Fremantle: The Day Trip From Perth You Won’t Want To Miss
If you’re doing research for an upcoming trip to Perth in Western Australia, you may have found blog posts or articles suggesting you spend a day in the nearby town of Fremantle. And I’m here to tell you: listen to that advice! Not only is Fremantle fun to explore, but it’s also easily accessible from Perth via the city’s public train system.
I loved almost everything about my recent trip to the greater Perth area, but Fremantle had a special charm to it. Its historic center is full of beautiful architecture on a picturesque waterfront. Despite being much smaller than Perth, Fremantle has an equally impressive (if not better) bar and restaurant scene.
This quaint town is also home to the Fremantle Prison, a World Heritage Site where you can learn about Australia’s history as a British penal colony (more on that below).
Food & DRINK
For a town of relatively small size, Fremantle has a ton of restaurants and bars that foodies are sure to love. While I wouldn’t call any of the places I went super budget friendly, meal prices tended to be in line with what you’d find in the US. Alcohol, on the other hand, is generally more expensive in Australia. But even if you only have a few meals or drinks in Fremantle, you’re sure to find something delicious! Here are some of the places I tried.
1. The Mantle
It’s cozy and the pizza was delicious. Freo Pizza Factory is one of many Italian options in the town, and that’s no coincidence: the town has a history of migration from Italy, making it the perfect place to get some pretty authentic pizza or pasta!
2. George Street Quarters
This brunch joint and cafe is technically in the neighboring town of East Fremantle, but good things come to those who walk (or take an Uber). It’s about a half hour on foot through mostly residential streets. Upon arrival, I ordered a green omelette with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. It tasted incredibly fresh and healthy, and it was pretty big. I left feeling completely satisfied!
I also liked the turmeric latte I got, pictured below.
3. Bib & Tucker
I tried their duck leg ragu pasta, pictured above. It was tasty and the service here was great. If you want some traditional Australian dishes with a modern flare, Bib & Tucker is a great choice.
4. The Raw Kitchen
If you made a list of everything hipster and rolled it into one, you’d get The Raw Kitchen. Inside a huge converted warehouse in the heart of Freo, they’ve got a cafe, a restaurant, a store that doesn’t use any plastic packaging, and a yoga studio in the back. When I first read about it online, I worried that I might not be hip enough to have lunch there. On the contrary, the space is really welcoming and staff are very friendly.
According to their website, The Raw Kitchen offers “progressive plant-based cuisine, made without the use of any dairy, gluten, refined sugar or additives.” I think that means vegan, although I’m not 100% sure. In any case, I tried their raw pad Thai with a glass of white wine from the nearby wine-producing region of Margaret River.
At first glance, this may just look like any old plate of Thai-style noodles. But if you look closely, you’ll see that those noodles are actually strands of zucchini. They take the concept of raw food seriously: everything was served cold (i.e. not cooked). However, it was still really flavorful and (I assume) very healthy. Check out The Raw Kitchen for a unique and memorable dining experience!
You can probably guess that a town with this many trendy restaurants is bound to some interesting bars as well. Here are some of the ones I liked.
1. Jungle Bird
On my second visit, I decided to try their “Loaded Caribbean Fries” which were piping hot and deliciously flavored. The curry aioli dipping sauce that came with them was to die for.
Although their menu has every rum-based cocktail you could think of, I tried their “Pirates Breakfast” pictured below. This unique drink contained multiple types of rum, espresso, almond, and a whole egg. It tasted delicious and creamy, but definitely packed a punch. Fellow rum lovers shouldn’t pass up a drink or two at the Jungle Bird!
2. Little Creatures Brewing
If you love breweries, Little Creatures brewery is reason enough to visit Freo. This massive industrial space on the water offers a full food menu in addition to a huge list of beers on tap. It’s also the headquarters of an international award-winning craft beer operation established in 2000.
When you first enter, be sure to check out the tasting room on the right. For about 10 USD, you can sample nine different beers on tap (which is a great deal in Australia). They may look like shot glasses in the picture, but they’re bigger than that and filled generously. The menu also includes detailed descriptions of each sample in case there’s one you particularly like.
Although I’ve never seen it in the US, I first tried Little Creatures beer in Hong Kong, so clearly it’s enjoyed throughout the Asia-Pacific region. (On a side note, apparently they’ve just opened their first US location in San Francisco. If you live in the Bay Area, check it out and let me know how it is in the comments below!)
