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Walk towards the light

Sometimes ‘cosy’ is not the vibe you want on a winter’s day. Sometimes you want the sea spray on your jacket and the breeze in your hair. You want to hear gulls careening above and see white caps out to the horizon. You want to feel the elements, to be away from it all. Somewhere near edge of the world–but not too far from coffee, right?

May we suggest a walk out to the jaunty green lighthouse at the end of South Mole?

From the end of Bathers Bay, it’s just 600 metres to the end, yet light years from the Cappuccino Strip. As you set out on the sealed road with its sloping, rocky edges (that’s Fleet Street, map enthusiasts), Freo’s cosmopolitan offerings give way to its maritime flavour.

On the starboard side of the groyne, the shipping channel cuts a groove between you and the North Mole, where palm trees and acres of colourful shipping containers share the silhouette. Time it right, and this is the perfect place to watch a giant cruise liner make its impressive entry into port.

No matter how glamorous the ship, you get the sense that the laconic fisher folk dotting the rocks at the far end of South Mole would rather be exactly where they are.

“Whatever comes past,” says one of what he’s hoping to catch. “If I catch nothing, great–I don’t have to clean it.”

When the salmon are running, rock real estate gets more squeezy and the fishing gets more dynamic. But on most mornings and evenings this scene is one of quiet, timeless activity; salt of the earth people casting their lines into the indifferent sea. As one solo fisherman notes: “Way better than sitting at home on the couch.”

Come dusk, the green light of the lighthouse begins a call and response with its red counterpart across the channel, mirroring the navigation markers in the water. You can’t access the lighthouse, but you do get that ‘Titanic’ feeling just standing next to it, gazing out to Africa. Rottnest may be more visible, weather permitting.

On the return journey down the groyne, things present at new and novel angles. There’s the llama–like cranes of the port, the gentle curve of the wharf. From this vantage point, the roof line of the Maritime Museum looks even more architecturally interesting than usual.

And then another roof reveals itself in a whole new way. As the action and atmosphere of Fishing Boat Harbour comes into view, jolting you out of a salty reverie, the giant lettering on the roof of the Kidogo Arthouse – FREMANTLE – reminds you just where you can go to get a quick, sensory reboot like this.

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Eating to order

Overwhelmed by the dining choices in Freo? We hear you. From the strip to the back streets to the waterfront, the options are many. Making accidental discoveries is a favourite Freo pastime, but not always ideal when you’ve got a special occasion or a group to wrangle. So we’ve curated a shortlist of suggestions to cover a multitude of occasions. Save your decision making for the menu.

A group of blokes

Is anybody in this group likely to say the words ‘Just a salad, thanks’? No, so try Lapa, the Brazilian barbecue joint with the big tables and the endless meat options. Literally; all–you–can–eat is a thing and on Saturdays it’s compulsory. Think ribs, steak, sausage, pork belly and beer. OK, salad if you want. Little Creatures is another go–to for man–bonding meals. The waterfront brewery delivers the right mix of casual and high energy, with tasty morsels fit for beer accompaniment delivered to long tables by happy staff.

A group of gals

Cocktails, right? And a meatball hankering? The Meatball Bar has got you. They’ll even match your drink to your dish of choice–traditional, sweet, even mac and cheese. The feel here is more bottle-lined cocktail bar than the name suggests. Settle in to a cosy banquette. By the beach, the share plates and grazing boards at Bathers Beach House make ideal pickings with whatever cocktail you can dream up. There’s a raft of main course options to soak it up. Things may get rowdy.


Everyone is going to be happy with Sandrino’s home style Italian fare, from pizza to pasta to seafood that pleases both young and sophisticated palates. There’s loads of room, plus crowd pleasing desserts. It’s good value with an atmosphere. Consider also the buffet at the Esplanade Hotel’s Atrium Garden Restaurant. Kids eat at half price (check out their school holiday special), and get to choose their favourites from the international offerings, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus there’s deal sealers: unlimited soft drinks for kids, and activity packs to keep them busy while the adults finish their meals.

