When visiting Perth in Western Australia, visitors often rush to the port city of Fremantle. With its museums, galleries, cool street art, coffee culture and pubs on every corner, I like to describe this place as the cool vibe of Perth. If you are looking for what to do in Fremantle, a two-day itinerary is a great option.
European history starts in 1829, when Captain Charles Fremantle takes possession of the West Coast of Australia on behalf of King George IV. The Swan River Colony makes little progress until the arrivals of British convicts in 1850.
Even before Fremantle, Albany in South West WA was founded in 1826. If you get there, don’t miss the Historic Whaling Station.
What to do in Fremantle
Today, Fremantle is a bustling, fun-loving city, and still very much a port. When I first visited in the late 90s, things felt a little neglected, as if the city was in transition. Still, the creativity and the quirkiness were already there.
These days, much of the city is renovated, with well-preserved architecture, busy pubs and cool cafes open for brunch. There is so much stuff to do in Fremantle.
In order to experience Fremantle and its unique vibe, staying the night is a great idea. Accommodation in Fremantle is varied and suitable for all budgets and some new stylish places have appeared.
The grand old pubs of Fremantle also have renovated rooms. The National Hotel Fremantle has a rooftop bar and the Norfolk Hotel Fremantle, across the street from the Fremantle Markets has clean rooms and great meals.
If you want to stay in South Fremantle, closer to the beach, the Local Hotel Fremantle is an old renovated building with a fresh decor and shared facilities.
They say Fremantle has a pub on every corner and it’s not an exaggeration… For that reason, Fremantle tourism is by and large about having a cool drink. This is a destination of choice for Perth’s beloved “Sunday Sesh”, an all-afternoon drinking session.
As a port city, Fremantle has a long tradition of looking after thirsty sailors and some pubs, such as the Sail & Anchor and Little Creatures even hide a
On my last Fremantle day trip, I had lunch at the Norfolk Hotel, a beautiful old pub across the street from the Fremantle Markets and it was the perfect place to catch up with friends.
The town has a fairly strong Italian identity, as a lot of migrants arrived through Fremantle Harbour. Pizza restaurants and Italian cafés line South Terrace, some still looking a bit drab.
South Terrace, or Cappucino Strip is where most Fremantle restaurants are. So, before or after the pub, maybe an Italian meal or seafood feast is in order!
The Prison is probably the most striking building in Fremantle. In fact, its silhouette still dominates the city of Fremantle, in an ominous and slightly dark presence. Along with the Fremantle Arts Centre and the Round House, the Fremantle Prison is one of the earliest convict-built buildings in Fremantle.
The Fremantle Prison was built in order to house the first convicts brought in from Britain in 1850, and was initially called the Convict Establishment. After completion in the 1850s, it remained a prison until 1991. Throughout its history, the Fremantle Prison housed British convicts, local and military prisoners, enemy aliens and POWs.
Once one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire, the Fremantle Prison history is actually a goldmine of stories. Many of the important characters of colonial and Western Australia have a connection to the prison and I highly recommend visiting it.
My first visit to the Fremantle Prison goes back to 1997, when I first moved to Australia. Back then, there was one type of visit, mostly focused on modern times. The prison housed up to 1200 and 58 women at any one time however, some 350,000 people were incarcerated there in the course of its history.
Today, the Fremantle Prison is part of ten Australian Convict Sites added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. I highly recommend a visit if you are interested in Australian convict history. Another good place for convict history is Tasmania, especially Port Arthur.
The Prison Tours
There are 5 different Fremantle gaol tours you can take, depending on what interests you.
The Convict Prison
This tour covers the period from the build in 1850 till the end of the convict era in 1886. This is a great option if you are interested in Fremantle convict history.
This tour involves quite a lot of stairs and is not accessible by wheelchair.
Out of the various Fremantle Prison tours, this one focuses on the more recent history and the maximum security jail. The period covered goes from 1887 and 1991. Starting in the commercial size kitchen, the guide will take through the process of arriving at the prison, show you around the different yards, the gallows (last used in 1964) and even the death row cells.
