In Western Australia, Five Things I Demand You Do in Fremantle

Monk Brewery

If the title didn’t make what you’re about to read crystal clear, let me try again: this is a (super-handy!) list of (awesome!) things to do in (lovely!) Fremantle, a port town and suburb of Perth, less than 30 minutes by (efficient!) train from the CBD.

I hate writing these pointless introductions – and you just skim them anyway, right? – so let’s just plunge right in.

Do Brekkie at Ootong & Lincoln. Fremantle’s “Cappuccino Strip” – a catchy name for the most touristy part of town – pulls the most weekend daytrippers and vacationers, but with the exception of a few bars and a brewery (see below) most of the town’s hottest cafes, restaurants, and shops are off the strip. One of my favorites, Ootong & Lincoln, is just down the road in South Fremantle.

It’s an open-air place that’s maybe a touch too spot-on in its contemporary coolness – whimsical tricycle installations, pendant lights with glass jar covers, husky-wispy-indie female singer/songwriter soundtrack, easy-breezy beautiful staff – but it’s comfortable all the same and a fantastic place to kick back and people-watch over some proper Australian eats and coffee.

The place opens early and closes fairly late and is busy all goddamned day, but it’s at its best for brekkie—think smoked salmon beetroot and haloumi with poached eggs and kale, or smashed avocado heaped onto toasted sourdough. The fresh baked goods displayed at the counter are hard to resist, too. Ootong & Lincoln, 258 South Terrace, South Fremantle. +61 8 9335 6109.

Bike the Coast. I didn’t get a chance to go south of Fremantle, but pedaling north is a pleasure. Once you hit Leighton Beach, a gorgeous white-sanded stretch of, um, sand, the paved bike path pretty much runs right along the coast all the way up to Swansbourne Reserve, just past Cottlestoe Beach, one of the busier beaches in this area.

I wanted to keep going past Swansbourne and try to make it all the way to City Beach, but here the coastal route is interrupted by a large restricted area (army barracks?) and without my phone GPS working I wasn’t entirely certain how to navigate around it. I tried, but when I biked into some sort of deserted area with a creepy heritage cottage and signs warning of deadly snakes – the vibe was like that cave on Degobah where Luke meets “Vader” – I decided that was my cue to turn around.

Leighton Beach

Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – the ocean views are just lovely and it’s not an especially challenging pedal, if that sort of thing concerns you. There are a number of places around Fremantle hawking “free,” branded bicycle rentals (Little Creatures brewery is one of them), and those are fine, I guess, for tooling around town like a tool for a few hours. If you’re covering distance, though, head to South Beach Cycles, conveniently located just off South Beach—friendly staff, hiqh quality bikes, and good prices. I think my bike was AUD$25 for 24 hours, and they ended up tacking on an extra half day at no charge. South Beach Cycles, 408 South Terrace, South Fremantle +61 8 9335 4408.

Stock Up at Freo Doctor. Apologies for the double dip, but Fremantle’s premier beer shop is worth a second mention. Located on a quiet residential street between the Tourist Strip Cappuccino Strip and South Fremantle, Freo Doctor should be your first stop if you’re sticking around town for a few days and care to drink proper beers in your hotel, Airbnb, or at the beach.

From pre-poured growlers of imports you won’t find anywhere else in Fremantle – or, in some cases, in the whole of Western Australia – to a fine assortment of Australian craft brews sourced from the entire country, this place has it all. Staff is happy to provide recommendations, and if for some reason all those “craaaaaazy” beers with funny names and weird styles intimidate you, don’t worry, Freo Doctor stocks yellow fizzy piss, too. Freo Doctor, 27 Arundel Street, South Fremantle +61 8 9335 2801.

Feast at Bread in Common. I wasn’t sure how to best eat the beautiful bread hunks, olive oil, and hazelnut dukkah (a dry mixture of nuts, spices, seeds, and other such shit) in front of me, so I swallowed my pride and asked the girl waiting on me for tips. She smiled when I mispronounced dukkah – “Don’t worry, people who live around here don’t know how to say it either” – and batted nary an eyelash when she explained that I should just dip the bread in the oil, then sop up the dukkah; she left out the part about then putting it into my mouth, but that much I had figured out on my own. I’m a big boy now, after all.

Bread in Common

Bread in Common

Despite its crazy-cool ambience – long communal tables, high ceilings, exposed original beams, brick, the requisite pendent lights, you know the drill – Bread in Common is that sort of place. The sort of place where staff doesn’t have organic sticks up their tight asses, and where dudes in backwards hats and ZZ Top beards sit next to white-bread families next to lunching ladies next to men with tucked-in everything next to models. Set within an old converted warehouse that, according to my server, used to house a eucalpytus oil manufacturer, Bread in Common deals in modern Australian foods not all that dissimilar from what you’ll find at Ootong & Lincoln.

A big difference is that, aside from a few sandwiches served from noon to 5pm – I can vouch for the open-faced beetroot-cured salmon with chopped egg, dill, and avocado on house-baked rye – most of the dishes are share plates meant for two or three people: duck-fat roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic, for example, or beef ribeye with spring onions, smoked paprika, and oregano. There are ample vegetarian options, a well-chosen international cheese board, and an excellent wine list heavy on WA varietals, as well.

Staff warned that there’s usually an hour wait or more during the weekend, so plan accordingly. Bread in Common, 43 Pakenham Street, Fremantle, +61 8 9336 1032.

Drink Good Beer at Monk. Like the Cappuccino Strip still lures the weekender crowds, so too does Little Creatures, one of the founding breweries of Australian’s craft beer movement, lead the conversation of Fremantle’s brewing scene. Fair enough – they’ve accomplished loads, their huge space on the water is well worth visiting, and the beers are great, if not particularly exciting – but Monk Craft Brewery Kitchen, smack dab in the middle of that Cappuccino Strip I can’t seem to stop mentioning, is no slouch either.

In fact, The Monk is the only independently owned brewery left in town (Little Creatures is part of the Kirin family, for instance) and the team turned heads at last year’s annual Australia Craft Beer awards by scoring “Champion – Small Brewery” honors – as in it was voted the best small brewery on the whole continent. (I wrote about the previous winner, Modus Operandi Brewing Company, for BeerAdvocate.)

Of course, you’ll be the judge of that: six house brews flow from the brewery taps, including a pale ale, blonde ale, IPA, and Scotch ale. There are seasonals and small-batch/experimental brews, too, like an IPL when I visited; that is, an IPA with lager yeasts subbed for the ale yeasts. I’m seeing more and more IPLs popping up, though I can’t say I’ve yet come across a memorable one. When I was there in January Monk was between brewers, so it’ll be interesting to see how the new guys put their stamp on the place. Monk Craft Brewery Kitchen, 33 South Terrace, Fremantle, +61 8 9336 7666.

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