Looking for something unusual to do in Perth that won’t take up the whole day? Give the Fremantle prison underground tour a go.
Want some adventure in Perth that requires easy-level fitness while combining a bit of local history and a touch of spookiness?
The notorious Fremantle Prison (also referred to as the Fremantle Gaol and Fremantle Jail) is the place to visit for educational adventure tours, with one tour standing out the most – the underground Tunnels Tour, and you can easily fit this tour into your afternoon. The underground tunnels tour sees visitors climbing down a 20m ladder (with an extremely safe engineering system) and exploring the labyrinth of tunnels on foot (and by rowboat) painstaking built by prisoners 120 years ago.
Built way back in the 1850’s, the Fremantle Gaol was built to house convicts transported from England and Ireland. It was not until 1886 that it was handed over to local authorities for home-grown prisoners, remaining open until 1991. Today, Fremantle Prison is a World Heritage Site, housing a museum that contains artifacts and artwork, becoming a great place to learn more about the crime and punishment in West Australian history. An amazing network of tunnels lies under the prison and the streets of Fremantle, built by prisoners over 120 years ago, and this tour is the best way to find out more about how they did it and what they went through.
Once inside, we put on a funny jumpsuit, strapped on a hard hat, got into boots and made our 20 metre descent underground. While climbing down the ladder into darkness I felt excitement – upon entering the damp, warm tunnels into shallow water and darkness I felt like Indiana Jones… a brave explorer walking into the unknown.
The tunnels twist and turn in mysterious eerie ways. I felt like a mouse through a big maze. Throughout the walk, the guide explains the history of the tunnels and how and why they were painstakingly built. Listening to the stories while walking through the tunnels is such a great, educational experience. You really feel for the workers and staff who were isolated down underground for all those years. I felt a cold eeriness down in those tunnels. The stories were quite chilling. You really do learn how hard it was back then for tunnel workers; with many of them never seeing daylight and many going mentally crazy.
The adrenaline rush doesn’t stop there. As we approached deeper water where some tunnels were flooded, we paired off into small rowing boats for an incredibly eerie paddle through the underground labyrinth.
While rowing in our boats, we reached a dead-end and the guide told us to turn off all our headlamps and stay motionless in complete darkness. We all turned off our headlamps and while in the rowboats we sat in complete blackness. It was so black and the air was so cold and eerie. We couldn’t hear any traffic outside, which reinforced just how deep we were under ground. With bumps along the way we eventually rounded back to where we started the tour.
Fremantle Prison is indeed a sobering place to visit, very grim and very austere. Knowing there was never any running water in the facility throughout its duration into the modern era as a prison is mindblowing. Also knowing they would go to jail for not paying a parking fine also sent shivers down my spine.
The below information has been taken direct from the official Fremantle Prison Website:
Departs Daily at: 9am, 9.45am, 10.40am, 12.20pm, 1.40pm, 2.4opm and 3.25pm
Tour Length: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Bookings: Essential. Tickets must be pre-booked and pre-paid. To book tickets, call 08 9336 9200 (they don’t accept online or email bookings). Have your Visa or Mastercard ready as full payment is required at time of phone booking. Once booked, tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable.
Prices: $60 per adult, $50 per concession and $40 per child (must be over age of 12.)
Note: There is no wheelchair accessibility for this tour.
- Cameras, including GoPro, can be used on parts of the tour however cannot be taken down into the tunnels. Lockers are provided for safe storage of items while on tour
- *Minimum age is 12 years. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 must be accompanied by an adult (18+). People between the ages of 12 and 17 years must have the declaration form co-signed by an adult
- Participants must be physically fit and able. If you are an expectant mother or are recovering from a medical procedure, you are advised not to participate on this tour
- Visitors must be able to fit into the compulsory safety equipment provided. This includes helmet, life jacket, harness, coveralls and boots. A range of sizes is available. If you have any concerns please ask the Visitor Services staff at the time of booking
- Alcohol breath test applies (must have less than 0.05 reading)
- Long hair should be tied back
- Pants, jeans or shorts are recommended
- BYO socks
- A declaration form must be read and signed by each participant
This experience involves climbing down and back up a 20 metre ladder. It is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. The tunnels are approximately 2 metres wide and as low as 1.5 metres high in some points. It is not recommended for people who suffer from claustrophobia. The tour involves ladder climbing, walking while stooping (not crawling) and paddling small boats. You must advise your guide of any health issues that may affect your ability to complete this tour.
Want a sneak peek at the Tunnels Tour? Click here to view one minute snapshot video of what you can expect on your tour.
Tour Fact Sheet
Download a Tunnels Tour Fact Sheet.
Located about 22 kilometres south of Perth, you can reach Fremantle Prison on public transport. It is open all year round except for Good Friday and Christmas Day, but it’s best to plan ahead and check the attraction’s website to find out more about all the tours on offer.