"The town the Americas Cup 'rediscovered'" Fremantle by CatherineReichardt
Fremantle Travel Guide: 535 reviews and 1,134 photos
In September 1983, Australia II - funded by the notorious larrikin Alan Bond - pulled off an almost unimaginable yachting coup in Newport, Rhode Island and snatched the America's Cup from the Americans, who had held the cup for a staggering 132 years.
As it turns out, 'snatched' is a particularly appropriate verb for the flamboyant Mr Bond, a property mogul who was recognised as Australian of the Year in 1978, and later hit the headlines when he bought van Gogh's Irises for US$54 million (the highest price ever paid for a single painting at the time). Bondie was subsequently sent to jail for fraud (conveniently developing amnesia when asked to disclose the whereabouts of various 'disappeared' assets) and was succintly described by a former associate as, "a master manipulator who should be stopped before he does any more damage to anyone". But I'm getting ahead of myself ...
So, for the first time in over a century, a non-American venue needed to be found for the event - and what's more, in Western Australia. Several alternatives were considered, with the Royal Perth Yacht Club finally plumping for Perth's port of Fremantle, an unprepossessing and half forgotten town at the mouth of the Swan River. Despite - or perhaps because - it is the main port in Western Australia, it was regarded as grimy, slightly run down and deeply unfashionable by Perth's yachting fraternity. And then somebody woke up to the fact that Fremantle was in fact a gem of a Victorian town almost untouched in decades.
Australians have a passionate for property and home ownership is a national article of faith. The 'Great Australian dream' is to own your own home - preferably a detached house on a quarter acre block - and so discovering prime real estate that was ripe for redevelopment in anticipation of an international sporting event was a dream come true. Freo's yacht club and much of the town was duly gentrified and did a splendid job of hosting the Americas cup ... which unfortunately the Americans promptly won back, which goes to prove that you can't have everything ...
The sprucing up of Freo has continued unabated since 1987and today this energetic port town provides an elegant Victorian counterpoint to the new money glitz of neighbouring Perth. Although Fremantle is effectively an outer suburb of Perth, and only an easy half an hour's rail journey from the CBD, it has a very different vibe altogether and tends to attract residents who are often younger and more artistic than other Perth suburbs.
Freo is noted for its night life, and its Cappucino Strip (more prosaically known as South Terrace if you're looking for it on a map) is a favourite evening haunt for diners and drinkers alike who appreciate the al fresco ambience. Visitors also enjoy the Fremantle Markets - still housed in the original 1987 building - as well as tourist attractions such as the Fremantle Gaol and the Maritime Museum and there is more than enough here to keep you busy for a full day (and most of the night, should you so wish).
However, from a tourist's point of view, Freo is perhaps most significant as the gateway to gorgeous Rottnest Island, which is only 18km off the coast and one of Western Australia's absolute 'must see' destinations.
- Pros:Largely unchanged since the Victorian era, with a distinct 'turn of the (20th) century' atmospshere
- Cons:Despite its seaside location, it's more port than beach - but that's a minor quibble given how many stunning beaches are within a few minute's train or car ride
- In a nutshell:To understand Perth, visit Freo - they're different sides of the same coin!
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