Home » Towns » Western Australia » Perth » Fremantle, WA

Fremantle, WA

Superb historic port at the mouth of the Swan River

Fremantle is a wonderland of interesting historic buildings, gracious modern hotels, extensive seaside parks and enough tourist attractions to make it the ideal daytripper destination for Perth locals and visitors. It is a perfect day out with excellent restaurants (and, arguably, the best fish'n'chip shop in the country), lots of parks for picnics, excellent walks around the harbour and along the coastline, historic streetscapes and fascinating, unusual experiences including a Shipwreck Museum and a tour of a prison which was built by convicts in the 1850s. It is a city that needs to be savoured. A city with nineteenth century history and twentieth century pizzazz as a result of its involvement with the rich man's America's Cup. It also happens to be Perth's port - it has a large industrial area around the docks, grain silos, a ferry service across to Rottnest Island, stacks of containers piled high on the wharves and old bond stores.


Fremantle is located at the mouth of the Swan River 19 km south-west of the Perth CBD.


Origin of Name

Fremantle is named after Captain Charles Howe Fremantle who, on 2 May, 1829, formally took possession of "the whole of the west coast of New Holland in the name of His Britannic Majesty and the Union Jack was hoisted on the south head of the river".


Things to See and Do

Historic Attractions in Fremantle
There are a number of important buildings around Fremantle which deserve to be inspected and admired. They lie at the heart of the city's historic essence and, most importantly, they appear and reappear in the many excellent walking trails (see them listed below) which allow visitors to experience the city.
A sensible approach is to read about these buildings and then to choose a walking tour which passes the buildings you are particularly interested in visiting. Have fun. It is a remarkable place which is well worth exploring. Make sure you get tied to, and whipped, on the triangle at the Fremantle Gaol. It is unforgettable.

Western Australian Maritime Museum
Located at Victoria Quay Road, the Western Australian Maritime Museum is regarded as one of the finest museums in the country. It combines a series of "Long Term Exhibits" with Major Exhibitions which change on a regular basis.
The Long Term Exhibits (see http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime#longterm for detailed information) include:
* Tin Canoe to Australia II Gallery - celebrates the evolution of humans and the maritime world. It includes the Australia II racing yacht.
* HMAS Ovens - an opportunity to take a tour through the Oberon class submarine HMAS Ovens which is moored at the submarine slipway. The tours take an hour and leave every half hour between 10.00 am - 3.30 pm. Check availability on 1300 134 081.
* WA Down Under Gallery - this gallery features the marine life which exists along the Western Australian coastline.
* Indian Ocean Gallery - a display of artefacts brought up from the depths of the Indian Ocean and recalling a time when sailing ships were swept across the Indian Ocean by the Roaring Forties.
* Swan River Gallery - a history of the maritime life along the Swan River including an old Swan River ferry and Lady Forrest, Fremantle’s first steam pilot boat, both restored to their original condition.
* Fremantle Gallery - tells the story of the port of Fremantle and its construction by CY O'Connor and its location as a point of entry for immigrants.
* Cargoes Gallery - looks at the cargoes (sandalwood, sheep, whale oil, wheat) that passed through Fremantle port.
* Naval Defence Gallery - explores Australia's naval defence and includes "a World War One Tenix AE2 submarine conning tower, naval weaponry and a replica of an underwater Motorised Submersible Canoe known as a Sleeping Beauty."
* Robert Steele Steam Machinery Exhibition - a wharf shed devoted to historic engines from Western Australia's maritime past.
* Hooked on Fishing Gallery - explore the WA fishing industry and communities
* Welcome Walls - located at Victoria Quay and listing, on over 400 panels, the people who have arrived in Western Australia and were born overseas.
The museum is open 9.30 am - 5.00 pm daily. For more information tel 1300 134 021 or check out http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime.

