The port city of Fremantle/Walyalup is one of Perth’s greatest gems; a popular tourist destination and abuzz with locals alike. The harbourside suburb lies 16 kilometres south-west of Perth City, and is a mere 30-minute train ride from the big smoke through pleasant neighbourhoods with an oceanside destination finale.
Fremantle is a one-stop-shop and more boasting a sensational drinking and dining scene, specialty shops galore, and plentiful live music; not to mention its maritime history and colonial architecture-lined streets. From charming cafes and impressive bars to famed markets and museums; Fremantle has got the lot. We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best things to do in Fremantle while you’re visiting the seaside locale. Oh, and make sure to refer to the suburb as ‘Freo’ for the full West Aussie experience.
1. Old Pubs & Breweries
Sunny afternoons combined with yesteryear pubs and airy breweries go hand in hand; and there’s just something about old-timey drinking houses which exude an ambiance that slick joints just don’t quite grasp. Fremantle is home to a number of fantastic spots which will surefire accommodate your boozy needs. On the main drag you’ll find The National Hotel, The Norfolk Hotel, and Sail & Anchor on each corner, as well as Bar Orient a short stroll down the road.
In terms of Fremantle’s breweries, you can drink right by the waterside at Little Creatures Brewery in their mammoth drinking hall amongst metallic silos; at Republic of Fremantle Distillery which feels like a mega science lab with their distilling apparatuses; at Gage Roads Freo Brewery’s sunlit space overlooking the harbour’s cargo ships and containers; or at Union Brewery & Distillery’s industrial space adorned with vines. All four drinking houses are brilliant in the matter of dining; and in exciting news, Little Creatures Brewery is soon to be at the helm of Swan Draught’s production return to Western Australia too – rejoice!
2. Op Shops, Vintage & Artisan Stores
No secrets here, we’ve nabbed many a fabulous wardrobe item from Fremantle’s op shops and vintage stores, and collected niche keepsakes and crafty bits and bobs from the specialty stores aplenty. Vinnie’s never fails to pull through with the snazzy op shop fits, nor does Salvos and neighbouring Good Sammy’s, Anglicare, Save The Children, and St Pat’s Rack.
If you’re after a more curated vintage store experience, don’t stride past The Gossamer Project, Nifty In Freo, Yeah Vintage, and Beat Happening for less rummaging and more crispy clothing and delicate inventory. And if old stuff is your thing, Old Values, Loop De Loop Curio Store, and UGM X TPC Vintage Store are the spots for cool furniture and collectables.
Not all treasures are antiquated however, with artisan stores no stranger to Fremantle either. Shopfronts offering up unique crafts and handmade wares line the streets and hide in nooks, like The Pickled Fairy’s nostalgic, magical emporium. Mother’s adjoining restaurant and eco store provides everything from natural deodorants and hand-crafted kitchenware to nifty baby products. Kate + Abel slings gifts with the likes of oyster shuckers, intriguing artwork, and specialty indoor plant care. While The Artisan Store stocks over 170 Western Australian (WA) artists and local designers. But a mosey down Market Street and South Terrace is bound to be bountiful in the makers realm.
3. Markets & Continental Stores
The Fremantle Markets is Perth’s flagship of sorts, having set up shop in 1897 and paved its way to the now heritage marketplace with the most. The hub not only trades a vibrant array of cirsp fruit and vegetables, but also lodges a variety of eateries. One of those being Viet Kites, said to be the best banh mi establishment in Perth, also making an appearance on our guide to the best cheap eats in Perth.
Find Japanese, Balinese, Greek, and Brazilian cuisine within the Freo Markets, to name a few; as well as plenty of plant-based options, exquisitely fresh juices, sweet and savoury bakery goods, cured meats, old-fashioned candy, organic wines, and copious amounts of coffee beans. And if you’re after something inedible, browse stalls selling handmade soaps and beauty products, jewelry, pottery, hats, spiritual wares, along with naturopaths and psychics offering their talents, you name it.
