13 Fabulous Things To Do in Fremantle on a Long Weekend

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One of the great things about living in the South West is that we have a smorgasbord of choice when it comes to where to go for a long weekend.

Should we head south to the forests, wine estates and beaches or north along long stretches of open road to Perth and beyond, or perhaps East to the wheat belt and quaint towns where ‘country’ WA is still really visible.

Last weekend we decided to take off again for Fremantle, Western Australia’s principal port, situated at the foot of the Swan river on the shores of the Indian Ocean just 20kms from Perth.

Fantastic Freo

Fremantle, or Freo as it’s known to the locals, has a cosmopolitan feel laced with history. We love the vibrant sidewalk cafes and restaurants along the well known ‘cappuccino strip’ and the seafood restaurants down at the fishing harbour. You’ll find art galleries, museums, quirky shopping precincts and colourful courtyards, while everywhere you look you’ll see historic buildings dating back to Victorian times.

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In the early days, convicts were landed and detained in Fremantle while later, particularly in the period during the wars and after the second world war, a large number of migrants came to WA in search of a new life, arriving after many weeks at sea. The Welcome Walls at the maritime museum have an intriguing list of the families who arrived by sea, showing the dates they stepped ashore.

Spoilt for Choice

You could stay in Freo much longer than a long weekend and still find plenty to do, but in the meantime here are 21 things to do in Fremantle that have made it onto our list at one time or another.

Although we’ve never taken a raccoon, hamster, ferret, lizard or armadillo for a drink!

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1. Eat Drink and Be Merry

Let’s face it, we’re always going to want to have a good nosh, and Freo provides a wonderful selection of eateries from a variety of seafood restaurants at the Fishing Boat Harbour to bistro type eateries tucked away in cute courtyards, and always plenty going on along the Cappuccino Strip in town.

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Try Moules Marniere at the Mussel Bar, or how about a sumptuous steak at Char Char Bull? Head into town for a home brew and pizza at The Monk micro brewery, or go and dance a salsa or two before dinner at Soho Swing. When we’re with our grown up children we often head for a cleansing ale and dinner at Little Creatures micro brewery where the pale ale is Dave’s favourite.

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To finish up, perhaps a little true indulgence at the chocolaterie, San Churro in Market Street?

2. Take a Boat Ride

From Victoria Quay you have a few choices. A ferry – to Rottnest Island, where you can explore 63 idyllic bays, hire a bike and snorkel, or Cruise – up the Swan River, or perhaps jump aboard Australia’s largest tall ship Leeuwin II for a 3 hour sailing experience.

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If you’re after an adrenalin rush then you might rather a fast jet boat ride that departs from The Fishing Boat harbor – shown in the top picture above the ferry.

3. Visit the Markets

Fremantle Markets – 150 stalls under one roof, consisting of fresh produce at The Yard and artisan products at The Hall. Open all day Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The stalls are in a grand old Victorian building originally used as a market hall in 1897.

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The E-Shed Markets have a variety of nikky-nakky-noos and you can find them at the main harbor on Victoria Quay. They’re open Fridays, Saturday, Sundays and Public Holidays 9am – 5pm.

4. Be Entertained

You’ll always find street performers in the courtyard outside the Fremantle Markets (in town) at the weekends, and one such itinerant busker who intrigues us is The Bad Piper, a local institution having found nationwide notoriety on Australia’s Got Talent on TV.

Things-to-do-in-fremantle-jo-castroTune into the local vibes because Freo is home to a great music culture. Some of Australia’s top musos have called Fremantle home;  members of ACDC, The Waifs, Jonathan Butler, David Hyams to name a few.

You’ll often find free concerts happening at the Arts Centre on a Sunday afternoon and interesting stuff happens at Kulcha (above Dome), and at The Fly by Night Musician’s Club in the heritage listed, previous artillery drill hall. There are also pubs where you’ll find a vibrant band scene happening too.

Don’t forget the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival held in April each year, and the Fremantle  Festival (October/November), and the Street Arts Festival also in April, The Heritage Festival which runs from the end of May to beginning of June and the Hidden Treasures winter music series that takes place on Thursdays in July. Check out @freofestivals on Twitter or /fremantlefestival on Facebook.

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And don’t forget the Footie! Fremantle is home to The Dockers team!  They play at Patterson’s Stadium in Subiaco. Yay – Go Dockers!

5. Sleep Over -  Where to Stay in Fremantle

There are lots of places to stay from 4 star hotels to quaint B & B’s. I’m just going to mention the three establishments where we’ve stayed and been happy.

The gracious Esplanade Hotel has a 4 star rating, two outdoor heated swimming pools, outdoor spas, sauna, fitness centre, and two restaurants. It’s in a great location, and rooms on the upper levels all have balconies.

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Clockwise from top left: Fothergills of Fremantle, Port Mill B & B, Fothergills violin display, The Esplanade Hotel.

Walking into the tranquil courtyard of Port Mill B & B with its fountain and bougainvillea is like stepping into a Tuscan story. The buildings are picture postcard pretty and once inside the courtyard you feel far from the madding crowd and the markets of Freo, but you’re actually right in the heart of town. Port Mill is a quaint place to stay if you’re after a luxurious and cosy experience in a heritage building.

