Inspire

8 Reasons Fremantle Is Your Next Mini-Break

There's a reason Freo was the only Aussie city on Lonely Planet's top 10 cities for 2016 list.

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From its origins as a bustling port city welcoming the first immigrants into Western Australia, Fremantle has emerged as a cosmopolitan and creative hub, defined by its charismatic old-school charm and free-spirited bohemian persona. It seems that the rest of the world has cottoned on to the allure of this dynamic harbour town with Fremantle being named as one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 cities to visit in 2016.

Here are eight reasons why Fremantle – or Freo, in the local dialect  – should be your next mini-break.

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Art

Fremantle is an artist’s hub and the local creative flair is palpable throughout the city. There is no shortage of galleries to visit including the Kidogo Arthouse (former Kerosene Store) set against the picturesque backdrop of Bathers Beach, the historic Moores Building, which exhibits contemporary art, and PS Art Space (PSAS), which is a modern warehouse complex that hosts experimental exhibitions. The Fremantle Arts Centre is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of the Fremantle arts scene and offers a multi-faceted program of innovative exhibitions, artist residencies and live music within the grounds of the former Lunatic Asylum. The annual Artist Open House sees local artists opening up their houses to sell their artwork to the public, encouraging interaction between artists and the community.

Photo: Kidogo/supplied

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History

As one of the original colonies of Western Australia, Fremantle boasts a proud and extensive history, and it’s home to the oldest building in Western Australia, the Round House, which was used to hold criminals until 1886. Another significant historical building is the Fremantle Prison, originally a convict settlement and the only UNESCO heritage-listed building in WA, which functioned as a prison until 1991. Don’t miss out on a compelling guided tour of the prison where you’ll hear captivating stories about convict and prison life, hangings in the gallows, prisoner riots and obligatory ghost stories. If you’re keen for a unique experience, stay at the Fremantle Prison YHA hostel in the former women’s division of the prison. Brave souls will have the opportunity to sleep in a real prison cell and as a poster at the hostel says: ‘If you see a ghost, please notify reception immediately.’

Photo: YHA/supplied

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Food and drink

Fremantle is in the midst of a culinary explosion with trendy restaurants and small bars cementing Fremantle’s reputation as a trailblazer on the WA food and drink scene. Sophisticated eateries such as Bread in Common and the experimental and sustainable Raw Kitchen have integrated effortlessly with the family-run restaurants lining the famous Cappuccino Strip that emanate the old-world ambiance of yesteryear. Brunch options are abundant – try local favourite Ootong and Lincoln – and grand pubs can be found on every street corner where patrons can enjoy traditional pub fare – visit the recently refurbished Federal Hotel. Wash your meal down with a smooth cocktail at stylish haunt Strange Company or head to the prohibition-style speakeasy bar Alter Ego. Of course, no trip to Fremantle is complete without an outing to the iconic Little Creatures brewery down by the Esplanade.

Photo: Little Creatures/Tourism Western Australia

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Music

Western Australia has always been dedicated to nurturing local music talent and, in particularl, the city of Fremantle has been the home to many international exports: previous tenants include Bon Scott of AC/DC fame, whose tribute statue lives down by the Esplanade, and indie outfit Tame Impala. The music scene in Fremantle is thriving and there are many live venues where you can get up close and personal with upcoming and established local and national acts. Head to local institution and dive bar Mojo’s for a lesson in live music and keep an ear out for acts performing at the J-Shed. Don’t miss out on one of the famous Sunday music sessions at the Fremantle Arts Centre that run during the summer months.

Photo: Mojo’s/Facebook

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Festivals

Fremantle prides itself on being a ‘festivals city’ and the events calendar is jam-packed ensuring that there is always something to see and do in this boisterous city. Fremantle is firmly committed to celebrating the things that make the city great: music, art, food and drink, heritage and culture. Every year the City of Fremantle hosts the Fremantle Festival, Heritage Festival, Street Arts Festival and the Hidden Treasures Winter Music Series (showcasing bands every Sunday in winter) among others. Head down on the weekend and you’re highly likely to run into all manner of revelries and festivities, you may or pre-plan like a legit grown-up.

Photo: Fremantlestory.com/supplied

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Architecture

Due to its rich history, the streets of Fremantle are abundant with well-preserved architecture and historic colonial-style buildings. Wandering around the town is akin to walking into a history lesson and it won’t take you long to become enamoured by the romantic heritage sandstone buildings that characterise the port city. Old-fashioned pubs take up commanding positions on street corners, bewitching passersby with their intricate detailing, stain-glassed windows and elaborate balconies. Check out the convict-built landmarks in Fremantle including the Round House, Fremantle Prison, Fremantle Arts Centre (former Lunatic Asylum), Maritime Museum (former Commissariat) and the Kidogo Arthouse (former Kerosene Store).

Photo: Alan Lam/Flickr

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Shopping

The Fremantle Markets is the ultimate WA market experience, full of fresh and seasonal produce offerings, and kitsch and colourful knick-knacks and souvenirs. Beyond the markets, there are myriad arcade stores and funky boutiques in which to discover one-off treasures. Venture to concept store Many 6160, which is housed in a former department store, and is a collective of quirky pop-ups selling clothing, accessories, arts and crafts, and designer wares. Dedicate time to exploring other pockets of Fremantle such as South Fremantle, East Fremantle, North Fremantle and Wray Avenue to really hit the retail therapy sweet spot.

Photo: Many 6160

View of Port Beach, located near Fremantle
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Beaches

Think of Fremantle and you don’t normally associate it with beaches, but Freo boasts some of WA’s best beaches that are far less crowded than its famous sister beach in Cottesloe. Lively South Beach hosts weekend food truck nights during the warmer months, Bathers Beach is a smaller stretch of coast ideal for families and North Beach is pet-friendly. Rent a bike and follow the shoreline before stopping at your beach of choice for a dip in the sparkling Indian Ocean. Be sure to come in time to watch the sun setting over the horizon – it’ll be the best free show you’ve ever seen.

Photo: Tourism Western Australia

(Lead image: Rottnest Island. Rottnest is arguably Australia’s best daytrip, located just 18 kilometres west of Fremantle.)

With locations all around Australia no two YHAs are the same: from train carriages, to old movie theatres, a former prison cell, a tropical bungalow or a purpose-built eco-hostel, YHA is the number one choice.