Twice I have visited Perth and twice I have stayed in Fremantle. This coastal city in Perth’s Metropolitan Area is a vibrant spot for the curious traveller who wants to explore a different part of the city. There are plenty of things to do in Fremantle, but as a sustainable traveller, I was extra thrilled to know that Fremantle is home to a number of eco-friendly and cultural attractions and activities. From exploring its indigenous culture to sampling its local produce, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this beautiful city as a mindful traveller.
If your accommodation is not in Fremantle, it is well worth it to a day trip from Perth. You will fall in love with its slow, artsy vibe, and its historical significance.
Visit Rottnest Island
If you are going to spend just one day in Fremantle, let this be your main activity. Rottnest Island is one hidden gem in Western Australia you cannot miss. It’s the top activity on Fremantle’s list of things to do. The Island is pretty much a vacation spot, and you will love it because it is a beautiful location and the only place where you can see quokkas! Quokkas are the only marsupial endemic to Rottnest Island. They don’t exist anywhere else in Australia although, apparently, they have a cousin in South Australia. People come to the island just the get the Instagram famous #quokkaselfie.
If you visit for a day, you will probably only have time to go to some interesting lookouts on the island and pursue your quokka selfie mission. But if you are lucky to spend one weekend in Rottnest Island, you will have time to explore lesser known spots and visit their history museum.
Hop on the CAT bus line to get around Fremantle. It’s free!
Take a tour with the Walyalup Indigenous Centre
Although it took me a while to find this place, it was indeed a great find and my personal hidden gem in Fremantle. The Walyalup Indigenous Centre offers city walking tours and a series of workshops to learn more about the Noongar people, the traditional owners of the region.
The centre is run as part of a government initiative to promote and teach about local indigenous culture. Although I haven’t had the chance to participate in any of the workshops, I did join a walking tour. There is not much inside the main building, just a few indigenous artefacts and some paintings; however, I highly recommend you get in touch with them and find out if there are any activities you can participate in since their programs don’t run every day. This should be on your list of things to do in Fremantle if you want to learn about indigenous culture.
I should also mention that if you are considering buying some aboriginal artwork, check what they have on display. They do not apply the fee that art galleries put on the artwork that they exhibit so it may be a better deal for you. It definitely is for the indigenous artists.
Learn more about the Historical Fremantle
The Swan River Colony was established in 1829 in what we know today as Fremantle. Even though it started off as a free colony its destiny changed in 1842 as it became a penal colony. There are many things to do in Fremantle related to colonial history, so take your pick. Immerse yourself in colonial architecture as you walk along Historic Cliff Street. Some of the colonial buildings in Freo were built by convicts, like the old Fremantle prison or the Lunatic Asylum (now an arts centre).
I highly recommend you join the prison night tour (I did that tour on my first visit to Perth). It’s interesting and creepy in equal measure, and I think it is comparable to my visit to Alcatraz minus the views of San Francisco.
Another aspect of the historic part of the city is its role as a port since the beginning of its foundation. If you are interested in nautical paraphernalia, Freo has plenty to offer.
Support local artists in Fremantle
One of the charming aspects of Fremantle is the little independent shops that sell all sorts of items made by local artists. From paintings to jewellery, you can find about anything at a wide range of prices.
While cruising the streets of the city centre, I noticed there was a campaign to promote local shops and artists, explaining their current situation. The truth is most artists struggle to live off of their art. Unfortunately, being an accomplished artist doesn’t mean high sales.
This campaign made me ponder the cost of souvenirs and mementoes. We are so used to buying cheap crap that we have forgotten the true value of things. Sure thing, hand-made pieces are more expensive than factory-produced goods. But think about the extra time, effort, love and care to produce a one-of-a-kind art piece. All that forms part of its value, don’t you think? If you can’t afford a 50 dollar hand-painted scarf, turn your head towards the 5$ watercolour postcard. I believe that would be more special than your standard made in China magnet.
Because of all the above mentioned, I firmly believe that buying special mementoes is one of the must things to do in Fremantle.
Eat honest, wholesome food
Wherever I go I try to eat wholesome, natural and locally grown produce, and Fremantle excels at that. I was quite impressed by how many businesses pride themselves in offering local, organic and artisan products.
A simple search on the web will give you a list of farm-to-table restaurants and cafes offering you tasty and healthy foods made with honest ingredients. Even just a walk around you will see independent grocery shops with signs of their local produce. Furthermore, many businesses take an active role in the green economy by implementing environmentally friendly strategies within the business. The fact that a whole city is attuned with these values is simply amazing.
I hope this list has gotten you hyped and you choose to stay in Fremantle or at least visit for a day. There are many more things to do in Fremantle, so check out their official online travel guide and explore what this city has to offer. I am sure you will find the perfect fit for you.
On your next trip to Fremantle, what are you looking forward to doing?
Is there anything that you would totally do and it’s not on the list?
Let me know in the comment section below!