Our family recently did the Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour; this post is about our experience and whether we thought it was worth the money.
When it comes to prisons, most people think of Alcatraz. However, Fremantle Prison in Perth, Western Australia, is a prison that is worth visiting. Fremantle Prison is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Perth and is the largest convict-built structure in Western Australia (and the most intact convict building in the Southern Hemisphere). The prison was used from 1851 until 1991 and is now a tourist attraction.
Updated December 2022.
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Where is Fremantle Prison?
Fremantle is a suburb in Perth, Western Australia.
How to get to Fremantle Prison
Besides driving, the easiest way to get to Fremantle from Perth is by train. The journey takes around 30 minutes and will cost approximately A$5 one way. Timetables can be found on Transperth’s site.
There are car hire booths at Perth airport, but it’s best to pre-book your car rental. Choose from Avis, Budget, Europcar, Sixt, Hertz, Enterprise, and Thrifty.
To compare rental car company prices, I use Discover Cars, an award-winning car rental comparison website. They offer competitive pricing in over 10,000 locations worldwide and are have a high rate of customer satisfaction. Another option is Rentalcars.
Drivenow is a good resource to compare campervan hire in Western Australia as it includes all the large companies like Britz, Maui, Jucy as well as smaller ones.
Fremantle Prison History
Originally known as The Convict Establishment, the name changed to Fremantle Prison in 1867. The site was chosen due to the closeness to the city and the harbour. It was believed that the strong sea breeze would help prevent disease.
The prison was built by convict labour between 1852 and 1859, with limestone quarried on site. The site not only included the prison but accommodation for the officers. The buildings alongside Fremantle Prison, now called The Terrace, consists of four houses and the gatehouse. They housed the superintendent, the deputy superintendent, the chaplain, and the surgeon superintendent. The Knowle, the comptroller-general’s house, is now part of Fremantle Hospital. The grandeur of these residences helped perceive the high status of the young men who lived there. They remained staff lodgings until the 1960 s when they were taken over by prison administration and are now used for commercial and educational purposes.
The Surgeon’s residence was built in 1856 and the prison’s surgeon superintendent, George Attfield, moved in the next year. He was responsible for the patient’s health, including the effects of punishment, and looked after the prison hospital and the lunatic asylum on Finnerty Street. You can see this building before you enter Fremantle Prison.
Superintendent Thomas Dixon was the first occupier of the magistrate’s building which was constructed in 1855. It was in 1886 that the resident magistrate, who was responsible for hearing prisoners’ crimes, moved in. Holding cells were built into the cellar in 1903, which held the prisoners overnight until the reception was open the next day.
Between 1850 and 1868, when convict transportation ceased, nearly 10,000 convicts had come here.
Fremantle Prison remained in use until 1991 and was a dark place of hangings, floggings, riots, and escapes.
By 1886, there were fewer than 60 convicts held here, so Perth Gaol closed, and this became the main prison. Men, women, and juveniles were all imprisoned here.
A Royal Commission in 1983 recommended the prison’s closure, mainly due to a series of prisoner riots and diabolical prison conditions.
Fremantle Prison was decommissioned on 8 November 1991.
Women were already being held at Bandyup, but male prisoners were sent to Casuarina Prison. This replaced Fremantle Prison as Western Australia’s main maximum-security prison.
Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour Price
The cost of this tour as of December 2022 is A$22 per adult, A$19 for concessions, A$12 per child, and A$62 for a family pass.
The Family Pass is valid for two adults and up to three children (aged 4 – 15 years).
The Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour is not recommended for children under ten due to details relating to sex crimes.
Bookings are recommended in peak times to ensure the time slot you want is available.
Gift Vouchers are available to purchase directly with Fremantle Prison.
There is no entrance fee to enter the Gatehouse area. This includes access to the gift shop, Convict Café, Gallery, Convict Depot, and Museum.
Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour Times
This tour runs for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
They run daily every hour from 11.45 am to 4.45 pm.
Online or phone ticket purchases are collected from the gift shop. Bookings during the WA school holidays are recommended.
Ensure you arrive with plenty of time to collect them, or you will miss part of the tour.
Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour Review
If you have driven into Fremantle, there is a car park outside the prison, although fees are payable.
Pay attention to the historic buildings along the Terrace with signs explaining what they were used for. As you approach the grand Gatehouse, think about all the prisoners that used this entrance at the start and end of their sentence. The clock above was made in London in 1854 and installed at the front gate in 1856. The deputy superintendent lived on the top floor, while the gatekeeper and chief warder used the lower floor. Later in the 1900s, rooms were used as a visitor entry and search rooms.
Head to the gift shop to collect your Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour tickets if you have ordered them online. You can visit the Gallery, Convict Depot, and Museum if you have time before your tour starts. The gallery features several paintings by prisoners throughout Western Australia, which are available to buy. There were some amazing artworks by indigenous Australians that stood out. The museum houses exhibits showcasing the history, conservation, and cultural significance of Fremantle Prison.
The tour starts through the main prison gates, where your guide will briefly explain the tour and some rules to keep everyone safe and preserve this historical landmark.
Opposite, you will see the Anglican Chapel, part of the main cell block, which was restored in 2007 to remove the rendering used to cover the limestone in the 60s. It is now back to how it looked when it was first constructed, and much nicer.
As you walk around the perimeter of the main cell block, your guide will regale real-life stories of some of the most notorious prisoners that spent time here. It’s interesting to hear what they got up to and how some even escaped the prison.
I won’t go into detail about the stories as it will spoil your tour. However, we learned about Martha Rendell (who was the only woman to be executed here), the Postcard Bandit, Eric Edgar Cooke (the serial killer who was the last man hung here), Sydney Sutton (the last person to be flogged), David & Catherine Birnie (also known as the Moorhouse murderers), and Stephen Burnett and Peter Boyd (The Rubbish Truck Heist). Fascinating stuff!
You will see the exercise yard from above, the maximum-security cells, and the cell block during the Fremantle Prison True Crime tour.
Once the tour finishes, you can explore the Gatehouse area and read more about this historic convict prison.
The True Crime Tour at Fremantle Prison is one of the best tours in Perth.
Accommodation in Fremantle
We haven’t stayed in Fremantle as we live so close. However, a couple of places that have been recommended to me are:
If you’ve read other posts, you will know that I book a lot of accommodation through Booking.com as they are normally the cheapest with a fantastic reputation.
Tours in Fremantle
We use mainly Viator and Get Your Guide for all our tour bookings as they are competitively priced and often offer free cancellation.
If you found this Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour guide helpful, please consider booking through one of our links. It won’t cost you anything, but will help towards the cost of running this site. Thank you.