One of the first European settlements in Western Australia, the historic port city of Fremantle served as a gateway to the rich gold fields and the abundant pastoral lands of the east. Steeped in history, Fremantle today is an amazing blend of late Victorian and Edwardian buildings, heritage structures, designer shops, trendy cafes, and bars coupled with a vibrant culinary scene. The beautiful seaside settlement, a perfect weekend getaway from Perth, emanates a relaxed, creative vibe with a plethora of sights to explore and experience.
Whether you uncover tales of exploration, disaster, and survival at the unique Shipwreck Museum, visit the world-class WA Maritime Museum (one of the finest displays of maritime archaeology in the Southern Hemisphere), hear the resounding tales of prisoners and labourers at the Round House prison (the oldest building of Western Australia), appreciate the wonderful produce on display at the Farmer’s Market, loiter in the magnificent Town Square or surf and snorkel at the popular Port Beach, you will never be short of choices in this erstwhile colonial town.
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Must-Visit Places In Fremantle
1. Shipwreck Museum, Western Australia
This is the highlight of Fremantle. The one-of-its-kind museum is overwhelming with a gallery of shipwrecks and accompanying poignant stories and incidents. The Western Australian coastline is known as one of the most treacherous and has been responsible for many tragedies. Considered to be one of the leading maritime archaeology museums in the Southern Hemisphere, the most striking structure on display is the original broken hull of Batavia, the 150 ft. long ship which set sail from the Dutch port in October 1628 and ran aground a reef on the Western Australian coast in the wee hours of 4th June 1629. It was one of the first major European shipwrecks on this coast with many more to happen later.
The Batavia was excavated by archaeologists in the 1970s and intense restoration work helped bring it to its current shape. The viewing gallery at the top will make you admire the size and grandeur of the ship. The museum is filled with a plethora of artifacts and relics such as cannons and engines from the ill-fated ships mostly from the 17th century.
2. Old Round House
Considered to be the oldest public building in Western Australia, it was one of the major structures of the Swan River settlement in the 1830s. It was used as a prison to house convicts and outlaws. Made of a white capstone, it is actually a 12-sided building containing 8 cells, and a two-storey section for the entrance and warden quarters all opening to the central courtyard. It helped the jailer keep a close watch on the inmates.
The Round House was infamous for its treatment of prisoners. 600 grams of bread per day with a quart of water was the daily provision. Opting for hard labour for 10 hours, earned one an additional 200 grams of salt meat. No statistics were maintained for Aboriginal prisoners. The ways of punishment, which were done in full public view, were quite harsh and intended humiliation and torture. Few of the replicas of the torture devices can be still seen in the courtyard.
3. St John’s Angelical Church
The small yet beautiful structure is situated at King’s Square and dates back to 1843. It was converted to a larger building in 1882. A stone’s throw away from North Fremantle station, the Church welcomes visitors from all faiths. Made of local limestone, the interior of the church is beautiful with the typical stained glass on the side walls. The courtyard looks pretty with a small garden and tall date palms.
4. Western Australia Maritime Museum
Adding to the rich archives of the maritime history of the region is the Western Australian Maritime Museum. Established in the late 19th century, it houses several galleries highlighting Western Australia’s maritime relationship with the outer world. The museum provides a holistic picture of the region and its development both culturally and financially—incredible sailor stories, submarine tour, Indian Ocean Gallery, Swan River gallery, Fremantle gallery, rare marine skeletons, trade routes, cargo galleries, ancient boat replicas, and much more.
5. Fremantle Prison
It is Western Australia’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. Fremantle Prison is the largest prison in Australia which was in use as recently as 1991. It was built by the prisoners in the 1850s and served as an incarceration centre for 136 years! Considered to be the maximum security prison in Australia for more than 100 years, it was decommissioned in the early 1990s due to its venerable condition and growing incidents of prison riots. The prison has seen it all—frequent hangings, floggings, inmates’ unrest, and stories of heroic escapes. Prison Day Tours, Tunnels Tour and Torchlight Tour, Convict Prison Tour, and True Crime Tours are some of the many guided tours for visitors. All of these need pre-booking and can be done from their website fremantleprison.com.au
6. Fremantle Market
Functioning since 1897, the Fremantle Market is a combination of fresh local produce, indigenous products, and unique food offerings showcasing the culture, tradition, and heritage of Western Australian markets. It is one of the few buildings in Australia which is still used for the purpose it was built.
7. Fremantle Beaches
Bather’s Beach behind the Old Round House is the most popular beach in Fremantle. Near to many attractions, it is preferred by visitors. Locals also equally love this 300-metre-long white stretch of sand due to its shallow waters and incredible sunset views. The Port Beach North Fremantle is another beautiful beach that starts at the mouth of the Swan River. The beach enjoys calm waters and provides beautiful views of Rottnest Island. The adjoining village of North Fremantle has plenty of atmospheric cafes, pubs, restaurants, and sit-outs making it another great place to be in Fremantle. Leighton Beach, North Beach, and River Beach are a few other notable beaches in and around Fremantle.
Fremantle is a beautiful amalgamation of the ancient and the contemporary with diverse stories of maritime, colonial, convict, and migrant history.
Best Fremantle Restaurants
Duck Duck Bruce: One of the most popular cafes in Fremantle serving delicious local cuisine. The pet-friendly place is apt for breakfast and lunch. Try their pancakes, they’re among the best you would have ever eaten.
Manuka Wood Fire Kitchen: If you have a craving for pizza, then this is the place in Fremantle. The chef with a stint in a Michelin Star restaurant in London doles out delectable wood-fired pizzas, bread, vegetables, and meat.
Copper Chimney: Serving quintessential Indian cuisine, the offerings range from crunchy samosas and crispy dosas to authentic Butter Chicken. To top it all, the service is a delight.
Best Fremantle Hotels
There is always a debate about whether to stay in Fremantle or just visit it from Perth. We recommend at least a night’s stay in the colonial town to experience its charm completely.
Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges: Close to all the major attractions including the beach, it is a perfect hotel in the prime location of Fremantle. Double rooms from INR 7000 onwards.
Quest Fremantle: Modern serviced apartment with all amenities including a fully equipped kitchen and Wi-Fi and near many local attractions. Double Rooms from INR 8000 onwards.