Statue of C.Y. O'Connor
Located at 1 Cliff Street, behind the Maritime Museum (walk towards E-shed down the centre island of the Museum car park until you reach the statue), this impressive statue was installed in 1902 and was the work of the remarkable local sculptor, Pietro Giacomo Porcelli. The dedication is "This memorial was erected by the people of Western Australia. In grateful memory of the public services of Charles Yelverton O'Connor C.M.G. M.Inst.C.E., Engineer-in-Chief 1891 to 1902. He designed and constructed the Fremantle Harbour, the Goldfields Water Supply from Mundaring to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. A distance of 352 miles and all railways and other public works throughout Western Australia during the above period."
Here’s O'Connor's life story as told by the National Trust: “In 1891 John Forrest, Premier of Western Australia, employed C.Y. O'Connor, an Irish born engineer working in New Zealand, as Engineer-in-Chief and told him the colony required 'Railways, harbours, everything'. O'Connor immediately began work on Fremantle Harbour and improving the colony's rail system.
“When gold was discovered at Fly Flat near Coolgardie in 1892, then at Hannan's (later Kalgoorlie) in 1893, thousands flocked to the arid Goldfields. The lack of fresh water was a huge problem and resulted in poor sanitation, diseases such as typhoid and many deaths …
“Premier Forrest visited in 1895 and saw for himself the enormity of the problem and, as more than half the colony's population now resided in the Goldfields, he was under considerable pressure to find a solution to the water crisis …
“After exhaustive enquiry O'Connor and his team recommended a scheme to pump water from a dam east of Perth through a pipeline to Coolgardie …The cost was enormous but Premier Forrest was determined the scheme should go ahead and in July 1896 put the proposition to Parliament. There was criticism from several politicians and after long debate Parliament approved the raising of a loan from England of £2,500,000, more than WA's entire annual budget …
“Critics in the press and Parliament attacked the scheme from the beginning because of the amount of public money being spent. O'Connor was also accused of giving jobs to former colleagues from New Zealand. Sunday Times editor FC Vosper, who was also a politician, ran a personal attack on O'Connor's integrity and ability through the paper.
“Parliamentary debate over a contract for caulking the pipes and controversy over land dealings along the pipeline route prompted a formal Government enquiry into the entire scheme in February 1902.
“O'Connor was in South Australia at the time of the enquiry and returned to face more press accusations of corruption and incompetence. With Forrest's move into Federal politics, O'Connor now lacked political support.
“The new Premier, George Leake, had long been an opponent of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. O'Connor came under increasing strain from the attacks on his personal and professional integrity and, tragically, took his own life on 10 March 1902, just a month before pumping began.
“Lord and Lady Forrest officially opened the scheme ten months after O'Connor's death, in three separate ceremonies at Mundaring, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie on 22 and 24 January 1903.
“The scheme cost £2,655,220, only slightly more than O'Connor's estimate made seven years earlier (which did not include the extension to Kalgoorlie). Water has flowed to the Goldfields ever since.”
Most Western Australians today regard Charles Yelverton O'Connor as a man of genius.

Shipwrecks Museum
Located at 47 Cliff Street, the WA Shipwrecks Museum is primarily a maritime archaeology museum. The museum is housed in the 1850s-era Commissariat building which has been carefully restored. The Western Australian coast was notorious for shipwrecks and the museum contains hundreds of relics. The museum is home to a changing list of temporary exhibits as well as a series of long term, permanent exhibitions including the original timbers from Batavia (wrecked in 1629) in the Batavia Gallery; the de Vlamingh dish retrieved from Dirk Hartog Island in the Hartog to de Vlamingh Gallery; the Dutch shipwrecks Zuytdorp, Zeewijk and Vergulde Draeck in the Dutch Wrecks Gallery; and the Xantho Gallery where the restored SS Xantho steam engine is housed after it spent more than a century underwater. The Museum is open 9.30 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week. For more information tel: 1300 134 081 or check out http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/shipwrecks.

* Kings Square - Fremantle Visitor Centre
Kings Square, which is an ideal starting point for any exploration of the city, is a public open space with a church, the Visitor Information Centre and a number of works of public art. The most prominent buildings are the Fremantle Town Hall and St Johns Anglican Church.

St Johns Anglican Church
The understated stone church on the corner of Adelaide and Queen Streets, is St Johns Anglican Church which replaced an earlier church and was consecrated in 1882. The paving stones outside are Yorkshire flagstones which were brought to Australia as ballast for sailing ships. The church was designed by William Smith in London and built by Joshua James Harwood who used limestone from a quarry located in Cantonment Street. Note particularly the east end stained glass windows which were manufactured in Munich, Germany and depict "The Appearance in the Upper Room", "Stilling the Tempest", and "Christ and the Magdalen". There are also seven lancet stained glass windows on the west wall which depict seven works of mercy. They were imported from London. And the church organ was made by Robert Cecil Clifton in 1884 and installed at a cost of £600.

