With a heady history and hippie heart, Fremantle marches to its own beat. The port suburb is steeped in hundreds of years of maritime, convict and colonial history, with grand Edwardian and Victorian buildings to show for it. Synonymous with buskers, markets and free spirits, Fremantle has seen an influx of hip eating and drinking spots that are as welcome as the Freo Doctor – the cooling afternoon sea breeze. Here are the best things to eat, drink, see and do in Fremantle.
Things to Do
You can go whale watching, bar hopping and gallery viewing but wandering the narrow streets of the West End affords a close-up look at the city’s finest Victorian architecture as well as a low-key way to settle in. Check out one of Australia’s premier Indigenous galleries, Japingka Aboriginal Art, which showcases works by artists from the Kimberley region, Central Australia and beyond.
Locals, understandably, pack Fremantle’s beaches during summer. As well as being close to the city centre, Port and Leighton beaches are notable for great post-swim and weekend breakfast options.
For a voluntary $5 donation, the WA Shipwrecks Museum offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the state’s treacherous maritime history. Don’t miss the preserved timbers and bloodthirsty tale – brought to life after dark – of the notorious 1629 Batavia wreck.
The Fremantle Markets have been a Friday and weekend mainstay since 1897, when shoppers arrived by horse and cart. Inside the same impressive Victorian building, you’ll find fresh produce, local art, vintage clothes and knick-knacks. There’s also great street food – try the ramen at Dosukoi Japanese Noodle & Bubble Tea.
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A collection of limestone heritage cottages – the former homes of Fremantle Prison’s warders – has been artfully reimagined as boutique stays. Enjoy house-made pastries and barista coffee in the morning and sip a Gimlet at the hotel’s bar of the same name at night (apparently it’s what the warders used to drink).
No other Fremantle hotel gets you quite as close to the action as this boutique establishment, a short walk from the precinct’s bustling main street. Built, appropriately enough, using shipping containers, the nautical-inspired Hougoumont is a contemporary space featuring cosy rooms, modern art and bespoke furniture. Guests can enjoy complimentary wine and cheese in the evenings before striking out to explore.
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Eat and Drink
Moore & Moore
This quirky café and gallery is a Freo institution, housed in a mid-1800s merchant’s warehouse with trapdoors in the ceilings. Come for the sage and burnt butter pumpkin mash, linger for contemporary art and people watching.
Bread In Common
It has the unmistakable scent of fresh-from-the-oven bread but this renovated industrial-cool warehouse is home to so much more than a bakery. The sprawling restaurant, designed by architect Michael Patroni, serves farm-to-table plates with vegetables and herbs picked from the kitchen gardens in nearby Coogee. The juicy Fremantle sardines with pickled tomato, shallot and horseradish are a must-order.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen
Chef Kenny McHardy, who once worked under Gordon Ramsay, brings his zeal for local produce and the open flame to this cosy restaurant. The Abrolhos Islands scallops and smoky buttery sirloin are standouts. (And don’t skip the seasoned flatbread with olive oil).
A cool vibe, friendly service and killer drinks list: this sleek small bar has it all. Head down on a Sunday afternoon for live jazz paired with Australian wines and inventive cocktails you aren’t likely to find on any other menus.
Republic of Fremantle
Sample the small-batch spirits and excellent share plates at sophisticated gin and vodka distillery, Republic of Fremantle. The prawn toast served on brioche with remoulade is a winner and pairs beautifully with the MoMo, a whisky, peach and pandan cocktail topped with toasted rice. Sample the range of signature spirits with a tasting flight, replete with tonics and seasonal garnishes.
The Old Synagogue
Locals are congregating at justopened The Old Synagogue – a megavenue housed within a 118-year-old former synagogue – as much for its stately interior and heritage architecture as for the smart, assertive mod-Asian dishes served at Tonic + Ginger. Push through the bookcase in its subterranean reading nook and you’ll be embraced by L’Chaim, Freo’s lushest, louche-est temple to drinking.
Kailis' Fishmarket Café
One of the area’s oldest fish and chip shops, Kailis’ Fishmarket Café, has just been given its first major makeover in nearly 35 years. Restaurateurs George and Victor Kailis have amped up the menu by adding uni waffles and poke bowls to the traditional roster of potato scallops and squid