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Bathers Bay/Beach

Bathers Bay is a small beach immediately south of Arthur Head. It is about as historically important to European WA as any place can be, being where Captain Fremantle landed 8 October 1829 to 'take possession' of the western part of the continent. The first people, the Whadjuk, called it Manjaree.

The original Bathers Bay was defined by two 'points' at north and south. The Marquis of Anglesea was wrecked on Anglesea Point on 4 September 1829 - and this southern point was consequently named after the ship's last name. The northern end of Bathers Bay was named Point Marquis. Neither 'point' is exactly as it was when Captain Fremantle arrived: both have become part of shore realignments. Point Marquis has been flattened and built over by the roadway leading out to the southern lighthouse. Some remnant piles of the former Long Jetty may still be seen in the sea. There is also a sculptural representation of part of said jetty, which is more or less at the point where the actual jetty went seawards from Anglesea Point.


Bathers Beach from Arthurs Head, my photo

As is generally known, Fremantle derived its name from Captain Charles H. Fremantle, of H.M.S. Challenger, which anchored off Garden Island on April 25, 1829, three years after Major Lockyer had founded the settlement at Albany. Captain Fremantle landed on Arthur's Head, and on May 2 took formal possession in the name of His Majesty King George IV. The exact spot where he landed was indicated in a despatch to the Admiralty dated October 8, 1829, wherein he said that:-
"The landing took place in a little bay close to the mouth of the river, to the southward of it, being the only landing in that neighbourhood where boats could go with security, the bar at the entrance of the river generally being impassable.”
No doubt that little bay would have been the indentation in the shore between Arthur's Head and the little promontory (Anglesea Point) from which the Long Jetty was later constructed. The landing would have been made somewhere near the western end where later a tunnel was made through the rocky head, and it was there that the first jetty was situated. (Hitchcock: 9-10)



This sign is - or used to be - not far from the Kidogo Arthouse, next to the limestone path leading to Arthur Head. The text is as follows.

This was a rocky coastline which once looked like the coast at Parkers Point, Rottnest. There was a strip of sand at the base of the cliffs. Above the cliffs were rock patches and ridges covered with bushes. The meandering path follows the original shoreline. The original vegetation has been restored and the area is being left in its natural state. This landscape of sea, sand, rock and scrub is a memorial to the land and its people in 1829. The area was then called Manjaree.


The former Fishermens Cooperative building, now Bathers Beach House. It has a licence at the western end to serve alcohol on the former public beach on a bit of alienated/privatised land.

In the area where the whaling station tryworks used to be, there were some interpretive signs placed by the archeologists who researched the place. They have all, sadly, been removed, except for this one, which reads as follows:

Bathers Beach Headland
This irregular outline along the edge of this floor represents the former 1838 alignment of the limestone cliff face. Since this time, the limestone headland has been modified significantly, first, in 1838, to form caves behind the tryworks for cooperage and the storage of oil and, later, more extensively to accommmodate harbour, military and commercial needs of the site.
The limestone quarried from this site was used in the construction of the former whaling jetty, the Roundhouse, and most of the limestone construction in the Fremantle area.

In 1837 the Fremantle Whaling Company, which had been established the previous year, began operations by capturing a whale off Carnac. Long before that American whalers were frequent visitors to those waters and reaped a rich harvest. The day of kerosene had not then dawned and the odoriferous whale-oil in the old-fashioned chimneyless and smoky lamps was the only illuminant except candles. In those days whales frequently came into Fremantle Harbour at certain periods of the year, and for many years whaling was a staple local industry. Probably the industry reached its zenith in the fifties and sixties. The rival crews then were those of John Bateman and Joshua J. Harwood, and when whales were sighted the boats of the two firms were manned immediately, while the townspeople congregated at various vantage points to watch the race for the prizes to be won. During the whaling season the natives came to Fremantle in hordes and feasted to satiety on the scraps after the oil had been boiled from the blubber. ...

The ruined building on the extreme right is that of the Fremantle Whaling Company. Mews' boathouse is the larger building. Pace Hitchcock below, the storehouses cut into the cliff can be seen on the left of the photo, i.e. to the north of the tunnel, not the south. The remains of the tryworks can still (2020) be seen in the area in front of the caves cut into the stone. The photo (cropped) is by Stout, and is in the City Library ref no. 2034A, c. 1890.

The whalers' storehouses were cut out of the rocky cliffs south of the tunnel, and there were their ranges of furnaces and try-pots. Their long, sharp boats were always kept ready for instant action with oars, harpoons, baskets of coiled line, lances and muffled rowlocks conveying an idea of the energy and activity of the whaling parties in their palm days.
In 1848 the Fremantle Whaling Company ceased operations and the assets were taken over by Patrick Marmion, who continued the business. (Hitchcock 1929: 25)

Bathers Bay Connexion to Victoria Quay

The Fremantle Foreshore Trail will be a collaboration between the City of Fremantle and Fremantle Ports and Stage 1 is estimated to take 12-18 months and would cost ratepayers approximately $ 48,000.
Historically the new path connects the site of the Long Jetty with the current port of Fremantle

References, Links, Notes

People's Ocean Knowledge Trail of Cockburn Sound & Districts

Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | New: 27 April, 2016 | Now: 10 December, 2023