Fremantle Town Hall
Located in St Johns Square on the corner of Adelaide and William Streets, Fremantle Town Hall was opened on 22 June 1887 as part of Queen Victoria's Jubilee Celebrations. It was built at a cost of £15,000. The clock tower, which is one of Fremantle's prominent landmarks, is 31 metres high. The opening of the Hall was marked by a dramatic event when William Conroy, the licensee of the Victoria Hotel, was refused admittance to the celebrations because he was drunk. He subsequently shot the Town Supervisor, W.J. Snook, who had refused him entry. Snook died three months later from the injury. Conroy was tried and sentenced to death. Executed on 18 November 1887, he was the last person to be hanged at Perth Gaol. The building has been described as "The overall treatment to the elevation is a confident Victorian free style interpretation of classical architecture...the facades employ a multiplicity of classical elements including pediments, rusticated floor, Corinthian pilasters, pediment windows, urns, string courses, heavily moulded architraves and bas relief decoration – all rendered to appear stone...at the roof level "classicism" gives way to an exuberant array of towers not encountered in classical architecture."

Public Art Works in Kings Square
Pietro Giacomo Porcellithis statue, by sculptor Greg James, honours the sculptor who, as Monument Australia explains, “Porcelli created many impressive statues which are still seen today in prominent locations around the State. His crowning achievement is considered to be the Peace Memorial at the Midland Junction Railway Workshop. Other commissions have included the C.Y. O’Connor bust at Mundaring Weir and the heroic statue at Fremantle Harbour. In the 1980s, Giuseppe Rispoli, a friend of Porcelli and Founder of the Porcelli Memorial Fund, proposed that a statue of the sculptor be commissioned by the Italian community in honour of his memory and his creative artistry.” It was dedicated in 1993. See https://www.monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/arts/display/60505-pietro-giacomo-porcelli.

Hughie Edwards - Created by sculptor, Andrew Kay, and dedicated in 2002 this dramatic statue is of Air Commodore Sir Hughie Idwal Edwards VC who was an heroic pilot during World War II who returned to Australia to become Governor of Western Australia (1974-1975). There is a detailed history of his role as a fighter pilot in the RAF at https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/military/display/60489-air-commodore-sir-hughie-idwal-edwards.

Chess table and chairs - Created by conceptual and public artist, Coral Lowry, this unusual structure is a table with a chess board and four chairs (two benches with four backs) - the chair backs mirror the stained glass windows in St John's Anglican Church.

John Curtin - Created by sculptors Joan Walsh-Smith and Charles Smith this 2.2 metre silicon bronze statue is of Western Australian politician and Australian Prime Minister (1941-1945), John Curtin. It was unveiled in 2005. There is detailed information about the sculpture at https://publicartaroundtheworld.com/public-art-in-australia/public-art-fremantle/john-curtin-statue.

Tom Edwards Memorial Fountain - the inscription reads "This memorial fountain was erected to the memory of comrade Tom Edwards. Working Class martyr. Who sacrificed his life on the Fremantle Wharf on Sunday May, 4th 1919. "Greater love hath no man."" It was sculptured by Pietro Giacomo Porcelli. Monument Australia has a very detailed account of the riot and the death of Edwards who became a martyr and a symbol of the antagonism between the union labour and the government. See https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/humanitarian/display/60515-tom-edwards.

* Fremantle Markets
Located on the South Terrace, the Fremantle Markets are an historic marketplace which is housed in a Victorian-era heritage building. It was first opened in 1897. Known simply as the 'Freo Markets' they were refurbished in 1975 and today are home to over 150 shops and stalls. The markets are open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (9.00 am - 6.00 pm). Tel: (08) 9335 2515. See https://www.fremantlemarkets.com.au/history-trail-tour for more details and a downloadable guide and map. The map identifies 13 places of particular interest in the markets.

* Esplanade Hotel
Located on the corner of Essex Street and Marine Terrace, this huge hotel (currently known as Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges) currently has 300 rooms, bars and extensive conference facilities. It is registered on the National Estate which describes the building as "a two storey hotel built of stuccoed limestone and with an iron roof. Its two storey timber verandah is balustraded on the upper floor and is a major feature of the building. There is a balustraded parapet and dentil cornice and the roof is set off by a tower. Windows are arched and the building has some stained glass ... The hotel underwent substantial work during the lead up to the America's Cup defence." Check out http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=16612.

