How to spend a day in Fremantle
I didn’t know much (ok, anything) about Fremantle before a recent trip to Western Australia. However, I had come across the very intriguing Fremantle Prison, and knew it had to be on my itinerary when I was out west. However, I thought I’d head over to Fremantle, spend a few hours visiting the historical convict site, and then return to Perth. Boy, was I wrong. I was blown away by how amazing Fremantle was, and had an incredible day of exploring, photographing, and wandering around aimlessly (one of the best ways to see a place, in my opinion).
Turns out Fremantle was named one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet, even beating out Rome! (Rome claimed spot 10, Fremantle 7- sorry Colloseum, not today.) In the words of Lonely Planet, Fremantle:
“Fremantle thrums with live-music rooms, hipster bars, boutique hotels, left-field bookshops, craft-beer breweries, Indian Ocean seafood shacks, buskers, beaches and students on the run from the books.”
For me, I loved the old port city for its colonial and convict architecture, quirky shops, cafes,and bars, the rich history, and the beautiful seafront. Only a half-hour train ride from Perth, a day in ‘Freo’, as the locals call it, is well worth an addition to your itinerary.
Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Fremantle.
How to Get There
From Perth’s CBD, head to Perth Station and buy a ticket to Fremantle- look for the Fremantle Line, and the train ride takes about 30-35 minutes, providing scenic ocean views along the way, Tickets can be bought at the machines outside the station, and are about $7.40 return for adults. Trains depart frequently throughout the day- consult Transperth for more details.
You can also travel up the Swan River by ferry, which takes longer but offers beautiful views and commentary along the way. A range of ferry operators offer this trip. Driving is also an easy option, with parking (generally paid) available in town.
If you arrive by train, head up the hill through town and make your way to Fremantle Prison, situated on the town’s highest hill.
Any trip to Fremantle should include some time at Fremantle Prison. I’ve written a thorough review of it here, but the prison is a World Heritage site, built by convict labour. Yes, as in the convicts were forced to build their own prison. Construction began in 1852, and it continued as an active prison up until 1991. Guided tours are the best way to experience the facility, and to learn about the history, cruelty, and even escapes that occurred throughout the prison’s occupation.
Maritime Museum and Roundhouse
Back towards the seafront, you’ll find the Roundhouse and the Maritime Museum, two great places to visit. The Roundhouse is the oldest public structure still standing in WA, and was the original convict prison, before the much larger Fremantle Prison was ready. Admission is by gold coin donation, so worth popping in to have a look around.
The WA Maritime Museum, aptly located in a port city, is chock full of exhibits on maritime history, archaeology, ships and submarines, and special travelling exhibits. I actually didn’t have time to visit on my recent trip, which was unfortunate, but I will next time. If it’s anything like the Sydney Maritime Museum, it would be great for anyone with an interest in history and Australia’s seafaring past.
Little Creatures Brewery
After a morning of sightseeing, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Stroll along the waterfront over to Little Creatures, one of Australia’s first micro-breweries to really gain a national following. Grab a table outside and enjoy the views, the funky decor, and incredibly delicious craft beer and food. You can also join in on a tour of the brewery, complete with samples. Their hand-cut french fries are perfect, for what it’s worth.
After lunch, enjoy a walk along the harbour. The sprawling boardwalk offers scenic views, complete with snippets of history via information plaques, seafood restaurants, and a glimpse into Fremantle’s importance, from a maritime perspective. It’s really relaxing and a perfect spot to watch the world go by, take photos, or enjoy an afternoon snack.
Cafes and shops
Heading back to the train station, take a look through town at the incredible architecture and the unique bookshops, pubs, and cafes that are sprinkled throughout town. Check out some cafe recommendations here and shopping tips here.
If you’re also planning a trip to Rottnest Island, consider spending the night in Fremantle. The ferries offer pick-ups from both Perth and Fremantle, but the trip from Fremantle to the island is a lot shorter than from Perth.
Have you been to Fremantle? What did you think?