Perth is perfect to explore by bicycle. It is relatively flat, the weather is warm and (mostly) dry and there are endless bike paths to take you all over the city. We have been slowly exploring this beautiful city while getting some exercise.
We recently purchased a pair of Dahon folding bikes. These have allowed us to start taking some very enjoyable day trips with the goal of building up to some multi-day family cycling holidays.
For our very first overnight bicycle trip we chose to make our way from Perth to Fremantle by bike. At around 23km (plus a few K's to get to the official start point of this trip) it is a fairly solid ride. We are not particularly fast riders and we also need to take frequent breaks so our daughter Zoe can get some exercise. Modest pace plus frequent stops means that 20-something kilometres is plenty for us.
Below is approximately our Perth to Fremantle bike route.
We started in Perth and followed the train line west to Grant Street. We rode along Grant Street to the coast then followed the beach south, all the way to North Fremantle. Finally, we found our way through Fremantle to the Fremantle Prison, which now contains the Fremantle YHA where we spent the night.
This route maximised time riding down the coast while minimising time riding on roads. The vast majority of the time was spent on either a dedicated cycle path running parallel to a train line or on bicycle paths along the coast.
Alternatively we could have hugged the north side of the Swan River. We decided against this route because it added a few kilometres to the already considerable trip. Perhaps when we are a bit fitter we will have a go at it. The prospect of riding along the river then down the coast is appealing despite the slightly meandering route this requires.
It is also possible to ride south along the cycle paths alongside the freeway before turning west at the Canning Highway freeway exit. This route involves a long stretch next to the freeway (noisy, lots of car exhaust), it is even longer again and requires long stretches riding on the road between the freeway and Fremantle. This route seems to have lots of negatives without offering any positives so it was a non-starter for us.
Equipment For Our Family Cycling Adventure
We own a pair of Dahon folding bicycles. Although not really ideal for a long day riding they are comfortable enough for our purposes. They are designed for short commutes around the city but plenty of people have used similar folding bikes to cover vastly longer distances. Click here to learn about Dahon folding bikes
We also have a Thule Chariot bicycle trailer. This wonderful bicycle trailer allows our child to travel in relative comfort. She has her own space where she can eat food, read books and play on the ipad while being unlikely to lose anything. It is like her own little cabin on wheels.
As an added bonus the chariot also provides a bunch of additional storage. Towing weight on a bicycle trailer seems to be a lot easier than having extra weight actually on your bicycle. Click here to learn about the Thule Chariot
As this is our first overnight bicycle trip we were content to improvise the bags to some degree. Bungy-cording a bag to a bicycle rack was not an long term solution but it did get us through. This was fine for an overnight trip but before tackling anything longer we will need to sort out something more durable and faster to open and close up again.
Aside from some raincoats and some basic bike repair stuff we didn't pack much else aside from clothes and kid stuff.
The Big Day Arrives
Although it was pretty grey and drizzly the weather was actually pretty good for our adventure. The rain was not heavy, it wasn't windy and once you are cycling you are warm enough not to notice the chill in the air. We just had to make sure that Zoe was wrapped up well in the chariot.
Perth City To Cottesloe Beach
The cycle paths to the city centre were perfect. A burst of heavy rain prompted a snack stop but otherwise progress was rapid as we passed by the Perth city centre.
Our first play break for Zoe was the Mueller Park Playspace just before Subiaco. This lovely fenced park was all ours thanks to the sporadic drizzle. Everyone else opted to stay indoors leaving us to enjoy jumping in puddles all by ourselves.
In Subiaco we ran into our only bout of navigational difficulty. The train line heads underground shortly before Subiaco while the bicycle path continues on. At the intersection of Centro Ave and Roberts Road the bicycle path makes a sharp right turn but this is not actually where you want to go. Fortunately the path came to an abrupt end shortly thereafter confirming our suspicions that this was not the correct way.
Instead you want to ignore the right hand turn and follow Roberts road until it meets Hay street. From that intersection you will be able to see where the train line reemerges on the other side of Hay street so you can rejoin it.
Back on track we happily continued on our way. The rest of the way along the train line was fairly dull. Fortunately Zoe fell asleep so we were able to hustle on and reach Grant Street without anymore stops.
