The first rule of happy fossicking could well be this: Go where the traffic doesn’t. When you leave the pulse of the main drag and take your urban wanderlust to the nearby malls, arcades and piazzas, the opportunities for quiet discovery ramp up. In Fremantle’s pedestrian-friendly spaces, some things are new, some are defiantly old school. Sometimes both.
In the High Street Mall, Culley’s Tea Rooms–a well loved fixture for more than 90 years–has shifted sideways, modernised its fit-out and found a new lease of life for its famous pies, pastries and horse shoe rolls. Also adopting new digs, Pigeonhole has brought a distinctly hip vibe to what was the souvenir shop at the top end of the mall (Mountain Designs has stepped in where the old Pigeonhole resided). Notable not just for its fun giftware, funky threads and jewellery, Pigeonhole also warmly welcomes your hound.
Like Culley’s, the new Cotton On Megastore–a kind of department store for all things casual cotton clothing–makes the best of two facades; one in the mall, one in the newly renovated Atwell Arcade. There’s a distinctively polished feel here since its multimillion dollar makeover. When following the shiny-tiled short-cut to Market Street, allow time to stop for specialty coffee at Little Hush (manual pour over, anyone?), a quiet browse in Margaret River Hemp Co and a footwear finding mission at the street specialist Hype (go ahead, bring your dog here too).
On the opposite side of High Street Mall, follow your nose–literally–down Manning Arcade to Blue Budha (yes, they spell it this way!), an exponent of all things spiritual, where the aroma of essential oils heralds a trove of crystals, dream catchers and wellness books. Embrace your inner hippyherbal-spiritualist and book in for a tarot or psychic reading.
Down the way in South Terrace Piazza–past the hipster pocket of Paddy Troy Mall owned by The Grumpy Sailor café and Captain Walker’s Bicycles–some Freo stalwarts keep the New Age spirit alive. Ark of Joan sells gifts, books, candles and clothing that buck the mainstream. For more than 20 years, Into Camelot has been furnishing expressive fans of medieval style (a swag of colourful musicians and performers are known to enhance their stage presence here) with romantic clothing.
Eyes peeled for fairies darting in and out from the neighbouring Pickled Fairy, where all imaginable tulle, wand and glitter needs are met. Head to Milk Belly café when you’re ready to check back in with the real world.
Nomad Gnome, in Fremantle Malls, adds flamboyance to an area with a strong focus on personal maintenance. Get your hair, your waxing and your massage needs satisfied along here. And for a contrasting style of threads, try Frock This, where new, pre-loved and vintage clothing share the racks.
Meanwhile, back near the Cappuccino Strip, eating gnocchi on the deep balcony at La Sosta overlooking Market Street Piazza is a great way to reconnect with both the picturesque building facades and the Italian influence on Fremantle. Spot the Italian restaurants within spitting distance. By day, Bottega café downstairs (new from the La Sosta crew) upholds the authentic Italian manifesto. Cured meats hang from the ceiling and artisan fare spills from the home kitchen.The recently beautified piazza at its doorstep has made for a more pedestrian-friendly, alfresco-happy space just off the Cappuccino Strip. It’s a space with a vision. When not being activated for festivals and special events, its paved streetscape, landscaping and lighting does another job: it captures the essence of being in Fremantle. Albeit slightly off to one side.