Coming in at number seven on Lonely Planet’s list of best places to live, Fremantle has finally begun to shake off the shadow of neighbouring big brother Perth. With just 20 kilometres separating the two cities, Perth, with its happy hippie vibe has long been the big pull for visitors to the region. But Fremantle’s colourful past and bright future gives Perth as good as it gets.
The coastal city has undergone a complete revamp since the America’s Cup thrust Fremantle into the spotlight in 1987.
Over AUS$ 1,3 billion has been poured into revamping the city, and the fruits of the city’s labour are ripe for picking. Investment in the arts has brought Fremantle to the fore of thriving urban culture, while generous grants for small businesses has led to groovy live-music rooms, hipster bars, boutique hotels, left-field bookshops, craft-beer breweries, Indian Ocean seafood shacks amid the buskers and beaches. If that doesn’t not sound like your glass of beer, we guarantee a stroll along the wooden riverside walkway will change your mind.
The city also enjoys another, rather different status. Fremantle was one of Australia’s penal cities, vestiges of which can still be found in Fremantle Prison. Almost 10,000 convicts were condemned to life imprisonment here between 1850 and 1868, but the prison remained in use until 1991. Today, the memorable sandstone building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and at just 15 minutes from port is well worth a visit. Just don’t forget your get out of jail free card.