Date night

For an intimate but unstuffy foodie experience, go Manuka Woodfired. There’s more than pizza coming out of that oven, and the concise, bang-on offerings are delivered with love. The bread alone is dreamy, before you even start on the charred lamb. Prefer to dine in a more spacious room? At Char Char, perched on Fishing Boat Harbour, attentive service meets a most likeable menu. Spanning the most elegant terrain from seafood to steak, the menu gets why you’re here. The twinkly, watery setting isn’t all that’s memorable, but it doesn’t hurt. Take a window if you can.

Mixed group

There’s a lot of palates to please, and the options rise to meet you at The Mantle, where several establishments reside. Decide between burgers, pizza or the more sophisticated share plates at Don Tapa; perhaps make that decision over a cocktail first at Alter Ego. Stampede Gelato is on hand for afters. Benny’s really has everyone covered. It’s a restaurant and bar (with cocktail specialties) and caters to all the proclivities, from classy share plates to seafood, burgers and steak. In for a late night? Try here.


The indoor–cum–alfresco flow at Gino’s helps to make solo diners feel at ease, surrounded by other tables and the diverting energy of the Cappuccino strip. Hoe into a bowl of pasta and take it all in. At the Capri, it feels a bit like being in a family dining room, so if you’re flying solo you can feel right at home with the unpretentious old school décor and affordable, comforting Italian fare. Take a seat in the bay window and let Nonna prepare the food.

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Hidden Treasures

If it’s Thursday night and it’s July, you might feel a strong pull towards one of Freo’s quirky West End venues.

It could be the joyful vibe coming out of the Navy Club, say, or some pop brilliance spilling from the Buffalo Club or the National Hotel. Maybe there’s a catchy acoustic tune trailing from a tram headed for the lighthouse, carrying a happy mix of Millennials, hipsters and old rockers.

Curious? That’ll be Hidden Treasures, the festival that’s been warming up winter in Freo for eight years running.

The whole of the West End comes alive with people walking between off-beat venues on a single $20 ticket, listening to everything from hot new local bands to established national treasures.”

Hidden Treasures Winter Music Series is like no other music event,” says curator Bruna Chiovitti. “It has a special feel to it. The whole of the West End comes alive with people walking between off-beat venues on a single $20 ticket, listening to everything from hot new local bands to established national treasures.”

One highlight of this year’s festival is Abbe May, who will headline an evening dedicated to the launch of a new book, Freo Groove. Written by local writers and musos Bill Lawrie and Claire Moody, it features a raft of much loved Fremantle musicians who have prevailed through many decades. Jim Fisher, Lucky Oceans, Dave Johnston – expect to see some familiar faces around the festival. Maybe some world famous ones as well.

Because The Night Belongs to Lovers is another must-see. Musical couples will take to the stage in an ode to love, performing their own songs, favourite love songs, songs that were playing when they met, or songs that remind them of their love. See Jeff and Kirri Strong, Joe Kapiteyn and Rachel Dease, Jill Birt and Alsy McDonald, Lee Sappho and Wayne Green, Daniel and Sarah Durack, and Gemma and Myles Durham. If you’re not feeling the love by the end, maybe check your pulse.

Fans of new local music are spoilt for choice by the lineup. WAMI Award winners Feels are on the bill, along with Nerve Quakes, Downsyde and Leopard Lake. There’s punk stylings from The Bible Bashers, The Debbie Downers, Last Quokka and Axe Girl. Heart stirring stuff comes courtesy of Emlyn Johnson, the Koondarm Choir, the HeebieJeebies and the Norfolk Pines. Terrible Signal released one of the most beautiful albums this year, and their Hidden Treasures performance is much anticipated.

As always at Hidden Treasures, the combination of venue and music creates an undeniable magic.

There’s also a new secret venue in this year’s event. Even long time Freo locals are likely to find this alluring – a rare chance to see inside an old institution. As always at Hidden Treasures, the combination of venue and music creates an undeniable magic.

For the full lineup go to

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Frock on

If there’s a ‘Freo look’ in women’s fashion, Fremantle’s fashion designers didn’t get the memo. They’re busy producing everything from edgy street wear to non–crush travel dresses to hand-stitched tunics to floor length gowns. Whatever your wardrobe requirements–special occasion or special treat–Fremantle probably has a fit for you.

Contemporary labels like Megan Salmon and Morrison enjoy widespread popularity, but their flagship stores remain in Fremantle where they began.

