Fremantle (Perth), Western Australia
The port city of Fremantle is a jewel in Western Australia's crown, largely because of its colonial architectural heritage and hippy vibe. Freo (as the locals call it) is a city of largely friendly, interesting, and sometimes eccentric residents supportive of busking, street art, and alfresco dining. Like all great port cities, Freo is cosmopolitan, with mariners from all parts of the world strolling the streets—including thousands of U.S. Navy personnel on rest and recreation throughout the year. It's also a good jumping-off point for a day trip to Rottnest Island, where lovely beaches, rocky coves, and unique wallaby-like inhabitants called quokkas set the scene. Modern Fremantle is a far cry from the barren, sandy plain that greeted the first wave of English settlers back in 1829 at the newly constituted Swan River Colony. Most were city dwellers, and after five months at sea in sailing ships they landed on salt-marsh flats that sorely tested their fortitude. Living in tents with packing cases for chairs, they found no edible crops, and the nearest freshwater was a distant 51 km (32 miles)—and a tortuous trip up the waters of the Swan. As a result they soon moved the settlement upriver to the vicinity of present-day Perth. Fremantle remained the principal port, and many attractive limestone buildings were built to service the port traders. Australia's 1987 defense of the America's Cup—held in waters off Fremantle—triggered a major restoration of the colonial streetscapes. In the leafy suburbs nearly every other house is a restored 19th-century gem. An ideal place to start a leisurely stroll is South Terrace, known as the Fremantle cappuccino strip. Wander alongside locals through sidewalk cafés or browse in bookstores, art galleries, and souvenir shops until you reach the Fremantle Markets. From South Terrace walk down to the Fishing Boat Harbour where there's always activity—commercial and pleasure craft bob about, and along the timber boardwalk is a cluster of outdoor eateries and a microbrewery. Between Phillimore Street and Marine Terrace in the West End is a collection of some of the best-preserved heritage buildings in the state. The Fremantle Railway Station on Elder Place is another good spot to start a walk. Maps and details for 11 different self-guided walks are available at the Fremantle Visitor Center; a popular heritage walk is the Convict Trail, passing by 18 different sights and locations from Fremantle's convict past.
The original owner, Gino, was so passionate about coffee that he closed his tailor shop to open this cappuccino-strip property with a busy alfresco terrace. Among the most popular drinks are the house coffee (Gino's Blend), and the Baby Chino—a froth of milk dusted with chocolate powder that young children love. The recently renovated Gino's opens at 6 am to serve coffee, then cooks an extensive choice of breakfasts from 7 am. The lunch menu focuses on focaccias ansd paninis while for dinner, nearly two dozen different pasta dishes are available, including a superb penne alla vodka with chicken and spinach.
No visit to Fremantle is complete without a stop at this locally famous fish-and-chippery which was once featured on a postage stamp. Housed in a boathouse-style building fronting Fremantle's lovely Fishing Boat Harbour, this joint serves the real thing: fresh oysters, mussels, crabs, fish, lobsters, and chips, all wrapped up in butcher paper (no cardboard boxes or plastic plates here). While you eat, you can check out the huge aquarium and touch pool: the restaurant has more e than 50 species of local marine life.
Joe's Fish Shack
Fremantle's quirkiest restaurant looks like everyone's vision of a run-down, weather-beaten Maine diner. With uninterrupted harbor views, authentic nautical bric-a-brac, and great food, you can't go wrong. Recommendations include the salt-and-pepper squid, stuffed tiger prawns, and chilli mussels. An outdoor dining area provides restaurant food at take-out prices.
Char Char Bull
Waterfront Fremantle is renowned for its seafood restaurants, so going to a harborside venue for steak seems almost irreverent—a bit like going to Italy for a curry—but meat lovers will revel in the juicy steak selection at Char Char Bull. This lively restaurant, with full table service, specializes in char-grilled prime beef selected from year-old, grass-fed Murray Grey cattle. Choose from tender filet mignon, tenderloin, sirloin, and rib eye cooked exactly how you like it, with all the trimmings. If you just can't go a day without fish, oysters, barramundi, garlic prawns, scallops, and wine steamed mussels also feature on the menu, as does pizza.
Bread in Common
We challenge you not to fall in love with new restaurant Bread in Common. This industrial-chic bakery-cum-restaurant wins the gong for hottest interior in town, with dozens of vintage-style globes streaming from the warehouse ceiling or looping in red electrical cord over suspended beams. Their warm light illuminates long, wooden tables backed by distressed brick, all with views of the giant open kitchen. Herb boxes line the 1890s heritage facade, while out back is the wood-fired oven that pumps out three styles of crunchy organic bread.
Ootong & Lincoln
It says a lot about the café’s style that they commissioned a local street artist to paint a giant, multicolored zebra mural on an external wall. Inside, colorful communal tables are surrounded by dividers made from plumbing pipes while vintage tricycles line a shelf below the ceiling. Just as much love is put into the food. Everything is made from scratch—even the jams—and the eggs in the breakfast dishes are, naturally, free range. Go for the poached egg and smoked salmon dish that’s pumped up with diced avocado and a corn and zucchini fritter, dolloped with hollandaise.
