48 hours in Perth and Fremantle
You know the story of the town mouse and the country mouse? Well, if Perth is the trendy city slicker, Fremantle is the more relaxed and down-to-earth cousin. So while one is busy being big and brash, the other revels in its peaceful seaside scene – check out both (it’s only a 30-minute drive between them) and discover two perfectly complementary sides to this area of Western Australia. Here’s our weekend guide.
Touchdown, time to refuel
You’ve just arrived and you’re eager to check out WA’s glimmering state capital, but before you head to the bright lights and soaring buildings of the CBD, we’ll let you into a little secret – Northbridge is where the cool kids hang out. This inner-city design hub is brimming with hip boutiques and happening bars. Take a walk down Beaufort Street and you’ll see what we mean.
Kick off the evening at Mechanics Institute – an intimate spot with a split-level balcony area illuminated by twinkling fairy lights. Sample wines from the nearby Margaret River and order some food from the burger joint, Flipside, downstairs. If you’re after a slightly smarter dining experience, head for dinner at Pleased To Meet You (38 Roe Street), where the sharing menu sees Asia meet Southern America in a surprisingly successful mismatch of squid banh mi, duck tacos and pork cooked on a spit and sold in 100g batches, which makes this place a winner in our book.
Where to finish up? If it’s really fancy-pants cocktails you’re after, you’d better visit The Classroom. This North Perth institution is done out like, you guessed it, a classroom, with bottles stored in lockers and one particularly spirited offering served amid a cloud of smoke that pours out of a lunch box.
If you’re partial to the odd G&T, you can take your appreciation to the next level at Frisk – with 209 varieties of gin on offer, the knowledgeable bar staff will guide you through the menu, suggesting delicious tonics and fragrant herb garnishes to complement your selection.
Get walking: Saturday in the city
Before you begin your explorations, pull up a plush armchair and enjoy brunch with the locals at Sayers Sister. Combining a stunning vintage-style fit out (think large gilt-framed mirrors and oversize antique sugar bowls) with some truly inventive and delicious dishes (we loved the charred fresh figs and pancetta on toasted sourdough with toasted almonds, baked ricotta and honey, and the coriander and cumin beans tagine with baba ganoush, poached egg and toasted linseed) it’s easily worth the long walk down Lake Street. Grab a takeaway coffee and head back to the city for a spot of sightseeing.
Northbridge is cool by night, cultural by day. Get your history fix at the Western Australian Museum. From dinosaur bones and centuries-old pieces of pottery to treasures salvaged from shipwrecks, the huge complex is home to 4.6 million fascinating artifacts.
Learn more about Australia’s past at Kings Park. Home to an indigenous gallery, there are also regular heritage tours through the gardens and some stunning bushland tracks to follow, which lead past colourful native flora and offer great views of Swan River.
Next, check out the city’s contemporary sculpture scene with a free Art City walk. Stride past mosaics, murals and a group of life-size kangaroos bounding along St Georges Terrace. Other guided (or self-guided via a downloadable podcast) tours include the Convicts and Colonials Trail and a tour of the city’s Town Hall.
With so much to see and do, it makes sense to base yourself somewhere central – we bedded down at the Four Points by Sheraton on Wellington Street. Opposite the Convention and Exhibition Centre, it’s just a short stroll from both the CBD and Northbridge. Expedia’s Aussie travellers usually spend 1-2 nights in Perth and usually stay somewhere central to make the most of their time in the city.
Sunday session by the sea
When it comes to kicking back and taking it easy, Fremantle has got the good life covered. Its creative, bohemian vibe has attracted artists and writers for decades. Situated 20km south of Perth, this port city makes for a great day trip – combining history, waterside dining spots and spectacular beaches.
First stop – coffee at Fremantle Markets. Home to fresh local produce, clothes shops and arts and crafts stalls, in our opinion, this historic hub (the Victorian-style hall and surrounding yard was established in 1897) wins the title of Australia’s best market hands down. Why? It’s got real heart. Local musicians provide the entertainment, tyres filled with flowers hang from the high ceilings and the fresh food offerings are to die for.
Save some room (or burn off your breakfast with a brisk walk to the harbour) for lunch at Kailis’ Café. Overlooking the water, this place has heaps of outdoor seating, so grab a pew and place your order at the counter. There’s fish and chips, as well as oysters, whole lobsters and a range of seafood on offer – be sure to check out the display at the market section and sample their fish and chip gelato before you leave. Yes, fish and chip gelato!
Wash it all down with trip to Little Creatures. This brewing temple serves a variety of craft beers direct from the towering tanks behind the bar. It’s tempting to set up camp on the waterside deck and linger till sunset, but with a stunning stretch of rugged coastline on Fremantle’s doorstep, you need to hop in your car for the 15 minute drive back up to Cottesloe Beach. If you’re in need of a little more dessert, stop at the attractive Indiana Pavilion where the wood-fired pineapple wedges with lime sherbet are a must.
Back in the city there’s just time for a torch-lit tour of Fremantle Prison – from the solitary confinement cells to the morgue, this is a spooky way to check out the largest convict-built structure in Western Australia. It was completed in 1859, has held hundreds of thousands of prisoners over the years and, of course, is thought to be haunted.
Settle your nerves with a pint or two at the Norfolk Hotel. A Fremantle institution, it has 22 beers on tap and holds regular gigs in its basement. It’s a great way to wind down and soak up Freo’s alternative scene before heading back to Perth.
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