I step into the crowd to get a better view of the street performer outside the market. My eyes are drawn up the precariously stacked chairs – on top of which he balances – juggling large knives!
As the performer jumps down with a final flourish, the diverse crowd erupts into applause. Welcome to Fremantle, Western Australia’s colourful first port city, where old meets new and you’re invited to come as you are and join the party!
Enjoy this city guide to the top things to do in Fremantle.
Need to know
Base yourself: City, Esplanade
Average hotel price per room/per night: $180 AUD
You can’t go wrong with: Seafood, Modern Oz, pub grub, vegan
Best breakfasts: City, South Fremantle
Great coffee: City, Market, South Fremantle
Top spots for a beverage: Market Street, Esplanade, East Fremantle (waterfront)
Must-do: Fremantle Markets
Best times to visit
Fremantle, located just south of Perth, is a year-round destination and enjoys superb weather. The pick of the seasons for us are spring and autumn, when days are characterised by mild to warm temperatures and balmy nights.
For beach bunnies, summer is of course your best bet and with some of the best beaches anywhere in Australia, you’ll love your time in Perth and Freo. Expect temperatures in the low to mid 30s.
Winter brings periods of rain and cool but sunny days with low humidity.
Established in 1897, the heritage-listed Fremantle Market is the heart and soul of Freo and home to an eclectic mix of retailers and food vendors.
The Fremantle Arts Centre is located in a circa 1864 Australian Gothic building that was previously an asylum. Now a bustling gallery, café and shop, the centre hosts local and international exhibitions. Gift shop FOUND sells unique souvenirs made by local artisans.
The Arts Centre also has regular live music on the weekends and an art market throughout the year.
In addition to visual arts, Fremantle is home to performing arts groups like Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, which will charm you with whimsical puppet shows.
Street performers frequent the area around the markets. Think a Doc Martin-wearing, kilted Scotsman playing flame-throwing bagpipes and you get the idea. Fremantle is so in love with its street performers that they are celebrated annually with the Fremantle Street Arts Festival – one of the top cultural things to do in Fremantle. It runs over the Easter long weekend.
There’s an abundance of historical things to do in Fremantle. Explore the heritage architecture, including the Round House – the city’s first prison.
Built in 1831 from local limestone and Yorkshire flagstone, it has sweeping views of the harbour out to Garden Island and Rottnest. Check out the cannon firing at 1pm, a tradition since 1900, allowing sailors to set their watches to assist with navigation.
Just past the Round House is Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Here you can learn about bushfoods, Aboriginal art, woodworking and the Nyoongar language spoken by the traditional owners of Fremantle.
An architectural icon, the Western Australian Maritime Museum offers visitors a march through time – from historical exhibits detailing the conditions faced by colonial sailors, to the HMAS Ovens submarine tour. The Welcome Walls, 400 granite panels etched with the names of migrants who arrived by sea, is located here.
Away from the foreshore, the imposing limestone structure of the Fremantle Prison houses a small museum and gallery of art created by inmates, paying homage to its convict past. There are tours throughout the day and night that include the gallows where many infamous Western Australians were hanged.
Fremantle has a seriously dynamic culinary scene that will satisfy the most ardent of foodies.
A refurbished garage turned into a slick gastropub, Strange Company delivers a tapas-style dining experience with creative cocktails and an Australian-centric wine list. Head there on Sunday afternoons for live jazz.
With its outdoor kitchen garden on the pavement, Bread in Common is a mecca for foodies travelling to Fremantle. Inside, long tables flank the open kitchen, where virtually everything is made on premises. Out the back, the wood-fired ovens pump out aromatic loaves of fresh bread.
For something different, head to The Raw Kitchen. Catering for any dietary requirement, this multipurpose venue is a restaurant, shop and yoga studio. Grab a seat in the shipping container set up as a living room.
Head no further than High Street for an afternoon of indulgent shopping in Fremantle.
While the unusual furniture and plush cashmere scarves will draw you into Kartique, the bling of their jewellery will quickly distract you. With locally designed and carefully curated vintage pieces, you’re bound to find something you love.
Book lovers will rejoice at New Edition Bookshop, where you can cozy up among the pressed wood shelves and find the latest best sellers. The humour section of this indie book shop will have you in stitches.
Don’t blink or you might miss Eclectic Ladyland, offering women’s clothing and accessories you won’t find elsewhere.
With its prime waterfront possie, there are plenty of relaxing things to do in Fremantle.
Firstly, put on your togs and head to Bathers Beach to enjoy its calm, protected swimming area. When you’re done, head up the sand to Bathers Beach House for a cool cocktail. Try their upstairs bar for fantastic sunset views.
Stroll along Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and check out Little Creatures, a fabulous microbrewery serving up pub fare and pizzas.
Or there’s Creatures Next Door, a more relaxed extension of Little Creatures, with an elevated aspect on the harbour. They offer comedy on Saturday nights and live music on Thursdays and Sundays.
Across the train tracks from the harbour is Esplanade Park, home of the 40-metre high Tourist Wheel. With its shady trees, Esplanade Park plays host to relaxed festivals like the Laneway Festival in February and the Chilli Festival in March.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Fremantle? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Gayann Walker is a Perth-based freelance writer with a passion for travel, adventure and a good feed! Born in Boston, Gayann has lived in Perth since moving from the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2010. She has an eclectic travel style that varies from rugged adventures – such as climbing Mt Kinabalu and roughing it in the jungles of Borneo – to relaxing on beautiful beaches and sipping tropical drinks from luxury villas. Gayann has travelled extensively through Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States. Her favourite destination on the planet is Exmouth on the north-west of Western Australia – home to the stunning Ningaloo Reef, which is teeming with pristine natural beauty and sea life.