You may need to wait for a table (they take limited bookings), but the complimentary minestrone and crusty bread will tide you over at this Fremantle institution. You'll get a warm welcome from the Pizzale family, who have owned and run the restaurant for more than 50 years—the 4th generation is now in charge. Sit down to grilled calamari splashed with lemon; panfried scaloppini in white wine; rich spaghetti marinara; excellent steaks; and fresh salads. Simple white-linen tablecloths, carafes of chilled water—it's BYO—and the sounds of laughter and clinking glasses round out the experience. This is old-style Fremantle at its best.
Moore & Moore
You'll know this café-restaurant by the retro bikes stacked out front next to the potted garden, eclectic-looking people, and live music that often streams from the doorway. There's an art gallery up the creaky stairs, but continue straight ahead past up-cycled furniture to the garden seating out the back. Their food is as tasty as the vibe is charming. Hugely popular for breakfast (even though they have a "no scrambled eggs" rule) it also makes for a great lunch option. Expect poached organic eggs with smoked salmon and asparagus; oven baked tomato and chorizo egg pots; raw pizza; quinoa salads; and more eco-focused but super yummy dishes. It's feel-good all around.
Sitting on the corner of bohemian Wray Avenue, Wild Poppy fits right in with its granny-chic patchwork upholstered lounges, crocheted cushions, mismatched crockery, and vintage paintings. Twists on the norm are what the South African owner-operators do best, blending their own culture with global flavors. The fried chilli and masala eggs are a firm favorite, as is the black Thai rice pudding paired with a banana fritter. Sweet tooths will adore the Belgian waffle with salted caramel and ice cream while meat-lovers can opt for the Boerewors sausage. They also do standard options for those feeling less adventurous, but why be bland? Especially when everything is made from scratch in-house, using organic and free range ingredients, catering for gluten and dairy free diets. Even the cups and take-away containers are fully compostable.
There's nothing more pleasant than relaxing in the evening at one of the sidewalk tables on the cappuccino strip. This area, along South Terrace, opens at 6 am and closes around 3 am.
Sail and Anchor Pub
Thanks to its selection of craft beers—40 on tap—and right-in-the-middle-of-it location, the heritage listed Sail and Anchor Pub is a popular watering hole. Upstairs has comfy couches; you can watch buskers from the balcony; the front bar often has live music; and the bistro serves up no nonsense pub grub.
Fly By Night Musicians Club
Don't be put off by the rather nondescript entry to this venue. Once an artillery drill hall and now a National Trust heritage property, it has a great tradition of music and dance, hosting excellent Australian and international artists, including Fremantle nativee John Butler, up to six nights a week. Many local bands and soloists owe their big breaks to Fly By Night Musicians Club, a smoke-free venue. Plenty of parking opposite.
Metropolis Concert Club Fremantle
In the heart of Fremantle's cappuccino strip, Metropolis Concert Club Fremantle, a nonstop techno and funk dance venue, is a fun, if youth-dominated place to go on a Friday or Saturday night.
Dome Cafe is a big, airy franchise coffee house that gets a little frantic during busy periods.
Fancy a free tour of the brewery? How about borrowing a free, retro red bike for the day? Little Creatures has got a lot going for it—including its harborside location and fun-loving, artsy vibe—and it won’t cost an arm and a leg. Sign up for the free tours that take you through every step on the beer-making process. Then, leave a photo copy of your credit card and driver’s licence or passport with the staff so you can borrow a bike. This is the best place in Fremantle to taste kangaroo—the skewers are excellent, as are the steamed mussels and thin base pizzas. Naturally, matching the food with beer is a must. Expect a pleasant surprise from the mid-strength Rogers beer.
Who's Your Mumma
This city-style venue is on one of boho Fremantle's loveliest streets. Who's Your Mumma really comes alive at night. Its industrial globes put out warm light, and its wooden tables and chairs are packed with hip, fashionable but friendly locals. They also are open for breakfast at 8 am on weekends only, but they keep pumping out the goodness until 2 pm.
Pickled Fairy & Other Myths
A fairy theme pervades the Pickled Fairy & Other Myths, making it a delight for children and elves, with themed activities to entertain all involved. All staff are dressed as fairies and kids get sprinkled with magic dust and a wish. Fairy dresses, fairy books, and mystical magical knickknacks make this a treasure trove of potential presents for lucky little girls, or anyone with a numinous streak.
A strong supporter of both WA and international produce, this unique Greek-owned providore overflows with fragrances and sacks of goodies from across the globe. Delectable items such as Brazilian quince and guava pastries, goji berries, Tasmanian honey, Japanese teas, locally produced pestos and olives, roasted coffee beans and European hard cheeses ensure that homesick, or simply nostalgic, visitors can enjoy a slice, sliver, or smell of home.
