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Fremantle Discovery Trail

Updated: Jan 23


Fremantle has plenty to see and do and you have probably discovered many of the sights already. This trail takes you off the beaten track a little to discover some less well known parts of the port city while tracing nearly 200 years of Fremantle's European heritage. You can download a map from or pick up a hard copy from the Fremantle Visitors Centre in Walyalup Koort. This is a long trail and the full trail will take around 2 hours to complete, longer if you read all the information or stop along the way! Fortunately there are plenty of interesting places to stop and rest so why not make a day of it or break it up into smaller sections so that you can also explore inside the museums or the prison.

Fremantle is easy to access on public transport and there is a free CAT bus service which loops around the main streets linking the town centre to the harbour and South Fremantle. If you drive there are plenty of places to park, most charge hourly fees but you can also find free timed parking on the outskirts. As the trail loops around the city area you can join at any point.

We originally walked this trail in 2019 following the Explore Fremantle Discovery Trail. The trail has since been updated as the Fremantle Discovery Trail - see map below - with add-ons for some of the more distant sights.

We started our walk at Walyalup Koort, formerly known as Kings Square. This area has recently been redeveloped to include civic buildings and a library. Walyalup is the Nyoongar name for an area that includes Fremantle and Koort translates to heart. Alongside Walyalup Koort playground, constructed to reflect the iconic cranes of Fremantle Port, are statues of sculptor Pietro Porcelli and airman Sir Hughie Edwards.

Fremantle Town Hall, constructed in 1887, was heritage listed in 1993 with restoration completed in 2017. The clock tower rises 32 m above the town square which is overlooked by a statue of John Curtin.

Walyalup Koort is also dominated by St John’s Anglican Church built in the Gothic style in 1882 when the original church, built in 1843, was removed to make way for construction of the Town Hall.

From Walyalup Koort head down High Street Mall and into the West End. The corner of High and Market Streets marks the entrance to one of the largest single places to be permanently included in the State Register of Heritage Places. With 250 buildings it is one of the best preserved and most intact towns built during the 19th century gold boom era in Australia. Federation style merchant warehouses, ornate facades and grand Australian hotels line the streets.

We headed along Market Street towards the Fremantle Railway Station, passing the Fremantle Post Office and Pioneer Reserve with it's giant bronze Chimera Statue  (can you see the 3 different animals represented in the statue?) Across the way is a heritage drinking fountain with a trough for the horses.

Historic Fremantle Railway Station features some iconic WA birds - but are they the right colour?

Following Phillimore Street there are more heritage buildings before you cross the railway track to explore the Victoria Quay Waterfront.

Victoria Quay overlooks Fremantle Harbour, WA’s largest working port. Outside the Fremantle Port Authority you can see the National Engineering Landmark recognising the Fremantle Inner Harbour constructed from 1892. There is a statue of C.Y. O'Connor, the first Engineer in-chief of Western Australia whose most notable projects were the development of Fremantle Harbour and the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Opposite are the E Shed Markets with vintage and retro shopping opportunities and an alfresco dining area overlooking the harbour. As you cross over you will pass the man with a dingo statue and artwork on the ramp reflecting the names of migrant ships.

At Victoria Quay you will also find the old A Shed, now home to Gage Roads Brewery and B Shed, home to STS Leeuwin II (when in port).

Further along is the WA Maritime Museum, HMAS Ovens submarine and the Australian Sailor Monument.

Outside the WA Maritime Museum you can read the Welcome Walls, hundreds of panels containing thousands of names of migrants whose first footfall in Australia was through Fremantle Port.

As you wander around the outside of the Museum on the harbour side you will see the Child Migrant Statue honouring all the kids sent out to Australia on their own to start a new life. The harbour side of the Museum also has a large mural on the "sail" which shows the original Walyalup/Fremantle coastline map on top of the current coastline. At the end of the wharf overlooking the harbour lighthouses you can see a rocky section beneath the Museum building which is, according to Noongar creation belief, the mouth of the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) and where the Wagyl fought the Crocodile Spirit.

Here you can pick up another Trail, A Trek Through Time, which is a historical journey between the WA Maritime Museum and the WA Shipwrecks Museum. Download the trail notes (be sure to download the correct direction depending which museum is your starting point) to give you background notes on the area's heritage and for little tips to notice some of the smaller details along the way which bring history to life - great for the kids! Trail notes must be printed at home as they are not available at the museums.

Follow Fleet Street (without crossing the railway line) and wander past the J Shed Art Studio in the Bathers Beach Art Precinct at Arthur Head Reserve. Bathers Beach, Manjaree, as the area is known by the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, was an important place of trade and where families gathered for kinship and law making. It is the place where, in 1829, Captain Charles Howe Fremantle landed and proclaimed the land as British territory. Bathers Beach is home to the bi-annual Sculpture at Bathers event.

Walk through the Whalers Tunnel built in 1837 at the request of the Fremantle Whaling Company to provide access between the beach and town.

Explore the Round House, the oldest public building still standing in WA. It was built in 1831 as a jail and had 8 cells and a jailers residence. Later it was used as a police lock-up, living quarters and storage facility. It accommodated colonial and Aboriginal prisoners, including Nyoongar leader Yagan and was the site of the colony’s first public execution. If you time your arrival at the Round House for 1pm you will be there for the daily firing of the cannon but the views are magnificent even if you miss the cannon.

The trail follows the Trek through Time family trail back across the railway line from the Round House and along Cliff Street to the WA Shipwrecks Museum.

