For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we discovered one of our smallest suburbs is walkable and adorable.
If I was to tell you that you could walk or drive down the main drag of this suburb and stop and chat to adults lying on the verge in hammocks and other variations of swing chairs, what suburb comes to mind?
Our next hidden treasure was once famous for its biscuits and its bulldogs but these days there’s a few other reasons to make your way to a suburb worth wandering about and taking it easy. Maybe take a hammock.
This is a suburb that I used to visit every Sunday to listen to the Jam Tarts back in the day at the Seaview Hotel. Rockabilly pop was so cool and the Jam Tarts were the coolest.
Exploring South Fremantle reminded me of those days because I have a daughter who is soon to be a world famous musician and I like sending her photos of things that would make great album covers and that’s another reason to enjoy a gentle suburban exploration of South Fremantle because it is full of album cover worthy scenery.
South Fremantle by coincidence more than design has the layout of a fish skeleton. There is a big backbone that has most of the weight and then the ribs coming off the backbone are smaller and lighter and filled with cottages with more geraniums than my nana’s concrete swans. For South Fremantle the backbone is South Terrace which begins further north in Fremantle and then flows through the heart of South Fremantle.
Park your car somewhere along South Terrace and start looking around. A bit like how the green cactus in Forrest Place is a meeting point in the CBD, the zebra mural is a good meeting point for South Fremantle locals or visitors to the area.
The two zebras face each other with all the colours of a kaleidoscope and written above them is ‘Ootong and Lincoln’ which may be the names of the two zebra but also happens to be the name of the premises the mural is painted on and inside you’ll find everything to fill your retro heart; colourful 1980’s phones stuck on the wall, old trikes and my nana’s dining table and chairs; glorious Laminex in pale greens, blues and pinks and plenty of space to sit with your kids or a Zoom meeting on your laptop.
That’s what South Fremantle is all about, people who get out of their houses and meet up on South Terrace.
Outside Ootong and Lincoln, take a jump to the left or jump to right, avoiding fellas reclining in hammocks and swing chairs, and you’ll find small boutiques with racks of vintage clothes and that’s another important feature of South Fremantle, lots of small shops. Small shops doing big things for locals and visitors.
It used to be the opposite. South Fremantle used to be about being a big employer with big factories, including the Mills and Ware Biscuit Factory – home of the little suitcase full of biscuits that you’d buy at your local show.
Mills and Ware was the biggest supplier of biscuits in Western Australia and the South Fremantle factory, barely off South Terrace, opened in 1899 and closed in 1992.
The biscuit factory are now apartments but there’s a park and there’s enough of the original factory structure to make it a pilgrimage for those that remember their favourite biscuit. Biscuit. Not cookie.
To please the pilgrims there are large sculptures of biscuits in the park and you can try and remember the names of your favourite biscuit. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a representation of a gingernut biscuit. The king of biscuits.
Back on South Terrace there are fresh seafood shops and seafood cafes with fresh prawn tacos that remind us of the fishing boat harbour not more than a fishing rods cast away. These days the fishing boat fleet is smaller but any walk around boats and jetties is always interesting and watching hulls being scraped and masts being rigged in the shipyards is a day out any day of the week.
My next stop is probably the number one reason to come to South Fremantle, particularly as the sun starts to warm us all up.
The South Beach Recreation Reserve is the end of the line for the suburb and throws all of its eggs into a basket of summer fun for everyone. It starts with a dog beach and playground at the northern end of this little precinct and then opens up into sprawling lawns with lots of shade and a perfect beach for all ages, looking out to Wadjemup, Carnac and Garden Islands.
There’s a café that your kids can walk into barefeet for a drumstick and in summer there are night time markets on Saturday nights that are described as being community based for young and old and lovers and friends and when you walk through South Fremantle, everyone won’t be a lover but everyone will be your friend.
South Fremantle is a hidden treasure because it’s completely walkable in thongs, down streets with sleepy men in hammocks to retro cafes and vintage shops with laughing barefoot kids.
There are nostalgic memories of old biscuits, old phones and old bands playing in old pubs and swimming and markets on balmy summer nights.
The only thing it doesn’t have is a 2021 Premiership WAFL team, but there’s always next year.