It is always good when Fremantle receives positive media coverage but I do agree with former Fremantle Herald and now WA Today reporter Brendan Foster that the placing of Freo as one of the top ten tourism destinations in the world is flabbergasting, and so are some of the other top ten choices. Maybe the Looney, err, Lonely Planet judge enjoyed a bit too much of our great WA wine or readily available dope while here.
I love Freo, that’s why I moved here 25 years ago, and my love for this special city has only grown since, but so has my frustration. But is Fremantle a better tourist experience than Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, Amsterdam, Split, Hvar, Paris, the Kimberley, Coral Bay, Hamburg, Vancouver, Leipzig, New York, Venice, Colombo, Bangkok, etc.etc? I think not.
But what Fremantle has to offer is special, our Street Art Festival, Blues&Roots, Festival Parade, Blessing of the Fleet, the Bathers Beach Sunset Food Markets and Growers Green Market, the working port, the Swan River and the Indian Ocean, to name just a few.
There is enough beauty and quirkiness that makes Freo unique. There is a lot of heritage, lifestyle and character underneath the superficial first impression of a tired uncared for city to make it work for me and many thousands of people who visit each year.
We have Bread in Common, Strange Company, Mojos, The Mantle, Little Creatures, Mrs Brown, Bib&Tucker, the Moore&Moore, PS Art Space, the Fremantle Arts Centre, great beaches to watch kite surfers, and we have that sameness comfort of too many Italian cafes. What we don’t have is cobblestones along High Street west and the Cappuccino Strip, although that would definitely slow down traffic and make the streets look a whole lot better than boring bitumen, and we only have one outstanding modern building in the Maritime Museum. And we have outdated and archaic drinking laws where it is illegal to have a romantic sunset glass of wine with your lover on the beach.
The majority of the over 100,000 a year visitors to the Roundhouse tell us guides how special and beautiful Fremantle is and they often compare it with boring Perth, so Freo does well in that comparison, but with all these kind of silly lists of most liveable, most attractive, best tourism cities, etc. it all comes down to personal taste, and that it is impossible to judge what the best tourist destination in the world is. Is wild water rafting in Africa less attractive than swimming with the whales at Coral Bay, is experiencing the silent beauty of the Bungles better than the great historic feel of ancient cities? Who would want to be a judge on that?
What Lonely Planet did is basically the same silliness as those who claim Australia is the best place on earth. There is not such a thing as the best place, or best person, best artist, as it is all very subjective and comes down to personal taste.
I want Fremantle to be attractive to tourists, but I don’t want it to become one of the major tourist destinations in the world because tourism kills local character, as we can witness in Bali and all over the world. Freo is just Freo. Individual, unique, untidy, irreverent, far from perfect, very loveable and extremely annoying. It’s the place where I want to live till I die.