The WA Shipwrecks Museum is a world recognised maritime archaeology museum. Galleries feature relics from ships wrecked along Western Australia’s treacherous coast including the Dutch vessel Batavia, first European encounters and riches of maritime trade. The building was constructed in 1850 as a Commissariat and stored food, clothing and building supplies for the Swan River Colony.

From the Shipwrecks Museum cross the railway line and walk through to Kidogo Arthouse which overlooks Bathers Beach, The former kerosene store was built in 1884 on reclaimed land and used to store dangerous goods away from other buildings but close enough to the Long Jetty where goods would be offloaded from ships. At the time, kerosene was used extensively for street lighting and heating.

You can also explore the Manjaree Walking Trail at Bather's Bay by following the interpretive signs starting at the northern edge of the Old Kerosene Store (now Kidogo Arthouse) and located throughout the Bathers Beach Precinct. This trail explains the Nyoongar seasons, bush tucker, trade and other customs relevant to Manjaree. Manjaree is the name that the Whadjuk (local indigenous people) gave to the area around Fremantle near the limestone hill area at Arthur Head. In the local Whadjuk dialect it translates to 'fair exchange'. Sites along this trail are of historical significance to the Whadjuk people.

Continue on to Fishing Boat Harbour connected by a series of boardwalks and lined with seafood restaurants this has been a favourite place for family outings for generations. You can see several sculptures by local artist Greg James including ‘Bella’; a life-size figure of the late Bon Scott, who was the lead vocalist of AC/DC and To the Fisherman on The Jetty which commemorates the local fisherman.

We loosely explored the three short Fishing Boat Harbour trails on another occasion and have created a blog just on the Fishing Boat Harbour.

Cross back over the railway line into Esplanade Reserve (public toilets here).and stroll under the Norfolk Pines planted in 1908. If you stop at the Maitland Brown Memorial (Explorers Monument) in the Esplanade Reserve check out the plaques as there seems to have been a bit of controversy! Look for the shoreline markers outside the Esplanade Hotel too before continuing up Essex Street.

At South Terrace, also known as the Cappuccino Strip, you will find the the Fremantle Markets. Established in 1897, Fremantle Markets continues to be used for its original purpose. The main building is home to over 150 market stalls and the Yard offers international street food and fresh local produce. If you walk along Henderson Street you will find the old limestone warders cottages.

Back on South Terrace wander past the Fremantle Technical School Building, the Norfolk Hotel and Scots Church.

From Parry Street we climbed up the Fairbairn Street Ramp to the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison. A tramway once linked the Commissariat (WA Shipwrecks Museum) to the Prison along this ramp. Either side of the ramp had vegetable gardens to feed both prisoners and warders and the southern side of the ramp, where Fremantle Oval is, was the parade and drill ground for the Pensioner Guards.

Fremantle Prison was built with convict labour between 1851 and 1859 and is the most intact convict establishment in the nation. The prison was used as a place of incarceration for almost 140 years before being decommissioned as a maximum security gaol in 1991. It was the first building in Western Australia to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage in 2010 as part of a nomination with ten other Australian convict sites. Peek inside the gates before walking past the historic buildings that were the official residences of the chief warder, superintendent, gatekeepers and chaplain.

There is a staircase at the end of The Terrace heading down the slope onto Holdsworth Street.

Choose to walk along Holdsworth or Knutsford Street to see heritage houses.

From here you may wish to detour to Monument Hill or continue along Ord Street admiring historic Samson House, built in 1888, on the way to the Fremantle Arts Centre to finish the trail.

Monument Hill is a lovely park 43 metres above sea level and providing panoramic views of the city, harbour and ocean. Monument Hill Reserve is home to the Fremantle War Memorial, where annual Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services are conducted. Take some time to explore the smaller memorials as well as the Legacy "Mother and Child' statue set among the roses.

Fremantle Arts Centre was built by convicts in the early 1860's as a lunatic asylum and has a fascinating history including links to Joseph Bolitho John, also known as Moondyne Joe. Before opening as an arts centre in 1973 the site has been a Women’s Home and maternity training school, US Navy Submarine depot and a technical school.

From Fremantle Arts Centre it is an enjoyable walk along Quarry Street to Princess May Park - home to more heritage buildings including the old boy's and girl's schools and St Patrick's Basilica Church. We were enticed inside the Rug Gallery by the quaint outdoor displays!

Continuing along Adelaide Street will bring you back to Walyalup Koort and the Fremantle Town Hall.

You can start or leave this trail at any point depending on your interests. I really enjoyed walking around Victoria Quay as it was an area we hadn't explored on foot before. The Maritime Museum and the WA Shipwrecks Museum are both well worth a visit as is Fremantle Prison which offers guided tours.

If you are hungry or thirsty you can enjoy a cuppa on the famous Cappucchino Strip on South Terrace, fish and chips at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and/or a brew at Little Creatures Brewery or the historic Sail and Anchor or Norfolk Hotel.

The kids can have a play or a run around at the Esplanade Reserve or Walyalup Koort and you can also indulge yourselves with a bit of shopping at the famous Fremantle Markets (open Fri -Sun).

If you are exhausted just reading this choose a section of Fremantle you don't know very well and explore it on foot next time you are in the port city. We didn't see everything there is to see so will have to come back another time too!

The Visit Fremantle website also offers PDF maps to walk the Fremantle Markets Heritage Trail, and the Fremantle Cemetery Heritage Trail. You can also explore the Manjaree Walking Trail at Bather's Bay or follow family friendly A Trek through Time between the Museums.

Download at Visit Fremantle

If you want to explore the fabulous Street Art of Fremantle head to :

To read more blogs go to:

In the spirit of reconciliation Out and About- Family Nature Connection acknowledges the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar (Perth land) and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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