Western Australia has a remarkably surprising and diverse history. Museums and visitor’s centres are a great way to discover and, at times experience, this history. In fact, they are a treasure trove for researchers too. Here’s my personal must-visits for the Perth/Fremantle and South-West region*.
The WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle
With a comprehensive permanent collection of maritime vessels spanning the ancient crafts of the Pacific Islanders and Indian Ocean wayfarers to a nuclear submarine and prize-winning ultramodern yacht, this museum allows you to dive deep into maritime history.
From unique exhibits on the pearl-divers of Broome to Aboriginal sustainable fishing, the WA Maritime museum also hosts international loaned or travelling exhibits and often offers accompanying programmes, sometimes free, with your entry ticket. The free orientation tour is well worth the taking, and lasts about 15 minutes. The extra tour of the decommissioned HMS Ovens is a definite highlight though not for the claustrophobic.
For those on a tight budget, the WA Maritime Museum has entry by donation on the second Tuesday of every month. http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime
The Shipwreck Galleries in Fremantle
Also part of the WA Maritime Museum but housed separately just off the beach, this visit-by-donation museum has a real 17th century shipwreck displayed. Listen to locals pronounce Dutch names hilariously! Learn Australian history you were never taught at school and marvel at the wealth and power that was the VOC (Dutch East India Company). Don’t forget to feast your greedy little eyes on a true treasure hoard or two. Also learn amazing facts about marine archaeology and the preservation of artefacts. http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/shipwrecks
The Aviation Heritage Museum – Melville, Perth
If a dizzying display of WW1 till modern aircraft and paraphernalia is your thing, you can’t miss this museum. A Catalina and a Lancaster are display highlights. Find out just what is an Aussie Wirraway within its two huge air-conditioned hangars and a few outdoor displays.
This museum is a godsend for those researching WW1 or WW2 RAAF and related subjects. It’s within easy walking distance from Bullcreek Train Station. There’s a lot of ground to cover so wear comfortable shoes and set aside at least 2 hours. http://www.pleasetakemeto.com/australia/perth/aviation-heritage-museum-of-western-australia-9029946
The Kodja Place, Kojonup
Located in the wheatbelt region between Perth and Albany on the Albany Highway, this local museum is unique—full of interesting settler’s details, and a must for those interested in local Aboriginal lore and history. A great place to stop for lunch—feeding your body, mind and soul—with its cafe catering to locals and visitors alike. Take one of Jack’s tours if you can. He’s a local living legend and is in the exhibit himself!
Museum Of The Great Southern (Albany, WA)
Located near the Albany harbour, this great local museum covers the regions natural history, indigenous history and the earliest European settlement in Western Australia. With friendly staff, well presented and maintained exhibits, and a fun shop, this museum caters for young and old. Don’t forget the giant meteorite by the front entrance! http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/museum-of-the-great-southern
New Norcia Benedictine Monastic Town (New Norcia, WA)
A most unlikely and intriguing historic town set against the red sand and blonde wheat. The guided walk is a must. From the establishment of the first buildings of the monastery in the 1800s to the boarding school chapels closed in the late 1960s(?), this town reveals little secrets of art, design, science, local history and the monastic life. With the monks still at home and producing delicious brews, bread and other produce, you won’t want to miss the shop.
Gravity Discovery Centre—Yeal, nr Gingin (WA)
About an hour up the Indian Ocean Drive from Perth rises a metal, leaning tower—the highest point for miles and miles around. Belonging to the fun-for-all-ages Gravity Discovery Centre, this tower entrance and accompanying balloons (for scientific observations) is available to all who wish to overcome their fear of heights and discover the lighter side of gravity. The visitors centre also houses other exhibits, talks and events of scientific and astronomical interest, including those from Aboriginal lore and observations. https://gravitycentre.com.au/
Sail the STS Leeuwin II from Fremantle
An iron-ship with about 18 sails, the STS Leeuwin is a great experience for sailing enthusiasts and other romantics. A three-hour sail includes refreshment, passenger participation in some shipboard duties if time and weather permit, and amazing views of Fremantle and the Indian Ocean. It’s an exhilarating ride, especially in the summer evenings when the Leeuwin easily out-paces modern engines with the Freo Doc (afternoon breeze) aiding it into the harbour.
Got any other must visit museums and visitor’s centres in and around Perth, Fremantle and nearby regions? Let me know in the comments 😀
*Some of these museums were mentioned in one of my first articles on WA published in 2014 in SeeThroughIt Magazine and in 10 Things To Do In Perth And Fremantle For South Africans On A Shoestring Budget as a download on Scribd. Information in this post is correct as of 8 April 2020. All photos by Leenna Naidoo