Fremantle Gaol
Located at the top of a small hill at 16 The Terrace this remarkable historic gaol was built between 1852 and 1859 using limestone that was quarried on the site. It was built by convicts under the Comptroller General of the Convict Establishment, Captain E. Y. W. Henderson. Today it is recognised as the largest convict construction in Western Australia. It is also the best preserved convict building in the country. It is reputedly based on the design used for Pentonville Gaol in England. It was closed as a prison in 1991. In 2010 it was officially listed as a World Heritage Site of exceptional cultural heritage significance. Today the gaol is used primarily for tours. It opens at 9.00 am seven days a week. Tours of the gaol start at 10.00 am and it closes at 5.00 pm. It also offers YHA accommodation. Check out https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/wa/perth-surrounds/fremantle-backpackers-hostel.

Warders Quarters
Located at 11 Henderson Street these old stone terrace houses were built in 1851 by convict labour. They were built to provide accommodation for the guards and warders working in the Fremantle Gaol. The design was typical of the Royal Engineers and has strong elements of Georgian architecture. The three sets of terrace housing, occupying 3,544 square metres, continued to be used by warders until the prison’s closure in 1991. For more information check out https://www.dplh.wa.gov.au/projects-and-initiatives/heritage-works/warders%E2%80%99-cottages,-fremantle. They have been turned into an 11-room boutique hotel known as The Warders Hotel. See https://www.wardershotel.com.au.

The Round House
Located at 15 Captains Lane, the Round House is open from 10.30 am - 3.30 pm seven days a week. It is an important part of Fremantle's early history as it was the first construction in Fremantle ... and, as a comment on the colony, that first building was a gaol. The Register of Heritage Places explains its origins as: "The Round House was constructed in 1830-31, almost immediately upon the settlement of the Swan River Colony, not so much to house local criminals, but unruly strangers to the port and the drunks amongst the less hopeful of arrivals.
"The Round House was designed by Henry Willey Reveley, an architect and engineer, who had accepted the position of Civil Engineer to the Colony. Reveley was involved with the design of all of the early public buildings in the colony, including the Round House, Government Offices, Commissariat Stores, Courthouse and the first Government House.
"The building is twelve sided and self-contained. All rooms face an inner courtyard, which provides for light and ventilation, and was used as an exercise yard. The design was based on Bentham's panopticon, and thus embodied the latest design principles of incarcerative architecture at the time." Check out http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Admin/api/file/16d28870-b519-a23d-3704-07e42af8e754 for a lengthy analysis of the building and its history.
It contains eight cells and a latrine, wash house and warder's quarters. The building, with its central courtyard, stands impressively on the headland overlooking the town. It stopped being used as a prison in 1857 when the Fremantle Gaol was established. It is an amusing irony that the only reason it wasn't demolished in 1922 was because the Harbour Master protested that its demolition would expose his house to north westerly gales. Nothing like the Fremantle Doctor to ensure historical preservation. 

Round House Tunnel
The tunnel under the Round House was used by Fremantle’s whaling industry. It was used to drag whales from Bathers Beach to the streets of Fremantle. The blubber was removed and boiled up on Bathers Beach.
The Register of Heritage Places explains "In 1837, the Fremantle Whaling Company, which had been established in 1836 and used a little jetty on Bathers Beach, requested that a tunnel be cut from Bathers Beach through Arthur's Head, and under the Round House, to connect with High Street. In return the company would construct a breakwater to protect ships of up to 150 tons. The cost of the tunnel was met by the Whaling Company, and the Round House architect, Henry Willey Reveley, directed the works."

Fishing Boat Harbour
Located off Mews Road, Fremantle's harbour has been officially named Fremantle's Fishing Boat Harbour and it has its own website - https://www.fremantlefishingboatharbour.com. It is open from 9.00 am - 10.00 pm seven days a week. Apart from being the working centre of Fremantle's fishing industry it also has walking trails and boardwalks which are edged by restaurants, cafes and bars. It proudly boasts that it has Australia's first licensed beach. It is a fascinating mixture of chic destinations and working fishing boats.

