PLACES TO GO
Explore the famous Freo weekend bustle: walk through the markets, grab a bite to eat, and find a shopping bargain. South Terrace is jam-packed with cafes, bars and restaurants, while down the laneways are quirky costume shops and boutiques (the fairy shop is a favourite with kids). The most notable (and exciting) change is at the old Myer building – now Many 6160. Breathing new life into the shopping precinct, the building has been converted into a huge open floor space featuring WA artisans including Anya Brock, Antipodium, and Kate + Abel. There are workshops and food, too.
The West End
The cappuccino strip is the busy front line behind which the West End offers a stately change of pace. It’s steeped in history and limestone, but with plenty of niche shops, bookstores and boutiques. High Street leads to the water, where there’s history (the Roundhouse, the Whalers’ Tunnel), food (Fishing Boat Harbour is the place for fish and chips), and views (courtesy of the new ferris wheel at Esplanade Park).
Most people spend a day in Freo and never leave the cafe strip. Cast a wider net and head to the port area, where you’ll find the WA Maritime Museum housed in an award-winning building that straddles the harbour on Victoria Quay. The museum offers a one-stop, interactive tour of the state’s fishing, wartime and yachting history, including our America’s Cup winner, ancient Indigenous canoes, and early submarine models. Wander back along the dock to the E Shed Markets. Visit the tall sailing ship STS Leeuwin II and learn about its history and future adventures at the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation’s B Shed headquarters. Check with the Fremantle Port Authority for upcoming public tours of visiting warships and cruise liners.
Port Beach, at Fremantle’s northern tip, is a little slice of old WA, with seaside kiosks and a restaurant with an enclosed outdoor area perfect for the t-shirt and thongs brigade. The nearby dog beach makes it a great destination for post-walk coffee. At the heart of North Freo is Queen Victoria Street, a narrow strip with bars and pubs, restaurants, boutiques, antique stores and an iconic music venue. The strip is open on weekends and is a quiet, hip alternative to the Freo weekend crush.
George Street is brimful of interest, with its cafes, eco-friendly homewares, boutiques, a wine store, a swimwear shop and lots of village charm. The riverside path along East Fremantle, meanwhile, is great for walkers or cyclists.
South Terrace is a stroller’s delight: cute and cosy cafes, galleries, pizzerias, bakeries, boutiques and teeny tiny limestone workers’ cottages packed close together. South Freo is where to head when the hustle and bustle of the cappuccino strip reaches fever pitch.
The go-to place for fresh produce, hawker-style food, gifts and knick knacks, the Freo markets are as popular for locals as for tourists. Grab a coffee and a slice of the other-worldly honey cake, browse the myriad stalls, watch a street performance, and listen to the buskers.
WA Maritime Museum (photography Tourism WA).
THINGS TO DO
Art and Culture
Fremantle is, pound for pound, the art centre of WA, with many independent galleries selling the works of local and international artists, plus a number of important Indigenous galleries. Blinco Street, opposite Monument Hill, has become a mini precinct, with design warehouses and antique dealers, art studios and cafes opening along the narrow, tree-lined street. A few hundred metres away is George Street in East Fremantle, a much-loved local avenue that has attracted fine restaurants, coffee houses and a few out-of-the-way boutiques. Back in the heart of Freo, fans of arthouse, contemporary and classic cinema can get their fill at the Luna on SX cinema, Essex Street. Once an insane asylum and now a thriving hub of arts and culture, the Fremantle Arts Centre is as popular for its free courtyard music concerts in summer as its quirky-cute gift shop, visual art exhibitions, arts classes for young and old, and terrific on-site cafe tucked in a leafy limestone courtyard.
Fish at Fremantle’s South and North moles: head to the tip of Fremantle’s port to find these popular fishing spots. While not as bountiful as the North, South Mole is
a gentler spot to cast a line if you have kids or prefer to fish in peace. Herring and gardies frequent the South, while North is home to a greater variety including sharks, rays, snapper, mulloway and other, smaller bread fish. Tailor can be caught in the late afternoon/evening. Use a berley cage on your rig, and for tailor, attach a glow stick to your boat as the sun goes down.
