A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Western Australia’s oldest buildings, Fremantle Prison is an important reminder of Australia’s convict history. Built in the 1850s by the very convicts who inhabited its cells, the prison was notorious for its deplorable conditions and brutal capital punishment.
Visitors of Fremantle Prison can choose from five tour options, such as guided tours that take them on a walk through the prison buildings, including the main cell block, exercise yards, and the gallows. For the adventurous, it’s even possible to explore its underground tunnel network or take an eerie evening tour by torchlight. You can also prepurchase a downloadable self-guided audio tour.
Many travelers opt to visit as part of a half- or full-day tour from Perth, often in combination with other Fremantle attractions, such as the fishing harbor, Fremantle Markets, and Maritime Museum, home to the America's Cup-winning yacht, Australia II.
Things to Know Before You Go
- General admission to the prison’s Visitor Centre and exhibition area is free, but the prison itself can only be visited as part of a guided tour.
- On-site facilities include paid parking, restrooms, a gift shop, and a café.
- Wear comfortable shoes—prison tours require a lot of walking and the ground is uneven in some places.
- Fremantle Prison is wheelchair accessible, but certain tours and areas (for example, the underground tunnels) are not suitable for those with limited mobility.
How to Get to There
Fremantle lies 12 miles (19 kilometers) southwest of central Perth, at the mouth of the Swan River. Trains run from Perth to Fremantle every 10 minutes, and it’s an around 30-minute journey by bus or car (ample parking is available on-site). For the most scenic route, take the ferry from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty to the Fremantle port, from where it’s a short walk or taxi ride to the prison.
When to Get There
Fremantle Prison is open daily, and tours run regularly. Evening tours operate Wednesdays and Fridays only. To combine a visit with the famous Fremantle Markets—just a 5-minute walk from the prison—visit on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
History of Fremantle Prison
Officially opened in 1855, Fremantle Prison held convicts and criminals for nearly 140 years, remaining in use until 1991. Between 1850 and 1868, it held nearly 10,000 convicts, many of whom were brutally treated. Flogging was legal in the prison until the 1940s. Fremantle was also the only prison in Western Australia with legal capital punishment; 43 men and one woman lost their lives to the gallows.