At Megan Salmon, find form flattering dresses, tops and skirts with an artistic edge. You’re unlikely to have a twinsies moment wearing something from this store; the prints are distinctive, and the designer prides herself on her solid understanding of what works for women.

For stylish urbanites, Morrison has gear for dressing both down and up. Interesting silhouettes, wearable designs and quality natural fabrics are at the core of the range; a great fit for women who want to feel well put together and up to the minute, whatever they’re doing.

Lovers of natural fabrics and easy to wear styles flock to Pekho on Wray Avenue. Linen dresses, pants, skirts and tunics are all locally made in small runs, and designed to work together in a trans–seasonal way. Designs favour real body shapes, too, bypassing the frowsy with relaxed shapes and flattering necklines. A great collection of jewellery and scarves helps complete the look.

Across the road at Madam Bukeshla, there’s a timeless appeal to the defiantly non–mass produced clothing. Designer Trish Bygott’s artistic streak is in full evidence from the wonderful window displays to the clothes. She uses hand–stitching to create the arty details on her dresses, skirts and tunics, which are made from earthy linens in a natural colour palette.

It’s a similarly artistic vibe at Anjel Ms in High Street. In true collaborative fashion, a group of local designers and visual artists have joined forces with textile producers in Bali, Nepal and India to produce clothing using traditional dying and weaving methods. That’s the Anjel Ms Project–ethically produced fashion that’s pimped with contemporary flair – and this store showcases the vibrant, textured results.

The light-filled studio–style shop at Velvet Sushi adds gravitas to the luxurious drape and womanly shapes featured in the clothes. Flattering, feminine lines are the feature here. While special occasion gear does feature, this label is also about classic, timeless basics in stretch fabrics that pass the crush test and fit women’s shapes. Stylish travellers need look no further for black and neutral coloured dresses, tunics and pants that look great even when they’re pulled straight from a suitcase.

If it’s a serious frock–up you’re embarking on, make a stop at Natalie Rolt in North Fremantle. It’s glamour overload here, where floor-grazing gowns and flowy jumpsuits share space with slinky cocktail frocks and form–fitting two-piece garments. The local designer makes to order, and also has a collection of formal gowns for hire. The luxurious space is a long way from the Fremantle Markets where the designer sold her first collections and grew her following. You can even get your tan, hair and makeup on site.

At Haute on High, the feel is equally top end, though the price tags aren’t as hefty as you might think on first glance. From cocktail to black tie and mother of the bride, there are ready to wear outfits from around the world, plus an in-house label that stretches to bling and clutch bags. There’s plenty of opulence here; think sparkling bodices and flattering drapes. But it’s also accessible. Part of what draws shoppers from far afield is the honest sales staff lending their designers’ eye to fitting you out to perfection.

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Where to pick up

You might not think you’ve come to Freo for supplies, but don’t be surprised if you come away with a stash. A tub of chilli olives, perhaps. Some sourdough. A wheel of cheese. Some biltong. Maybe a kilo of marinated camel.

If you want an insight into the soul of the city, ‘grocery sightseeing’ is a great starting point.

Many Freo locals adopt the ‘little and often’ mode of shopping, and there’s plenty of niche gourmet establishments that make that possible. Places where longstanding owners know their customers’ names along with their facts about spelt flour. Shops whose giddy aromas of spice, bread, salami or white mulberries announce themselves 20 paces down the footpath. Outfits whose branded calico tote bags are as collectable as the produce for which they are locally famous. Places with heart. 

If you want an insight into the soul of the city, ‘grocery sightseeing’ is a great starting point.

Try walking into Abhi’s Bakery and out again without succumbing to a fruit loaf for the morning’s brekkie, for instance. Or maybe you’ll opt for a giant loaf of sourdough from Wild Bakery, with a couple of takeaway bienenstich slices for the road.

At Kakulas Sister, and its neighbouring Little Sister, harness your willpower if cheese and / or Turkish Delight are a weakness. This is the spot to collect a nifty box of biscuits, some seeds, olive oil, coffee, chocolate, dolmades and endless caches of the European deli-style stuff you don’t necessarily see in the supermarket aisles.

