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Shopping, snapping and winning in Fremantle

Someone said to me last week that if Fremantle were a tree, the Cappuccino Strip would be its main trunk, but the beauty lies in its branches because that is where the flowers grow.

How cool is that sentiment?  It was said to me by Michael who runs Fremantle Tours as he took me on a personal adventure in search of the cool, the quirk and the colourful shopping haunts in the city. 

Freo is a total hidden gem when it comes to a little bit of retail therapy and, particularly at this time of year, is the place to be. So, strap yourselves in, and let’s go shopping! This is going to be a colourful and fun ride!

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Many 2.0

Oh, this place just gets it.   There is so much to love, or is that many?  It is eclectic brilliance at its best and home to so much awesomeness.  Think art, sculpture, jewelry, homewares, clothes and even a hairdresser!  The space is relaxed and friendly, leaving you to meander at your leisure and just be inspired by what’s on display.   When I was there I got chatting to Kate who is one of the brains behind Many 2.0 (and the Kate of and she was casually sewing a fantastic hat as we spoke.  Yes, it’s that kind of vibe: creative but chilled all at once. 

Say hello at:  Adelaide Street, Fremantle (the old Spotlight building) or find them on Instagram at @many_projects

Freo is a total hidden gem when it comes to a little bit of retail therapy and, particularly at this time of year, is the place to be. So, strap yourselves in, and let’s go shopping! This is going to be a colourful and fun ride!

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Fremantle Artisan Store

Just like the name says, this is literally a collection of artists, in fact no less than 150 of them!  You are guaranteed to find a unique purchase here as there is so much choice!  All of the artists are local to Freo so it really is redefining the benefits of shopping local.  If you’re an artist you can display your stuff here for as little as $15 a week.  And it’s not just art in the form of paintings; there’s felt, clothing, jewelry, pottery, handmade cards, homewares, shadow boxes, terrariums, crochet, mosaic and woodwork. 

Say hello at 81a High Street, Fremantle or find them on Instagram at @theartisanstore

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The Archive

This place is literally split with two distinct themes: fashion and homewares, so you can choose what you want (or both!).  It’s home to some of the coolest art and cards I have seen, and has a dedicated kids gift section.  Plus, there’s a secret café at the back (Leake Street Cafeteria) for that much needed caffeine hit because this shopping business is thirsty work!

Say hello at 23 Market Street Fremantle or find them on Instagram at @the_archive_fremantle or the café at @leakestcafeteria 

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This is a store that makes you excited to buy for yourself or others.  As the owners said to me when I visited “we sell beautiful things that are designed and made by creative minds”.   Yes, I could have spent longer in here, both in terms of time and money!  Again everything is locally sourced and made so no mass production.  I particularly loved the tea towels that were dotted all over the shop, you can buy them as is or have them stretched and framed on a canvas as a cool piece of wall art.

Say hello at 95 High Street, Fremantle or find them on Instagram at @remedystore

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Common Ground

This store has a little more of a street vibe and the clothes and gifts somehow have a bit more edge.  Again, you can discover a little bit of everything: candles, wallets, cards, hats, wreaths, art, sculpture, jewelry, and – just as I was leaving – a box of plaster skulls (that I think doubled as planter boxes) were delivered! 

What I love about places like this is that you’re not only buying and supporting local but buying gifts with personality and flair.  They are not mass produced so the uniqueness factor is right up there, which is pretty cool in my books.   Go explore the branches, find the flowers and the magic next time you’re in Freo and let me know what you love.

Say hello at 82 High Street, Fremantle or find them on Instagram at @cmmngrnd

Shop, Snap, Tag and Win #FreoWishList

Another cool discovery on the tour was the #FreoWishList which is a fun Instagram competition.  And hello, who doesn’t love a competition?!  All you need to do is find something you want for Christmas at stores in Fremantle, take a pic of it and tag it #FreoWishList plus the shop that you found it in and share it on Instagram.  Easy! You can win up to $500 worth of shopping in the city, perfect for that last minute Christmas haul.  I’ve already shared some of my faves and you totally should too. Get on it quick as it closes on December 22. Happy shopping, happy snapping and good luck!

Find them on Instagram at @fremantlestory

Guest blogger Jo Newman (@sayhellojo

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Fenians, Fremantle and Freedom Festival

 As you wander through Fremantle in early January, make sure you listen carefully. You’ll hear the sweet sounds of one of Ireland’s greatest fiddlers, Martin Hayes and the echo back from his musical confidante, American guitarist Dennis Cahill as they capture the essence of traditional Irish music in a contemporary rhythm to uplift your spirits. Focus again and you’ll pick up the enchanting, rich melodious voice of gifted, Irish singer and songwriter Declan O’Rourke. If you know something about the hidden treasure spots of the West End, you might uncover the textured language of one of Ireland’s best loved poets, Tony Curtis. 