!00% wheelchair accessible.
This tour tells the real life stories of the most notorious inmates of the Fremantle Prison. From bushrangers to thieves, murderers, serial killers, bank robbers and escape artists, this is the story of 140 years of West Australia’s criminal history.
Please note that this tour is not for children under 10.
This is a Fremantle ghost tour and it goes through the more macabre aspects of the prison’s history, the ghastly and ghostly stories…
This Fremantle night tour goes for 1,5 hours and runs every Wednesday and Friday nights. Bookings are essential.
The Tunnels Tour
This tour is longer than the others (2,5 hours) and includes an underground boat ride and a visit of the tunnels built by the prisoners. There is a minimum age of 12 for this tour and you need to have a good level of fitness to explore the labyrinth of tunnels built by the prisoners.
This tour is not wheelchair accessible.
Fremantle Prison Tour Prices
Fremantle Prison tour times: The Convict Prison, Behind Bars, Great Escapes last 1 hour and 15
You can combine two of them in the Prison Tour Package for $32 per adult. You can also combine a tram tour and one prison tour of your choice on this ticket.
Fremantle Arts Centre
The Fremantle Arts Centre is the former lunatic asylum and one of Freo’s most significant landmarks, on Ord Street. Built by convict labour in the 1860s in colonial gothic style, the Fremantle Arts Centre has had many uses over the years.
After a time as an “Asylum for the Criminally Insane”, the building was used to house homeless women and delinquent girls. Then it became a midwifery school.
The WA Maritime Museum called it home for a while and the Migration Museum occupied some of the rooms until it was permanently closed in 2009.
In my view, the most fascinating aspect of the Fremantle Arts Centre is that it is said to be haunted. I’m not a big believer in ghosts but the Fremantle Arts Centre has the reputation of being one of the most haunted buildings in Western Australia. Visitors and staff have experienced creepy events, such as cold spots, voices, physical contact, black shadows and even apparitions.
When I visited the Fremantle Arts Centre in the late 90s, the Migration Museum was still open and even capitalised on the ghost reputation.
I remember going into a small room at the end of a corridor and being totally creeped out… Sure, the displays were quite “staged” to increase the feeling of a presence but still…
On my last Fremantle day trip, there was none of that. The Fremantle Arts Centre seems to be only dedicated to art events and workshops, and there is no mention of the ghost reputation… It’s a bit of a shame and it’s to you if you want to include it in your Fremantle itinerary.
Another historic place to visit in Fremantle is the markets, on the corner of South Terrace and Henderson Street. Built in 1897, the Fremantle Markets are the hippy heart of the port city.
The main hall is full of novelty stalls, jewellery, hats, wooden objects, art work and many more knick-knacks. There is also a fresh food hall at the back.
The Fremantle Markets haven’t changed much since I lived in Perth and remain one of the essential Fremantle attractions.
Fremantle Round House
Fremantle sightseeing includes a number of historic places. The Round House is one of the most interesting things to see in Fremantle. Built as a gaol in 1830, just after the establishment of the Swan River Colony, the Round House is the oldest remaining building in Western Australia.
Built on the model of panopticon, the Round House has eight cells, a jailer’s residence and a well in the courtyard. The cells are tiny, and yet held colonial and indigenous prisoners until 1886.
Like many colonial buildings, the Round House, Fremantle has had several uses: it was a police lock-up until 1900.
At the front of the Round House, overlooking Bathers Beach, is a deck with a cannon and time ball. The cannon is fired every day at 1pm. At the same time, one of volunteer guides drops the time ball from the mast. This process was used to help mariners adjust their chronometers.
This process is no longer required with digital timekeeping but it’s a nice tradition and one of Fremantle’s tourist attractions.
The Round House is a special place for me. I became a volunteer guide there when I first moved to Perth. So I did get to operate the time ball and I was involved in Fremantle tours.
