Freelance writer and photographer with an interest in science communication. Always looking for new experiences and discoveries!
Published January 7th 2016
Culture, fun and food all in one place
The relaxed vibe and compact design of this walkable city are heaven for those with kids. There are plenty of places to stop that won't cost a fortune either. This article focuses on some ideas right in the city centre, but of course there's way too much on offer in Freo to cram into just one day.
If you're driving into the city good spots to park for a full day of sightseeing are the Queensgate or Collie Street complexes. You can also grab a few hours near the Esplanade or Fishing Boat Harbour, in all cases fees apply. The City of Fremantle also has a car parking app (apple only). Many of the inner city car bays are short time spaces to keep things flowing.
If you are arriving by train, you'll find everything listed here within a reasonably short walk.
Just over the road from the train station you might see a line of coloured bricks with creatures marked into them. This is the original shoreline as of 1829 when the Swan River Colony was founded, why not see how far you can follow it?
Fremantle boasts two WA Museum sites- the Shipwreck Galleries and the Maritime Museum. They are both well worth a visit. I find that the younger children are not quite ready to appreciate the collection-based displays at the Shipwreck Galleries. In this case, the wide open spaces of the Maritime Museum are a better bet. For $22 entry (family ticket) you can explore the entire building over several levels and well as the temporary exhibit. In the far end of the building (ground level) there is a play space for young children where you can sit and relax.
If you're lucky, you'll also have a front row seat to watch a container ship come in, an awe inspiring sight. To be honest I would come here just to admire the architecture of the building. As to be expected with a facility just as this, there are ample clean toilets and a café. An add-on experience is a tour of the submarine 'Ovens' (fees apply).
Fish and chips at the fishing boat harbour is a bit of an institution. You can sit right on the waterfront, eating super-fresh seafood, and watching life go by. There are plenty of places to choose from but I tend to head to Kailis with the kids. Sweet Lips is also consistently good, they are just over the road so you will be facing Bathers Beach instead of the harbour. While there you could explore the coastline of Bathers Beach, the original landing and immigration point for WA.
Esplanade Park, just over the road, is a great place to stop after fish and chips (or to work up an appetite beforehand). There is plenty of play equipment to amuse your young ones here. Just a note that the playground area can be really dusty
The Pickled Fairy (don't attempt to take a pram inside!)
from the pines, you might leave with brown hands and feet so don't drop in before you're heading somewhere special! The Esplanade is now also home to a skate park and Australia's first purpose built outdoor parkour facility, which will please the older kids. A ride on the giant wheel is a great experience, it takes you 40m into the air and offers a great view from your own gondola.
Head up Collie Street and across South Terrace to the relatively quiet Piazza. What seems like a world away from the cappuccino strip or thumping Timezone, there are plenty of things to explore. The Pickled Fairy is a Fremantle icon and it's not all about fairies, with plenty of pirates, dragons and more. I challenge you to leave the shop without a bit of glitter!
Right near the Pickled Fairy is some seriously good coffee at Red Cherries Coffee Bar, superb. If the kids are hankering for juice, there is a kiosk upstairs in the Piazza where they can watch their selection being juiced before their eyes into creations such as 'Melonade' (apple, pineapple and watermelon).
Access to kid-friendly public toilets is something Freo hasn't done well, especially if you need changing facilities. Toilets are always needed if out with kids! If you're dining in or at a museum you'll be fine. If you're in the Piazza when trouble strikes you'll find some automated toilets at the base of the multi storey Queensgate carpark. There are also some further on near Kings Square. My past experiences here haven't been great but I've heard they have since been upgraded and also now have baby change facilities. There are also public toilets at the Esplanade carpark.
If you do head around to Kings Square you can have a free game of ping pong or giant chess at the permanent outdoor facilities. They are located under the huge fig trees, which are an attraction in their own right. Ping pong bats and balls are at the visitors centre and the chess pieces are under the Kings bench.
Not far from Kings Square, just near the end of High Street, you'll also find a batch of great op shops such as Good Sammy's. They previously occupied several smaller shops but have moved over the road into the larger shop on the same side as the Raw Kitchen. It is a really great place to stock up on some affordable toys and books before you head home.
Of course, if you happen to be in the city on Market Day (Fri-Sun & public holidays) there's a plethora of other food, drink and shopping, plus a busker or too. But you'll also have to contend with the crowds. If you can steal away midweek you'll find a less frenetic Freo.