You could claim that Fremantle is a suburb of Perth, but you'd be wrong. It is a city in its own right, deliciously different from Perth in its location, people and style. It is commonly shortened to Freo.
The locale of Fremantle was the first point of call for the Dutch in the 1600's, the English who settled in the early 1800's and is historically endowed with buildings and streets that still tell stories of the earlier years of the nineteenth and twentieth century activity as the port for the developing Western Australia. It was the first port of call of shipping from the United Kingdom and Europe before they proceeded on to other ports in Australia. It was in early years in competition as a port with Albany for shipping to and from Europe, but overtook Albany and has never looked back.
Parts of the built heritage of Fremantle have escaped the developmental trends that occurred in Perth, where older buildings were removed regularly to be replaced by large office buildings with little character. The heritage status of buildings and streetscapes of parts of Fremantle make it a great place to wander and learn about Fremantles early days. The international attention for the Americas Cup challenges held just off Fremantle also saw considerable effort in improving facilities for visitors and tourists.
Being a port, it was the first land for immigrants in the past, and currently is also a point of call in a number of Cruise Ship operators, and also the closest point for trips to Rottnest.
By car Take Leach Highway west, Stirling Highway south-west 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.
There are many TransPerth buses that arrive and leave Fremantle. Routes 98 (clockwise) and 99 (anti-clockwise) are quick and frequent services that lead to Fremantle. They terminate at the Fremantle Railway Station.
Frequent commuter trains from Perth leave from Perth's City Station, and makes the 25 minute trip to Fremantle via Perth's western suburbs, culminating in a breath-taking view of beach, ocean and port before arriving at Fremantle 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 are two routes, a Red CAT and a 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
There is a lot to see in Fremantle.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fremantle Prison, 1 The Terrace St, ☎ +61 8 9336 9200. Open every day of the year except Good Friday and Christmas day. Originally constructed in 1851 by the convicts that were transported to Australia from the UK to house themselves, following the end of convict transportation to Australia 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 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.
- Shipwreck Galleries, is 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 artefacts from the Dutch shipwrecks Zuytdorp, Zeewijk and Vergulde Draeck. Located near the Fishing Boat Harbour. Entry is free, gold coin donations appreciated.
- 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, . 9:30AM-5PM daily. 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. $10 (children 5-15 $3, concession $5, family $22). A tour of HMAS Ovens, a retired Oberon-class submarine, is well worth the time.
- Round House, Arthur Head. Western Australia's first permanent building. Built as a prison in the 1830's, the Round House now serves as a small, but informative museum, that focuses on the convict lifestyle of the 1800's. 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.
- Whalers' Tunnel, located 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 in recent years, and now has detailed explanations of its construction and local artifacts, making it a worthwhile self-guided tour.
- 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 tend to play their games mainly in central Perth, where the stadium is bigger there is 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 behavior so is quite a safe place to spend an evening. Some places to go out include:
Newport - 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 "The Atrium". Or if pool is the better option then the "Front Bar" is also available. Located on the famed Cappuccino Strip. 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 80/90s 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 it has a $10 cover charge before midnight and a $15 charge after. Get there early or expect a long line to get in.
Whether it is shopping for food or clothes, you are bound to find it. Fremantle offers you an array of retail therapy. Shops generally open from 10AM-5PM.
- The Fremantle Market - Connected, there are two sheds that houses fruit sellers and a variety of other items that you may wish to purchase, be it souvenirs or music CDs. You will find that it is rather quaint and a much much smaller version of Covent Garden in London. You definitely have to take your time to look through the markets because you never really know what you will find there. F 9AM-9PM, Sa Su 9AM-5PM.
- Boutiques - 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.
- Bicycles- 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' shop which have been around since the 1980's seem to be Mercers on South Tce which carries a full range of family bikes and offers repairs whilst Ideal Cycles in South Street O'Connor offers a wide range of road , 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.