Fothergills of Fremantle  is  situated in three grand heritage listed buildings high on the hill above Freo. The property is owned by David Cooke  a compulsive collector and patron of the arts. A stay at Fothergills is a unique experience because every nook and cranny of the property is home to an eclectic collection of art; from deck chairs to cows, sculptures, violins and paintings.  Stay in  one of 7 spacious rooms named to reflect local history. Occasionally musical events are held in the courtyard.

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6. Sculptures

At every turn in Fremantle you’re likely to bump into another piece of street art. Look out for Greg James’s sculptures in particular at the Footie Oval, and a series of sculptures around Town Hall Square, and don’t miss his works of art, “Iris” in the gardens of Fothergills – 4 full life-sized sculptures that depict the blooming of a beautiful woman, half plant, half beauty.

7. Swim, sunbathe, take a dive

Fremantle has a couple of beaches, and Bather’s Beach below is close to the restaurants of the Fishing Harbour.

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8. The Western Australian Maritime Museum

The jewel in the crown of one of Australia’s most significant historic maritime precincts. It’s in the west end of Fremantle and consists of the beautifully designed Maritime Museum and the convict built Shipwreck Galleries beside Fishing Boat Harbour.

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You won’t only be blown away by the exhibits, but you’ll also be amazed by the architecture, brilliantly conceived on a number of levels enabling visitors to view the crafts on show from all perspectives – below – level – and above.

The museum is appropriately home to Australia 11 winner of the Australia’s Cup in 1983, and one can argue that this was the boat that provided Fremantle with its most recent renaissance.

Take time out to look at the intriguing Welcome Walls outside the museum and if you have time visit the Shipwreck Museum, and do a Submarine Tour as well.

9. Watch a Sunset

Sunsets in WA along the coast are nearly always spectacular, and there’s nothing we like more than to take a glass of wine and watch the sunset.

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10. Visit the prison

In 1850 the first of about 10,000 convicts arrived in Fremantle as a labour force to help construc infrastructure for the Swan River Colony. One of the first things they had to do was build their own home, the Convict Establishment which later became Fremantle Prison.

It’s the most intact convict establishment in Australia and was only decommissioned as a maximum security prison in 1991. 43 men and 1 woman were hanged here, and it was a place of execution between 1888 and 1984.

Have a convict experience and book on one of the several tours available that include a  tunnels tour and an eerie tour by torchlight, not for the faint hearted.

11. Hop on Hop Off

A great way to see all the sights if you have limited time, is to hop on a Fremantle Tram Tour which gives you a guided tour of the city and its sights. You can hop off at various points and rejoin the tour later. There are several tour options one of which includes a cruise on the Swan River, another a tram and prison option. The tram also meets the Perth to Fremantle ferries making it easy for Perth visitors to hop on.

Things-to-do-in-fremantle-jo-castro12. Visit the historic sights

I’ve already mentioned the prison and shipwreck museum, but there are many more historic sights. The Round House is the oldest public building in WA and was the town gaol back in 1831, from here there’s also a great view of the town and Bather’s Beach.

Underneath the Round House you’ll find Waler’s Tunnel cut through the cliff with information boards about the whaling industry, and a little out of town is the iconic Fremantle Arts Centre which is housed in a gloomy, gothic fascinating Harry Potter type building that was once used as a lunatic asylum, a women’s poor house and a navy base. It’s situated in beautiful grounds and its history is fascinating.

Things to do in Fremantle

13. Get on your bike

The roads aren’t too busy yet in Freo for a scenic cycle, and there’s a 25km route you can take to Perth along back roads and cycle paths that often hug the Swan River.

Well, that’s a wrap for the things that we’ve done in Freo and can recommend, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list.

I’d love to hear any more suggestions you have  – and if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit what would you most like to do in Freo given the chance?

If you enjoy travel stories then why not visit Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travellers Sandbox where you’ll find stories about other interesting places in the world.

But before you go … stay and chat a while in the comments – Freo, what’s your take?

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Comments

  1. Neva Fels
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am amazed by all the things to do and then that incredible sunset to finish the day. Love your gorgeous pictures of such an historical place.
    Neva Fels recently posted..German Chocolate Cake is AmericanMy Profile

  2. Hi Joe,
    Sidewalk cafe, great seafood, The Bad Piper, arts and history, lovely sunset — Freo is my kind of town! I hope to get there someday. Lovely photos;
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..Thimphu, Bhutan (Part 1): The Festival, the Big Buddha and the CityMy Profile

  3. Muza-chan
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a beautiful place to visit…
    Muza-chan recently posted..Simply beautiful Japanese scenes, Colorful lights in YokohamaMy Profile

