"Gateway to the west" Top 5 Page for this destination Fremantle by TheWanderingCamel
Fremantle Travel Guide: 556 reviews and 1,249 photos
By the early 70s, passenger ships had all but ceased their runs to this corner of the earth. Long-haul jets meant Europe was just 24 hours away rather than three weeks by sea. Fremantle remained a port, but one that dozed in the sun, watched over by old Italian men on the benches outside the Town Hall by day, and given over to drunken sailors and streetwalkers by night. Many of its grand old buildings were simply boarded up and left as shipping companies amalgamated, the wool stores closed and the wheat silos that once dominated the skyline were moved away from the expanding metropolitan area. Any money that was being invested in Western Australia's cities was being poured into the capital, Perth, 20 kilometres up the Swan River, where towers of glass and steel were replacing solid Victoriana.
Then came the 80s and with them, new life for the city as its unique nature was recognized - a time capsule of a Victorian port city, its buildings, run-down, shabby and abandoned as many of them were, intact. No need here for elaborate redevelopment, but new uses for old buildings. A university whose campus occupies historic buildings - including the old court house where law students conduct mock trials in an authentic Victorian courtroom. The convict-built Government stores housing galleries that tell the stories of Dutch ships wrecked on the barren coast two hundred years before the first settlers arrived. The 120 year old market hall packed with stalls inside as a wild punk piper delights the crowds outside. The Dutch-gabled lunatic asylum (built by convicts for convicts - transportation to the other side of the world sent many of them mad) busy with artists and craftsmen, its cells and dormitories converted into studios and exhibition galleries.
Through all this the port continues to be the heart of Fremantle. No locked and barriered enclave of security here - as well as being home to ships of all sizes flying the flags of the world, huge cranes standing like enormous insects on its wharfs - the port buzzes with other life. The old customs shed - where new arrivals unpacked their bags and displayed their meagre possessions for scrutiny - now a market hall with al fresco cafes and a bar. Another wharf sheds is home to the sail training ship, the three-masted barque "Leeuwin". Ferries leave for Rottnest Island and the trip upriver to Perth. A new Maritime Museum, its roof echoing the upturned hull of a ship, sits right at the mouth of the harbour. Fisherman cast their lines in to the water to catch a fish for supper and, outside the Harbour Trust building, casting an assessing eye over it all, a statue of C.Y. O'Connor, the tragic genius whose vision and expertise oversaw not only the building of the harbour in what many considered to be an impossible location, but also the building of a pipeline that would carry water 600 kilometres into the desert .... but that's another story.
Right now there's Fremantle to discover - raffish, funky, relaxed, fun.
C Y O'Connor Beach Page under construction more travel advice
Fremantle Harbour is home port to the Sail Training Ship "Leeuwin II", a lovely three-masted barquentine. With a full... more travel advice
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