Beyond the gifts and trinkets of the Fremantle Markets is The Yard, where multiple stalls offer a catch-all for produce. There’s butchers, bakers, peddlers of wholefood, cheese sellers; you can even get biltong and cupcakes, and herbal tea. Not to mention fresh fruit and veggies direct from the market gardens. If you’re there near close of business on Sunday, expect bargains as the sellers out-shout each other for your attention.

Get the weird mushrooms, the hard-to-find fresh herb and the dinky okra here – it’s all in gleaming good shape.

The cacophony of signage outside Frank’s Gourmet Meats declares the breadth of what’s on offer at this Fremantle institution on Wray Avenue. You can get your scallopini and your chicken kebabs, sure. But if meat–flavoured adventuring is your thing–emu, camel, goat, duck, crocodile anyone? Frank probably has it. The sausages are legendary.

Get the add–ons at another longstanding institution, Galati, next door. This family–run grocer has bargains in the fresh fruit and veg department, plus a good range of cheese, cured meats, deli items and plenty of Italian speciality breads, oils and pasta. Their continental rolls are an excellent takeaway lunch option.

At Manna Wholefoods, you can shop for all things earthy and organic. A thriving café serving up the right mix of wholesome and flavoursome lunch, raw sweets and juices, it’s also a grocer with a distinct bent towards healthy, organic, sustainable fare. Tubs of nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruits are just the start. If you need Himalayan salt, cacao butter, organic milk, essential oils, mesh bags, cruelty-free cosmetics or thoughtful kitchen utensils, this is your stop.

When you’re after top quality fresh produce, or that tricky ingredient that isn’t at the supermarket, Peaches in South Fremantle is the go-to store. Get the weird mushrooms, the hard-to-find fresh herb and the dinky okra here – it’s all in gleaming good shape. There’s also loads of high end confectionary, deli items, smoked fish and free range chicken. Peaches has an entire organic section at the back, and a well-oiled checkout system. You’ll be offered bags or a box, but you might consider an upgrade.

As with any of these specialty outlets, a calico tote adorned with the shop’s logo could become a treasured Freo memento.

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Say hello to Freo’s hidden cafés

Sometimes it’s the hustle and bustle of the Cappuccino Strip that lures me in and gives me my fix, but not today. Today I’m escaping the daily grind.  I’m on the hunt for a little hidden spot to park myself while I perk myself up with a good brew. Want to join me on a discovery to find Freo’s best hidden cafes?

Leake St. Cafeteria

Finding this place is a bit like deciphering a fun treasure map and the bright orange doors, equally bright coffee machine and friendliness from Wade and his team are, quite literally, the pot of gold.  It’s small but the service is big and there’s a massive push for homemade everything.

The courtyard spans the length of the retailers that face the street.  Bonus points here is for the massive communal table that takes pride of place in the space and is the perfect excuse to strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger.  

Access is only available via Kakulas Sister after 9 am or The Archive after 10 am or, if you like your coffee before 9 am, take a wander through the massive gates into the laneway off Leake Street.

Moore & Moore Café

This café, which doubles as a gallery and function centre, has lots of little spots to call yours but out the back is where the magic happens! Take your pick from leather couches under vertical gardens or tables under umbrellas in the huge courtyard. Got the kids in tow? No problem, because there’s a junior courtyard with toys at one end and a nature play area at the other. Let them play, climb, forage and swing while you relax in this hidden enclave with some rustic, fresh food... and coffee!

Two Rubens Espresso

You wouldn’t know it from the street, but stepping inside this Essex Street gem lets you discover a delightful and colourful courtyard–complete with vines, a water feature, a water mister and a blackboard area for the kids! Owner Fiona has a range of brand new milkshakes and all-day brekkie as your reward for venturing inside. While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for the newest and cheekiest of residents:  Bonnie and Clyde, two rainbow lorikeets who don’t really like coffee but love to steal a grape or two off the vines that provide the shade above.

Juicy Beetroot

If you’ve spent the morning op-shopping or exploring Freo’s East End and fancy some time out, duck down the little laneway that leads to this hideaway. It’s a vegan and vegetarian lovers dream and the food is as spiritual as it is tasty. The laneway opens up into a courtyard and cafe and wherever you sit the vibe is super chilled.   