  4. Thanks for reading !

  5. Yes, Marisol, Freo has a bit of everything!

  6. Thanks Neva, glad you enjoyed your virtual tour around Freo!

  7. Rae
    Twitter:
    says:

    The Fremantle festival is on from this Sunday to the 10th. This sunday is the blessing of the fleet at the fishing boat harbour. Have just got back from lunch at Cicerello’s, Fremantle’s by home away from home. xxx Rae
    Rae recently posted..The Wedding Photographer and How I Got JibbedMy Profile

  8. Thanks for the update on the festival Rae!

  9. Leigh
    Twitter:
    says:

    It sounds like you are very lucky to live where you do. Fremantle appears to have loads to keep the visitor busy. How I’d like to visit Western Australia after reading your posts.
    Leigh recently posted..Cycling the Banff Legacy Trail from Canmore to BanffMy Profile

  10. Marcia
    Twitter:
    says:

    You’ve really got a lot of choices here, Johanna!
    I’m intrigued by the prison. Would probably start there and work my way back.
    Thanks for the tour!
    Marcia recently posted..Travel Memories: Sometimes, it’s the Characters You MeetMy Profile

  11. Love how Aussies add O to the end of everything. Of course it’s Freo – I should have known that and will now sound like a local when I get there ;)

    You are glowing in pink and purple. Looks like a fun.. and very busy weekend.

    x A
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot recently posted..Urban Safari in Harare and Zimbabwe Travel Myths BustedMy Profile

  12. Oh me too, Annabel! And yes, I’m glad you’ll sound like a local when you get here – when are you getting here? Soonish rather than laterish, I hope ;) Thanks – the Dockers colours are a fit for me – lucky really!

  13. Yes, Marcia, the prison would be a great starting point and set the emotional scene. Especially for a writer :)

  14. Thanks Leigh, and I’m glad to be tempting you to get over this way one day ;)

  15. Jess
    Twitter:
    says:

    There’s certainly a lot of choices. I wish I could visit the market – the cupcakes look very tempting.
    Jess recently posted..Robb’s Farm: Apple fritters and Angry EmusMy Profile

  16. Oh yes, Jess, I could munch on those cupcakes till the cows come home too!!

  17. I haven’t heard of Fremantle before but what a charming place full of activities for all ages. Seafood, cappuccino and all that the market has to offer would keep me there all day alone. I love that very colorful picture. It just screams Spring :)
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Strolling Down the Golden Lane in PragueMy Profile

  18. Wanda says:

    What an inspired post Jo. Fremantle is so packed with stuff to do. Even though we have been to Fremantle loads of time and done lots of stuff, there is still an endless list of delights to discover. We’ll keep this post handy for future excursions.

  19. I think I’ve missed tons out, Wanda, but thanks for your lovely comments.

  20. Thanks Mary – I think you are probably talking about the flowers and the courtyard. I know, it just made me smile – all that Spring colour.

  21. Sydney is giving us such a great introduction to this wonderful country of yours, we are already talking about a return trip. . .and I will certainly be using your posts to guide our planning if and when we do get back here! Great tips!!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..G’Day Mates from Down Under!My Profile

  22. Mike says:

    Sign me up for the boat ride and the most of all the sunset, Johanna! :)
    Mike recently posted..My Top 10 +1 Classic Scary MoviesMy Profile

  23. Ha Ha, sure thing Mike ;)

  24. Thanks Jackie, and yes I hope you’ll manage to make a plan to get over this side of the country next time :)

  25. you had me at seafood… And the gorgeous Maritime Museum :D lovely lovely photos, I definitely have to get to Fremantle!

    -Maria Alexandra
    Maria Alexandra @LatinAbroad recently posted..Oktoberfest History and VIDEO: Travel Bucket List WednesdayMy Profile

  26. Hi Maria, yes, the seafood is super! Glad you enjoyed your virtual tour of Freo :)
    Johanna recently posted..The camels of Cable BeachMy Profile

  27. There is so much to see and do in Freo you can make a weekend feel like a week! Even people watching on the restaurant strip and markets is fascinating. We found a fantastic little family owned Italian restaurant – I will pop back with the name when I think of it!
    Life Images by Jill recently posted..Crossing Australia – The Eyre Highway and the NullaborMy Profile

  28. I think I know the one you mean Jill – is it in the main street and I think it has green shutters? I’ve never been, but now you’ve mentioned it, next time I think we’ll give it a go.

  29. Freemantle looks like a fun, fun, fun place to visit. That Bad Piper makes me laugh, and any town with a Cappuccino Strip is excellent in my book. If so many Western Australians come up to Malaysia, perhaps it’s time I go down and visit Perth and its surroundings.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..The Sunshine AwardMy Profile

  30. Hi Michele! Yes, the Bad Piper has us in stitches – he’s very talented but such a character. Yes, I do think you should be winging your way down to Perth one of these days too :)

  31. Ingrid says:

    Great post Jo … love Freo. Have you been to Moore & Moore cafe (near Notre Dame Uni) for breakfast?
    It’s a great breakfast experience – see my review at -
    http://perth.westcoastcafes.com.au/moore-moore-cafe
    Ingrid recently posted..Get ReadingMy Profile

  32. Hi Ingrid, Thank you! No we haven’t been there … Must go, so thanks for the heads up :)

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