Where: Corner of South Terrace and Henderson Street
If you’re a bit of a foodie, there’s no going past Kakulas Sister on Market Street. It’s the family-owned counterpart of Northbridge’s Kakulas Brothers continental Greek grocery. Kakulas Sister opened 65 years after the Northbridge location in 1994, and likewise offers a massive selection of international goods. At the old-timey store you’ll find big old vats and hessian bags filled with everything from chocolate coated almonds and celery salt to gourmet groceries and tubes of gin-infused mayonnaise. Kakulas Sister are also the founders of nearby Little Sister Delicatessen which is definitely worth a suss for lunch.
Where: 29/31 Market Street
On the opposite end of the township near Gage Roads Freo Brewery, sits E Shed Markets located on Victoria Quay. Housed in a historic 1929 timber building, E Shed is Perth’s only waterfront market boasting magnificent views of Fremantle’s working port atop the licensed al fresco terrace. E Shed Markets presents international food and music, local handicrafts, antiques and collectables, both vintage and new fashion, amidst the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Watch boats and passing ships as you sip a hot cup o’ Joe.
Where: Peter Hughes Drive, Victoria Quay
4. Small Bars & Upscale Dining
If you’re in the game for a fine beverage and a bite to eat, Fremantle doesn’t fall short when it comes to noteworthy dining combined with small bar ambiance. A number of new upscale, yet take-it-easy-style vino and fare venues are popping up all over the place, namely: Al Lupo, Vin Populi, Palette, La Lune, Patio, Ethos Deli + Dining, and Sailing For Oranges.
But if you’re not feeling too adventurous, a plethora of old faithfuls which are splendid for a tipple and some darn good nosh in an alluring setting include: Mother, Nieuw Ruin, Emily Taylor, Tonic & Ginger, Bread In Common, Madalena’s, Strange Company, Jetty Bar And Eats, Young George, Habitué, and Angel’s House.
5. Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour
You won’t see any cargo ships sailing into the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, just vessels drifting into the quaint dock with their daily catch aboard. The marina is wrapped with a boardwalk where you can stare at schools of fish below, discover restaurants with panoramic views serving up some of WA’s freshest seafood, and visit Australia’s first licensed beach, Bather’s Beach House. The boardwalk also commemorates the local fishers who started the fishing industry in Fremantle in a bronze memorial inscribed with the names 608 fishers who pioneered the industry pre-1947.
The Fishing Boat Harbour is also home to a Fremantle (and Perth) institution too, Cicerello’s. Founded in 1903 by some of those very fishers mention above, Cicerello’s have spent over 100 years refining their fish and chips recipe, creating which are now known as some of the best fish and chips in Perth. Best believe there is no lack of seagulls begging for your entire serving of chippies.
6. Nightlife & Live Music Scene
While all the venues mentioned in our Smalls Bars & Upscale Dining category above are exceptional on the nightlife front; Fremantle has a number of grounds which are less food-focused and more on the live music and drinking-specific side of things.
For live music, head on over to Freo Social within the walls of a late-19th Century artillery drill hall. The venue hosts everyone from big-name acts to emerging artists, as well as DJs and comedy nights too. And The Duke Of George basement bar is the place to be for sounds of jazz and blues.
Top of the Fremantle live music food chain however is Mojo’s; providing local and international talent with a grunge-like platform since the 70s. The venue is musician-owned and operated with a carefully curated line-up each week, taking claim to the birthplace of many famed and fruitful West Aussie talent and Freo locals, including John Butler, and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. That said, Kidogo Arthouse is the locus for seafront musical nourishment with sweeping views across the Indian Ocean.
If you want to tone it down a notch, but still enjoy an easy-going bar with an upbeat atmosphere, then get to the dimly lit Jungle Bird, the newly opened (and very cool queer bar) The Flaming Galah, Ronnie Nights for underground rock ‘n’ roll vibrations, and Who’s Your Mamma on weekends for local DJ beats.