Fremantle being a port city, you wouldn’t necessarily expect a pretty beach, but Bathers Beach is just behind the Round House. The Whalers’ Tunnel built under the Round House is now open so you can simply walk to the beach.
You can include this small beach in your list of Fremantle things to do.
This elegant colonial building sits on the location of the warehouse built by Fremantle’s first harbour master. In 1850, this was the first home of the 75 convicts brought in from Britain to help build the struggling colony.
There were many transformations after that and it finally opened as a hotel in 1895. If you are looking for what to do in Fremantle, why not try High Tea at the Esplanade Hotel.
Old Merchant Buildings
Creating your own Fremantle walking tour is a great way to discover the many aspects of the port city. High Street, Phillimore Street and High Street have an interesting collection of old shipping buildings. Those Edwardian mansions were built by wealthy shipping merchants and many of them have been restored. They are one of the things to see in Fremantle.
These stately buildings give a good idea of the past glory of the port city and make for great Fremantle sightseeing.
WA Maritime Museum
What better place than Fremantle to house a Maritime Museum? Indeed, Fremantle still has a very strong seafaring identity and purpose. The WA Maritime Museum is an attractive modern building on the edge of the harbour, shaped like a sail.
The museum is a comprehensive account of all seafaring and marine life. The museum holds impressive collections of objects relating to pilot boats, cruise liners, fishing, whaling and defence ships.
For the more technically inclined, there is even a section on ship engines and a lighthouse lantern.
The most spectacular aspect of the museum is how boats are hanging from the ceiling, including the famous Australia II, who won
I found the WA Maritime Museum really interesting, even though I’m not hugely into boats. The displays are really well done and full of interesting details. Visiting the museum on a Fremantle day trip is a good way to measure the importance and influence of seafaring for Western Australia.
Outside the museum are the “Welcome Walls” paying tribute to the many migrants who came to Western Australia by sea.
This addition to the WA Maritime Museum was recently opened in the newly renovated Commissariat building on Cliff Street. The entry is by gold coin donation and the WA Shipwrecks Museum
The coast of Western Australia is treacherous and there are many shipwrecks listed in the museum. The most extraordinary shipwreck in the museum is that of the Batavia, a flagship of the Dutch East India Company wrecked on the Abrolhos Islands, near Kalbarri in 1628.
A barely believable story of mutiny, mass murder and survival ensued and, whilst very well documented through survivors’ journals and accounts, discoveries are still being made.
The Shipwrecks Museum contains a number of relics from the Batavia but the most potent of all is the timber hull of the ship.
Fremantle Harbour and the Sheds
One of the very simple joys of visiting a port city is to watch the harbour at work. Victoria Quay and the sheds are a perfect vantage point and a departure point for cruises from Fremantle
Cruise ships, container ships, Rottnest Island ferries and other Fremantle cruises make for the bulk of the activity. The B-Shed has a nice bar with tables and chairs looking onto the harbour.
Nearby is the E-Shed, which contains a weekend market, however it’s not as good as the Fremantle Markets.
The cruises out of Fremantle are also an attractive activity as part of your itinerary. A day trip to Rottnest Island is a fantastic way to continue your exploration of Perth and its surroundings. Check out additional information and current tour prices.
There are also cruises going from Fremantle to Perth. Check out additional information and current tour prices.
Fremantle Street Art
The Perth street art scene is one of the best I’ve seen in Australia. Melbourne is still the strongest but Perth and Fremantle have some very impressive work. If you are looking for fun things to do in Fremantle, don’t miss some of the murals around town.
The Black Octopus painted at the entrance of Fremantle by Welsh-born artist Phlegm is a striking vision and one of the best examples of Fremantle street art.
One of the best places to see street art
A little further on South Terrace, there is a beautiful mural of two coloured zebras on the side of Ootong and Lincoln, by Anya Brock. Who would have thought that coloured zebras would look so good?
There are many more examples of fantastic street art along South Terrace. You can get there on the Fremantle Cat Bus.
