Sometimes you just need one of those lazy holidays. The kind where you sleep a lot, eat a lot, mayyyybe see a few things and come back feeling refreshed.
When we saw that we had a long public holiday coming up in Malaysia, we decided that this was the kind of holiday we needed. Both of us had been working like crazy and we needed a break. Somewhere where we could just chill out and get away with not doing much. Somewhere where the food was good, the beer was better and where we'd end up feeling rested.
A quick scan of Air Asia revealed some reasonably priced flights to Perth. A five hour trip and we could be sitting in a cafe having avocado on toast (okay, you can do that easily in Malaysia, but Australia is known for its avo toast, and this is not, I repeat, NOT, the reason why millennials can't afford a mortgage). And so, in the words of Peter Kay, we booked it, packed up and fu*ked off.
And although it was a reasonably chilled holiday, we actually did see a lot more around Fremantle and Perth than we expected to and we still managed to get in a good quota of sleeping and eating. So here's our list of top things to do in Fremantle!
1) Have Brunch in One of the (Many) Cafes
Brunch. That perfect combination of breakfast and lunch that greedy people like us love. Fremantle has a whole host of amazing cafes serving brunch all day so you really are spoilt for choice.
One of our favourite places (that we kept going back to) was Little Lefroy's in South Fremantle. If you are one of those people who likes to take charge when it comes to your breakfast, this place is for you.
Little Lefroy's brunch menu has a 'design your own' section with add-on options ranging from grilled halloumi, avocado and potato and corn hash to free range belly bacon and cumberland sausage. However, if like us, you arrive just too hungry to start designing your own breakfast, their regular brunch menu has also got you covered. We loved their shakshuka baked eggs (23AUD) which came in a spicy tomato sauce, with smoked eggplant, yogurt, coriander, green chilli oil and zataar (it can also come with chorizo); the porridge oats (16AUD) with a rhubarb compote, floral honey and pistachios; and the honey roasted pear fruit toast with sweet ricotta and thyme (18AUD). You can also get simpler options like beans on toast as well, much to Vincent's joy.
We won't lie - Brunch at Little Lefroy's isn't cheap (and generally we found eating out in Fremantle and Perth to be expensive compared to South East Asia), but the breakfast kept us full for most of the day and was so delicious that we didn't mind spending the money. Little Lefroy's is also open for lunch and dinner and although we sadly didn't get to try out those menus, we are betting that the options are just as delicious as breakfast.
2) Take a Torchlight Tour of Fremantle Prison
We'd read about the evening tours of Fremantle prison and the idea of wandering around a prison at night, hearing some ghastly and sordid tales (their description, not ours) about the prison's former inmates sounded like a great evening activity (not sure what this says about us, but moving swiftly on...).
Night time tours of the prison take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings, starting from 6.30pm. You have to book and pay for the tour in advance and so we visited the prison during the day to see if they had any availability for that evening and got ourselves a place on the 7.30pm tour. Tickets cost 27AUD per adult and the tour lasts for one and a half hours.
Having taken some scary photos (mainly selfies) we were ready for the tour to begin!
Our guide, Jim, who had actually been a former prison officer at Fremantle prison when it was still a working maximum security institution, was brilliant, funny and engaging. With a mixture of humour and gruesome detail, he really helped us to imagine what life in the prison would have been like. During the tour, Jim gave us information about the prison from its early beginnings in the 1850s and also took us through the life of an inmate once he had entered the prison.
This tour isn't for the faint hearted: we got a real insight into the harsh living conditions for inmates and some of the cruel punishments that were meted out, as well as a tour of the execution chamber. It was also hard to believe that even though the prison was only decommissioned in 1991, prisoners were still using slop buckets in their cells as there were no toilet facilities! We also had a chance to look inside the prison cells: some of these had been painted with beautiful images by the inmates.
The Torchlight Tour also plays up the strange and spooky happenings in the prison, so expect a few jumpy moments too...although we won't say too much, as we don't want to spoil it. Just BEWARE! (MWAH HA HA HA HA!)
3) Visit the Fremantle Markets
We are the kind of people who are pretty much always led by our stomachs. And on our trip, our trusty stomachs led us to the Fremantle Markets.
The bustling Fremantle Markets are over 100 years old and has well over 150 stalls. As well as selling fresh produce, the markets host traders selling homeware, shoes, jewellery, artwork and much more. And you shouldn't worry that all this shopping will make you hungry because the market also has numerous cafes (French, Turkish, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese...you name it, they've got it) that will satiate your appetite. They even had Sri Lankan food, which in my (very biased) mind, makes this market a total winner.
