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North Fremantle River & Beach Walk

North Fremantle River & Beach Walk

North Fremantle

Directions - From the centre of Fremantle take Queen Victoria St north and over the traffic bridge. Turn right onto Swan St and enter the Northbank precinct. Turn right onto Burns St and find a park where there is a free spot. The walk starts by the river at the end of Burns St.

The Walk - With my Fremantle Walks page needing a much deserved upgrade, I was keen to get out and re-do the North Fremantle River and Beach Walk given how much I love the area. The start point at Northbank was where I first lived when I moved out of home in my early 20s and looking back I was really spoiled by that. I have extremely fond memories of getting home from work in the summer and riding my bike down to Port Beach for a walk and then watching the sunset while I had a dip in the Indian Ocean. It was an idyllic lifestyle and over my time there I had great fun exploring the surrounding area on foot and discovering all the cool places around here.

With a fantastic re-shoot of the East Fremantle Swan River Walk the previous afternoon, I was up early to take in this walk as I think it is better experienced in the morning. Wanting to get to the cliffs above Rocky Bay for the sunrise, I then realised that the lighting wouldn't be great for the first half of the walk so altered my plans accordingly. If I'm in the mood for a long walk, sometimes I'll add the extra 6km on and walk from my house but with limited time before the UV and heat set in, I decided to drive to the start. Parking at Northbank can be a bit tricky with the medium density arrangement and limited street parking means a free spot might not always be available. If it isn't then there is parking across Queen Victoria St near the Swan Hotel. With a peaceful and sunny morning upon me, I walked down to the river and gazed upon the uniquely Northbank style of building. Designed to feel like a little European village, I really enjoy the layout and density of the area. It feels very different to almost everywhere else in Perth and I wish it was adopted in more places given how sprawled out Perth has become. Heading off towards the Stirling Hwy bridge, follow the path all the way under the bridge, admiring the very One Tree Hill style river court that is located under the concrete behemoth (and where I used to shoot some hoops on the 9ft ring). 

Keep going along the path to where they have done some rehabilitation works on the riverside vegetation including the excavation of a little inlet/channel that I'm not sure is meant to be permanently filled with water but I've never seen it be more than a small puddle. The rehabilitation is great and as you cross over a couple of bridges you can see all the fantastic work they have done to promote a healthier river system. Reaching Gilbert Fraser Reserve, you get a large expanse of grass that is perfect if you want to kick the footy, run laps or let the dog off the lead (provided there is no organised sports going on). It's also the home of a training/competition area for fire brigades and that's what all the tarmac, buildings and metal contraptions are on the river side of the oval. One feature of the reserve is the old grandstand on the northern side that I am happy still survives today. I used to love sitting there when my cricket club had a fixture here and it's just a nice place to sit if you're passing through on a walk. Leaving Gilbert Fraser on the south east side of the park near the large pine trees, you keep following the river as it passes a very solid anchor and on towards Pier 21 Apartments. Another lovely marina spot along the river full of rich people's boats, it has a feel about it that always makes me feel like I am on holiday, even if it's a dreary Tuesday afternoon in May.

All along this area there are little mosaic or marine themed pieces in the pavement that are cool to look at (and also inform if you don't know your knots or terms for direction on a boat). At the end of the pavement section you reach a little park near the WA Water Police headquarters and you must head inland to continue the walk. Follow the limestone cliffs of Harvest Rd and then take your first right up the hill of Corkhill St then right again onto Ainslie Rd. This will take you up above where you have been walking with some views across the river and back towards the harbour. At the end of Ainslie St to your right, you come across the limestone/sand path that will be home for the next little stretch. I was so pleased when I found this path as I don't think it is well known, expect to locals, yet provides a great spot to get away from the usual pavement bashing of an urban walk (if you ignore the houses to your left). The area on Cypress Hill has been rehabilitated with new vegetation and a couple of rock seats that you can use to have a rest. Information plaques from what I assume is an old heritage trail are still here and tell of what the first people used this area for. It's a great insight into what life on the river was like before it became sanitised with mansions and urban development. Continue along the trail north as it skirts between the limestone cliffs and the buildings.


There are cool views down to Rocky Bay and some lovely trees to admire here including an ancient one that has grown sideways as a result of the extreme wind this area would have been subject to before the houses became giant wind breaks. Reaching an open area of grass, there is a path leading down the cliff to Rocky Bay and for the first time that I can remember, it wasn't closed off due to "Cliff Risk". They must have fixed it up so I ventured down the stairs and was excited to see a little beach and rocky area to explore. Just before you enter the beach there is a sign letting you know of the presence of the Waugal Cave in the cliffs. You can see the structure from the stairs (please respect the area and do not go into the cave) and a little information board tells you that this is the place where the Waugal slept after creating a large flood that separated Wadjemup from the mainland. I had a bit of a wander along the beach and the rocks here, finding the old soap factory tunnel that felt very much like a hiding place for Pennywise but actually goes deep into the cliffs. Having spent quite a bit of time here I headed back to the beach where a man had set up on the rocks and was having a fish. Climbing back up the stairs you then keep heading north and onto the pavement where you continue on, past another lookout until you reach the Vlamingh Parklands.