Fremantle, the first European settlement in Western Australia, was my final port of call on this trip to Australia. Time was short, and I only had a half day to explore the town. At least some of that time was going to be dedicated to visiting Fremantle-based brewing company, Little Creatures, a pioneering microbrewery. I’d seen, and sampled, several of their beers on my trip, it seemed right to visit the place where it all started.
Little Creatures sits in a former warehouse (and crocodile farm) on a wharf looking over Fremantle harbour. A visit would complete a ‘holy trinity’ of Australian alcohol-related adventures: there was wine from Queensland’s beautiful Granite Belt region; rum from the Bundaberg distillery; and, now, beer from one of the leading lights of Australia’s beer revolution. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.
I found my way there after strolling through Fremantle’s historic centre, which is filled with buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. This was, and still is, Western Australia’s great commercial port, the trade that passed through generating the wealth to build Fremantle’s beautiful old buildings. It’s probably one of the finest collections of historic buildings in Australia, many with intricate iron balconies.
At the end of one street I spied the Roundhouse. Built only eighteen months after the first settlers arrived in 1829, it’s the oldest public building in Western Australia. Originally, it was a prison, not for criminals transported from Britain, but for anyone convicted of a crime in the new colony. I’d spent too much time walking the attractive streets, they were just closing as I arrived. I was lucky to be allowed to sneak a peek inside.
From here there are magnificent views over the Indian Ocean, the town’s beach and the harbour. Fremantle was formerly a major whaling port, and on the beach below the Roundhouse was a jetty where the whaling ships would dock to unload. A tunnel was built beneath the Roundhouse to give the whalers access to the town.
I walked through the tunnel and took a stroll along the beach to the harbour. The Little Creatures brewery is split into several parts, with a big bar, outside dinning area and a shop. In the shop it’s possible to do a taste test of several beers. The company’s first beer was a tasty pale ale, for which they are rightly famous in Australia, but they’ve added a few more beers to their menu since then. The tasting took a while.
Afterwards, I didn’t have a plan, so I went whichever way the wind blew me. I found myself wandering through the old town again, where I came across the infamous Fremantle Prison. It gained notoriety in the mid-19th century as the place where the British sent Irish republican supporters to rot. It was considered one of the worst prisons in a system not known for progressive ideas on crime and punishment.
The brutality of the system saw people thrown into solitary confinement for two or three years at a time. Floggings and beatings were common, and forty four people were executed here. It kept its notoriety until the very end: it was forced to close in 1991 when serious human rights violations were exposed. Sadly, I couldn’t visit, as it too had closed for the day.
There was much more of Fremantle I’d have liked to explore, but the sun was setting and the curtain was coming down on my time in Australia. I hopped on the train and headed back into Perth to meet a friend for one final night of fun. In the morning it would be 18 hours on a plane back to the Netherlands. Australia had been fascinating, and this trip has whetted my appetite for a return journey.