The Rainbow Sea Containers
In another homage to Fremantle’s hippy and quirky persona, Perth artist Marcus Canning is responsible for a striking art installation at the north entrance of the port city. On Beach Reserve, the nine brightly-coloured recycled sea containers are clearly visible to all visitors, whether they come by train, car or boat on the Swan River.
The sea containers are joined to form an arch and painted the colours of the rainbow. It’s very popular with tourists for Instagram photos and it can get busy. Visit in the late afternoon to get the best light.
It’s one of the coolest Fremantle attractions! There is a car park along Beach Street below the containers,
At the end of my two-day itinerary, you need a break… And also to go back to what’s best in Perth: the beach! Western Australia has some incredible beaches, all the way up to Kalbarri.
Stop at Port Beach, the restaurant has a cool vibe and cold drinks, and is right on the beach!
How to get to Fremantle
The distance from Perth to Fremantle is only 18km. It’s an easy drive along the West Australian coast. You can also get there on the train from Perth CBD. Locally, the CAT bus can easily take you to South Fremantle and back.
Is that enough for two days? I’m pretty sure this itinerary will keep busy exploring Fremantle.
Fremantle Prison Review
Perth Street Art
Can you recommend other things to do in Fremantle, Western Australia? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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32 thoughts on “What to do in Fremantle: Two Day Itinerary”
So detailed! That’s super helpful
Thank you Sarah, please don’t hesitate to tell which particular part you found so helpful!
Wow, there’s so much to do! Must be so hard to choose. If I ever visit the first place I will go to is the Fremantle Street Art! The street looks amazing! I am so drawn to it.
Hi Sam, I agree with you, street art is the best. It gives the city of very unique identity and it’s art accessible to everyone.
Those street arts are so cool ! Especially that rainbow containers arc ! Funny the last time I was in Perth, we only managed to go to the Fremantle market. I’ll be sure to check off this list the next time I visit. Thanks for sharing ! =)
Hi Jeremy, the rainbow sea containers are so iconic! The colour in them is fading a bit now but you get a view of the industrial harbour from there, it’s a perfect combination!
Looks like a great place to visit with tons of tours. I think I’d be interested in the Prison tour in particular.
Hi Dana, Fremantle Prison is the highlight you can’t miss, even if you go there for one or two days. It’s a bit ominous as it still towers over the city of Fremantle. The interesting thing is that former inmates visit the place on a regular basis!
I somehow missed the rainbow shipping containers when I visited! I really loved visiting the prison and seeing the amazing architecture. I made the mistake of going as a day trip from Perth, but I would definitely recommend staying for a few days, as one day wasn’t enough!
Hi Katie, Fremantle is worth so much more than a day, I agree with you. The Prison is not a fun place and it’s somewhat easy to forget it was a place of incarceration but it’s most interesting. I remember visiting it when I first arrived in Australia, around 1998. It had only been closed since 1991 so the visit was very basic. It’s much more in depth now and the convict history is what I liked the best.
Such a prison tour, I would also like to join. Is really something different than always running through churches or castles. Very sexy.
To discover the harbor I also imagine exciting.
It seems that Fremantle is an interesting place.
Hi Suzanne, I agree that prison tours are very interesting and quite different from visiting churches and castles. However, churches and castles are really good in Europe and there are plenty of prisons in Australia, due to the convict history. I would stop short of calling them sexy though, they were really horrible places back in the day. Fremantle Prison is very cleaned up now but you do get a shiver when you visit the gallows…
I haven’t been to Fremantle for a long time and it sure looks like it has changed a lot. Would love to visit again. The colonial buildings are lovely, and I always enjoy beaches and markets. My husband would want to visit the maritime museum, I’m sure. The old art centre sure has a fascinating history!
Hi Tania, Fremantle has changed but not that much really. Some of the bars are a bit more hipster but the general feel is the same. I felt the markets hadn’t changed much. When I first visited, the merchant buildings had already been renovated, at least for most of them. All in all, it’s still a great place to hang out!
