I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published July 20th 2013
Something for Everyone in Freo
Unique in Australian history, the Swan River Settlement at Fremantle was initially established as a convict-free colony. Dutch explorers had visited Australia's west coast by as early as 1656. However none could sail into the Swan River because of a sand bar at its mouth, and those who ventured further inland in small boats weren't particularly keen on what they found. Suitably unimpressed, they simply continued northwards to the Dutch East Indies or Indonesia as we know it today.
Fremantle - Discover an architectural time capsule of convict built Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian style buildings
In 1827 Captain James Stirling RN explored the Swan River valley and gave glowing reports of its agricultural potential, lobbying for the establishment of a free settlement and his appointment as its governor. In 1828, approval was given for the establishment of the Swan River Settlement and on April 25th 1829 HMS CHALLENGER, under the command of Captain Charles Fremantle, arrived and anchored off Garden Island. On May 2nd, Fremantle laid claim to the area as a British settlement.
Today, arriving in Fremantle – or Freo as the locals call it – is like discovering an architectural time capsule of convict built Georgian-style, Victorian and Edwardian buildings, the majority constructed in local limestone.
There's a real buzz about Freo. It can be anything you want it to be, from party central to an intimate dinner for two or a relaxed family day out. Pubs, restaurants, markets and just the history of the place mean there is something here for everyone.
Here are 10 ways to make the most of your stay in Fremantle.
1 Visit Fremantle Prison, the city's premier tourist attraction is an historical gold-mine with a time-line extending from the construction of the Convict Establishment beginning in 1852 up until its closure as a maximum security penitentiary in 1991.
2 Take in the panoramic views from the Round House, WA's first permanent structure and the oldest building in the State. Take part in the daily firing of the time-gun.
The Round House affords spectacular views to the Indian Ocean
3 Wander through the 57 Meter long Whaler's Tunnel cut beneath the Round House in just 5 months during 1837/38 and connecting High Street to the Bathers Bay Whaling Station.
The Whaler's Tunnel, dug beneath the Round House to join High St and Bather's Beach
4 Visit the famed Western Australian Museum Shipwreck Galleries, the foremost maritime archaeology museum in the southern hemisphere. Steeped in history the 19th century Commissariat building is home to shipwreck artefacts covering hundreds of years and including original timbers from the BATAVIA, sunk in 1629.
Take time to explore the enthralling Shipwreck Galleries
5 Explore the unique exhibitions housed in the Western Australian Maritime Museum ranging from small pleasure craft to commercial pearling luggers, the winning America's Cup yacht AUSTRALIA 11 and the former Royal Australian Navy Oberon-class submarine HMAS OVENS.
HMAS OVENS on display at the WA Maritime Museum
6 Take in the history on display in the Army Museum of Western Australia located in the Fremantle Artillery Barracks in Burt Street. Five galleries together with displays of military vehicles and hardware detail the history of the Army in Western Australia and the service of West Australians; from the 19th century to the present day.
Freo is a time capsule of all facets of Western Australian history
7 Contemplate the sacrifice of service men and women at Monument Hill, an 11 Hectare heritage listed site which forms an integral part of the Central War memorial. The 14 meter high main memorial was built in 1928 to commemorate the 59,330 Australian lost in World War 1.
8 Order a feed of fish& chips at Freo's iconic Fisherman's Wharf on Mews Road, right on the waterfront and across the park from Marine Terrace.
Freo's Fisherman's Wharf
9 Take time to visit the Fremantle Arts Centre, built by convicts in 1864 as the local Lunatic Asylum and today home to an impressive and variable range of exhibitions, music and events.
10 And finally, what better way to end your day than with a nice cold beer in the Promenade Lounge Bar at Freo's premier hotel The Esplanade, or Espy to the locals.
One of Australia's iconic pubs, Fremantle's Esplanade Hotel