Australia For Visitors > Fremante, WA

Western Australia

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Fremantle (or "Freo" as the locals call it) is the old port area of Perth. It is located on the Swan River, right where the river enters the Indian Ocean.

Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle (iamge)

Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle
(Photo: PascalSubtil)

Fremantle was founded in 1829. In 1850 convict labor was introduced to the town. Convicts built many buildings -- such as the prison -- and these include architectural gems which have been protected by the National Trust Register and which are greatly treasured.

In the 1890s the engineer, C. Y. O'Connor, built an artificial harbor for Fremantle -- a serious all-weather, deep water port. This facility is stll a busy working port with regular shipping departures for Asia and the Middle East (for example, for freighters involved in the live cattle and sheep export trade).

America's Cup, 1987

In 1987 Fremantle was hit by America's Cup fervor as wealthy Australian yachties defended (unsuccessfully) their possession of the prestigious yachting trophy, the America's Cup.

The yacht races took place on the blue waters off Fremantle and were avidly followed on television by most of Australia's sports fans. Famously, Bob Hawke, the Australian Prime Minister of the day, said that any boss who sack employees for taking the day off work to watch the America's Cup was a "bum"!

But Australian fans' ambitions were dashed when the American skipper, Dennis Connor, took the America's trophy back with him to San Diego.

Fremantle had been given a big spruce up for the America's Cup and a flood of tourists were confidently predicted -- but this never eventuated. Instead, Fremantle largely went back to what it had been before -- a lively working harbor and city with its own laid back atmosphere (rather than a upmarket yuppie enclave). Many of Fremantle's residents breathed a sigh of relief that their town had just narrowly avoided "over development".

Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre

This museum has a great historical collection covering the Aboriginal and colonial periods, the early whaling industry,, and the role of the early Dutch navigators who "discovered" much of the Western Australian coastline and whose ships were at times wrecked there.

Western Australian Maritime Museum

The highlight of this museum is an exhibit on the Australia II yacht which won the America's Cup in 1983 for the Royal Perth Yacht Club. Skippered by John Bertram, Australia II was the first successful America's Cup challenger. This win was significant as it ended a 132-year unbroken period in which the New York Yacht Club had always won the Cup against all challengers.

Shipwreck Museum

The Shipwreck Museum tells the fascinating and quite grisly story (involving mutiny and massacres) of the the Dutch East Indies ship, the Batavia, that was wrecked off present-day Geraldton, Western Australia, almost 400 years. You can see the Batavia's reconstucted stern, its cargo and other related items.

There are also displays of other Dutch vessels (such as the Dufken, or the "little dove") which were wrecked on the treacherous and isolated western shore of Australia on their way to the then Dutch colony of the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia).

Fremantle Markets (image)

Detail on the facade of the Fremantle Markets. Note the Western Australian black swan and the British lion.
(Photo: PascalSubtil)

Fremantle Market

Originally opened in 1892 and then re-opened in 1975, Fremantle Market offers everything from crafts and antiques to vegetables to jewelry and alternative lifestyle items. There are also buskers playing.

This is a genuine "local" market, not just tourist bait.

Fremantle Railway Station (image)

Fremantle Railway Station

Historic Buildings

The Round House, built in 1831, is Western Australia’s oldest building. It was its first jail. It was later a "holding center" for Aborigines being sent (exiled) to Rottnest Island.

The Old Fremantle Prison dates from the convict era. It was built by the convicts themselves in 1855 and was a maximum security prison until 1991.

You can now visit the prison. There are guided tours every 30 minutes.

Buildings constructed during the 1890s gold rush include Samson House (a colonial-style house from 1888, replete wit antique furniture, historic photos and an in-house well), St John’s Anglican Church, Fremantle Town Hall, and the Old Customs House.

Buildings from the early 1900s include the Fremantle Railway Station (1907) with a group of black swans on its facade.

John Curtin's house in Cottesloe, near Fremantle. Curtin,one of the great Prime Ministers of Australia, and his family lived in this modest house from 1923 until 1945 when he died, just 11 weeks before the end of the Second World War. Restoration of the house was completed in March 2011 and is now open for public inspection.

World of Energy

Educational displays on the history of the development of gas and electricity in Western Australia, including exhibits of power generating equipment. It includes some "hands-on" displays.


There is a string of stunning beaches stretching out in a line north from Fremantle, starting with Cottesloe Beach (7 km north of Fremantle). This area is known as the Sunset Coast, each beach having a fantastic view of the sun setting (sun sinking into the Indian Ocean) each evening.

There are also beaches along the Swan River

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Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)

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