It’s only 19km (12 miles) down the river from Perth to the capital’s Indian Ocean port, Fremantle — an enjoyable outing on one of the cruise boats that ply the Swan River. The river tours begin in the centre of Perth. at the Barrack Street Jetty. On the south side of the Narrows Bridge. note the Old Mill, built in 1835. an imposing white windmill in the Dutch style from the first half of the 19th century. Perfectly restored, it’s open for visits I Oam–4pm. Beyond this. on the opposite shore, spreads what looks like another transplant from Europe
. The campus of the University of Western Australia was constructed and landscaped in a Mediterranean style. from the shrubs right up to the orange-tiled roofs. Matilda Bay harbours only a relative handful of the swamis of sailing boats that call the Swan River home. During World War II this was a base for Catalina flying boats. The bay is now the site of the Royal Perth Yacht Club.
The coastline of the Dalkeith district, near Point Resolution, is called Millionaires’ Row. The view of these fine mansions from the perspective of the river might evoke a dash of envy: even millionaires from out of town could be-come jealous at the sheer opulence of these homes. Freshwater Bay was named by the crew of IIMS Beagle, the survey ship made famous as the vehicle for Charles Darwin’s researches into natural selection.
Beyond this bay, and a zigzag, the river tapers to a fairly narrow-gauge artery spanned by two bridges. Long-suffering convict labour built the first bridge at this site in 1866. It proved a boon to one of its creators, a celebrated outlaw named Moondyne Joe, an escape artist. The night before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, he broke out of Fremantle Prison and gave himself the hon-our of becoming the first, if unofficial, pedestrian to cross the bridge over the Swan River. He made a clean getaway.
Matilda Bay is the home of the Royal Perth Yacht Club
Although it’s a serious international port, you’ll remember the city of Fremantle for its casual charms. A Mediterranean-style sunniness combines with a Victorian quaintness to give Fremantle its special character. The town may be cosmopolitan, but it is also as down-to-earth as its classic examples of convict architecture. For many years Fremantle — ‘Freo’ to the Aussics — lay becalmed, a long way from the big time of tourism.
Then came the America’s Cup saga and a sudden saturation of world attention. New-found pride inspired the townsfolk in their sparkling campaign to restore the old terraced houses and other relics in time for the 198647 defence of the Cup. At the same time, the marina facilities were also vastly expanded and improved.
Whether you think of Fremantle as a yachting base or a workaday port, you’ll want to see the sights of the harhour. There is a mixture of dream yachts, trawlers, ocean liners and cargo ships of every stripe. Fremantle’s highest point is Monument Hill in War Memorial Park. There are three memorials altogether. including one for the US personnel based in Fremantle who died in World War II. Another, an original periscope, commemorates the British and Allied submarine crews who perished in the same conflict.
This is the place to watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean. Back near the waterfront, and wasting an enviable view, the 12-sided Round House (open: daily 10.30am-3.30pm) looks like the forbidding. windowless prison it used to be. Actually it’s much more cheerful from the inside, with its sunny courtyard. Constructed in 183I, the Round House specialised in the lesser criminals, although it was the site of the state’s first hanging: generally, incorrigibles were shipped off to the rigours of Tasmania.