Western Australia is a vast, magnificent state, occupying a massive part of the Australian continent. There’s so much to see and do there, from the wine regions of Margaret River, the rugged red terrain of the Kimberly, or the adorable quokkas of Rottnest Island.
However, if there’s one place that should be on your itinerary, it’s Fremantle. This little coastal city, just south of Perth, has an amazing history, unbelievable food, and a laid-back, quirky vibe. It would be easy to come for a few days and find yourself in town a bit longer. Fremantle is a maritime city, and still home to a working commercial port. The harbour has a great atmosphere- lots of great restaurants and bars, the freshest seafood you’ll find, and tourists and locals alike enjoying the gorgeous boats, fresh air, and delicious food. It’s also rich in history, architecture, and culture.
It attracts artists, creatives, backpackers, and brewers- seriously, Little Creatures Brewery makes some of the best beers you’ll come across in Australia!
If you're backpacking through Western Australia, take some time to relax and enjoy Fremantle, or Freo, to the locals. Here are some of the best things to do in town.
History (or dark tourism) buffs shouldn’t miss Fremantle Prison. This convict-era prison, which was, in fact, built by convicts, first came into operation in the 1850s, before finally being shut down in 1991. It’s now open to the public and is also a World Heritage Site. This large complex was the home of much violence, hardship, and overcrowding, and a visit is a great way to learn more about the horrible history of convict times in Australia.
Visit on your own or join in on a guided tour. The tours are often led by former prison guards and visit some incredible parts of the facility, including underground tunnels, the former execution chamber, and the prison’s exercise yards. One really cool thing to note: the prison also offers torchlight tours at night, a must-do if you’re looking for ghosts or just love a good haunting story. Spooky, yes- but also a lot of fun.
Other great historical and cultural attractions in town include the WA Maritime Museum, the WA Shipwrecks Museum, and the Round House, another former prison facility.
Whether you’re looking for some unique souvenirs, funky vintage goods, or just some local produce or baked goods, Fremantle Markets is the place to go. The markets have actually operated from the same place since all the way back to 1897. They are open and free to visit Friday-Sunday, along with public holiday Mondays.
There are over 150 stallholders there each week, and a visit is a great way to pick up a freshly cooked meal for cheap, look for homemade bracelets and jewelry, or find lots of unique crafts and art to take home as a gift or as a memento of your time in Australia. You can also find fresh, local produce, amazing coffee, or just about anything else you might want to eat or drink.
Go on a pub crawl
Fremantle really knows how to do a good pub. There are so many older, sprawling heritage pubs in town, beautiful architecturally, but also offering cold beer, live music and entertainment, and great pub meals. You can find live bands most nights of the week, and there’s plenty of great pubs to pop around and explore. Australians love a ‘Sunday sesh’, or afternoon drinks on a Sunday, so why not check out what’s happening in town. Some of the best pubs in Fremantle include the National Hotel, the Sail and Anchor, the Federal Hotel, and the Bar Orient.
If you’re into craft beer, don’t miss Little Creatures, a waterfront brewery, bar, and restaurant. They produce some of the best craft beer in the area, if not the country, and you can also join in on a brewery tour to learn how their beers are made.
Hit the beach
Being a coastal town, Freo is full of gorgeous beaches, complete with great sunset views as evening sets in.
Some of the best beaches in Fremantle for swimming are Bather’s beach, South Beach, and Leighton Beach. The long, white, sandy strips of beach are just made for beach days, and the water is clear and inviting. Pack some snacks or a picnic and make a day of it, or grab some fish and chips to enjoy on the sand. If you’re in town on a Saturday night, the South Beach Sunset Market is on from about 5 pm each Saturday night- in addition to unique crafts and food, there’s live entertainment- bring a picnic blanket and some wine for a fun and cheap night out at the beach.
Western Australia is known for its pristine beaches and clean, undeveloped coastline, and the beaches of Fremantle are no exception.
Cruise over to Rottnest Island
Fremantle is the departure point for ferries to Rottnest Island, making it a popular place to spend a few days before or after you visit Rotto, as the locals call it. Rottnest Island is seriously spectacular and should be on any Australian itinerary. They are fast ferries that run to and from the island all day, and it only takes about 30 minutes each way. The waters can be choppy though, so bring some seasickness medication if that might bother you.
It’s most famous for its quokkas- which you’ve undoubtedly seen all over social media- these adorable, small, curious marsupials inhabit the island, and seemingly always appear to be smiling. They are wild animals, so always give them their space, but they’re likely to check out what you’re up to.
In addition to the quokkas, there are beautiful sparkling beaches all over Rottnest, which are best explored by bicycle. Hire a bike when you book your ferry ticket and will be waiting for you when you get to the island. Bring along your bathers, a snorkel, and cruise around the island, hopping from beach to beach. Finish the day with a sundowner at Gov’s Sports Bar before cruising back to Fremantle.
Author: Katie Dundas is an American freelance writer and travel blogger. She loves exploring Australia (and the world!) and writes frequently on adventure travel, expat issues, and backpacking. Follow her through her blog, The Accidental Australian , or @theaccidentalaustralian.