Cicerello's on the Fisherman's Wharf 
It is impossible, without eating at all of them, to know where the best fish'n'chips in Australia can be enjoyed. However, Cicerello's on the Fisherman's Wharf, has become a favourite for people living in the Greater Perth area and there are many who will insist that, when it comes to great fish'n'chips there is no better destination. Certainly it has variety - everything from snapper and barramundi to mussels and crayfish - and it has a superb location with views across the water. An essential part of Fremantle. Check out the details at https://www.cicerellos.com.au.

Cappuccino Strip
The section of South Terrace from the corner of Bannister Street to Parry Street is known as the "Cappuccino Strip". It is home to Fremantle's best restaurants, wine and cocktail bars, pubs and interesting culinary experiences. It is a smart promotion of a concentration of eateries, with lots of al fresco dining, and is a reminder that Fremantle is a port where different cultures have mingled for a very long time. Check out https://www.hunterandbligh.com.au/travel/the-weekender-fremantle-wa.

Samson House
Located on the corner of Ellen and Ord Streets, Samson House was once the home of the Samson family who can claim to have the oldest family business in Australia. Their import-export business was established when they arrived in 1829 and it still operates today. WA State Heritage notes of the elegant house "Samson House is a detached house with a coach house and servants' quarters set in a large mature garden. The corrugated metal roof, brick and stone house with belvedere in an Italianate in style constructed of rendered masonry is surrounded by well-kept gardens, lawns and trees. The house is designed in the Federation style with elements of Queen Anne. The coach house and servants' quarters are also of stone quarried from the site. The house is typical of late 19th century colonial style with delicate cast iron lace railings, friezes and brackets. The house was built round the iron hand pump which was originally used and which is retained providing an historic detail." See http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/e6f1668c-3c28-42b9-ba55-1ccaa87ddc25 for more details.
This superb old building was designed by Sir Joseph Talbot Hobbs for Michael Samson and completed in 1888. The house was bequeathed to the Western Australian Museum in 1987 and subsequently was taken over by the National Trust. Apart from its substantial gardens the house has excellent displays of period furniture. The focus of restoration has been to preserve the feeling of a "well to do" home at the end of the 19th century. The result is quite magnificent. The kitchen has been restored to late 1930s style. The beautifully restored and maintained house is an insight into the lifestyle of one of Fremantle's most prominent families. It is open on the first Sunday of the month. For more information tel: (08) 9321 6088 or check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/samson-house.

Located just off the Canning Highway near the Fremantle traffic bridge, and overlooking the Swan River, is Containbow created by local artist Marcus Canning. This huge sculpture is made up of nine coloured shipping containers, all joined together to make a 10 metre high ‘Rainbow arch'. The structure spans 19 metres and weighs an estimated 66 tonnes. 

Walking and Cycling Trails
There are eight walking and cycling trails around Fremantle and all of them can be downloaded at https://www.visitfremantle.com.au/play/fremantle-walking-trails.

* Fremantle Cemetery Heritage Walk Trail
Check out https://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/docs/default-source/General-website-documents/fremantle-heritage-walk-trail-map.pdf?sfvrsn=d9f8884b_4 which provides a downloadable map and details of 35 gravesites of notable Western Australians. It starts with the Bon Scott (of AC/DC fame) statue.

* Discovery Trail
This is a good introduction to Fremantle's main attractions. It includes the Markets, the WA Shipwreck Museum, the Round House prison and the impressive Fremantle Gaol. The brochure can be downloaded at https://images.impartmedia.com/visitfremantle.com.au/Discovery_Trail_January_2020.pdf.

* Fremantle Markets Heritage Trail
Located on the South Terrace, the Fremantle Markets are an historic marketplace which is housed in a Victorian heritage building. It was first opened in 1897. Known simply as the 'Freo Markets' they were refurbished in 1975 and today are home to over 150 shops and stalls. The markets are open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (9.00 am - 6.00 pm). Tel: (08) 9335 2515. See https://www.fremantlemarkets.com.au/history-trail-tour for more details and a downloadable guide and map. The map identifies 13 places of particular interest in the markets

* Manjaree Walking Trail
The Manjaree Trail starts at Cantonment Hill and moves down the Inner Harbour and around to the northern end of Marine Terrace. Its interest lies in the way the detailed signage evokes a sense of what Fremantle must have been like for the local Whadjuk people before the arrival of the Europeans. It tells of the bush tucker, the trade and the customs of the local people. The Aboriginal names of the locations are mentioned and there is a detailed description of the Whadjuk First Nation people who lived in the area.

