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  • Writer's pictureOut and About

North Fremantle Art, Architecture and Heritage.

Updated: Jan 10

While walking the Rocky Bay Walk some time ago we noticed some very old and weathered signage for a Heritage Trail and vowed to come back to explore in more depth one day. The heritage trail mapped on the signs differs from the online version, the Rocky Bay Heritage Trail which is made up of two trails - the 2km North Fremantle Historic Town Walk and the Rocky Bay Cliff Walk. To make it more interesting (from experience we have found that often the landmarks no longer exist!) we did some research to combine the Heritage Trail with seeking out urban art around North Fremantle at the same time. This did make for a bit of a wind about trail going backwards and forwards but with so many heritage homes and beautiful street gardens to look at it was no hardship at all! There are very few heritage trail signs still around and those that are are mostly illegible so you will need to upload/download the map.

The Heritage Trail starts from the WW2 Memorial (#1) but we started from the Oval (#14) at Gilbert Fraser Reserve as we were able to get free parking here and there are also toilets located here. From there we walked east on John Street, past the heritage grandstand built in 1900, detouring onto Passmore Avenue (#11) to view the worker's cottages then on up Corkhill Street and then west along Harvest Road, detouring down Turton Street to see Hillcrest Hospital,( #15) now an aged care facility. Some of the heritage homes along John Street (#10 and 12) are hard to see behind walls and gardens (and garbage bins!) but you do get an impression of heritage.

Retracing our steps to Harvest Road (#7 and 8) we crossed over, walking up Rule Street to Higham Road, left at Corkhill (#9) and then right at Alfred Road, at the end of which you can access the top of the Rocky Bay cliffs for amazing views up river. You can almost imagine it is 1697 and Willem de Vlamingh is sailing along the newly named Swan River as he explores as far as Heirisson Island. He wasn't impressed with what he saw (it was January!) and it wasn't until Captain James Stirling visited in April 1827 that settlement was considered here. In 1829 the Swan River Colony developed with settlements at Fremantle, Perth and Guildford. Initially a dairy farm, North Fremantle didn't develop until a bridge linked it to Fremantle in 1869.

From here we walked past Alfred Road Park turning down Staples Street after getting pictures of the old Burford Soap Factory building further along Rule Street. Built in 1905 only the warehouse part remains and after operating as a soap and candle factory until 1946, then a margarine factory and finally a warehouse the building has now been converted into apartments. The Rocky Bay Walk we had done earlier follows Rocky Bay beyond the Soap Factory to Garungup Park and Minim Cove - a beautiful walk.

Staples Street had lots of beautiful heritage buildings with lovely verge gardens. We headed north at Thompson Road (#6), detouring into Burford Place but this was a a dead end and apart from a view of the back of the Soap Factory and a small park it had little to offer.

We then continued along Thompson Road (#6) walking around the back of the Dingo Flour Buildings and turning west at Craig Street where we took in the colourful murals on the Plata Bonita Mexican Homewares store, unfortunately it was closed at 9.30 on a Sunday morning. Just 30 minutes later and we could have gone in to have a look around - next time as it seems to be worth a visit.

From here we wandered south along Stirling Highway passing the front of Dingo Flour and then taking in the WA Croatian Community Centre (formerly St Anne's Catholic Church) at Alfred Road and the Rose Hotel.

We crossed over to continue along Queen Victoria Street (#3) diverting down Jackson Street past the old St Marys Church and Hall then through a small park alongside the railway line to the the path at the end or Pearse Street (#5).

We backtracked, enjoying the quirky artworks featured at many of the Pearse Street homes.

At the end of Pearse Street we walked along busy Tydeman Road, under the rail bridge where there are 6 murals, three on each side, and as far as the Railway Hotel (1894).

Back east along Tydeman Street to Jewell Parade where we wandered behind the businesses facing Queen Victoria Street finding a number of street art murals. This is the location of the old Post Office (#4) built in 1897 and initially serving as the police station.

Returning to Jackson Street we then walked along Queen Victoria Street (#3) along which most of the buildings stem from the gold boom era with Italian influences. We passed the Old Town Hall (#2) built in 1902 and providing a hub for the town's social and administrative needs. The WW2 Memorial (#1) commemorates the 94 North Fremantle volunteers who lost their lives in the First World War.

We diverted along Harvest Road (#8) to the corner of Burns Street to the site of the old Weeties Factory (1932-1988), now converted into apartments.

Back to Queen Victoria Street we crossed over to look at the urban art on the walls of some of the buildings including Mojos Bar and the Old Bridge Cellars.

From here we could have followed Tydeman Road east, crossing Stirling Highway to John Street but instead we opted to walk the bridges, passing the Swan Hotel and the Maritime Workers Union Building before crossing the river on the Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

Our visit coincided with the Fremantle Biennale and we were fortunate to be able to engage with art installations including the 500m walkable artwork Orange Path, the Commonwealth of New Bayswater installation, Overload and Transitions which allowed us entry into the Plympton Pumphouse.

We then had a good workout climbing the stairs and walking back to North Fremantle across Stirling Bridge which gave us a birds eye view of the Orange Path.

Back on the North Fremantle side we walked down the steps into Sorrell Park with it's bespoke wooden benches before crossing under Stirling Bridge and along the boardwalk through the Prawn Bay Wetlands.

Emerging back at Johannah Street we passed the Winter House and Community Gardens (#16) opposite Gilbert Fraser Reserve. We did a quick backtrack to take in the western end of John Street (#17) where there are some large gracious homes dating to the post gold boom era at the turn of the century. One of them, Benningfield, erected in 1903, was used by members of "Fortress Signals Fremantle Anti Aircraft & Fortress Signals Western Area" during WW2.

This was quite a long (90 minute) but enjoyable walk traipsing through a little bit of history and finding the various artworks. Without the side trips to seek out the art we may have managed in an hour. The side trip across the bridges added on another hour so all up it was a full morning's outing. We were there early on a Sunday so North Fremantle was mostly closed but there is a coffee van at the Gilbert Fraser Oval foreshore and there are several cafes (and public toilets) in East Fremantle if you venture across the river.

By the way the area between Queen Victoria Street and Stirling Highway is a bit of a maze with only one way in and one way out. We thought we might be able to park in here but most of the parking is taken by residents. Parking at Gilbert Fraser Oval is possible if there is no match being played.

I have found it quite hard to get a map of North Fremantle in a scale large enough to show street names and small enough to plot the trail we walked, hence the specific directions in the blog. This would have been a good time to have a walk mapper app on! Hopefully you will be able to piece together a trail from the assorted maps and information. If you follow a different route you may discover something we missed on our wanderings!

Other walks to enjoy nearby (click on red writing to open link)


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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 extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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