The former Fremantle Prison, built in the 1850s, is where 44 inmates met their fate on the prison gallows between 1888 and 1964. Tours feature the classic-art cell, where a superb collection of drawings by convict James Walsh decorates his quarters.
The eclectic, artsy, and always bustling Fremantle Market has been housed in this huge Victorian building since 1897 and sells everything from WA landscape photographs to incense, freshly roasted coffee, toys, baby clothes, and fruit and vegetables out the back. You can also get street food, such as Turkish gozlemes, German sausages, corn on the cob, and fresh squeezed orange juice in the Yard. Around 150 stalls attract a colorful mix of locals and tourists. On weekends and public holidays the market can get crowded, but the Market Bar is a nice, if slightly shabby place to take a break and watch the buskers. Family-friendly events are also regularly held here.
An eyecatching landmark of early Fremantle atop an ocean-facing cliff, the Round House was built in 1831 by convicts to house other convicts. This curious, 12-sided building is the state's oldest surviving public structure. Its ramparts offer great vistas spanning from High Street to the Indian Ocean. Underneath, a tunnel was carved through the cliffs in the mid-1800s to give ships lying at anchor easy access from town. From the tunnel you can walk to the calm and quiet Bathers Beach where there used to be a whaling station, and listen out for the firing of the cannon at 1pm daily. Volunteer guides are on duty during opening hours.
Bounded by High, Queen, and William streets, Kings Square is at the heart of the central business district. Shaded by 100-year-old Moreton Bay fig trees, it's a perfect place to watch the world go by. Medieval-style benches complete the picture of European elegance. From Oct. to Apr. the Square hosts a small market as well as bands and street performers. Bordering the square are St. John's Anglican Church and the town hall.
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Resembling an upside-down boat, the Western Australian Maritime Museum sits at the edge of Fremantle Harbour. It houses Australia II, winner of the 1983 America's Cup, and has hands-on, rotating exhibits that are great fun for children. You can also take one-hour guided tours of the adjacent submarine Ovens, a former Royal Australian Navy World War II submarine. Tours depart from the maritime museum every 30 minutes; reservations are recommended during school holidays. Another attraction is the Welcome Walls, a record of all those who immigrated to Western Australia via ship during the major postwar migration. A five minute walk away on Cliff Street in a separate, heritage building, the Shipwreck Galleries house the recovered remains of Dutch wrecks, including the Batavia (wrecked offshore in 1629), and the 1872 SS Xantho steamer.
Fremantle Arts Centre
Like most of Fremantle, the fine, Gothic Revival Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC) was built by convicts in the 19th century. First used as a lunatic asylum, by 1900 it was overcrowded and nearly shut down. It became a home for elderly women until 1942, when the U.S. Navy turned it into its local submarine base in WWII. This time has been captured in a new augmented reality iPad tour, accessed via an App which digitally overlays historic content over the present day site. IPads can be borrowed for free or the App can also be downloaded onto your own tablet.As one of Australia's leading arts organisations, FAC offers an engaging cultural program year-round. Dynamic exhibitions, a gift shop, and an expansive live music and special events program feature throughout the year. In the warmer months, FAC also has free live music on Sundays at 2 pm, and people like to bring picnics and watch.
A local favorite, wide Port Beach has small, gentle waves; water the color of Bombay Sapphire; and sugar-white sand. It butts up against Fremantle Harbour's North Quay wharf and stretches towards Leighton. Like most of the western-facing coast, the sunsets are epic and the views of Rottnest charming.
Amenities: parking, lifeguards. Best for: swimming, walking, snorkeling, windsurfing, sunset.
Not far from Fremantle, Adventure World is every fun-loving kid's paradise—especially on a hot day, with water mountain mat slides, rapids navigated in an inflatable tube and bumper boats with water cannons. The new 630-meter (2,066-foot) roller-coaster ride called Abyss is guaranteed to thrill: it heads skyward for 10 stories, drops more than 30 meters (98 feet), and its loops deliver G-force twists of up to 4.5. Inspired by ancient Druid guardians, its thrusts are reportedly greater than those in a space shuttle launch.
Situated south of busy Cottesloe and about 30 mintues from central Perth, Leighton is a relatively quiet beach that's loved for its sugar-like sand and flat, calm water, which is perfect for those who like to paddle. It's equally loved by wind and kite surfers on windy days, who tear across the table-top surface. At the northern end of the beach, dogs are allowed to be off-leash, so expect to see lots of happy pooches running around. It's close to the North Fremantle train station.
Amenities: toilets, parking, lifeguards. Best for: swimming, walking, snorkeling, windsurfing, sunset.
Sometimes, good things come in small packages. This flat, soft-sand beach sits hidden between the Fishing Boat Harbour and the Round House. It's an ideal spot to picnic with take-away fish-and-chips.
Amenities: food and drink. Best for: solitude, walking, swimming, sunset.