There’s clearly something significant happening in Fremantle, to draw such fabulous Irish talent here. Indeed, there is! It’s a ten-day Irish cultural immersion, the first of its kind, called Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom Festival, commemorating a journey made 150 years ago by 62 Irish political prisoners – the Fenians.

The Fenians were young men, between 19 and 30, who grew up in Ireland in a time of starvation, death and forced evictions - the years of the great famine. Having exhausted all attempts to gain self-government through political means, they decided to fight for independence and they staged a rising. Their plot was uncovered, they were arrested, sentenced for treason, exiled from their homeland and transported to Western Australia. 

After spending months in solitary confinement, it was a bitter-sweet relief when they boarded the very last convict ship to Australia, the Hougoumont, where they shared stories, organised concerts, wrote a newspaper called the Wild Goose, and looked out for each other. You might recognise the name Hougoumont, it’s that funky hotel in Bannister Street.

There’s clearly something significant happening in Fremantle, to draw such fabulous Irish talent here. Indeed, there is! It’s a ten-day Irish cultural immersion, the first of its kind, called Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom Festival...

They also dreamed of escape. The most famous of the Fenians, John Boyle O’Reilly did escape a year later, on an American whaler. He became the editor of a Boston newspaper and together with supporters in the US and Ireland, organised a crowd funding venture to purchase a whaler, the Catalpa, and rescue his mates from the bottom of the world, out of Fremantle Prison.

It’s a big story and there’s a big festival to commemorate and celebrate it. As well as the concerts, there’ll be a family day at the Maritime Museum, art exhibitions, Irish film, literature workshops, remarkable stories and of course, the Guinness …plenty of it on tap at the Festival Gardens and Kelp Bar at Kidogo Arthouse.

But you won’t be sitting still, there’s music to get your feet tapping and a traditional Irish ceili dance with an Indian Ocean sunset as the backdrop.

After 10 days of celebration and commemoration, you’ll have to get in quick to book a table at the primal food extravaganza and street party, the Feast of the Wild Goose, sponsored by Fremantle BID and supported by the Hougoumont Hotel and the Bannister St traders.

This 150 year old story of valuing your culture and looking after your friends is the one we still strive for here in Fremantle.

Fenians, Fremantle and Freedom Festival | 5-14 January 2018

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Off grid - Fremantle's warehouse district

When sleuthing out the offbeat hubs of Fremantle, ask yourself this: where would the creative types be? Not the shiny places, probably. Not the gentrified bits. Set your GPS instead for the slightly grungy warehouse pocked area around Stack, Wood and Blinco Streets.

The Fibonnacci Centre (affectionately The Fib) is downwind from Monument Hill on Blinco Street. Past the new housing development, behind funky wrought iron gates, the converted warehouse is home to artists’ studios and creative events. Concerts, uke jams, yoga and exhibitions all happen here; get the lowdown while soaking up the eclectic boho vibe at Roark and Co Café upstairs.

Inspired and ready to kick start your own musical journey, wander around the corner to Penny Lanes Music Workshop where you can sign up for music lessons under the watchful eye of Richard Lane (Stems fame) and his team. The place has a friendly community feel with a constant flow of students and a must stop and peruse music shop stocking djembes, mandolin and everything in between. 

The treasure trove effect inspires at Shedwallah on Stack Street, a vast shed festooned with colourful tiles, outsized pots, textiles and homewares with an old Empire feel. Try leaving without at least one funky door knob or cow bell.

At Stackwood next door, there’s a light, minimalist aesthetic to the revamped warehouse. A constellation of creative businesses enhances the buzz brought by occasional workshops in the event space and a seasonal Made Local Market. The communal tables of Stacked Café mingle with the Stackwood shop, a garden-themed affair with lots of greenery.

Speaking of, a short stroll away, abutting the public golf course, Booyeembara Park is an unsung oasis whose landscaped walk trails and bush tracks are seldom troubled by crowds. Think of it as further reward for exploring the path less trodden, and take a load off by the lake.

Editor's note: find something you'd LOVE to add to your #freowishlist for Christmas? Check out our snap, tag & win competition. 

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Come and stay

If there’s one drawback to the Fremantle day trip, it’s going home at the end of it. No lingering late over dinner. No finding a sneaky night cap while wandering the West End. No being at your favourite coffee haunt inside two minutes. Unless, of course, you embrace the ‘staycation’ idea, and book a room.

Having out of town friends or relatives to visit? Consider bypassing the spare room and setting up a home from home in Freo. Likewise if you’re attending one of the summer festivals, and can’t face the commute home. Or if you’re just wanting a change of scenery without the added airfare. Freo has ‘short break’ written all over it.

