Monday, May 16, 2011

Fremantle Prison, Perth's first World Heritage site and a scary place to hang out

Front of Fremantle Prison
  I recently saw some advertising saying Fremantle Prison was the only World Heritage site in Perth. I'd never really thought about it, but it kind of surprised me - although on reflection, perhaps there are not too many other super-meaningful, earth-shatteringly important spots here. And Fremantle Prison is definitely one of my favourite Perth tourist attractions, and a place I've been lucky enough to visit quite a few times, especially when I was teaching English as a second language - it was a common excursion destination (the people in the photo above were some of my students).

Some might think a prison is not necessarily an interesting place to visit, but Fremantle Prison (or Fremantle Gaol - we love the odd spelling of jail as "gaol" here!) is well worth a stop for several reasons. First up, the building itself is pretty impressive (by Perth standards anyway), and it was built by convicts way back in the 1850s. Second, the fact that it was used as a prison right through until 1991 - I spent much of my childhood driving past it on the way to our beach shack, when it was in full operation - is pretty scary when you see the conditions the prisoners were living in. And third, there are some particularly cool tours to do - I've done the Torchlight Tour (kind of like a ghost tour) on a Friday evening, and it certainly made us jump and shriek - and there's also climbing and boating to be done underneath the prison in tunnels, originally dug as part of the water system.

Artwork in exercise yard, Fremantle Gaol
There are also a few unique things to see along the way, like some of the artwork they allowed prisoners to do once they knew the prison was closing. They also have a series of cells set up to represent typical cell arrangements from various eras, and I always like visiting the prison chapel - apparently people still come back to get married there!

Oh, and just to be perfectly factual, Fremantle Prison isn't World Heritage listed on its own - it's part of a group of 11 convict sites which together have landed on the list. I didn't know that was possible - but now I do!

I've been to visit a few prisons around the world and I have to admit to some kind of fascination with them. Are you the same, dear reader, or it just me that's odd? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I love Freo Prison, agree it's up there as Perth's best tourist spot. Other then our natural attractions (king's park, beaches), I can't actually think of anything else!).
    I'm going to have to do the tunnel tour sometimes soon!

  2. Yes, the tunnel tour is on my wishlist too. I've heard lots of good reports about it. Might be a bit claustrophobia-inducing though ...


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