Who Knew We Would Grow to Love Fremantle?

Day 50, Grand World Voyage

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023; Fremantle, Western Australia

My last memories of Fremantle were of our abrupt end to the 2020 Grand World Voyage as the cloud of coronavirus descended upon us in late March. We never planned to visit here, but there we were rushed off the ship, warned by the Australian Border Force to go directly to the airport (“do not pass go, do not collect $200”). No one knew what our immediate future held.

Yesterday we arrived in Fremantle to the same passenger terminal, but this time encouraged to go wherever we wanted in this small urban setting in Western Australia. And we discovered this port city could hold our attention for many days. It joins our list of destinations for future land trips.

My sisters and I each went our own way on Tuesday. Elaine went on a wine-tasting excursion that also included a tour of Fremantle. Eloise ferried over to Rottnest Island, home of the quokka, “the cutest things ever,” she said. They actually are small marsupials.

I recall that while planning months ago I decided I really wanted to go into Perth, about 15 miles from Fremantle. I booked a tour that would give me a couple of hours in the heart of the city. Now I really can’t remember what drew me to the city. But I enjoyed the day anyway.

We toured by bus the narrow streets of Fremantle, the long stretch of beach north of town (with its shark protection net) and then inland to Perth.

An hour was just about the right amount of time to wander around King’s Park and its botanical garden featuring plants and trees of various parts of Western Australia, the state that encompasses a third of the continent.

After stopping for lunch and shopping in downtown Perth, we boarded the Captain Cook ferry for the ride from Perth down the Swan River back to Fremantle. We passed mansions and boats on buoys, following the bends of the river until we arrived back near the Zuiderdam.

We are 14 hours ahead of Central time in the United States, so we started celebrating Mardi Gras early last night. We wore our beads and purple, green and gold fascinators to dinner. The ship celebrated with a big Mardi Gras party in the Rolling Stone Lounge.

This morning my sisters and I walked the short distance to the Western Australia Maritime Museum. Whether it be Hong Kong, Auckland, Kyoto or Sydney, I’ve found these great institutions give a wonderful view of a port city’s history, immigration, maritime development and even the sport of sailing.

Australia proudly puts its sailing bonafides front and center, as the museum celebrates its 1983 victory in claiming the America’s Cup yachting trophy from the United States, which had held it for 132 years. Australia II, the yacht with its innovative winged keel, rests in a place of honor facing out to the sea. Four years later the race was held just off Fremantle and put the city on the map, at least for the sailing world.

The museum also details the original people who lived here at the mouth of what is now called the Swan River, the arrival of Europeans, development of the local fishing industry and the role Fremantle played as a major naval base in World War II.

We walked through the Notre Dame university section with its fun shops and many pubs, to have lunch of tapas at Sailing for Oranges. Friends commented that they could live here a month and not run out of restaurant choices, and I have to agree.

After a boisterous sail-away, we headed out into the Indian Ocean. At dinner, we celebrated Eloise’s birthday with friends, wine and a great chocolate cake.

We have seven days at sea before arriving at Port Louis, Mauritius, an island off Africa. It is all new territory for me – how exciting!