* Fremantle Highlights Cycling Trail
Covering 7.5 km in a circuit which starts at the Visitor Centre, goes to the Markets and then up to Fremantle Gaol and Monument Hill before dropping down to the Arts Centre and heading along the harbour to the Quay, the WA Maritime Museum, the Shipwreck Museum and the Round House prison - this is an excellent introduction to the main attractions of the city. Check out https://images.impartmedia.com/visitfremantle.com.au/City_Cycle_Trail_Brochures_Fremantle_Highlights.pdf for a map and detailed descriptions.

* Indian Ocean Explorer Cycling Trail
This is a 10 km journey from the Visitor Centre up the coast to Cottesloe Beach. It travels up the shoreline of Fremantle Harbour, stops at the stunning Containbow sculpture, then continues up the coast past Port Beach, Leighton Beach and the Vlamingh Memorial before reaching Cottesloe Beach. There is an excellent map and detailed information at https://images.impartmedia.com/visitfremantle.com.au/City_Cycle_Trail_Brochures_Indian_Ocean_Explorer.pdf.

* Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour Trail
Three short trails around the Fishing Boat Harbour which include the 1.8 km Challenger Cray Trail which explores the Challenger Harbour and crayfishing boats; the Boardwalks and Brewery Loop which passes some of the best fish and chips shops in Australia; and the 4 km Capo d'Orlando Marine Trail which includes the Sardine Wharf and several public artworks. There is an excellent map at https://images.impartmedia.com/visitfremantle.com.au/MAC_M_Fremantle_Boat_Harbour_Walking_Map.pdf.

* A Trek Through Time
This is a simple walking trail between the WA Shipwrecks Museum and the WA Maritime Museum which includes the Round House, the Whaler's Tunnel, the CY O'Connor statue and Bathers Beach. For more information and a 24 page brochure check out https://museum.wa.gov.au/trek-through-time-family-trail. The brochure comes in two versions - a Maritime Museum to Shipwreck Museum version and a Shipwreck to Maritime Museum version. Very clever.


Other Attractions in the Area

* East Fremantle Heritage Trail
A 3 km walk through East Fremantle includes a number of historic hotels, the Town Hall, former Police Station, former Post and Telegraph Office, various private dwellings, the Swan brush company and the Royal Hotel. East Fremantle became a separate municipality in 1897 and has acquired a separate identity from the more developed Fremantle centre. It presents a very different image of Fremantle from that of the more popular tourist attractions in the city centre. For more detailed information check out https://www.eastfremantle.wa.gov.au/enjoy-east-fremantle/history-and-heritage/town-of-east-fremantle-heritage-trail.aspx. There is also an excellent downloadable map.

* Rocky Bay Heritage Trail
The Rocky Bay Heritage Trail is a combination of a 1 km scenic walk along the cliff tops of Rocky Bay and a 2 km walk around the old town of North Fremantle. Created as a Bicentennial Project in 1988 it is an opportunity to explore the settlement, development and natural environment of North Fremantle and Rocky Bay. 
* The Rocky Bay Scenic Nature Walk starts at Harvey Beach and includes Cypress Hill which overlooks Rocky Bay where walkers inspect a tunnel; a cave where local First Nation people believe the Rainbow Serpent rested; Buckland Hill and Minim Cove.
* North Fremantle Historic Town Walk starts at the World War I Memorial on Queen Victoria Street and includes the Town Hall (1902), the Post Office (which was once the police station), a number of interesting local streets, and finally arrives at the Gilbert Fraser Oval with its National Trust-listed grandstand.
An excellent brochure, with detailed information about each of the places and useful maps, can be downloaded at https://whadjukwalkingtrails.org.au/brochures-and-maps/heritage-trails/Rocky-Bay-Hertiage-Trail.pdf.

