fixtures such as the bar, the panoramic painting of Fremantle, and even the big green end wall with its stained glass window.
There are a couple of backpacker accommodations within walking distance of the train station.
- 1 Fremantle Prison YHA, 6A The Terrace, ☏ +61 8 9433 4305. 202-bed hostel in the former prison - some beds are in old cells and some are in a new building $28 for a bed, $68 for your own cell, $112 for an ensuite double..
- 2 Sundancer Backpackers Hostel, 80 High St, toll-free: 1800 061 144, email@example.com. Shared dorm accommodation, doubles, twins available. Dorm $28, ensuite double $80.
- 3 Be Fremantle Apartments, Mews Road Challenger Harbour, ☏ +61 8 9430 3888. Features 54 serviced apartments in Fremantle (1-3 bedrooms). Located right on the quay in Challenger Harbour. from $280.
- 4 Rydges Esplanade Hotel, 46-54 Marine Terrace, ☏ +61 8 9432 4000, +61 8 9432 4836, firstname.lastname@example.org. A standard "international style" hotel, and rather pricey (although you can pay more in Fremantle). It is definitely worth the price as it looks over the large Esplanade Park that lies on the other side of Marine Terrace. It has a swimming pool and gym in its central courtyard, and a number of food and drink venues within the hotel. Its central location is also a plus, surrounded by things to do, places to see, and good restaurants and cafes. The Esplanade bar on the corner of Collie Street and marine Terrace is a good place for an end-of-the-day drink.
- 5 Fothergills of Fremantle, 18-22 Ord St, ☏ +61 8 9335 6784. Property dating from 1892 on the slope of Monument Hill overlooking the town to the Indian Ocean and with Rottnest Island on the horizon. The three grand two storey houses offer traditional accommodation and old style breakfast
- 6 Port Mill Bed and Breakfast, 3/17 Essex St, ☏ +61 8 9433 3832. Off the Cappuccino Strip, still considered central, the old cottage style homestay provides a welcoming entrance. With a price range of $ 200 and above, this place promises you an opportunity to step back in time with its limestone architecture and unique interior. A stay at the bed & breakfast includes all the modern necessities and a continental breakfast.
- 7 Pier 21 Apartment Hotel (Modern Fremantle Accommodation), 7-9 John St N. On the banks of the Swan River, Pier 21 Apartment Hotel offers fully self-contained one- and two-bedroom apartments with spectacular views.
- Rottnest Island is a short ferry ride from Fremantle, and a great place to go for a day or a week.
- Perth's northern coast has pleasant beaches and surfing.