Western Australia is famous for a few things; pristine beaches, maritime history, and a sunny climate are just a few. Best of all, the small city of Fremantle has all that and more. Discover the best things to do in Fremantle with this guide to a few key attractions and some of the best places to eat in Fremantle that’ll be sure to keep you busy on your visit.
Where is Fremantle in Western Australia?
Getting around Fremantle
While it is possible to walk to each of your destinations in Fremantle, there is a free CAT bus that operates runs from South Beach to the railway station and vice versa. This is a great alternative to lengthly walks that can take up a lot of the day, especially if it’s a scorcher you won’t want to be working up a sweat just by getting from A to B!
One way to structure your days out is to start at the museums and esplanade, and then either walk or catch the bus back through town before stopping at the beach for a cooling swim in South Fremantle. Of course, you can plan your trip in reverse, but ending with a swim is a relaxing way to finish off the day in my opinion!
Best Things To Do In Fremantle Western Australia
In a small city on the outskirts of Perth, there is a surprising variety of activities to enjoy, spanning a range of interests. Here are just a few of the best things to do in Fremantle on a visit, and the perfect way to spend a day or long weekend in this charming spot in WA.
WA Maritime Museum
Kick of your trip near the harbour, which is also conveniently close to the railway station if you’re visiting from Perth, and visit the WA Maritime Museum. At the museum, entry costs $15 for adults and with your ticket you’ll have access to all sort of exhibitions and displays of natural and human history.
In addition to visiting attractions, the permanent displays offer an insight into the role Fremantle and Western Australia played throughout history. One highlight includes marvelling at HMAS Ovens from afar – the Cold War-era submarine sits outside the museum, proudly on show for all to see. Visitors can even take a guided tour of the sub for $15 (adult), but with limited time we decided just to appreciate the vessel from inside the museum.
Explore street art & architecture
Fremantle is a wonderfully quirky city oozing character. This is clearly apparent from the street art adorning the city. It won’t take too long to spot some murals or installations as you walk through town, helping to make the most of getting from A to B! A firm favourite is the lifelike mural by Graeme Miles Richards, who’s wonderfully detailed and extensive Trompe L’oeil piece is spread across East West Design studios in South Fremantle.
Moseying on through this part of town not only might you find curious works of art, but also have the chance to appreciate the old buildings scattered through the streets. Particularly around the University of Notre Dame, there is some beautiful architecture to admire!
Cannon fire & Roundhouse
Stop by the Roundhouse on your way towards the coast for amazing views over the Indian Ocean. The Roundhouse is a free-entry historical building of significance to Fremantle, and situated on top of a small hill which allows great views of Bathers Bay!
An unassuming stone structure, the Roundhouse is the oldest public building in Western Australia! It was constructed in 1831 and used as a prison for 55 years. It went on the become a police lockup for several more years until its use was shifted to Fremantle Ports as a storage facility. Visitors can enter the small rooms that were once cells, and get a small sense of what staying in there would have been like!
Every day at 1pm is an extra treat for visitors to the Roundhouse. Just to the front of the of the Roundhouse overlooking the ocean, is the cannon which is fired every day on the Gun Deck. The ritual involves lowering the time ball, a brief explanation of the gun’s use in history, and an honorary gunner having the privilege to set it off. The volunteer trusted with explaining the cannon firing to us also told us that the explosion would mean there’s a chance to end up with some gunpowder residue on your clothing. She even recommended to avoid flights in the next few days as it can even be detected in airport security! Using a slightly modernised method of launching the gun, it was of course perfectly safe, if very loud!
The Roundhouse and cannon were a brief but fun visit, and I’d definitely recommend adding it to your itinerary when visiting Fremantle. It’s free and practically on the way between attractions, so visiting the Fremantle Roundhouse is a must. You can even book the cannon firing ahead, and guarantee the experience of setting off the cannon for you or a friend!
WA Shipwrecks Museum
With the Roundhouse having piqued your historical interest, amble on towards Esplanade Park and stop by the WA Shipwrecks Museum. This museum is free to enter, however donations of $5 are suggested to help support the museum. Set in a beautiful 1850s stone building, we explored stories of shipwrecks and naval mysteries throughout our visit. The main attraction is the original timbers of the Batavia – which wrecked way back in 1629 and was excavated in the 1970s. The wreck was fortunate to receive extensive restoration, and now is proudly on display from all angles to appreciate and educate.
The Batavia has a fascinating story, involving murders, rescues, and of course the shipwreck. I’d highly recommend taking some time to read about this fascinating vessel, and dive into what might have happened all those years ago.
With further rooms and galleries filled with delicate archeological finds from the depths of the sea, this museum is a window into naval life throughout history, and spanning cultures and nations.
Making our way through the Esplanade, we aimed for the award winning Fremantle Markets to explore inside the hall built as far back as 1897. With food, local produce, indigenous and cultural products, souvenirs, and more – it’s just what you’d expect from any indoor market. A lively, bustling vibe that is familiar to such an experience, the Fremantle Markets is made even more atmospheric thanks to buskers jovially playing away right in the centre.
