Just half an hour outside of Perth is the beautiful port city of Fremantle. In this fantastic guest blog we will get the run down of all the very best things to do in Fremantle with kids, from fabulous play areas to the most family friendly places to get a coffee from a lovely local Dad. Give Run While You Can Fam a follow on Instagram for envy inducing pics of this gorgeous part of Australia, you’ll want to book a trip to the beach immediately!
What’s the best thing about Fremantle?
Easy answer, and the answer would be the same for Perth as a whole: beaches! Western Australia has great weather and easily accessible beaches. The entire city is stretched thin along the coast, so you have to try fairly hard to get more than 40 minutes away from a beach. Parking is mostly easy, the water is crystal clear, and there’s a beach to suit every mood. If you’re not a water person you could just come down to soak up the atmosphere and people watch with an ice cream or a beer in your hand.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
We’re not too big on eating out when we are at home (rather save it for the next travel opportunity!), so I wouldn’t be the best fine dining guide. If we do go out for a meal we try to go for something that won’t break the bank.
Old Shanghai in the heart of Fremantle (4 Henderson Street) is always a good bet. It’s a collection of small Asian restaurants that share a communal dining area. Lots to choose from (Sushi, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian…) at reasonable prices. And there’s no better place to get the full Freo experience than from one of the outdoors tables on a weekend evening: tourists, locals, market goers, hippies and hipsters, shoppers and street performers all doing their thing while you sit at your wobbly plastic table and gawk at them.
For a more upmarket, but still atmospheric alternative I’d head to Bread in Common on Pakenham Street. The food is lovely, with a wine menu to match. Give yourself a bit of time to sit down at the bar while you wait for a table: it’s deservedly popular.
Are there any child friendly bars in Fremantle?
If you google ‘bars in Fremantle’ or ‘must see places’ you’ll almost certainly find Little Creatures Brewery without any insider knowledge. Let me assure you that Little Creatures has lost none of its character because of its fame. It’s still high on the list of places to quench your thirst for locals and visitors alike. Great atmosphere, spectacular beer.
And yes, they are very kid-friendly.
What many people don’t know about is Little Creatures ‘next door’ – a separate area to the main venue. In stead of going in at the main entrance – head right, keep walking around the building to a small dark (slightly dodgy looking!) entrance at the back. Up the stairs you’ll find a lounge area with well worn couches, board games, oftentimes live music, and spectacular views of the harbour. Kids can run wild while parents relax with one the many of beers on offer in a space that feels more like home than a bar (just much nicer than your home!).
Are there any good areas for shopping?
Simply put – yes. Fremantle is ALL about coffee, food and shopping. Come here if you don’t like shopping malls, but still want to buy your boutique clothing, surf gear, art, cigars and actual books in one place. The Fremantle Markets also make for a unique shopping experience on weekends.
What do you do when you want to relax here?
See answer number 1… If you ask a West Australian what they did on the weekend, don’t be surprised if the answer is simply “beach”. It’s seen as a totally acceptable past time to while away entire days at the beach, wandering away only to get something to eat or drink.
After 11am in summer chances are that the wind will be blowing at the beach, in which case you can simple pack up and head to the river to find a sheltered spot. The stretch of river along Quarantine Park and Bicton Baths will almost always provide a place to chill and swim somewhere out of the reach of the Fremantle Doctor. (The name of the local prevalent summer breeze.)
What’s the best way to get around Fremantle?
If you are staying in or around the centre of Fremantle you can easily get around on foot, bicycle and the free CAT busses that service the centre of town.
Fremantle train station is an easy place to catch a train into Perth City, with multiple stops in between.
For exploration further afield you’d want a car. Public transport is available, but can be a bit slow if your destination is not close to a train station. The roads are safe and easy to navigate.
Parking in Fremantle itself can be problematic, and is never free, so I’d park up on the outskirts of town and catch the CAT bus in, or just walk.
How safe do you feel in Fremantle with kids?
I have no safety concerns for myself or my family when I’m at home. If you want to walk around the centre of town after midnight on a weekend you are likely to see some alcohol affected behaviour. But even then I wouldn’t classify anywhere around here as dangerous.