The short stretch between the Grant street train station and the coast took a surprisingly long time owing to an absurdly steep hill. There some pretty houses at least, which provided some consolation, as we decided to walk our bicycles to the top. Past some gradient it is easier to walk a loaded bicycle than it is to peddle.
Once we neared the peak we caught our first glimpse of the Indian Ocean. Although not exactly sparkling due to the grey skies we were certainly pleased to see it.
Reaching the coast meant a return to bicycle paths. Although these are not quite so nice as the paths along the train line they seem to be reasonably well maintained. It was only a short distance along the coast to Perth's most well known beach, Cottesloe Beach.
At Cottesloe beach there is a small playground and opportunities to buy food and drink. Hot chocolates along with some steaming hot fish and chips helped with the chilly weather and the enormous appetites we had worked up. Although this area is packed in summer it was delightfully free of crowds when we visited.
Cottesloe Beach To Fremantle
With our bellies full and Zoe happily ensconced in the chariot we set off again.
South from Cottesloe the path snakes along the tops of the hillside above the beach. It is surprisingly hilly. By now our legs were starting to feel it and the many short steep hills combined with a relentless headwind took it out of us.
Once we reach north Fremantle we happily turned away from the coast and made our way through Fremantle. This was still mostly on bicycle paths although we did eventually have to transition to the (thankfully) very wide footpaths. Our route to Fremantle Prison meant we were easily able to avoid the busy centre of Fremantle.
Finally, we arrived at our accommodation and completed our bike ride from Perth to Fremantle.
The accommodation in the Fremantle YHA is within the old Fremantle Prison. It is basic, modern and very comfortable. Beds, shower, toilet, and enough floor space in the room both both bicycles and the chariot. If you want to visit Fremantle prison then spending the night is a great way to extend your stay. Click here to read our full review of the Fremantle Prison YHA
The setting within a former maximum security prison certainly gives it an interesting ambience. It is a great place to spend some time walking around taking in all the details of the buildings that mark it out as not just another hotel.
Owing to the incredibly central location we were able to dump our gear, look around the prison a little, shower then head out to wander around Fremantle. The prison is near all of the main places to visit in Fremantle so it was easy enough to stroll out the front door and see the sights.
Although the parents were exhausted from cycling, Zoe had spent most of the day resting and now needed to burn off some energy. Fortunately Fremantle has some good playgrounds. The large park between central Fremantle and fishing boat harbour has plenty of grass for running around and lots of play equipment to keep the kids entertained. There is even an old rail car converted into a cafe where you can buy an icecream.
There is a vast array of food options available around Fremantle. Although the Fremantle food scene is traditionally dominated by Italian restaurants you can now find food from all over the globe. After giving Zoe ample time to tire herself out at two playgrounds we were all hungry so we ate our fill then slept the deep, heavy sleep of the exhausted.
The following day we decided against riding home. The first day had gone well with Zoe and we didn't want to push her too far too soon. Plus we were still a little tired and would be going back the same way, which seemed unnecessary.
Instead we rode to the Fremantle train station, caught the train to a station near where we live and rode home from there, stopping off at a kid's birthday party on the way.
This was a really great trip suitable for anyone looking for adventurous things to do in Perth and able to ride a bicycle. You do not need to be particularly fit (we aren't) but expect to sleep very heavily.
Although the journey along the train line is not particularly scenic it was very pretty riding down the coast. If you have the fitness consider taking the route along the north side of the Swan River rather than the shorter train line route.
Cycling with a toddler definitely slowed us down but it helped keep the journey enjoyable. Without Zoe being present, requiring regular play-breaks we would have been tempted to try to move faster. We would have made better time but ultimately enjoyed the journey less.
If you are interested in other trips in the area the Western Australia Transport Department provides information on various suggested bicycle routes in the area. Click here for a map of Perth bicycle routes
We stayed at the Fremantle Prison YHA. This was a great choice. The facilities provided everything we needed, the price was reasonable and the location was fantastic. Five stars, would visit the prison again.
If you want another low cost option the Fremantle Beach Backpackers has a great reputation. It is just as central, perhaps slightly cheaper but it does lack that prison charm.
For something rather more luxurious check out Be Fremantle Apartments. Unfortunately these are slightly farther from Fremantle's restaurants, bars and cafes but that distance is mostly because the place is basically in the ocean. Check it out to see what I mean.