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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Things to do in Fremantle

Alisha McDarris
The Tourist Wheel at the Esplanade Park in Fremantle, WA, Australia

Just south of Perth in Western Australia is the little seaside town of Fremantle (lovingly referred to as Freo by the locals). It's hip, it's creative, it's crunch granola. And while it's only a 30 minute drive from Perth, there's so much going on in this beloved village that we thought it was deserving of its own post. So slip on your Birkenstocks and tie back your dreads and read about all the free and cheap things to do in Fremantle.

Above: You know you've found Esplanade Park when you spot the ferris wheel.

Getting around in Fremantle

Bus: Transperth, the same bus system as in Perth, runs in Freo, too. Buses and trains will get you just about everywhere you need to go and cost as little as $3.00 per ride with each ticket lasting two hours. If you're staying for more than a couple weeks it might be worth it to get a Transperth card and auto-reloading it so you can get 25% off each fare. But the card costs $10, so it's not always worth it for shorter visits.

Free Bus: There are two free buses that run around the heart of Fremantle. They each only go in one direction and run separate routes, but it only takes 10-15 minutes for the entire loop. The buses are called "cats" and the routes are labeled either blue or red. So check the map to see if you want to hop on the red cat or the blue cat. Bus stops and buses will be clearly marked.

Bike Rental: I guess it's not technically a rental if it's free, but there are two places you can score a bicycle for a day for free. Little Creatures, a brewery and restaurant, is one, E-Bikes R Us at the E Shed Markets is the other. Both require the bikes back before sunset, but if you like, you can pick them up in the morning and spend the day exploring.

Free things to do in Fremantle

Making tapping stick at the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Center
Take a class at the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Center and learn about Australia's Indigenous people.

Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Center: Multiple times a week this cultural center offers free classes to those interested in learning about the history, language, and culture of the local Aboriginal people. We made wooden tapping sticks when we were there, but there are also documentaries, language classes, and more. It's a great (free) way to learn about Australia's original inhabitants (from Australia's original inhabitants).

Art: There are numerous art galleries scattered around the city displaying everything from Aboriginal to modern art. Grab a map, start walking, and you'll find them all over the historic CBD and down South Fremantle Street.

E Shed Markets: Down by the docks visitors will find the E-shed markets. This is absolutely the place for cheap souvenirs. You'll find cuddly kangaroos, hats, T-shirts, and just about every souvenir you could ever want here (some of a higher quality than others) and for much cheaper.

The Fremantle Market
The Fremantle Markets offer a lite something for everyone, from fresh fruit and veg to baked goods to souvenirs.

Fremantle Markets: On weekends browse the famous Fremantle Markets. It's the place to go for fruit (the persimmons are delightful), snacks (samosas and cupcakes), souvenirs, clothing, handmade items and more. There are even a few vegan food stalls selling wraps and coconut soft serve. There are special events at the markets from time to time, too, so check the web for a schedule.

Batavia wreckage at the Maritime Museum Shipwreck Galleries
The partial reconstruction of the Batavia, wrecked off the western coast of Australia in 1629.
Maritime Museum Shipwreck Galleries: While technically free, a donation is appreciated to browse the galleries. There are all kinds of stories and exhibits from the many ships that have been claimed by the Western Australia coast. If you're especially interested in conservation, there's a free behind the scenes conservation tour several times a week where you can tour back rooms and hear all about how the museum preserves their finds.

The Esplanade Youth Plaza in Fremantle
The Esplanade Youth Plaza in Fremantle is a fun way to goof off on a sunny afternoon.

Esplanade Youth Plaza: If you're out for a bit of fun, the youth plaza in Esplanade Park has not only a skate park, but a parkour course, as well. Do pull-ups on the bars, play on the equipment, bring your sneakers and have a good time, then have a picnic on the grass in the shade of one of the large trees.

The Beach: If you're in town during the summer months (or most of spring or autumn), hit the beach! Western Australia has some of the best and there are several in Fremantle to choose from (Bathers Beach, South Beach, Leighton Beach...). So grab your togs (that's Aussie for swimsuit) and get wet.

Window shop: There are scads of cool shops in Fremantle, many of them locally owned. So even if you're not buying, have a wander around town and down South Terrace and peek into some of the interesting storefronts. You'll find everything from kitschy souvenirs to designer beachwear and everything in between.

The Roundhouse: This 19th Century Prison is an open air building where you can learn about the early history of Freo's prisons, take your picture in the stocks, and every day at 1:00 pm listen to a brief talk about the prison before a canon is fired. It's technically free, but a donation is appreciated.

Creatures Next Door in Fremantle
Creatures Next Door, one of Little Creatures' many venues, offers free music several nights a week in Fremantle.

Live Music: With Fremantle being such a creator's kind of place, there's always live music going on somewhere. House concerts are big if you happen to make friends with a local and get an invite, but a lot of bars in town offer music, especially on the weekends. Creatures Next Door and Clancy's Fish Pub are a few popular spots to choose from.