Bathers Beach Sunset Markets
Every Saturday night in summer, Fremantle’s public beach is transformed into an open-air market where folks congregate for cheap and cheerful food truck meals, picnics on the lawn and a front-row seat for the breathtaking Indian Ocean sunset. It’s a happy mess of panting dogs, food-smudged toddlers, bottles of wine, live music and laughter. The best nights are when Kelp Bar is open. The pop-up bar is run by indie gallery Kidogo Arthouse and has a cult-like following among those who reckon there’s nothing better than a drink with friends to the sound of lapping water and the sight of the setting sun.
Fremantle has a few legendary music venues such as Mojo’s in North Freo, plus The Fly by Night Musicians Club, and Norfolk and Newport hotels in town. That said, you’ll find live music at most pubs on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. The Fremantle Arts Centre hosts weekend events and major outdoor concerts – most music events are super chilled out (picnic rug and cheese platter are a must).
Sunset Markets (photography Roel Loopers).
Visit the WA Maritime Museum
Have a coffee on the main strip
Head to a pub to watch a local band
Go for a walk along the river
Take a night tour at Fremantle Prison
Shop for antiques along Queen Victoria Street
Watch the sunset at Bathers Beach
Take an art class at the Fremantle Arts Centre
Buy something unique at MANY 6160
Soak up the culture with a tour of the old buildings
All these events and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo
TOP PICKS FOR KIDS
WA Maritime Museum | A visit to the museum has been a popular holiday activity for years. Kids will love the preserved megamouth shark, and there are submarine tours for youngsters five and over.
Fremantle Prison | With famous bushranger escapees, solitary confinement and underground tunnels, the prison is endlessly fascinating – especially for kids. Bigger kids (over 10) will enjoy the spooky night tour (there’s a few surprises!).
Fairy shops | In a small sunken area just off the cafe strip is the Fremantle Piazza, where fairy shops and fantasy children’s stores cater for small-group birthday parties. The stores also sell children’s costume clothing, from pirates to mermaids, and trinkets and bric-a-brac for older kids and adults.
Esplanade Park | Opposite Fishing Boat Harbour is the well-shaded kid’s playground on Esplanade Park. School holiday activities are always on offer, too.
Ice-cream shops | It’s too difficult to pick a favourite, because Freo has an array of kid’s parlours, lolly depots and chocolate emporiums to cater for the fussiest eater. The city’s European heritage has led to a few of the best gelato and handmade ice-cream joints in the state.
Riverside cycling | From East Fremantle, kids and their parents can cycle along the riverside path to Point Walter. The journey is only a few kilometres on a flat, well-marked dual pathway. Arrive to find vast open grounds, kid-friendly beaches, playground areas and cafes under shady trees.
Eye-catching street art at Ootong and Lincoln (photography Renee Bergere).
Norfolk Lanes Youth Festival
Every year in mid-November, Norfolk Lane and Essex Street come alive with
bands, local music legends, DJs and plenty of live performances. Best of all, it’s
open to all-ages, and it’s free!
Fremantle Street Arts Festival
This fantastic festival is held annually on the Easter long weekend at Town Hall Centre in Fremantle. See performers from around the globe turn the streets of Freo into a stage, and showcase their talent in busking, street theatre, circus, comedy and cabaret. Featuring acts from Belgium, USA, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Canada, this jam-packed three-day festival is not to be missed.
West Coast Blues ’n’ Roots
At West Coast Blues ’n’ Roots, held at Fremantle Park every April, you’re just as likely to see families having picnics as people dancing freely in the crowd, because it draws people from all ages and walks of life. The common denominator is people who share a passion for music with heart, soul and meaning.
Fremantle’s Hidden Treasures Music Festival runs through July at various locations, with concerts, lectures and master classes on the program.
For details, contact www.fremantle.wa.gov.au, or consult gig guides for upcoming tour schedules.
Avoid parking nightmares by taking a train from Perth, or connect with shuttle
buses from the Kwinana Freeway train stations. Fremantle has the state’s only
carbon-neutral local government authority, and encourages alternative transport
(there are also great facilities for cyclists).