The History-lover’s Guide to Perth, Fremantle and Surrounds
Western Australia’s history is rich and complex. Whether your interest lies in indigenous history, maritime history, colonial history, wartime history or more, Perth and its surrounds are full of amazing experiences just waiting for you to explore. Take a look…
Experience History in Perth
Delve into the architectural history of Perth and you’ll find extraordinary things. Here are three historical buildings you definitely should check out.
The Perth Town Hall
In 1868 more than 10, 000 convicts were brought from Britain to Perth in order to build some of the burgeoning town’s essential buildings, including this remarkable Town Hall. The building and its clock tower are still standing tall, and now that the award-winning restoration is complete the Victorian Gothic façade is looking better than ever. The Town Hall building is open for public visits from Monday through to Saturday.
Standing proud on St Georges’ Terrace, this heritage-listed building showcases four turret-like towers with red brick and stonework detailing. Built in 1868, Government House is still the official residence of the Governor. It is
also open the public on special Open Days, so you can get a sense of history close up. Events are held here too so check local guides for details on performances like ‘music on the terrace’ – a lovely way to experience the building and its grounds.
The Bell Tower
This is a meeting of the old and the new. The building itself was built in 1988 to mark Australia’s bicentenary and is striking in its modern design. But inside, the tower holds twelve bells from London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields Church.
The bells, which were cast in 1725, now ring out – together with six Australian bells – each Monday and Thursday from 12noon – 1pm. For most weekdays you can book in for a Bell Tower Chiming Experience, which is a remarkable
opportunity to ring the bells yourself.
If you want to explore further, check out the north Perth local website for details of the self-guided North Perth Walking Tour. The tour showcases 16 sites covering the time period of the early 1900s through to the 1950s and is a great way to experience more of Perth’s vibrant history.
Fremantle – the Ultimate Historical Port Town
Just twenty minutes from the heart of Perth, Fremantle’s historical tourist attractions offer remarkable interactive experiences and amazing ways to connect with times gone by. For example…
The Fremantle Prison was built by convicts in 1859. Local limestone was mined and painstakingly carried up to the site where it was made into the striking building you see today. The excellent range of tours available here
give you the chance to experience what life would have been like for prisoners in the 1800s. Explore the incredible tunnels underneath the building or, if you’re feeling really brave, take the Torchlight Tour and explore the prison in
the evening. When planning your trip, make sure you allow at least half a day to explore the Fremantle Prison – you won’t be sorry.
WA Shipwreck Museum
The WA Shipwreck museum has some of the most fascinating – and most macabre – historical artifacts you’ll ever see. View the meticulously restored hull of the Batavia, a Dutch voyager ship that wrecked in 1629 off the
treacherous West Australian coast. Learn the fascinating stories behind some of the ill-fated sea journeys and view artifacts including maps, cannons, pottery, combs and lace recovered from the numerous Dutch wrecks.
The Roundhouse is the oldest public building in the whole of Western Australia. Built by convicts in 1831, its dodecagonal (twelve-sided) shape makes it remarkable both for its historical significance and for its design.
Originally built as a prison, it has had multiple uses since including as a base for the Western Australian water police. Now, the building is open for visits and each day there is a 1pm daily cannon fire ceremony, so it’s worthwhile timing your visit to coincide with this.
More to explore…
Indigenous History in Perth
Indigenous Australian’s are widely understood to be the oldest known living culture on earth. The Noongar people, who are the traditional owners of the lands around Perth, have lived there for more than 35 000 years. You can
learn about the Noongar people and their fascinating way of life through the Nyungar Tours Kings Park Yorgas Walk. The tour is led by a Nyoongar woman (a ‘yorga’) who will share traditional stories and wisdom including
knowledge of bush foods, natural medicines, ancient traditions and more. If you’re after something more self-paced, then the Karla Yarning self-guided tour is a great option. (Maps for the ‘Stories of the Home Fires’ walking tour are available at the City of Perth offices.) Whatever you do, don’t miss the ‘Dreaming in the Quay’ night tour at Elizabeth Quay, where your guide will share Dreamtime stories and reveal the importance of the Swan River across history.
WA Wartime History
Any history buff should consider a trip to the National ANZAC Centre in Albany. While it is a four-hour drive from Perth, the state-of-the-art interactive displays at the National ANZAC Centre offer a unique and deeply personal connection to Australia’s wartime history. In 1914, nearly 40, 000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers set sail from Albany to take part in WWI. Follow the experiences of those soldiers, from first recruitment through to arriving at
destinations like Gallipoli, for a truly unique, moving and informative experience.
New Norcia Monastic Town
For a change of pace, consider a visit to Australia’s only monastic town, described as an historical treasure. New Norcia is a significant drive from Perth, but accommodation and local dining options here make this a great overnight trip too. Take a guided tour of the town, experience a 1500-year-old tradition of prayer, or meet with a monk and hear their stories. Visit Mission Cottage for a dose of local history and sample some of the extraordinary
products (including breads, wines, port and olive oil) that are created at the monastery today.
Planning your trip
Book your accommodation at Be. Fremantle and you’ll find yourself in the heart of a charming historical seaside town, all the while being just twenty minutes from Perth. To make the most of your time in Western Australia, chat to our knowledgeable staff about our special Experience Fremantle packages.