- Sala Thai, 22 Norfolk St.
- Cicerello's, right across the way from The Esplanade park, Cicerello's has been more or less an institution since the early 1900's, 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 located 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.
- Gino's Cafe has been on the strip for 11 years as an Italian Cafe. Opened by Gino Saccone (1937-2001), it 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.
- 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.
- Sweet Lips, 47/8 Mews Road (Across the train tracks from Esplanade Park, Close to Shipwreck Museum), ☎ +61 8 9430 6902. Rated as the best fish and chips in Western Australia, Sweet Lips is a great choice for seafood. Their fish and chips are top notch, and if doing grocery shopping at Cole's in Fremantle, check the back of your receipts, as a Sweet Lips coupon found there will get you two fish and chips for $13.50.
- Nick's Place (Shishkebab Cafe), 2/36 South Terrace Fremantle (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 such as Greek Vegetarian capsicum feta omelette Greek Pita wrap, Green Vegetarian spinach feta omelette, Greek pita wrap and the popular Falafel. Also a wide range of sauces and dressings and the usual accompaniments.
- Rockin Pizza Serves unique hand-stretched in polenta traditional pizzas. Delivery all around the Fremantle area. open 7 days.
- Cully's Tea Rooms Located on High Street, this famous cafe has been around since the 1920's 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 Sail and Anchor Pub Brewery serves unique and award winning 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 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.
- Rosie O'Grady's is a little Irish pub that serves both food and drinks. It is known for its brand of ales (James Squire) and its delicious food. On certain days if you are lucky, you will catch glimpse of some local bands playing and you can partake in a quiz/trivia night in hopes to win money! Lots of fun times at Rosie's if you're with a group of friends.
- The Cappuccino strip is a long section of streets in Fremantle itself where there are loads of cafes, some being very "upper class". It is located at the northern end of South Terrace.
- X-Wray, 3/13 Essex St (Next to Luna Cinemas), ☎ +61 9430 9399. 7AM-10PM. The best casual cafe/tapas/bar in Fremantle. Eclectic style and food.Live music.Very cool.
There are a couple of backpacker accommodations within walking distance of the train station.
- 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..
- Freo Backpackers Inn, 11 Pakenham St, ☎ +61 8 9431-7065. (a short walk from the train station), from 22 $ for a dorm including breakfast (for YHA members). All the usual amenities (Internet, laundry, self-cooking kitchen) available. Not all bunk beds are equally comfortable and they charge 5 $ for keeping your luggage on the day of check-out.
- Sundancer Backpackers Hostel, 80 High St, toll-free: 1800 061 144, e-mail: email@example.com. Shared dorm accommodation, doubles, twins available. dorm $28, ensuite double $80.
- 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.
- Rydges Esplanade Hotel. a charming and rather pricey place to stay. However it is definitely worth the price as it looks over the huge park that spans across. Its central location is also a plus, surrounded by things to do, things to see and places to eat.
- 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
- Port Mill Bed and Breakfast, 3/17 Essex St, ☎ +61 8 9433 3832. located 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.
- Pier 21 Apartment Hotel (Modern Fremantle Accommodation), 7-9 John St N. Located on the banks of the Swan River, Pier 21 Apartment Hotel offers fully self contained one and two bedroom apartments with spectacular views.
- Cottesloe Beach is a quiet beach with a pleasant footpath along Marine Parade with panoramic views over the Indian Ocean. Watch the sunset whilst sitting on one of many benches and the scores of surfers who are still there in winter months trying to catch waves. Head about 10 minutes north by car via the Stirling Highway. Or take the train to Cottesloe and catch the free shuttle bus. The Cott Cat runs every 15 minutes each weekend and public holiday throughout summer. The Cott Cat runs in a loop between Cottesloe Train Station and Cottesloe Beach every 15 minutes, stopping at North Cottesloe (outside the Ocean Beach Hotel) and Cottesloe Beach (outside Il Lido Cafe).