Fremantle street art

City Profile : Fremantle

We hit Fremantle before checking out the Perth CBD for a few reasons.  A – we were staying only 6km away, B – we weren’t ready to brave the innards of the city just yet, and C – we heard there were great places for coffee!



Sure, Fremantle is home to a plethora of cafés and the Cappuccino Strip, but it also has microbreweries, pubs and restaurants, heaps of shopping and Western Australia’s largest collection of heritage listed buildings.  There is even a bus dressed up like a tram offering ‘tram’ tours (LOL), which is the only reminder of when Fremantle had trams between 1905 and the 1952.


Affectionately called ‘Freo’, it was named after Charles Fremantle, a British naval officer who took formal possession of the mouth of the Swan River in the name of His Majesty King George in 1829.  Over 180 years later, the area is now a city with a vibrant, youthful culture with a love of beer, live music and festivals.


Araluen Chilli Festival

As soon as Juz heard about the Chilli Festival coming to Fremantle, she was keen on finding her own space coyote.  There was live music and pie making competitions, spicy jams, sauces, preserves, oils, beer and tonnes of food stalls serving up jumbos, paellas, seafood jambalayas and chilli con carne.  You could even get chilli ice cream!  Juz went with a bowl of creole chicken and chilli beef stew before wandering around the festival with swollen lips and a fire burning deep down inside.



Entry to the festival was $15 for adults and you got a few vouchers on entry, like a free tasting paddle at the Monk Brewery – SCORE!




Fremantle Markets

Established in 1897, the Fremantle Market Hall is a busy and colourful place to stroll around on a Saturday morning.  There are heaps of stalls displaying all sorts of fantastic stuff like fresh, local produce, nuts, cheese, knick knacks, clothes, free trade stuff, coffee, lollies and souvenirs.  Street performers and buskers are usually out and about on the weekend, and this is where the great John Butler started out before forming his trio in 1998.


The E-Sheds down near the harbour had a completely different atmosphere; sterile, quiet, almost forgotten.  We checked out the CY O’Connor statue and purchased a new picnic bag and cutlery case for $4 but that’s about it.



Round House

This is the oldest permanent building in Western Australia.  It was opened in 1831 and acted as the first prison for colonial and aboriginal prisoners until 1886 when the Convict Establishment (Fremantle Prison) started accept inhabitants other than convicts.  The Round House was then used as a police lock up until about 1900.  Since then, it has been the home for the chief constable and his family, as well as a port storeroom.


Every day at 1pm, they shoot a canon, which is also known as the Time Ball, and mariners, locals and tourists can set their watch to the daily blast.


Shipwreck Museum

This is a fantastic place to learn about all the shipwrecks that happened along the western coast of Australia and is an archaeological goldmine.  The galleries exhibit original timbers from the infamous Batavia, a 17th century Dutch ship which sank in 1629. Also on show are various kinds of booty that were left behind, including silver coins, pieces of furniture, crockery, glassware and even intact food jars and bottles with the original foodstuffs inside!


The Shipwreck Galleries are open daily from 9:30am and entry is by gold coin donation.  There is a great gift shop at the entrance where you can purchase replicas of coins found at the wreck sites.



Fremantle Prison

The Fremantle Prison was originally known as the Convict Establishment and was built by convicts in the 1850s.  It was used as a prison until 1991 and is now open to visitors.  The best way to experience the Fremantle Prison is with a tour, and there are four to choose from.


It truly is a must see, must do attraction when visiting Fremantle.  The site is drenched in history and fascinating stories. Check out our post on the Fremantle Prison.


Didgeridoo Breath

If you’re interested in learning the didgeridoo, check this place out.  The atmosphere is super-welcoming, they have a huge selection of instruments and they offer free didge lessons!  Check out our post on Didgeridoo Breath.



Galati & Sons

Fresh food doesn’t come cheap in Perth so we thought ourselves super lucky to find this place.  Cheap fruit and vegetables, cheese, Italian groceries and spices, as well as cannoli, tarts and pre-made meals.  WIN!



Little Creatures

Fremantle’s #1 tourist destination – check out our post on the Little Creatures Brewery!


Cappuccino Strip

If you’re looking for a place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon, the Cappuccino Strip would be the best place.  Pick a café or restaurant and sit outside while you sip on your coffee, enjoy a meal and read the paper.  If you have a hot car, this is the place to cut laps and show off your sick stereo.