I wasn’t aware of Fremantle before. It seems there are so many things to do there, and you have managed to keep the reader engaged by listing out all the interesting places to visit and things to do. Whether it’s about chilling at one of the Fremantle pubs, or eating at one of the restaurants in Cappucino Strip, or going for a prison tour and checking what’s behind the bars, or enjoying the Tunnels Tour, or enjoying the Art Center, Round House, Maritime Museum, and more, Fremantle has everything covered. The Rainbow Sea Containers are my favorite though. This makes up a great week long vacation there.
Hi Shreya, thank you for your comment, I’m pleased that you enjoyed my tour of Fremantle. This place has a lot going for it. The rainbow containers are such a fun and happy touch, it’s worth stopping by for some insta-shots!
I just LOVE historic destinations. The Fremantle Prison sounds like a treasure trove of story material and photo opportunities…a stark reminder of Australia’s penal colony past. Naturally, where there is such history, there has to be drinking and with a pub on every corner, shazam! One is never lacking for a pint it appears. As a lover of street art, Fremantle looks amazing.
Hi Michael, you are right, Australia has a lot of colonial prisons to visit and a lot of pubs too! It’s worth doing both, absolutely. My favourite thing in Fremantle is the street art, I’m working on my next post about this very topic!
Fremantle is one of my favourite place where I can spend some time with my best ones. This is very helpful blog for those who want visit Fremantle with best ones.
Hi Luke, I agree that Fremantle is a good place to hang out with friends.
Wow, so much to do! Perhaps it’s my background as a news journalist, but I am one of those people who would find the Fremantle Prison fascinating, as dark as it may be. I would want to hear all the stories on the most notorious inmates. Then, on a more cheerful note, I would probably check out the amazing street art, and head to the pub and the beach.
Hi Cindy, the Prison is indeed very interesting and has plenty of fascinating stories. Not the most cheerful place but it’s a big part of the local history so why ignore it?
I don’t care to go on drinking tours when I’m traveling so I would skip that, but the prison tour sounds something that might be worth a visit. I like the idea of the underground boat ride and visiting the tunnels built by the prisoners. Sounds creepy but may be interesting at the same time.
Hi Candy, I found the visit of Fremantle Prison really interesting although I didn’t do the underground tour. I’ll have to add that for next time I’m down there!
I’m considering Perth more and more for my next week-long vacation (I’ve found some really good airfare, like 250ish USD for a round trip from Vietnam where I’m currently based) and this just makes me want to go even more. It’s really cool that Fremantle is its own little town, but it’s not so far from Perth that it’s difficult to get to. I’d love to check out all the pubs, the Cappuccino Strip, and the street art. Normally prison tours wouldn’t necessarily interest me, but since they seem so linked to Fremantle’s history, I would definitely try to do at least one of the tours.
Hi Kevin, a week is a good time for Perth. You could even spend a day on Rottnest Island or a couple of days in Margaret River. There are some good flights to Vietnam on Jetstar, which is a low cost but decent airline. Fremantle is only 15 mns from Perth and really easy to get to on the train. Prisons are such a big part of Australia’s colonial history, it’s true that it’s not a common thing to visit otherwise…
Wow, there is a lot to do and see in Fremantle! I’m a sucker for street art, so that would probably be at the top of my list followed by the prison.
Street art is becoming one of my favourite things, I always need to find some wherever I go!
The street art is beautiful! We have some in the city here in a New Zealand. So nice to walk the streets and see that! What a great guide though! I’m not much of a planner so it’s perfect to have this.
Hi Lauren, looking for street art is a great way to discover a city off the beaten track. Of course, you need to explore the back lanes and maybe get lost a little bit but it’s worth it!
That’s a lot of prison tours! I like the sound of ‘Behind bars’. Fremantle also seems like a good base for some wildlife watching – a day trip to Rottnest island, blue whale cruises. I think I just discovered my next holiday spot! Thanks for putting it on the map for me, Delphine!
Hi Margarita, I don’t think I could do all the prison tours in one go! I did two when I was there and that was enough! I am planning to go back to Rottnest on my next trip and I would love to do a whale cruise too! So much to do!