Our family did the Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour recently, this post is all 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 definitely worth a visit. 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 in use from 1851 until 1991 and now serves as a tourist attraction.
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Where is Fremantle Prison?
Fremantle is a suburb in Perth, Western Australia.
How to get to Fremantle Prison
Apart from 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.
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, consisted 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 here. 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 patients’ 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 magistrates building which was constructed in 1855. It wasn’t until 1886 that the resident magistrate, who was responsible of 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 at March 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 10 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.
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 in the front gate in 1856. The deputy superintendent lived on the top floor while the lower floor was used by the gate keeper and chief warder. Later in the 1900s, rooms were used as a visitor entry and search rooms.
Head straight to the gift shop to collect your Fremantle Prison True Crime Tour tickets if you have ordered them online. If you have time before your tour starts, you can visit the Gallery, Convict Depot, and Museum. The gallery features several paintings by prisoners throughout Western Australia which are available to buy. There were some amazing artworks by indigenous Australians that really 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 provide a brief explanation about the tour and some rules to keep everyone safe and to 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 in my opinion.
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 very interesting to hear what they got up to and how some even managed to escape 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 to be 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 block during the Fremantle Prison True Crime tour.
Once the tour finishes, you are free to explore the Gatehouse area and read more about this historic convict prison.
The True Crime Tour at Fremantle Prison is definitely one the best tours to take 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.
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