Although long since merged into the metropolitan area’s suburban sprawl, Perth’s port of FREMANTLE – “Freo” – retains a character altogether different to the centre of Perth. It’s small enough to keep its energy focused, with a real working harbour and busy yacht marina, and has an eclectic, arty ambience without too many upmarket pretensions. Myriad buildings in the atmospheric historic precinct have been taken over by Notre Dame University and the students give the town a youthful, vibrant feel.
Much of the convict-built dock, dating from the 1890s, was spruced up for the 1987 Americas Cup yacht race and the eagerly anticipated tourist boom. Before the makeover Freo was as rough as any port – the historic hotels were “bloodhouses” full of brawling sailors – but today the town attracts Perthites from all over the city and all walks of life for its famed weekend markets (worth planning your visit around) and “Cappuccino Strip”, as café-lined South Terrace is known. It’s also worth noting that in the heat of summer Fremantle is often a breezy 5 °C cooler than Perth, a mere half-hour away by train.