Where those of ill-repute reigned over what was once Australia’s roughest port town, Fremantle reinvented itself in the 1950’s with the arrival of Europeans immigrants. Then after winning the America’s Cup in 1987 the town rejoiced as the streets became lined with cafes, bars, shops museums, and buskers; the revellers may have dispersed but the party still remains 30 minutes west of Perth.
Seafarers, artists and misfits 4 hours or more
Explore Western Australia’s rich maritime history at the WA Maritime Museum (Victoria Quay), and check out the America’s Cup winning yacht Australia II and the Submarine Ovens, a memorial to submariners who lost their lives during WWII. Take a tour of the Fremantle Prison (Prison’s Gatehouse, Fairburn Ramp) and discover its gruesome past as you visit the gallows where hangings took place at 8.00am on Monday morning’s right up until 1984. Or trek on foot and by boat through the labyrinth of tunnels 20 metres below, where prisoners were ordered to hard labour in the tunnels which served as a water catchment. Make your own great escape to the Fremantle Arts Centre (1 Finnerty St), built by convicts in 1864 as a lunatic asylum, and now features photo exhibits, the largest collection of local and Australian art in the state, concerts, and intimate courtyard performances.
Shoalwater Islands Marine Park 6 hours or more
Join Capricorn Kayak Tours (www.capricornseakayaking.com.au) for a sea kayaking tour of Penguin and Seal Islands. Bring your binoculars and spy the array of 16 unique seabirds seldom seen on the mainland, including silver gulls, the Australian pelican, and once on Penguin Island watch the world’s smallest penguins, the Fairy Penguins, being feed. Snorkel its underwater wonderland where dolphins and seals may be your swimming companions.
Beach Babes 2 hours or more
The coast is dotted with glorious beaches but you don’t need to travel far to be a sand-groper*. Bather’s Beach (Fremantle Harbour) is accessed through a tunnel called Whalers Tunnel beneath the Round House, Fremantle’s former prison until it was outgrown by the number of its convicts in 1886, when the Fremantle Prison opened. The beach is split in two by its stone wall and with the Fremantle township right behind it’s an ideal spot for a dip and exploring the town. If obscenely white sands and the calm waters of the Indian Ocean beckon, then swim or snorkel at Port Beach (Port Beach Rd, North Fremantle). Or head to Cottesloe Beach (Marine Parade) for its iconic shady Norfolk pines and endless coastal views sure to keep you warm long after you return home.
Fish, beer ‘n chips 2 hours or more
Cast a line from the rocky harbour walls known as the South or North Mole (Fremantle Harbour) but if those snapper, mulloway, or butter fish get away, Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour will serve these and almost any other seafood imaginable anyway you wish; including fish and chips at sunset. Perched on the harbour and brewed onsite are pale ales, pilsners and ciders from the Little Creatures Brewery. If the queues are off-putting, meander through the parklands of the Esplanade Reserve to the one of the state’s first micro-breweries and have a Sail Iron Brew beer at the Sail & Anchor (64 South Terrace) and position yourself on the balcony to admire the passing parade of bohemians and dreamers.
*sandgroper: an affectionate term for a Western Australian; a burrowing insect found in Western Australia