Fremantle Prison: Admission to the gallery and visitor center part of the prison is free, but tours and such start at $20 AUD per person. In the free bit you'll get to see artifacts and learn a bit of history about the prison and life in early Fremantle.

Fremantle Arts Center: This gallery and event venue located in a historic building (the first purpose-built lunatic asylum in WA) showcases new and contemporary works and is free and open to the public every day. There are also special events, classes, and workshops throughout the year, but those usually cost money. On Sundays in the summer there is also free music on Sundays from 2-4 pm.

Cheap things to do in Fremantle

The Rottnest Express Ferry to Rottnest Island
Rottnest Express, one of the ferry options to Rottnest Island, offers ticket specials on Tuesdays.

Rottnest Island Coastline
The coastline on Rottnest Island is a lovely one by which to cycle.

A Rottnest Island Quokka
The curious and adorable quokka run Rottnest Island off the coast of Fremantle.

A Rottnest Island Quokka
The quokka, one of Australia's several marsupials, can be found in droves on Rottnest.

Rottnest Island: If you're in Fremantle, Rottnest Island shouldn't be missed, especially if you love a good coastal bike ride and cute and cuddly marsupials. The island is teeming with the adorable quokka and there aren't any cars to speak of, so the only way to get around is by bicycle. You can rent one from the ferry operator or bring you own for a few bucks less. Scuba diving and snorkeling are also great options as there are several shipwrecks right off the coast. Normally the Rottnest Express from Fremantle is $80, but on Tuesdays you can head over for $39. Pack a lunch and save on the cost of food (and don't feed the quokkas). There are also free daily history and quokka walks, just check the schedule when you get there.

The Maritime Museum in Fremantle
The Maritime Museum is one of Freo's newest and most stylish edifices.

Maritime Museum: Learn about Western Australia's maritime history in this crazy looking building on Freo's coast. See permanent exhibits like old ships and maritime machinery as well as special exhibits. Normally admission is $15 ($25 if you also want to see the submarine ovens), but the second tuesday of each month entry is by donation!

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: I guess if you have your own gear these activities would be free, but if not, you can rent them at a few places in Freo if you want to check out some of the shipwrecks and ocean life right off the coast. A few places to pick up some gear are Dolphin Dive in South Freo and Dive, Ski and Surf Supplies in the E Shed.

Brewery Tours: If you're into hops and grains, there are several breweries in Fremantle that offer daily tours. Prices vary, but $15 is about the starting point and the tours usually include samples. Little Creatures and Monk Brewery are two options in town.

Cheap Eats in Fremantle

Heaven Raw Cafe in Fremantle
Heaven Raw Cafe serves up delicious vegan food and occasionally impromptu live music.

Heaven Raw Cafe: Not just raw food (but all vegan and mostly gluten free food), this place is the shiz. Not only can you get a meal (veggie burgers, spanakopita, lasagne) for under $10, you can have dessert, too and eat it in the beautiful garden. But it gets better: On Mondays and Wednesdays you can score a vegan buffet, which includes dessert, for $10! But every vegan in Freo (and there are plenty) plus all their closest friends turn up for this meal, so get there early and fill your plate!

Fremantle Markets: dozens of food stalls are located inside the marketplace, so wander around and pick your poison. There is everything from cupcakes to tacos to meat on a stick, including tasty veggie samosas for only a couple bucks.

Whip It Good: Located in the Fremantle Markets, Whipped serves dairy free Coconut soft serve. Choose your toppings and enjoy the sugar rush!

Karanaki Raw Food inside the Fremantle Markets
In the mood for a bliss ball or raw wrap? Karanaki Raw Food inside the Fremantle Markets has you covered.

Karanaki Raw Food: Also in the Fremantle Markets, you can score a wrap or a tasty raw dessert or chia bowl for under $10.

Run Amuk: This hot dog joint in South Fremantle offers a veggie and gluten free sausage and bunches of traditional and not so traditional toppings. It's a tad pricey with the cheapest dog starting at $9 or so, but when you want a hot dog you want a hot dog. Plus, the staff is super friendly and fun.

Chalky's Espresso Bar: While there's no wrong place to pick up a flat white or long black in Freo, Chalky's has a hip, windowed atmosphere and several wraps and baked goods for vegetarians and omnivores. And if you're lucky (like we were), if you're around at closing time (3 pm), you might score a free salmon wrap that would otherwise get thrown away.

Manna Whole Foods: A health food store and mini cafe in one, this joint is the perfect spot to pick up some snacks or a quick lunch. Great for omnis and vegos alike, they have salad bar type stuff, burgers and more.

Ways to Save in Fremantle

Fremantle Story: A free magazine and a website. The website lists all the things going on in and around Fremantle, including the free ones. The magazine can be found around town and in the info center and lists much of the same plus discounts and coupons for many Fremantle museums and attractions.

Hello Perth: This site offers discounts on popular attractions and calendars of what's going on in the Fremantle/Perth area.

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


  1. You missed the Duyfken 1606 Replica in the Fishing Boat Harbour. A replica from the first ship that explored Australia in 1606.


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