In terms of deadly wildlife Perth is quite fortunate compared to the rest of the country. We lack the deadly jellyfish and spiders that plague some of the Eastern States. We DO have some nasty snakes, but unless you are bush bashing you are unlikely to see one. If you do they’ll always avoid you if you leave them alone. If you are bush walking in summer you just need to watch where you put your feet.
The sharks… if you don’t think about them they don’t exist… In all seriousness – it needs to be on your radar if you surf or dive here. As a beachgoer I wouldn’t even give it a second thought. But if you are one of those people who start hearing the Jaws soundtrack in your head the moment your toes touch the water you can head to Coogee beach just south of Fremantle. They have an enclosed netted swimming area where you can have a worry free cool down.
What do you wish was different about Fremantle?
We could do with some surf, and maybe a mountain or two! The natural scenery directly around Perth is fairly uninspiring and mostly flat. You need to drive a good two to three hours to get anywhere that I’d call ‘pretty’. When you do make the effort you’ll be well rewarded. Which leads me to the next down side:
It’s isolated! Everything is quite far away. Bali is closer to Perth than any of the other Australian capitol cities. Day trips do not abound, but weekenders are plentiful.
Where’s the best place for a coffee break in Fremantle with kids?
Australians are coffee obsessed, and Fremantle is ground zero for the addicted. The main drag is affectionately called the ‘cappucino strip’, but I’d wander down any of the side streets to find somewhere with more character for your double skinny soy macci-late. When I’m in town I usually head to Moore and Moore on Henry Street, or The Attic on Bannister Street.
What’s your favourite cultural thing to do in Fremantle with kids?
Freo has several excellent cultural festivals and events scheduled throughout the year. It would be well worth it to plan your trip to coincide with one of them. Ones that spring to mind are the International Street Arts Festival (spectacular fun for the whole family), Hidden Treasures in winter (one of my favourites), Fremantle Festival, and the Perth Fringe festival that has some events in Fremantle. Google is your friend.
For everyday culture outside of these times I’d rate the Maritime museum as well worth it. The Fremantle prison is a tourist “must do” that, to my shame, I have never done…
On Sundays in summer there’s free live music on the lawns at the Fremantle Arts centre. Very chilled (picture picnics blankets and cold beers in the dappled shade on the lawns of a beautiful old building). Very family friendly.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Fremantle on a rainy day?
The boys like heading outside in our rain gear for some puddle splashing. We’d probably head for South Beach with the dogs, or walk in the bush at Manning Park
If I was a visitor and I wanted to stay dry I’d pick a museum like the maritime museum or the shipwreck museum (the kids love them), grab a book at Bill Campbell’s second hand book store, and then duck into one of the many coffee shops, give the kids some colouring in, or heaven forbid – my phone, and just chill with my book until the rain passes. Which should be soon.
How helpful are the locals?
Never hesitate to ask for help. Aussies are notoriously gregarious.
Insider hints and tips on visiting Fremantle with kids:
Perth has a collection of excellent outdoor kid’s play areas and parks that can keep a family with young kids entertained for days. In the Fremantle area some of our favourites are:
The play area at Bibra Lake – a new addition situated in a lovely setting under some gnarly old gum trees that combines play and beautiful sculptures art to provide hours of fun for a wide age range. The play equipment ranges from ‘safe for toddlers’ to ‘slightly scary’ for even the older kids. There’s some nice picnic areas with public barbecues, so you can easily spend half a day there.
Manning Park in Hamilton Hill. It has an underwhelming play area, but the park itself has a lovely little lake with plenty of bird life. And you can do a bush walk into the hill behind the park with lots of little paths to explore for the little ones, and some great views of the coast from the top of the hill. Great place for a run if you need to get away from the kids. You can even run to South beach from there for a dip.
One thing you have to do with kids in Fremantle?
For this one I will include Perth itself. The botanical gardens at Kings Park in the city is a fantastic space. I’d highly recommend getting up there an hour before sunset for a picnic at the war memorial. Watching the light change over the river and city while the kids explore as the sunset is a must.
Have you been to Fremantle with kids? Let us know what your family favourites are, just leave us a comment down below.
For more insider guides, check out this one on family friendly London.