Courtyard at Ohana Acai Bar

Want a surprise? Want to impress your mates? Want to lay in a hammock while you eat (yes you read that correctly!)? Enter through the shopfront and order on the way but keep walking out the back because–BAM!–a huge, perfectly rustic and shaded courtyard awaits. Choose from high and low tables or the huge hammock and our favourite: games! We spent some time playing miniature ten pin bowling and we sipped our brews. How cool is that! So Freo!

Canvas at Fremantle Arts Centre

This one is already a little hidden gem being located more at the entry into Fremantle, rather than in the heart. But did you know that beyond the massive green open spaces in the grounds is this cute little cafe? Totally private and surrounded by blossoming bougainvillea, you’ll feel like you’re in the South of France rather than the South parts of Perth while enjoying a seasonal menu and a sweet beverage.

By Jo Newman (@sayhellojo)

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A food trail with gusto

Two words: ‘Fremantle’ and ‘food’. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Italian, right? Ever since Italian migrants first spearheaded its fishing industry in the 1880s, Fremantle has been cosying up to the idea of pizza and pasta, garlic prawns and chilli mussels. The main foodie strip is colloquially named after a certain froth-topped Italian coffee. Gelato shops abound.

But there’s Italian and there’s Italian, and when in Freo you want to know you’re getting the real deal.

The new Gusto Italiano Trail identifies some of the city’s most authentic Italian eateries–from relative newcomers to decades–old family run establishments. It lists eight must–do restaurants within strolling distance of each other. Consider a grazing event with a course at several stops. There’s no rush to get from antipasti to primi to secondi–and one must always leave room for dolce.

1. It’s tucked away, but do seek out Parlapa, an unassuming family run café whose gnocci and slow–cooked ragu is legendary among regulars. It’s not open nights, so consider it for lunch on a day trip. Bring an appetite.

2. Roma Cucina is among the longest standing of Freo’s Italian eateries. A stalwart of the West End since the 1950s, the former Roma Restaurant is still run by members of the same family. Simple, rustic Italian is on the menu.

there’s Italian and there’s Italian, and when in Freo you want to know you’re getting the real deal.

3. At Pizza Bella Roma, Mario has been a pizza chef for more than 25 years. That speaks volumes about the consistency at this Cappuccino Strip favourite. Its big menu promises flavoursome, generous servings of every offering imaginable. Pizza is just the beginning.

4. Craving an authentic wood-fired pizza? Sandrino Café and Pizzeria does thin crusted, gooey topped, hand-stretched creations made by proud pizzaiolos. Handmade pasta and other Mediterranean offerings are also on offer.

5. La Sosta has the hat trick: a grand two-level venue with a deep deck overlooking the strip, an impressive wine and cocktail list, and an open plan kitchen producing rave worthy pasta, seafood and meat dishes, plus house made bread. This local favourite gets the big tick from the Italian Council for Italian quality and authenticity, in the form of the Ospitalita Italiana award.

6. Making the best of its Market Street Piazza location, Portorosa spills out into an alfresco area with giant market umbrellas–great for people watching. Wood fired pizza and big serves of whatever Italian fare takes your fancy are all here.

7. Some cafes fall foul of fickle public favour. Not Gino’s. Tailor Gino Saccone started the café in 1983 when he couldn’t find a decent cup of joe in town. Gino’s still holds court on the strip as the go–to coffee haunt to be seen at, run by three generations of the same family. Home style Italian cooking completes the offering.

8. Harking back to simpler times? There’s a strong hint of the 1950s at Capri Restaurant, a visit to which is as much about the charming décor as the genuine Northern Italian food. This long standing establishment is great value, unpretentious and family friendly.

Off the trail
These establishments are south of Freo’s centre, but worthy of inclusion for being stand–out, real–deal Italian nosheries.

Ruocco’s Pizzeria e Ristorante
Always heaving with people, Ruocco’s was the first to do wood fired pizza in WA. Its exhaustive Mediterranean menu shows it hasn’t rested on its laurels. 

One for the true Italy-philes. Not just for the food; the décor and bric a brac here is steeped in cultural references. The coffee is excellent.

Dolce & Salato
Cloistered near a shopping centre, there’s a fresh daily supply of pizza, focaccia and pastries issuing forth from this South Fremantle gem.

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