The markets are open Friday to Sunday and also has different events on each weekend - you can find more information here. Fremantle Markets also have a partnership with West Oz Wildlife, which is one of Perth's leading petting zoos. The zoo at the markets provides a rare opportunity to get up close with native Australian animals and so I was able to meet my first koala. A happy day indeed!
4) Check Out the Street Art
Fremantle has some fantastic street art. We loved the incredibly detailed and vibrant 3D murals on the warehouses at East West Designs that depicted exotic far off locations.
We also took a wander down some of the backstreets near the seafront and came across more political street art that was just as interesting to look at. You don't have to travel far to find street art in Fremantle - even the bus stops have become canvases for artists.
5) Have a Beer (or two) at Little Creatures Brewery
It's no secret that Vincent is a beer connoisseur. He gets excited about things like IPAs, bitters, and curiously named ales. So upon reading that Little Creatures brewery was in Fremantle, that it could be visited and many beers could be supped, it went down on our itinerary as a 'must visit' item.
I'd like to point out that we don't usually enjoy visiting or touring places that make things. We've all been on one of those holidays where as part of a package trip to somewhere you stop off at a rug/spice/marble carving factory that bores you senseless and you aren't in the least bit interested in buying anything. But this was different...this was BEER.
Little Creatures Brewery is located at Fremantle Harbour and houses not only a brewery (also known as the Great Hall) but also a number of different eating, drinking and event spaces. The Brewhouse, located within the brewery, is the place to go if you fancy exploring the wide range of beers on offer and chatting to Little Creatures beer specialists (also known as 'hop heads') about the brewing process. It also has a free bike hire service which is pretty cool.
If tours are your thing, you can join one of the regular tours of the brewery (hourly from 12pm-3pm everyday) where you can learn about the ingredients used in Little Creatures beer and also enjoy a guided tasting of their beers and ciders. You don't have to take a tour though - if you just want to wander around the brewery you are free to do so as walk-ins are welcome anytime. We decided to do this as we arrived in the evening and so were too late to go on a tour (one tour that Vincent wouldn't have minded going on!).
If you're not into beer, the Little Creatures complex is still definitely worth a visit - it's a great place to relax and unwind after a day of sightseeing, has great views of the harbour and some fantastic food too. The Great Hall has an open plan kitchen that serves delicious wood fired pizzas which you can enjoy right in the heart of the brewery. The Brewhouse also has an all-day food menu and you can even get your beer to takeaway, if you want a night in your hotel but with good beer.
We decided to explore Little Creatures Next Door, which, as the name suggests, is just around the corner from the main brewery. This cosy space overlooks Fremantle Harbour and serves sharing food platters, beers and wines. There's an outdoor balcony space and inside there are cosy armchairs and sofas for you to relax in. It was the beginning of winter in Australia and although there was a nip in the air, we decided to go and sit outside and enjoy the amazing sunset over the harbour. They had outdoor heaters as well, so I was happy!
I got a small glass of Merlot (9.50AUD) and Vincent sampled his first (of many) pints of Little Creatures IPA (13AUD). We also got a few sharing platters: falafel, hummus and pitta bread (16AUD) and pumpkin salad with almond and rocket (13AUD). Again, the prices aren't cheap, but they are similar to other restaurants and cafes in Fremantle.
On Thursday evenings, Little Creatures Next Door has live music starting from 6pm so if you are looking for a relaxed evening but with some entertainment thrown in we'd definitely recommend a visit here.
6) Have Some Fish and Chips
After making a bad decision to go and visit King's Park in Perth in the pouring rain, we were freezing and just wanted to get some hot food inside us. Enter: piping hot fish and chips.
There are a multitude of places serving fish and chips along Fremantle Harbour. We decided to try out Sweet Lips Fremantle because it looked cosy, warm (this was important as we were wet through) and unfussy. Basically, we wanted somewhere which would serve us a 'reet proper fish and chips' and warm our cockles while they were at it.
My fish (hake) and chips was 13.90AUD and was quite a sizeable portion - I gave it a good stab but I struggled to finish it. The fish tasted fresh and the batter was thin and crispy, just the way that I like it. Vincent had a portion of chips (2.90AUD) and said they were as good as the chips 'up North'. There's a compliment if I've ever heard one.
As well as serving traditional style fish and chips, Sweet Lips also has burgers, seafood bao buns, Japanese inspired rice bowls, a salad bar and seafood dishes on the menu.
So there you have it - our top tips for what to do in Fremantle if you want a lazy holiday but you want to experience a few things too!
Tell us what you think! Have you been to Fremantle? What should we do the next time we visit? (We'd like to go back for a longer trip and be a little less lazy...)