In the thick of it
Freo’s West End has a handful of boutique accommodation offerings, putting you in walking distance of everything. One of its oldest sites, the former Manning Folly, is now home to the smart Quest Apartments on Pakenham Street. There’s modern comfort in the slick one and two bedroom apartments, but for a taste of the history, just look up. An impressive glass art installation on the third floor tilts its hat to the extravagance of Charles Manning’s former residence, and his passion for astronomy.

At the Hougoumont, shipping containers are wryly referenced in the room design, but there’s nothing industrial about the experience. The boutique hotel embraces the ideals of hospitality by offering coffee, bottled water, wine and cheese as added extras at no cost. The stylish lounge-cum-lobby has a friendly mixed use feel–work, recline, make your own cuppa–and the walls are adorned with the names of the convicts who came to Fremantle on the ship whose name now adorns this classy hotel.

...if you’re just wanting a change of scenery without the added airfare. Freo has ‘short break’ written all over it.

Across the road, Quality Suites has around 30 rooms and suites making good use of the inner city site that is both right in the middle of everything, and quietly tucked away in unassuming Bannister Street. A small team puts all their hospitality muscle behind this establishment, tending to guests’ sleeping requirements right on the doorstep of Fremantle’s food and entertainment offerings.

Alternatively, you could check in to the Esplanade by Rydges and never leave the hotel, if that was your bag. Especially if you plumped for the premier spa suite. The elegant rooms are matched by a slew of eating and drinking options on site, plus resort style pools. It’s close to both the Cappuccino Strip and Fishing Boat Harbour, with Esplanade Park at its feet. Look out for festival packages.

Rooms with a view
Go a little sideways, and you can get that Freo feeling with something extra: a holiday vibe. Consider Be. Fremantle, for example. It’s as far along Mews Road as you can be without getting wet–perched right on the end of the groyne at Fishing Boat Harbour. Every apartment has a water view here, surrounded by marina, harbour and Indian Ocean. That’s sunrise and sunset views covered. A recent refurb has seen some smart new additions at the pointy end, and accommodation ranges from studio rooms to 3-bedroom townhouses. Waterside dining is as close as Bathers Beach House or Char Char, where you can put your meal on your room tab.

...imbibing on the balcony, gazing at the bobbing boats and secluded beach, and congratulating yourself on your excellent staycation planning.

A lot of refurb dollars have been sunk into the Tradewinds as well. It’s not just a famous watering hole. It’s now a stylish sleeping option, with gorgeously appointed rooms and up to the minute tech. One of the biggest bonuses for in-house guests is the huge rooftop terrace bar, with views out across the river.

Some similar views are gettable from Seashells, tucked in a pocket of East Fremantle close to George Street’s hub. Furnished with Empire furnishings and equipped with free parking, it also has a lift directly up to the rooftop bar and restaurant, Sweetwater.

At Pier 21 in North Fremantle, several suites flank the grassy area right on the river’s edge. A sense of quiet and calm cocoons everything here. You might even find yourself feeling a bit smug, imbibing on the balcony, gazing at the bobbing boats and secluded beach, and congratulating yourself on your excellent staycation planning.

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What lies behind

Pop quiz question: Where can you get a black pearl, a nose ring, a Nepalese tunic, a kebab, some collectable vinyl, some artwork from a pop-up gallery, painted nails and a Thai massage, all within paces of an easy park?

Hard-core fossickers will tell you that rewards like this abound in the warren-like malls and arcades of Fremantle. No chain store ennui here. Some fiercely individual businesses – many of them operating for more than a decade – have made their homes in the eclectic patch around Paddy Troy Mall and Fremantle Malls (the alley off William Street near Kings Square).

Joynt Venture has moved premises a few times (from the Freo markets to a bolt hole in the piazza to the roomy premises it now occupies) keeping loyal customers on their toes. But they’re happily tucked away off Paddy Troy Mall and, after 40 years of trade, they’re the go-to place for everything from heavy metal and punk tees to hair colour, sunglasses, body jewellery, posters and coloured contact lenses.

Street smart
During the week there’s easy parking around Paddy Troy mall, and the vibe is relaxed; fine conditions for investigating the offerings at Wear 2, the business whose urban gear has been bridging the vintage, surf and skate cultures for seven years. Think tees, footwear, and hats, with clearance items sourced from the US and elsewhere.

Bike bits
Captain Walkers Cycles is a tucked away cyclists Mecca; a destination store with a loyal following, this one for lovers of hip bikes (plus parts and personable service) without the intimidating attitude.

Hard-core fossickers will tell you that rewards like this abound in the warren-like malls and arcades of Fremantle. No chain store ennui here. 

Around the corner on William Street, Fremantle Opals’ slick display and service shows why it’s won the Fremantle Chamber’s Retail Excellence Award for two years running. They’ve got jewel-coloured opals from around Australia and pearls from the north, set in all imaginable ways – rings, earrings, cufflinks and pendants. Not belly bars or ear lobe rings, though. That’s more the domain of The Piercing Places across the mall. And what you can’t find in body bling here is probably not worth having.

