Explore The Museums Of Fremantle

Come away with the ability to tell Pieces-of-Eight from Dutch Guilders, learn local Noongar fishing methods, and a horror wreck story.

The distinctive architecture of the Maritime Museum in Fremantle near Perth, Western Australia, recalls the local boat building heritage.

No trip to Fremantle (or Perth), Australia, is complete without a trip to the WA Shipwrecks Museum or to the WA Maritime Museum. You’ll come away with the ability to tell Pieces-of-Eight from Dutch Guilders, how the local Noongar people fished using tidal installations, and a little history about the surfing culture in Western Australia.

Shipwreck and treasure hunters needn’t have the diving experience or a metal detector when in Fremantle, a short journey from Perth. The WA Shipwrecks Museum is a treasure trove of the richest Dutch India Company vessels that came to a bad end on the rocky, dry coast.

Close by this fascinating museum is the WA Maritime Museum which showcases and informs on all other aspects of maritime history—mostly local, but some international, too. Equally intriguing are the little bits of local history that seem plain unbelievable in this day and age—like banned surfers!

Getting To Fremantle’s Museums From Perth

Traveling to Fremantle from Perth is easy. Take the Transperth buses or the very scenic train ride from Perth Central Station. An alternative but more expensive option for a hot morning is a sightseeing ferry from Perth to Fremantle. Most journeys take between 30 minutes to an hour and a half. From the Fremantle train station or bus terminal, follow the path along the railway line, and cross over the rail tracks at the pedestrian and cyclist crossing. Walk over to the B-Sheds by the harbor for the Maritime Museum, or follow the curve of the road to reach the Shipwrecks Museum. A faster, more comfortable way in hot weather is to take the free CAT bus to the B-Sheds or to the next stop.

Plan a day trip, or spend a night or two in the quirky Victorian harbor town for a taste of this very unusual Indian Ocean city and to fit in both museums.

WA Shipwrecks Museum exterior Fremantle
via Leena Naidoo

The Victorian stone heritage buildings in Fremantle house the WA Shipwrecks museum featuring the wreck of Batavia.

The WA Shipwrecks Museum: A Treasure Trove Of Artifacts

If you’ve ever wondered why the Dutch East India Company (VOC) never settled in Australia, this museum holds all the answers. For those that are just curious, or love a maritime horror story, make your way to the Batavia gallery. This Dutch ship has all the sad and horrific details of mariners’ nightmares: From the mutiny to the wreck and the inhumanity of many of the survivors. Skip these details if you’re short on time (or squeamish) and go directly to the second-floor gallery to gaze in detail at the original remains of the deck of the once majestic ship, now reassembled with meticulous precision. You can view the hull from the first floor, along with stories of the first Dutch explorers of the Western Australian coast.

VOC Dutch East India Banner at WA Shpwrecks Museum
via Leena Naidoo

A banner of the Dutch East India Company or VOC in the VOC gallery at the WA Shipwrecks Museum in Fremantle, near Perth.

Related:10 Majestic Shipwrecks You Have to See in Person

Learn why it’s hard to spot sunken treasure while swimming and why cleaning exhibits for display is a long, tedious process. Then follow the gleam of gold and silver to a heap of bullion and other cargo more valuable than gold. Discover the other major shipwrecks that have yielded these artifacts and why they have been left where they were found.

  • Opening Hours: 9:30 am to 5 p.m except on national holidays
  • Entrance: Free (donation requested)
  • Tours: Free
  • Programs: Vary
  • Exhibits: Free

Join one of the regular orientation tours and ask your burning questions.

This museum has no café facilities, but it does have cloakrooms. Explore the town for quaint and unique cafés instead.

WA Maritime Museum from harbor Fremantle WA at sunset
via Leena Naidoo

The distinctive architecture of the Maritime Museum in Fremantle near Perth, Western Australia, recalls the local boat building heritage.

WA Maritime Museum: Vessels, Legends, And Fishing Techniques

This strange architecturally-interesting maritime museum has airy spaces that pack a punch of information into a relatively small area. You may get turned around, but you wouldn’t get lost. Take the orientation tour (it’s only about 15 minutes), then lose yourself in the details. Ask what visiting and temporary exhibits are on, as they tend to be eclectic and often quite surprising.

Related: The Biggest Maritime Museum in the World (And What You Can See There)

Learn why surfing was banned in Western Australia and what a typical day at the beach looked like in the 1950s. See how the Noongar and coastal tribes used tidal knowledge to fish. Then, discover the many and varied sailing legends of Australia. Marvel at the Aboriginal, Indonesian, and Pacific Islanders’ seaworthy canoes and recycled vessels. Be awestruck at Jon Sanders’s solo circumnavigation of the world–three times in a five-year span, and enjoy the mechanics of the space-age yacht that finally won Australia America’s Cup from Britain.

Outside, a tour of the decommissioned nuclear submarine, the HMS Ovens, gives you an all too real feeling of being submerged in a sardine can. Not for the claustrophobic, but a must for military history enthusiasts.

HMS Ovens Decommissioned Submarine WA Maritime Museum Fremantle
via Leena Naidoo

The HMS Ovens decommissioned nuclear submarine is on display at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle, near Perth.

The Welcome Walls monument located outside the museum entrance is perfect for name-hunters and family history enthusiasts. Listing the names of thousands of immigrants entering the country via the port, this monument is a fascinating look at the many cultures that continue to contribute to present-day Australia.

  • Opening Hours: 9:30 a.m to 5 p.m except on national holidays
  • Entrance: $$
  • Tours: free, except for the HMS Ovens tour
  • Programs: varies
  • Exhibits: most free, special exhibits and program extra fee

Taking in all that the museum has to offer takes a few hours. Take a break and rest your feet at the café with unique views of the harbor, or head over to the market shed for some modern takeaway and local color.

There’s more to Fremantle’s fascinating history apart from the museums. Put on your walking shoes and wander the streets near the harbor for beautiful Victorian architecture and a laid-back Bohemian vibe.

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