We decided to avoid the crowded halls and grabbed a smoothie to sit outside. Fortunately, the markets offer great public seating for visitors to rest after all that shopping! Fremantle Markets is open from Friday – Sunday as well as Monday public holidays. If you’d like to visit make sure to do so on those days to avoid disappointment!
Even if you’re not buying anything, Visiting the markets is a must-do in Fremantle. Having won awards and accolades, this is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the Freo community and culture. And, if you do feel like making a purchase, your dollars will be going to local sellers and their independent businesses!
Visit Point Walter
A short 7km drive east of Fremantle can take you to Point Walter Reserve, where you can admire beautiful views of the Swan River and even walk along the long sandbar stretching into the waters!
The focal point of Point Walter is walking along the sandbar. Take care to watch out for small jellyfish scattered along the beach and sharp shells, or bring waterproof shoes if you want to avoid injury! Snap a few photos of the majestic black swans as you cross the river, and keep an eye out for water levels as the tide can soon come in. You definitely want to avoid becoming stranded!
A short excursion to Point Walter offers a unique vantage point of Perth. With some Aboriginal Australian heritage and history to the area, you can extend your visit to include paddle boarding, kitesurfing and golf if you wish. This brief detour from Fremantle is well worth it for a picturesque view of the natural scenery around Perth.
Either to round off a busy day exploring Fremantle, or as a whole day dedicated to deserved R&R, South Beach is by far the best place to unwind in South Fremantle.
White sands and astoundingly clear waters mean this beach is the perfect paradise spot. There are several entrances to the beach through the grassy banks which sit behind a children’s play area and well-maintained recreational parks. This family-friendly beach also has great facilities such as toilets and a cafe serving a wide range of hot and cold drinks and food.
During our time in Fremantle we endeavoured to visit the beach as often as possible, which wasn’t difficult for us considering how beautiful is it and how eager we were to get in the water! Don’t be fooled by the heat of the sun and sparkling seas however, the water can be pretty chilly! We tended to visit the beach early in the morning to enjoy the still waters and cooler sun. It also meant we had first pick of where to place our towels!
Sandy beaches are the epitome of an Australian trip, and South Beach does not disappoint for stunning views and a perfect atmosphere in a lovely residential area. Best of all, facing west towards the sea means the South Beach is one of the best places to enjoy a stunning WA sunset of incredible colours bathing the water and sands in glorious hues of pink of gold – isn’t it just so romantic?!
Best food and drink in Fremantle
- Ruoccos – This is the most wonderful Italian restaurant right in the heart of South Fremantle. It’s so good in fact we went twice during our time there! The restaurant does get busy, so it may be worth booking ahead or dining outside peak times. We’d recommend the pizzas, they are absolutely delicious – especially the Arancia!
- Saroor – After a lot of splashing about in the sea at South Beach, pop down to Saroor on South Terrace for an Indian cuisine lunch special on Friday – Sunday! For just $15 you can order one of their flavoursome curries with a healthy serving of rice, and wash it down with a sample of their wines. You best go on a hungry stomach because you’re sure to be well fed here!
- Run Amuk – This quirky hotdog diner is the perfect fast food quick fix to satisfy your hunger cravings. A range of intriguing toppings mean you’ll be spoilt for choice at Run Amuk! We also visited on more than one occasion because we couldn’t resist trying another delicious hotdog! The vibrant interior and decor makes it a fun experience to enjoy your meal watching the world go by from South Terrace.
- Mop Donut – These donuts are every bit of indulgence as you can imagine. A wide range of flavours exquisitely executed, it’s tempting to order more than just the one! The ideal naughty sweet treat, you can find a Mop store in Fremantle as well as Perth city.
Top Tips For Visiting Fremantle
- Some eateries and cafes are closed on Sunday and Monday (and some Tuesdays), particularly a little further out of the centre of town. Don’t be too disappointed turning up to find it closed, so check ahead if your food-stop will be open!
- Avoid the peak sun of the day at the beach. It’s mostly common sense, but try and visit the beach either early or later in the day to avoid the excessive heat and strong sun. Plus, the beach is usually quietest around either end of the day, so more room to splash about!
- The famous WA wind can pick up throughout the day, so if you’re looking to catch the rays with serene, calm waters visit the beach early in the morning when the sand is settled and the air is still. If you’re not bothered by a sandy towel then later in the day is great too!
- A lot of attractions in Fremantle are free or very low cost, but you can get even better deals by planning ahead! The WA Maritime Museum offer entry by donation only on every second Tuesday of the month, so you can get an even better deal if you wish.
- Plan your route out! Walking from South Fremantle to the Esplanade (or vice versa) is a long way, so know which stops you’re most interested along your route. Planning your route also means you’ll be in your preferred spot for a glorious sunset view!
As you can see, visiting Western Australia doesn’t mean you’re limited to the big city – Fremantle has plenty to offer and buckets of character too! With amazing beaches and coastline, art and culture abound, and a rich naval history, what’s not to love! I certainly think that Fremantle quashes a few stereotypes of Australia; after all who says Australia has no history?!
Have you visited Fremantle? Would you be keen to visit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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