And striping it back to basics; refined smaller bars with a flare include the rustic Whisper Wine Bar, olde-worlde Gimlet, seafaring and fiddle-bearing Darling Darling, leafy Mrs Brown Bar, and L’Chaim speakeasy, unorthodox Mr Chapple, and The Arbor rooftop within The Old Synagogue restored heritage complex.
7. Museums & Historic Sites
Being a port city, Fremantle is the obvious locale for nautical displays. The WA Maritime Museum and WA Shipwrecks Museum are significant galleries, and often rotate their exhibitions; recently showcasing Fremantle Then & Now using immersive digital projection technologies for historical panoramic photography.
Fremantle Arts Centre on the other hand is a cultural and learning precinct which is spread across four-acres housed in a gothic heritage building. Gaze upon contemporary visual arts exhibitions, and witness a diverse range of multifaceted performance, and music with a focus on Indigenous works.
A tour of the Fremantle Prison is a staple Freo experience too. The stone building is Western Australia’s only World Heritage listed construction, and the site is also the most intact convict establishment in the nation. Guided tours amplify the folklore of the former maximum-security prison, with day-time excursions, jumpy torchlight tours, and the ‘extreme heritage’ tunnel adventure; the prison is also used as a concert venue. The nearby Round House built in 1830 is the oldest building still standing in Western Australia, as seen in our guide to the best places for a good cry, and most definitely worthy a gander too.
8. Cafe Scene
Fremantle’s food scene is vast, and cuisine from all over the globe can be found in the precinct with options for the omnivorous and herbivorous alike. Although we can’t name them all, these are our top picks for the best cafes in Fremantle: Duck Duck Bruce with their innovative flavours; Bib & Tucker for their breakfast martinis; Moore & Moore Cafe’s plentiful plant-based spread; Ootong & Lincoln’s retro fit-out; Mother and Bread In Common as seen in our guide to Perth’s most Instagrammable cafes; as well as Chalky’s Espresso Bar; May Street Larder; Kokomo’s Livid Skate Cafe; Kakulas Sister’s sibling store Little Sister Delicatessen; and Hinata Japanese Cafe as listed in our noteworthy openings of 2022 guide.
Western Australia has the best beaches, period; and without a joke, Fremantle is no exception. Marvellous blue waters and white sandy banks welcome the Indian Ocean ashore, and in return the horizon displays phenomenal sunsets. Bathers Beach is a crowd favourite for salt-goers, followed by South Beach, Port Beach, and Leighton Beach.
At South Beach you’ll also find South Beach Sauna – a shipping container that’s been transformed into a dry Finnish sauna, right on the waterfront. And during the summer months, community movement-makers, Cold Nips takes over Bathers Beach with their free, mega group yoga, dips in the ocean.
And although technically not Fremantle, heading a 10-minute drive southward wouldn’t go astray to explore the Omeo Shipwreck just 25 metres from the shore with beautiful sealife in abundance.
10. Fomo Freo
FOMO is one of Fremantle’s latest establishments; a hive for everything art, culture, retail, dining, and entertainment under one roof. Vibrant murals lick almost every wall, making for a brilliant backdrop for FOMO’s intermittent outdoor markets. Inside you’ll find international leisure experts, FunLab with their arcade games, ten-pin bowling alleys, as well as Holey Moley Golf Club.
A hawker-style food court slings delightful fare, with our highlight being traditional Chinese restaurant, Yin Yang Wok & Soup Bar with their swoon-worthy laksa, punchy char kway teow, and mee goreng that will have you travelling through the dimensions unknown. Read about 22-year-old owner Eric Ngo’s eatery here.
Where: 10 William Street
Keep an eye out for annual events in Fremantle’s vicinity such as 10 Nights In Port, Falls Festival, High Voltage, Fremantle International Street Arts Festival, Writer’s Weekend, Coast’s Hottest 100 Beach Party, Fremantle Design Week, Truffle Extravaganza, and Tour de Freo.