Funky threads
Harking back to the Kathmandu style first made fashionable in the 1970s? Nomad Gnome in Fremantle Malls has the solution in full technicolour. Drop-crutch pants, jackets, dresses and skirts in cheerful colours and prints are made to order in Nepal, for folks who like to dress in a way that’s not dictated by this season’s trends.

Spun tunes
Further down the mall, Junction Records offers great fossicking potential, with its shop full of new and second hand vinyl, CDs and DVDs. Having been around for 20 years, they’ve witnessed the ever-evolving music scene and have lived to see the rise (again) of vinyl, and the changes in music buying habits. Specialists in classic rock and psychedelic music, they’ve got plenty for the dedicated flicker-through.

When it’s time to get off the feet, Parlapa will be cooking up an authentic Italian lunch, and The Federal Hotel will be standing by to quench your thirst. And all without leaving this one compact patch of off-strip Freo.

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It's Fremantle festival time

Expect a lot from the Fremantle Festival (27 October to 5 November). It’s not just a celebration of Fremantle–place, people and culture. The 10-day boutique festival also features festivals within the festival.

High Tide, for example. Fremantle’s inaugural visual arts biennale leads the charge in the programming of high quality, thought provoking events–around 60 in all. Music, comedy, performance, visual arts and talks are all in the mix of free and ticketed offerings.

...immerse yourself in visual art, absorb some of the best Australian music or bring your family to Fremantle for a day of fun, the 2017 Fremantle Festival really does offer something for everyone...

Ports have always been places of transition–the exchange of goods and ideas; the ebb and flow of people. High Tide emerges from this context, and the brand new visual arts biennale will include an impressive range of site–responsive works from both local and international artists.

Forget small canvases; the buildings along Fremantle’s High Street will be the backdrop for Swiss artist Felice Varini as he brings his internationally–renowned ‘optical illusion’ art to this year’s festival. Varini will create a large scale exterior artwork spanning 800 metres of High Street.

In addition to a stellar visual arts program, the Fremantle Festival boasts an impressive line–up of Australian musicians including The Jezabels and local favourites Koi Child, while Justin Townes Earle (USA) will bring an international flair, with support from Joshua Hedley and Ruby Boots.

The beauty of the oldest songs, dances and language in the world will transport audiences to another place, as fires burn long into the evening and people come together to celebrate Indigenous Australian culture. The Wardarnji Festival opens the Fremantle Festival once again with a dynamic display of Nyoongar music, dance and storytelling on the South Lawn of Fremantle Arts Centre.

Representing good, honest and quirky Australian humour, Frank Woodley and Sam Simmons will each stage stand–up comedy shows to tickle the funny bones of attending audiences.


City of Fremantle Festivals Coordinator, Kathryn Taylor, says the combination of over 60 events and experiences, and Fremantle’s unflagging appetite for the arts, conspire to make this year’s event program one of the most impressive.

“We’re very proud to bring to life a Festival that will provide a platform for so many levels of creativity. Whether you want to immerse yourself in visual art, absorb some of the best Australian music or bring your family to Fremantle for a day of fun, the 2017 Fremantle Festival really does offer something for everyone,” she says.

Alongside the huge range of performances, Kings Square will host community events such as The Great Fremantle Race, with a pop-up bar that will run all festival long.

A full program of events can be found at

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Escape from Pompeii: the Untold Roman Rescue

This new international exhibition Escape from Pompeii: the Untold Roman Rescue features amazing artefacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Bay of Naples in a breath-taking display which includes precious gold and jewellery as well as five haunting body casts of victims of the eruption, capturing their final moments.

Many know of the tragic eruption that buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under huge waves of volcanic ash and debris, preserving them and their residents for 2000 years.

However, very few know that the Roman navy attempted to evacuate people affected by the eruption or its important role in the success of the Roman Empire.

The amazing story is told through the words of the Roman Navy’s commander of the fleet Pliny the Elder and his nephew. Pliny was a Roman politician and author who witnessed the event and created the only surviving first hand account of the disaster.

There is a packed program of activities to suit the most curious, playful and reflective museum visitors. From After Dark events to pizza making classes, from improvisation to virtual reality, the Museum will have something for everyone.

Connecting with Roman–Italian culture, the WA Maritime Museum will also be joining the Blessing of the Fleet and Little Italy by the Sea Festivals to offer special events and premiere activities including the Fashion Gala event as a part of Little Italy by the Sea festival and a photographic exhibition.

For more information on Escape from Pompeii: the Untold Roman Rescue exhibition click here.

Escape from Pompeii: the Untold Roman Rescue is developed in association with the Australian National Maritime Museum, Expona and Contemporanea Progetti. The exhibition is open until 4 February 2018.


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