My belly was full of a big breakfast, a bucket of caffeine was coursing through my veins and the sun was shining
Life does not get better, unless you are surrounded by elegant architecture, fascinating stories and it’s all set in an historic neighbourhood.
Join me for a stroll around the streets of Fremantle.
Fremantle is the most southern suburb of Perth, Western Australia. In its colonial heyday it was a thriving town based around its vibrant seaport servicing a booming wool industry, but now it has been gently absorbed into Perth’s urban sprawl.
Stepping off the train in Fremantle you get an overwhelming sense of history, whether it is the long and broad maritime warehouses on the edge of the bay or the delicate lattice work on the verandahs of old imposing pubs. There is so much to see. I wanted to be organised and systematic so I didn’t miss a thing.
First Stop – Fremantle Visitors Centre to grab a self-guided walking tour map or to see if I could join one of the commercial walking tours on offer. Looking at the map I realised that to do the town justice, I really needed to allocate a whole day to this walk, not the paltry few hours I had to spare. Bugger! I would skim the surface today and now I had the perfect excuse for a return visit.
First, a little history…
The first Europeans on the site of modern-day Fremantle were Dutch explorers captained by Willem de Vlamingh. In 1697 they mapped the area and went up the Swan River, and Vlamingh reported that it would be an ideal place for a settlement, although no attempts were made to settle there at the time.
The area was then considered as a site for possible British settlement in 1827, when Captain James Stirling, in HMS Success, explored the coastal areas near the Swan River. His favourable report was welcomed by the British Government, who had for some time been suspicious of French colonial intentions towards the western portion of Australia. As a result of Stirling’s report, Captain Charles Fremantle of HMS Challenger, was instructed to sail to the west coast of Australia to establish a settlement there. On 2 May 1829, Fremantle hoisted the Union Flag and in accordance with his instructions, took formal possession “of the whole of the West Coast of New Holland“. Source
But let’s get back to the walking tour map…
Starting at #2, the High Street Mall is nothing out of the box as it is just a modern shopping strip. Turn the corner though to #3, and you are instantly among the endless cafes and quirky shops of the Cappuccino Strip. Walking under the extensive heritage verandahs, the vibe was happy and relaxed as diners enjoyed Western Australia’s first designated al fresco dining area. If anything typifies Australian architecture, it is ye olde verandah – just so practical for protection from Australia’s belting Summers.
Heading deeper into the Fremantle CBD we arrive at #5 – the Fremantle Markets. First opened in 1897, the Victorian-style markets now house everything from the freshest fruit and vegetables to nicky-nacky fridge magnets, to native food products, to delicious fudge and old fashioned lollies. I guess there is nothing truly unique about these markets, but they are nice to browse through to find just the right souvenir of your visit to Freo.
Going rogue from the map, I skipped a whole lot of numbers (time was short) to arrive at #19, the Fremantle Prison. Read more about its chequered history in my post here. Built by convicts in the 1850s, it reeks of the harshness of the early days of the colony. Ahh, if those walls could talk.
Walking the streets of Fremantle is like walking through an architectural digest. The buildings are solid and imposing, and hark back to an incredibly wealthy time when Fremantle was a bustling port. There is still plenty of evidence of its maritime connections with the WA Shipwreck Museum (#12) and its resident skeleton of an unlucky sailor, or stroll a little further around the bay to the WA Maritime Museum (#15).
For those of you with the time and inclination, consider doing a pub crawl of Fremantle. Even if you don’t like alcohol, its 13 pubs provide an architectural snapshot of Fremantle’s glory days with stunning stained glass, chandeliers and miles of rich, polished timber.
No trip to Fremantle is complete without paying homage to local lad Bon Scott (#9), former lead singer of legendary Australian hard rock band, AC/DC. He was here for a good time, not a long time and his brilliance is missed by millions of diehard fans. For the truly dedicated, join the Highway to Hell guided tour which includes a visit to Bon’s grave.
Fremantle is not just about beer (#8 Little Creatures Brewery) and history, it also has an incredibly rich arts scene. This includes (#7) the Old Shoreline Trail which features ceramic tiles inlaid in the footpath, the Fremantle Arts Centre housed in the 1864 Fremantle Lunatic Asylum and Invalid Depot (#21) and various other displays of high quality street art and bronze sculptures.
See? I told you this would take us more than a few hours and it has made us a bit peckish. How about we head down to the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour (#9) for the freshest fish and chips? Just watch out for the seagulls.
And there is a good chance that the sun may now be over the yard arm and one of those glorious old pubs may be worth a quick visit.
Cheers Big Ears!
Where is your favourite maritime port to explore?
What: Breakfast at Moore and Moore Cafe in Fremantle was delicious. Expensive, but delicious.
Where: Fremantle is located approximately 18km south of Perth, WA.
When: Visit Fremantle anytime. Those verandahs provide enough shade to protect you from any of the elements.
Why: For a fascinating insight into our convict, colonial and maritime history.
How: Hop on the train from Perth to Fremantle ($4.90pp one way).
Who: Theme your walk to satisfy the foodies, history nuts, crusty old sea dogs or brew fiends.
Related Posts: For a deep dive into the local convict and criminal history, read a little more about Fremantle Prison here.
Related Blogs: For a range of gorgeous self-guided walking tours in and around Fremantle, check out what blogger Life of Py has to say.
Read About It: To learn more about Bon Scott and the early days of ACDC, grab a copy of Jeff Apter’s AC/DC 1973-1980. Jeff is a passionate and talented rock and roll journalist. Go straight to Book Depository.
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