We sat down at Gino’s and had a coffee while we watched masses of people walk past – youngsters with bare midriffs, couples walking their dog, sight seers, tourists, quirky locals – it is truly a mixed bag in Freo.




Grumpy Sailor

This was the first place we went to for coffee while in the Perth area.  The recommendation demanded that we have coffee and a bagel, so we had to comply.  We entered the relaxed bookshop with the embedded café, approached the counter and advised the bearded barista that we were sent for coffee and bagel.  He recommended the cream cheese and Nutella bagel, with the promise that it will “change our day”.


The coffee and bagel were enjoyed outside on the terrace right amongst the chilled out atmosphere.  The coffee was delicious – smooth and creamy without any hint of bitterness.  We can’t say that the bagel changed our day, but it was definitely divine – chewy and moist with a great combination of cream cheese tartness and sweet Nutella. YUM!


Blink Espresso Bar

Quite possibly the smallest shop in Fremantle, this was another strong recommendation that we had the opportunity to fulfil.  Forget about going into the place – there isn’t enough room!  All there is between the colourful walls is one energetic man and his tools to make you a fabulous cup of coffee.


Monk Brewery

Located towards the end of the Cappuccino Strip, The Monk Brewery is a popular stop to hang out with mates while drinking pints of craft beer.  There was a bit of a line to go in and we found that they use the scents of an outdoor kitchen cooking seafood paella to lure hungry patrons in.



They have a tasting paddle with eight beers, including a seasonal one, and all their beers are paired with menu items.  We were lucky enough to score a voucher from Juz’s entry to the Chilli Festival and got a free tasting paddle.


  • Mild – 3.5% a bright golden lager with mild hops and a crisp clean taste.
  • Kolsch – 4.9% fruity, sweet entry with a slightly hoppy taste and subtle bubbles.
  • Wheat – 6.0% a cloudy beer that’s fruity and yeasty without too many bubbles.
  • Pale – 6.0% a deep golden colour with yeast and smooth, lingering bitterness that comes from 100% Australian hops.
  • Chief – 6.3% voted the best ale at the 2012 Perth Royal Beer Show, this tropical, full flavoured beer was smoky and had plenty of hoppy bitterness.
  • Rauch – 5.3% a deep orange colour with strong smoky characteristics and fruity flavours with toffee.
  • Porter – 4.7% a rich, dark ale full of roasted coffee, chocolate and caramel, with mild bitterness and carbonation.


Sail & Anchor Hotel

Opposite the Monk Brewery is a great little microbrewery pub brimming with beer love.  They have their own selection of beers, like Monkey’s Fist Pale Ale, Cat’s Shank Kolsch and Lark’s Foot Golden Ale, but they also make Brass Monkey Stout and have a variety of other local beers on tap.  The walls are covered in beer propaganda and you could spend hours in there looking at them all and having a giggle.



We went in for their $15 lunch specials and sat down to a steak sandwich and seafood basket. While we were disappointed that the parma wasn’t included in the lunch special that day, we were thoroughly impressed with the tenderness of Dave’s steak and the juicy freshness of Juz’s calamari rings.  Their chips were also great – fluffy and crisp with no icky bits.  The Sail and Anchor also do weekly food specials like Parmagedon Mondays, Hump Day Pizzas and Nice Rump Thursdays.


Moondyne Joe’s Bar & Café

Named after the notorious jail-breaking bushranger, this great pub is tucked away at the end of Wray Street and has a traditional, relaxing atmosphere with some old school charm. The Governor’s Bar is the perfect place to chill out with a pint and a meal, or have a lively evening while keeping up with the footy in the sports bar.



If you’re budget conscious, check out their $12 Steak Night on Tuesdays – a big, juicy scotch fillet steak cooked how you want with your choice of sauce and a side of chips and salad.  We say YES to hot beef injections!


Clancy’s Fish Pub

If you want to steer away from the pub scene and find something a little more open and artistic, check out Clancy’s Fish Pub.  Great for after work drinks with mates on the veranda or a day with the kids playing on the lawn out the back, there is something for everyone at Clancy’s.  They have a great selection of beers on tap, including White Rabbit White Ale, and the menu features all the pub classics and then some.



