The small and friendly city of Fremantle, separate from but close to much larger Perth, offers a warm welcome to cruise visitors. It sits at the mouth of the Swan River and is a busy ocean port for Western Australia, home to a lot of creative and artistic residents and a strong cafe culture. There is a fascinating maritime history to be discovered in “Freo”, as locals call it, and plenty to do in this port town before even considering moving on to Perth.
Even in a small and welcoming spot like Fremantle, getting off the ship with no clue where to go or what to see can be intimidating. This handy guide will give you an idea of how you might like to spend your day in Fremantle, so you can start planning your visit beforehand and hit the ground running.
When: Cruise ships visit Fremantle primarily from late October until March, which is the summer season with some leeway on either side.
Where: Vessels dock at Victoria Quay in the Port of Fremantle. Passengers are processed through the Fremantle Passenger Terminal which has a cafe, bar, public conveniences and WiFi.
Who: Most of the lines which sail to and from Australian ports will visit Fremantle at some point during the season. This includes Cunard, Princess, Holland America and P&O, as well as some small lines such as Viking Ocean Cruises.
Sights of friendly Fremantle
Stepping off the ship and straight into the heart of Fremantle makes it easy to get to know the town. The CAT bus will take you around central Fremantle for free, and it runs every ten minutes. To the south of the central area is a lovely esplanade on which you can walk along the waterfront, and it’s just a few kilometres to the sandy South Beach.
In the town itself, you can visit the historic Fremantle Prison, the bustling Fremantle Markets and the Western Australia Maritime Museum. There is the Monument Hill War Memorial, and a range of parks and green spaces to enjoy. Head to the Fremantle Visitors Centre in Kings Square to get your bearings.
Experience Fremantle your way
There are many different ways to enjoy this port city, and you can tailor your day spent there to be exactly what you want it to be. Here are our suggestions for what to do and see in Fremantle for different types of travellers.
- Drink coffee and chill: The relaxed vibe of Freo lends itself well to a relaxed day onshore. If you’re a coffee lover, even better: the town has a “cappuccino strip” (a stretch of South Terrace) which is packed with cafes and known for having some of the best coffee around. The city has a strong Italian heritage, and it shows. You could enjoy a casual lunch by the water too, and browse the crafty and creative stores for some retail therapy.
- Learn something: There is fascinating Australian history to be experienced in Fremantle, and if you’re a history buff, you can spend your day brushing up on both penal and maritime heritage. The Western Australia Maritime Museum is just steps from the cruise dock, and a fascinating place which explores the history of Fremantle as an Indian Ocean seaport. Nearby is The Roundhouse (a historic prison), and the WA Shipwrecks Museum. At Fremantle Prison, you can take fascinating tours - it’s part of the wider Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
- Encounter denizens of the deep: One popular pastime in Fremantle - in fact, in all of WA - is to go on a whale watching tour. The season for this lasts for most of the year, as different species can be encountered at different times. There are many providers of whale watching tours, so do a little research before arriving.
Shore tours from Fremantle
Many cruisers enjoy the ease of organisation and peace of mind that comes with a shore excursion arranged by their cruise line. The various lines have lots of different options for tours which take in many aspects of Fremantle, Perth and the surrounding area.
If you’d like to sample the fruits of the region, you could look for a Western Australia wine tour. Another popular laid-back option is to get onboard a much smaller boat and cruise up the Swan River to see central Perth from that perspective. You can see the top sights of Fremantle on a guided tour, or do the same for Perth - some lines offer tours that take in both!
For the nature lovers and wild at heart, there are often tours taking in the stunning natural features nearby, like Yanchep National Park and the Pinnacles desert. Visitors can also head out on a dolphin cruise to meet some of those amazing marine mammals.
If a cruise to or from Fremantle sounds like a good time - and we think it is! - then start searching for the best cruise deals and plan your voyage. Discover Western Australia by sea on one of the many itineraries passing through this friendly port city.