Rottnest Island
Fremantle is the ideal location for a ferry trip across to Rottnest Island. Located 19 km off the coast from Perth, Rottnest Island, is the city's favourite holiday and day tripper destination. Only 2 hours by water the island is accessible and idyllic. Today the island's great appeal, apart from the relaxed ambience and the beautiful beaches, is the absence of cars (everyone on the island rides a pushbike or walks), the historic buildings, the charm of the huge Moreton Bay figs, the quirky appeal of the Quokkas, and the quiet waters around the island. Not surprisingly Rottnest has been a magnet for Perth people since the 1850s. The island is 11 km long and 4.5 km at its widest point. The most popular way to access Rottnest Island is by ferry. 
(i) The Rottnest Express departs B Shed Victoria Quay, Fremantle. There is detailed information, prices and times, at their website - https://www.rottnestexpress.com.au.
(ii) Sealink offer regular ferry service from Fremantle to Rottnest on the Quokka 1. For detailed information check out https://www.sealinkrottnest.com.au/ferry.
See Aussie Towns https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/rottnest-island-wa for more information.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Whadjuk Noongar First Nation people for at least 45,000 years.

* Fremantle was established on 2 May 1829 when Captain Charles Howe Fremantle took possession of "the whole of the west coast of New Holland in the name of His Britannic Majesty and the Union Jack was hoisted on the south head of the river".

* In June, 1829 Lieutenant Governor James Stirling decided that Fremantle would be the port and that the new colony would be developed 18 km up the Swan River. He had arrived with 400 settlers on HMS Sulphur and HMS Parmelia.

* Fremantle was formally proclaimed in August 1829 and the Surveyor General, John Septimus Roe, laid out a grid system of roads between South Bay and North Bay.

* The descriptions of Fremantle in the late 1820s present a picture of a lonely, barren port where the 'Fremantle Doctor' battered the coast and made life miserable for the local inhabitants.

* The first public building was a gaol built in 1830-31.

* In Fremantle, written by T.A.G. Hungerford, the town is described as "Grogshops and flies notwithstanding, by 1833 there was at the mouth of the Swan River a small township of some 200 'good stone houses' in regularly laid-out streets, some of them macadamised. There were two large, well kept inns where 'you could get clean beds and good private rooms.'"

* In 1837 Captain John Stokes brought the Beagle (the ship on which Charles Darwin travelled) into Fremantle and noted: "Fremantle ... is but a collection of low white houses scattered over the scarce whiter sand."

* A tunnel was cut underneath the gaol in 1837. It was cut for a local whaling company.

* The town experienced a major depression in 1843.

* In 1845 the first steamship, the HMS Driver, entered Fremantle port.

* In 1849 it was announced that the Swan River Colony had been "constituted as a penal colony".

* In 1850 the Imperial Convict Depot was established. 75 convicts arrived in Western Australia that year.

* From 1850 until 1868 there was a huge building program in the settlement which has resulted in some of the city's finest buildings.

* Transportation stopped in 1868.

* The most famous of all the convicts was John Boyle O'Reilly, a Fenian activist who arrived in 1868 and escaped in 1869 on an American whaler. He was responsible for the escape of a number of Fenians aboard the Catalpa in 1879.

* Convict labourers continued to have an impact on Fremantle until the 1880s.

* The Perth to Fremantle railway was completed in 1881.

* Gas street lights were installed in 1887.

* In 1888 the first telephone exchange was installed in the Town Hall.

* The town water supply was established in 1890.

* The Inner Harbour was opened in 1897 after the sand bar was removed from the mouth of the Swan River and South and North Moles were built to prevent further silting up by the sea. This vital piece of construction was done by Charles Yelverton O'Connor. A hospital was built that year.

* By 1901 there were 13,704 people living in Fremantle.

* In 1940 boom defences were installed in the harbour as a security measure and anti-aircraft installations were built.

* During World War II Fremantle became the largest submarine base in the Southern Hemisphere.

* In the 1980s Fremantle became a premier tourist destinations as a result of the 1983 victory of Australia II in the America's Cup competition. This meant that the cup arrived in Australia and that the subsequent America's Cup challenge was held off Fremantle.

* Today Fremantle is a vibrant city with a charming mix of historic buildings and chic cafes and bars. It is a coastal playground for people from Perth.


Visitor Information

Fremantle Visitor Centre, Town Hall, Kings Square, (08) 9431 7878. Open Monday to Friday 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, Saturday 9.00 am - 4.00 pm and Sunday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm.


Useful Websites

The official local website is https://www.visitfremantle.com.au. Also of interest is https://www.fremantlewesternaustralia.com.au.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

1 suggestion so far
  • In July 2021 Kings Square was officially renamed Walyalup Koort. Walyalup is the Nyoongar name for an area that includes Fremantle and Koort means heart.