Information & Accommodation

Fremantle Visitor Centre8 William Street, 08 9431 7878

Woodman Point Holiday Park – 132 Cockburn Road, Munster, 08 9434 1433


Fremantle CAT Buses

There are two free bus services that circulate around Fremantle – the Blue and Red CAT buses.  They run every 10-15 minutes and go past major attractions like the train station, Arts Centre, E-Shed Markets, the Cappuccino Strip and the Shipwreck Galleries.



The Fremantle Prison

Experience : The Fremantle Prison

One of the things that we got heaps of recommendations for was to visit the Fremantle Prison.  It’s a historically rich gem that opened in 1855 and during its 136 years of operation, it housed over 350,000 convicts and prisoners.


The Fremantle Prison at night


The Gatehouse is where you enter and prior to the prison’s closure in 1991, it was all that the public knew of the maximum security prison. These days, visitors can wander in and out and check out the art gallery, gift shop, visitor centre and café, but the best way to see the prison is on one of the great tours they offer.


We did all the tours – each one telling a different story – and we learnt so much about the history and inhabitants of the prison, how it was built, the riots, the executions, and the daily life behind bars.  It was an amazing experience and we highly recommend a visit to the Fremantle Prison.



The history of the Fremantle Prison is the most fascinating thing about the prison – how it was built, how the prisoners lived, were punished, and died, the riots they started and the spooky stories from the night officers.


It all started with a severe labour shortage within the Swan River Colony in the early 1800s.  Because of the collapsing infrastructure, many were heading east to New South Wales and Tasmania for greener pastures and a better life and by 1840, only 6,000 settlers remained.  In the meantime, the British Government was dealing with overflowing prisons so a deal was made to send some convicts over to Australia.


During the 1850s, thousands of convicts arrived for labour to build the roads, bridges, buildings and helped to establish the colony as a permanent settlement. They also built their own house – The Convict Establishment – and it is the largest convict-built structure in Western Australia.  Carved out of a limestone hill, the establishment was completed in 7 years and in 1855, the first convicts moved in.  A few decades later, an onsite reservoir was built by convicts using around 200,000 bricks. It holds 1.5 million litres and fed the prison and half of Fremantle before a diesel spill in 1988 seeped into the reservoir and contaminated the water.



Over time, the Convict Establishment needed to start letting colonial offenders into the prison, particularly when the Gold Rush of the 1890s saw an influx of crime. During World War II, the prison acted as a military detention centre.


The prison was finally decommissioned in 1991 and reopened in 1992 as a cultural, historical and educational attraction.  The Fremantle Prison was added to the National Heritage List in 2005 and gained World Heritage status in 2010.



During the Doing Time Tour, they had set up a row of cells in one of the divisions to demonstrate the evolution of living conditions over 136 years.  We strolled from room to room, amazed by the simplicity and lack of space.  We definitely wouldn’t have wanted to be inmates in this prison.


From when the prison started in 1855, cells were 1.2 metres by 2.1 metres and included a hammock, stool, fold down table and a poo bucket.  By the 1860s, poor plumbing led to drippy pipes and insect infestations and in 1870 a Royal Commission recommended that the size of the cells be increased, so they doubled the size of all the cells by removing a shared wall between two cells.



Oil and kerosene lamps were replaced by electricity in 1907, and in the 1950s, hammocks were replaced by simple, metal frame beds, which were then replaced with bunk beds in the 1960s.  In the 1980s, power points were installed in cells so prisoners could plug in electrical goods like small TVs and radios.  Poo buckets were never replaced by flushing toilets… ever.


Painting and drawing on cell walls was strictly forbidden up until the final year of the prison’s operation.  There was one exception to this rule – Pegleg Pete, who was incarcerated for brutally violent crimes against women.  He was allowed to have the artistic outlet of painting on his cell walls because it made him noticeably calmer and more compliable.  Here are a few images of his cell, as well as another cell painted by another aboriginal inmate, and drawings from James Walsh’s cell.



Riots were a rare but furious occurrence and usually broke out over the poor conditions.  In 1968, prisoners were sick of food covered in maggots and grease so they made demands for a prison menu and sweets.  When the Superintendent refused, the prisoners rebelled, but the situation was diffused fairly quickly.