3. The National Hotel Fremantle
Since I visited Australia during the winter, it actually got sort of cold after dark. I stopped in and got a hot toddy after dinner one night, which was a perfect way to warm up. Be sure to go check out the balcony on the second floor as well.
Explore the Historic Town Center
If the food scene was my favorite part of Freo, then its historic downtown was a close second. Fremantle is a port city that was built up in part by a gold rush at the end of the 1800s. This is reflected by the beautiful, ornate buildings that can be seen around the heart of downtown.
Give yourself a few hours (at least) to explore both the main avenues and the side streets.
One thing I unfortunately missed were the Fremantle Markets. I was in the Perth area from a Monday to a Thursday, and unfortunately this famous attraction is only open on the weekends. If you’re in Freo while it’s open, be sure to check it out!
Fremantle Prison Tour
When I first learned that Fremantle is home to a historic prison, I decided I had to go check it out. I was aware that Australia’s colonization started off as a penal outpost for the British Empire, but I knew little beyond that. The Fremantle Prison is the perfect place to brush up on your Australian history and see the inside of a jail in person.
The prison’s historical significance lies in its main building, shown in the two pictures below. From 1855 to 1991, prisoners lived in this huge white structure. That’s right; convicts and ex-convicts who are still alive today were housed in this ominous building less than thirty years ago. You can really sense the “recently lived-in” feel as you go through the tour.
The only way to see the prison is to go on a group tour led by a guide, but it was excellent and I highly recommend it.
Fremantle Prison offers nearly half a dozen different tours, so you can come back again and again and learn something new each time. Some focus on the prison’s early history while others focus on the years leading up to its decommissioning in 1991. I was particularly intrigued by their underground tunnel tour, but unfortunately it’s much more expensive and they weren’t offering that one on the day I went. The one I went on lasted about an hour and a half and cost 22 AUD.
My tour focused on the prison’s more modern history in the 1900s. However, our group guide also explained briefly how the prison came to be and what it was like to be a convict in the era when Great Britain was sending its criminals to Australia in droves. Both chapters in the prisons history are fascinating. It was also interesting to compare the modern Australian prison experience to the challenges regarding incarceration in the US.
The most unexpected part of the prison is the abundance of art that can be found both in the cells and in public areas. Particularly dangerous inmates were sometimes given license to decorate their cells as a creative outlet. In the final years of operation, more and more prisoners were allowed to create art on their cell walls. Much of it is stunning and looks professionally done.
Check Out the Waterfront
In addition to great food, a beautiful downtown, and a World Heritage Site, Fremantle also has no shortage of beautiful waterfront. Here are three highlights.
South Mole Lighthouse
Walk along the jetty to see this picturesque green lighthouse. As far as I can tell, you can’t go up, but views of the shipping port along the way are reason enough to go on this short stroll.
Beach Views from The Roundhouse
The Roundhouse is a massive stone structure that stands on Captains Lane, where the town meets the sea. It’s actually the oldest building in Western Australia that survives to this day (only built in 1830-1831, so really not that old!). It functioned as many things, including the town’s first prison. Go through the tunnel to get to the beach, or climb up onto the upper level for a great view of the Indian Ocean.
The Fishing Boat Harbor
This quaint little marina is only a one or two minute walk from Little Creatures Brewing. There are a number of restaurants selling fish and chips here, but I didn’t get a chance to try any of them. In addition, the little stretch of nearby Mews Road that faces west is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the ocean.
One Last Stop: The Rainbow Sea Container
This one is a little out of the way, but it’s mentioned here because it’s the de facto icon of Fremantle. This massive arch constructed out of nine rainbow-colored shipping containers is only a few years old, but it pays homage to the city’s roots as a port city and fits right in with all the other quirky things around town.
Freo: There's More Than Meets the Eye
Although I only spent about a day and a half in Fremantle, it will hold a special place in this traveler’s heart until the next time I’m able to visit. Freo may be small, but I’m willing to bet that even people who live there are constantly finding new things to see, do, and taste.
A trip to the greater Perth area isn’t complete without a visit to the city center and Rottnest Island. Both are easily accessible from Fremantle and offer some equally amazing (yet very different) experiences. Be sure to check out my blog posts featuring those destinations as well! Thanks for reading!