You know that feeling you get on a Saturday morning? A happy, hopeful sort of feeling, when you’ve woken up after a great night out and know that another one awaits, followed by yet another day of blissful languor? Fremantle gives you the Saturday feeling. Even Perth, small as it is, has a bit of a frenetic pace, but this, this is your happy place. Freo, as the locals call it, is every bit as cool as it sounds. Located just about 30 minutes away from Perth, there’s something about this harbour city that puts you instantly at ease. Maybe it’s the friendly faces, the cheerful art on its walls, or the lively atmosphere in pretty much every café you peek into…
Spend a day in the life of an inmate
Famous for all the wrong reasons, Fremantle Prison is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built by convicts, for convicts, it was decommissioned as a maximum security prison pretty recently (in 1991), a fact that makes a visit to this institution all the more foreboding. And once you learn more about the facility, that feeling only intensifies. Sign up for one of the tours to get a glimpse into the life of a convict. On the Doing Time tour, which is both eye-opening and entertaining, with the guide acting as the jail warden, you’re taken through the entire drill, right from what happens when a prisoner first enters the jail, until execution. Over a period of 140 years, various forms of punishment were used on convicts, including whipping, flogging, solitary confinement, and hangings, and you can see exactly how and where it was done.
Stroll the streets
Take in the laidback vibe of this town with a stroll down the streets. Gape at the handsome Edwardian and Victorian architecture with pastel-hued buildings lining the Cappuccino Strip (South Terrace), which gets its name from the number of cafés and baristas here, and soak in the young, friendly vibe owing to the famed University of Notre Dame Australia that calls Freo home. Pop into old-school bookstores that stock both dog-eared seconds and fresh new tomes that are not necessarily neatly arranged in bookshelves, but rather piled on tables or on the floor. Potter about the pretty Fremantle Arts Centre , which was also one of the buildings built by the inmates of Fremantle Prison, or shop at one of the several stores lining High Street to find cool hipster products that have been around since before the term became annoying. If you’re here on a weekend, and you should be, spend the morning at the Fremantle Markets, where you can chat with local farmers, sample fresh produce, including sweet potato fries and kangaroo meat hot off the grill, pick up quirky knick-knacks or vintage finds, and just enjoy the cheerful atmosphere with buskers and happy chatter.
Eat, drink and make merry
Fremantle is home to some great bars and restaurants and, while you will, no doubt, find your favourite, the one place you must head to is Little Creatures Brewery, which lives up to all the hype. This iconic brewery does a fantastic selection of craft beers, including ciders and IPAs as well as seasonal brews, and sharing plates like oysters and lemon, aioli frites, flatbreads and pizza, and serves the all up in a fittingly boisterous environment. The brewery is also known for its delicious breakfast options, featuring fresh fruit, eggs, smoked ham, bacon and more. There’s outdoor seating on picnic tables and benches surrounded by plants, as well as indoor seating in a typical brewery atmosphere amid shiny barrels, warm lighting and great music. There’s a more relaxed lounge around the corner, Creatures NextDoor that offers beautiful views of the Fishing Boat Harbour, if you want to dial down the crazy.
Get some vitamin sea
Sitting on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Freo boasts quite a maritime history. A great place to learn about it is at the Western Australian Shipwrecks Museum. There are various galleries dedicated to notable shipwrecks, but the star of the show lies in the Batavia Gallery, home to the enormous reconstructed skeleton of the Dutch merchant ship, Batavia, which has you bending backwards to take it all in. Believed to be hauled up in the 1970s, experts have managed to restore much of the captain’s cabin too. You can also observe other relics from this and many other ships that succumbed to the seas. The museum is in a 1850s Commissariat building, set by the breezy Fishing Boat Harbour, which is a good place for an evening stroll. Pick up some fish and chips from one of the many eateries here and stroll down the boardwalk that takes you to the seaside where you can meet oldies in floppy hats fishing on the rocks.