Visit to a Martime Museum with a submarine, historic prisons and a brewery
12.03.2013 20 °C
Fremantle Port (affectionately known as "'Freo" to the locals) sits at the mouth of the Swan River about 25 minutes west of Perth. It has retained its old buildings and charm and apart from the Port Authority Building itself doesn't have the skyscrapers found in Perth. A lot of migrants arrived from Europe through Fremantle including my cousins from Ireland and there are several statues of migrants around the port area. Fremantle is also home to the eye catching West Australian Maritime Museum opened in 2002 with the old museum now used as a Shipwreck Gallery. Amongst the new museum's displays is the Australia II which was the first non-American yacht to win the Americas Cup and brought the competition to Fremantle in 1987.
On a slipway alongside the museum there is the Oberon class submarine HMAS Ovens. It was originally commissioned in 1969 and was operational for 26 years before being handed over as a museum ship. It was a fascinating tour and left with the impression that if needed she was maintained in such good condition that she could be put to sea again.
A couple of minutes along the sea front is an odd 12 sided stone prison called the Round House, built in 1830-31 and the oldest surviving building in Western Australia. It where the first hangings in WA took place and was also used for holding aborigines before they were taken to Rottnest. In front of the Round House there is a signal canon once used for ships in the harbour to set their time and still fired daily at 1pm and underneath there is the Whalers Tunnel carved through the sandstone and used to access the beach where whales were once landed and processed.
Away from the coast is Freo's biggest tourist attraction and Western Australia's only World Heritage Site - Freemantle Prison. Built in the 1850s based on Pentonville Prison in London, it was in use right up until 1991 when a prison riot and fire exposed how out-dated it was (modern fire appliances couldn't get in the main gate).
As we were guided through the different parts of the prison - the different prison wings ("divisions"), exercise yards, solitary confinement block and the hanging room and the associated prison stories and superstitions - it felt like being on the location of a film set and I kept thinking of Shawshanks Redemption.
Our final stop in Freo was the Little Creatures Micro Brewery on the Esplanade. The beer tasted great and I could happily have spent hours getting quite merry on it but we needed to get back to Perth.