The port city of Fremantle (‘Freo’ to the locals) in Western Australia is a destination that draws visitors back time and time again.
The city is an easy trip from Perth and offers a fabulous mix of colonial and maritime history and culture, along with a great café and dining scene. If this is your first visit, here are nine things to do in Fremantle that you shouldn’t miss – and if you don’t tick them all off on your first visit, you’ll just have to come back!
- Experience life on the inside
The historic Fremantle Prison is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and for good reason. When 10,000 convicts arrived in Western Australia in 1850, they were promptly put to work to build themselves a secure home. The World Heritage-listed gaol is now the best-preserved convict-built building in the southern hemisphere, and the largest in WA. Only decommissioned in 1991, visitors can take an informative and pretty spooky guided tour of the premises to get a feel for what prison life was like in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Get crafty with a chilled ale
Western Australians love a cold beer on a hot day, and there’s no better place to enjoy a pint than at Little Creatures Brewing in Fremantle. With a claim to fame as the birthplace of WA’s craft beer scene, the brewery is located near Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour. Pop in for a signature pale ale or sit down to one of their delicious pizzas (the prawn and chilli pizza will blow your mind). Tours of the brewery are popular and include a tasting session at the end.
- Buy local and eat well at the Fremantle Markets
For a shopping experience with a delicious difference, take a stroll through the iconic Fremantle Markets – which operate from Friday to Sunday. Although there’s a lot of touristy merchandise on offer, the main reason to go is the food. You’ll find everything from robust coffee to bratwurst, and paella to poke bowls. Be sure to go on an empty stomach and remember to leave room for dessert. The doughnuts are to die for.
- Find the freshest fish and chips
All first-time visitors to Fremantle gravitate toward Fishing Boat Harbour. It’s the place to go for amazing seafood, especially classic fish and chips. Cafeteria-style Kailis Bros and Cicerello’s are fast favourites for a take-away, while Joe’s Fish Shack, Char Char Restaurant and Bar, and the nearby Bathers Beach House are all top dine-in choices.
- Explore the city’s rich maritime heritage
There are plenty of interesting ways to tap into Fremantle’s maritime heritage during your stay in the city. Start with a peek at the Welcome Walls, which are located outside the WA Maritime Museum. More than 400 panels carry the names of migrants who arrived in Western Australia by ship – many affectionately known as ‘ten-pound poms’.
Inside the museum, you’ll find exhibits on all things seaworthy, including the winning America’s Cup yacht – Australia II. For a glimpse of the not-so-seaworthy, the WA Shipwreck Museum tells the tales of numerous ocean tragedies off the coast of Western Australia – pieced together from hundreds of artefacts recovered from the seabed.
- Get arty
Artists and creative types from all walks of life flock to Freo. Make time to visit the Fremantle Arts Centre for a mix of local history and modern art. Even if you’re not ‘into’ art, a walk through the gothic architecture of what was once the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum is interesting in itself – and not only because it’s reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the city!
- Walk the walk
Fremantle is a ‘walk and discover’ type of place. The more you walk, the more you’ll discover, so set off on foot and lose yourself in the small side streets and back alleys of the historic city centre. If getting lost doesn’t appeal to you, Two Feet and a Heartbeat offers a great selection of guided walking tours. Enjoy humorous tales from Freo’s past and get a local’s insight into life in and around the city.
- Catch an Instagrammable sunset
If you want somewhere special to enjoy one of Western Australia’s sensational sunsets, head straight to Bathers Beach House. This chic eatery is the only premise licensed to serve alcohol on the beach. Grab a lounge chair, order a cocktail and settle in to enjoy the spectacular hues as the sun sinks slowly into the Indian Ocean.
- Set sail at twilight
Given Freo’s maritime heritage, it seems fitting that you should get out on the water at least once during your stay – so set sail on Charter 1’s 12.5-metre catamaran. Their seasonal Twilight Sail includes nibbles and a glass of bubbly. If you’re lucky, you may spot a pod of dolphins – or even whales!
The perfect accommodation options in Fremantle, WA
If you’re planning a trip to Fremantle, we recommend Quality Suites Fremantle, the perfect hotel to explore Fremantle, Perth. This boutique hotel has some of the most picturesque views from the room balcony. Another great option is the Comfort Apartments South Perth, located just 6km south of Perth CBD. If you’re looking for a place to stay in the city, we’ve got some picks for you here. While you’re in Perth, check out our list of must-do’s in the city of sandy beaches.
About the writer
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer based in Western Australia. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand and Australia. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book or zooming in on a beautiful scene. She’s also likely to be boarding a plane – or jumping out of one.