This area was settled thousands of years ago by the Noongar people who used it for ceremony and trade. Aboriginal groups quickly came to occupy various parts of the vicinity, known to them as Manjaree. Fremantle’s European history began when the ship HMS Challenger landed here in 1829. The settlement made little progress until convict labour constructed most of the town’s earliest buildings. Today, buildings such as the Round House, Old Fremantle Prison and the Fremantle Arts Centre are among the oldest in WA.
As a port, Fremantle was ineffective until the engineer CY O’Connor created an artificial harbour in the 1890s. In 1987 Fremantle was the host of the unsuccessful defence of the America’s Cup yachting trophy. While Australia lost the Cup, Fremantle was the big winner, having transformed from a sleepy port into the vibrant city it is today.