The last riot in the prison happened on a 42 degree day in 1988.  Two prisoners were carrying buckets of boiling water for afternoon tea when they suddenly poured the water over a few prison guards.  The guards were taken hostage and the prisoners started to burn things, which eventually set the jarrah wood roof on fire.  The fire brigade was stalled because their trucks couldn’t fit through the gates of the prison, and after 18 hours and $1.8 million worth of damage, the prisoners backed down and released the hostages.



Moondyne Joe

In 1848, Joseph Bolitho Johns was convicted for stealing bread, several cheeses and some bacon and was sentenced to 10 years.  After a few years in UK prisons, he was shipped over to Western Australia and arrived in Fremantle in 1853. He served two years before being released for good behaviour and he went to live in the rugged bush in the Darling Range, in an area the Aboriginals called Moondyne.


In 1861, Joseph was found guilty of stealing a horse and got locked up in jail, only to escape with the stolen horse using the magistrates bridle and saddle to ride off into the night.  He was caught the next day and sentenced to three years.


After a few more escapes and recaptures, Moondyne was transferred to Fremantle Prison where an inescapable cell was built especially for him – stone walls lined with jarrah sleepers secured with over 10 nails.  Funnily enough, he managed to escape again while doing stonework in the yard and disappeared for two years before being discovered, drunk as a skunk sipping stolen wine in the cellar of Houghton Winery in the Swan Valley.


After a few more escape attempts, he was finally given a conditional pardon in 1873 and became a respectable stockman and carpenter and married in 1879.  About 20 years later, he was admitted to the Fremantle Asylum for senile dementia and died in 1900.


James Walsh

Convicted in 1852 for forging a request for goods, he was sentenced to 15 years and transported to Australia, arriving in Fremantle in 1854.  After 5 years in the convict establishment, he was conditionally pardoned, but reconvicted four months later for forging a one pound note and got another eight years.


During this time, he decorated his cell with the most intricate drawings, covering them up with porridge and whitewash so he wouldn’t get punished for marking his cell walls.  His cell was on display and the drawings reminded us of those from Michelangelo and Leonardo – just beautiful!



There are four tours available – Doing Time, Great Escapes, Torchlight and Tunnels.


We loved the Doing Time Tour!  It gave us great insight into how the inmates lived their lives inside the prison.  From the initial processes of strip, shower and search which was jovially demonstrated on Dave (assume the position!), to living in the small cell, punishment and the final walk to the gallows, we were shown how the prisoners spent their days.  If you prefer break out stories, the Great Escapes Tour reveals all the grand plans and opportunistic escapes of both convicts and prisoners.  Learn about famous inmates like Moondyne Joe and the Fenian convicts, and marvel at the bravery and determination, or the foolishness and silly mistakes.



For a real spooky experience, come back after dark for the Torchlight Tour and walk around the prison grounds in the dark.  Probably not the best choice if you’re afraid of the dark, ghosts, scary stories, cold shivers running down your neck or unexpected surprises that make you scream.  The amount of times Juz jumped and grabbed onto Dave during this tour was just funny.


The Tunnels Tour is perfect for the adventurous types and goes 20 metres underground into 1000 metres worth of tunnels that were built by the prisoners.  Juz was a bit squeamish about going underground so Dave did this tour on his own and he loved it!  The tunnels are only accessible by boat and Dave got to share the lead boat with the tour guide, Karl.  At one stage during the tour (you’ll know when you get to it!) Dave and Karl heard a kafuffle behind them and stopped to allow the rest of the group to catch up.  A few seconds later, they appeared – one group ended up backwards while another group had lost their oar, which was later found in someone else’s boat.  One of the great features of this tour is a plaque that commemorates convict labour.  It is the only plaque that celebrates the hard work that the prisoners did, and it’s deep down in the tunnels.  This tour is best suited for the physically fit who aren’t afraid of heights or enclosed spaces.




The Fremantle Prison is on The Terrace and is open 7 days a week from 10am and it is an absolute MUST for anyone visiting Fremantle.


The space is also available for functions and events such as receptions, Halloween parties, art exhibitions, murder mystery nights and Christmas Parties.  It can also host weddings because the prison chapel is a bonafide, consecrated church – just in case you’re interested in starting your life sentence in at the Fremantle Prison.


Phone: 08 9336 9200


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We had the best time at the Fremantle Prison