Fremantle Port
Review and History

Fremantle Port is the most important port in Western Australia and one of Australia’s largest ports. Part of the Perth metropolitan area, it is located at the mouth of the Swan River on the Indian Ocean. At the beginning of the 21st Century, Fremantle was an exciting cultural center and a popular tourist destination. In 2001, over 25 thousand people called Fremantle Port home.

Fremantle Port is an important industrial center with a diverse manufacturing industry that includes fertilizer, ships, steel, automobiles, petroleum products, and aluminum among many other products. Western terminus of the Trans-Australian Railway, Fremantle is linked to inland agricultural and mining areas that support a wide range of exports. The outer harbor covers 190 square kilometers. The inner harbor was opened in 1897 and expanded in 1969 to become the base for state’s biggest commercial fishing fleet.

The City of Fremantle was designed and named after Captain Sir Charles Fremantle in 1829. Captain Fremantle had seized the area at the river’s mouth to prevent incursions by the French or United States. Protected from fog, tides, and storms, it soon became an important whaling center. During the late 1800s, Fremantle Port grew in service to the Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie goldfield. In 1901, it became more important than the neighboring port of Albany as a center of sea-going commerce. During World War II, Fremantle Port was the principal submarine base in the Southern Hemisphere for Allied forces.

Port History

Fremantle Port lies on limestone hills called Booyeembara by the indigenous Nyungar people. The Swan River Colony was established by Captain James Stirling in 1829. The colony received its current name after Captain Fremantle left in gratitude for his help in setting up the colony. Irishman and engineer C.Y. O’Conner cleared and deepened the harbor in 1897, clearing the way for commercial shipping. During World War II, Fremantle Port was an important Allied submarine base, and over 150 submarines operated out of the port.

Fremantle Port’s maritime museum preserves the city’s heritage. It showcases the convict-built colonial buildings, the old jetty and port, and a variety of prisons. The Round House, the oldest standing building in Western Australia, was a prison with eight cells and the gaoler’s residence. Bay whaling was conducted from Bathers Beach just below Round House, and the whalers used a tunnel under the Round House to move between the town, jetty, and beach.

When the first 75 prisoners arrived in 1850, it was clear that the Round House could not house them all. The convicts then built a new gaol that was used as Fremantle Port’s prison until the early 1990s, when a gentrification movement started. Located in Fremantle’s West End, the Round House is complemented by late Georgian and Victorian architecture. Today, the West End contains the University of Notre Dame Australia

Once a notorious prison known throughout the British Empire, Fremantle Prison housed British convicts, local criminals, and military prisoners. Today a State Heritage Site, it was featured in an episode of the popular television program, The Amazing Race.

One of the most impressive landmarks, the Fremantle History Museum was built by convicts in the 1860s as an asylum. The building was the land base for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Today, it is home to the Fremantle Arts Center and the Immigration Museum.

Opening in 1897, the Fremantle Markets housed sellers of fish, vegetables, specialty foods, and handicrafts. It also housed dining halls and street performers. Listed by the National Trust and Heritage Council in 1980, the Victorian-era building houses over 150 stalls. It stands next to the historic Sail & Anchor Hotel containing a microbrewery.

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