Welcome to Freo! Recently charted in Lonely Planets ‘Top 10 in Travel’ and widely considered number one in art and good times by many others. For those of you who have just arrived or are thinking about making the trip, here’s some basic knowledge to get you started.
Fremantle is split into four distinct precincts; North Fremantle, South Fremantle, East Fremantle and…. Fremantle. Many have theorised about what happened to ‘West Fremantle’ but for now, we can only assume that Kanye sued for trademark infringement and leave it at that. Geographically speaking, Fremantle is built on the coast. An historical port town with access to the Swan river leading straight to Perth City. Very handy if you’re a pirate of old, or these days, just Hertz expecting a new shipment of rental cars from Japan.
I would love to tell you that, in my three years as resident here, I have left no rock unturned, no event unattended and no piece of street art un-photographed. While I have lived in three of the precincts and worked in the fourth, the reality is, there will always be something new to find in Fremantle.
Here’s a quick A-Z rundown of Fremantle to get you started…
Unmissable from every angle. Fremantle is art. It couldn’t be said that’s it’s anything but. Street art is around every corner, on every building. Perhaps the most stunning and large-scale example of realism in street art that I have ever seen, anywhere in the world, can be found on the warehouse walls of Eastwest Design, a homewares importer on South Terrace (South Fremantle). You many not spot it at first then slowly, you realise that the magical Moroccan market you are entering isn’t a market at all, it’s the side of an old warehouse. On the other side of the same building, this masterpiece by local, Graeme Richards, features a mirror image of the beach behind including brilliant blue sky, dogs, bicycles and of course, the Indian Ocean. Please go and see it, you won’t be disappointed. The mural can be easily reached from the centre of Fremantle on foot or by taking the free CAT bus (board anywhere along the strip) towards South Beach.
Bathers Beach House
This semi-recent addition to the bar and restaurant scene is located right on Bather’s Beach, near the Esplanade. The beach its self is not one of the best in this area but they do provide a perfect spot to while away an afternoon on their outdoor tables. Stunning sunsets in the evening and an extensive list of $15 cocktails (that’s pretty cheap by Perth standards!). Service can be slow and ten points if you can spot the charismatic manager with probably WA’s most outrageous moustache!
Living directly opposite the port, I often start my morning commute and wonder… what happened to that building that was there last week. then I realise that it was, in fact, a cruise ship. A huge, sparkly, floating tin full of people, blocking out the sun. Great for tourism, great for people watching, and always amusing when they let off the fog horns (to signal their departure from the Port) and catch you by surprise.
There are a few good spots for dolphin watching from the shore. My favourite and most reliable spot is the bridges over the swan river. Make sure to go at sunset and you will see them coming in for the night. Dolphins can also be spotted from South Beach and Port Beach in North Fremantle.
East of the river, this precinct is supposedly the most wealthy. Think upper, upper middle class people, sipping kale and chia smoothies, on their way to purchase sandalwood scented soy candles for their immaculately dressed, handbag sized chiwawa. The George Street area hosts the East Fremantle Festival once a year which has free activities, market stalls and more.
Free activities & Fishing
There are plenty of free things to do in town including ping pong tables, human-size chess, a brand-new skate park etc. For something a little more chilled out, try fishing off one of the piers or by the lighthouse. Best chance is at sunset. You can pick up a second hand fishing rod at the Cash Converters in town, or pick up a surfboard and try your luck at that!
Fremantle has it’s own golf course. I haven’t been but have heard good things.
There are currently upwards of four hostels in town. They vary depending on what you are looking for. For long term, I would recommend Pirates Backpackers. It’s central, and has a real family atmosphere. I loved there for a few weeks but know many many others who have called it home for four months or more.
What do Italians have to do with Fremantle I hear you ask… Well, around 7% of the population of Fremantle has Italian roots so, quite a lot! Try Ruoccos Pizzaria in South Fremantle for home-made pasta, pizza, seafood and amazing desserts and don’t miss Dolce & Solato for the best gelato, canolis and coffee.
Jobs are plentiful in the hospitality sector especially. If you are looking for seasonal work on a working holiday, plan on arriving in October or early November. Work can dry up for backpackers around April/May depending on what you’re looking for.
Head upstairs Friday nights at the Newport for a student party type atmosphere. Bar Orient also does karaoke on Wednesdays from 8pm with a HUGE list of songs to choose form. The crowd is older and weirder with a hardcore crew of regulars.
souvenirs, art and knick knacks mixed with a section dedicated to fresh produce and food stall type fare.
Dominated by the Ports, North Fremantle also has a little hub of activity including bars, restaurants and… antique shops.
Some of the most beautiful turquoise ocean around. Can be chilly all year round but go for dip on a hot day, you’ll be glad you did.
Book in at the brand new YHA at Fremantle Prison to spend the night in WA’s oldest building. They say it’s haunted. Take a tour and you can still see the hang-mans noose!
Made famous by the ‘quokka selfie’ and known for it’s permanent smile, these little furry kangaroo rats are almost to good to be true.
Home of the Quokka! A small island, visible from the beaches of the mainland. It has no cars, a lighthouse you can climb up and some killer snorkelling spots… if you don’t mind sharks.
Sunsets at Salt on the Beach
A rustic oasis right on Port Beach, just a five minute walk from North Fremantle train station. A Fremantle icon for over 30 years with a huge renovation planned for 2016. Enjoy a cocktail or a home-brewed beer from their micro-brewery right on the beach! Spectacular sunsets are just the beginning…
If you’ve never heard of Tame Impala, get with the programme! An amazing band, born and bred right here is Fremantle.
See how I combined those two letters there?… Like nowhere else, I cannot stress enough, WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN! The UV index here can be extreme, especially cloudy days you can end up with severe sunburn in less than half an hour. Most Australians wear hats, long sleeves and sunnies, especially on the beach. You can always spot a ‘freshie pom’ strolling around town with a purple-red face and t-shirt tan.
Fremantle has one of the longest whale watching seasons of anywhere in the world. Best in October. It’s not unknown for full grown wales to swim into shore to play or rest.
Attached to Pirates Backpackers. A nice spot for afternoon coffees or cocktails with group.
Cute and colourful cafe near the esplanade. Try their $10 soup special. YUM!
Think cheap and cheerful Mexican food. Half price cocktail carafes on Wednesdays!
What ever you choose to do in Fremantle, you’re sure to have a great time. Don’t forget to drop me a line and say hello!