Round House

Explore the rooms of Western Australia’s oldest surviving permanent building as you learn stories about prisoners and life in the early colony.

The Round House was built in 1830, just 18 months after the first settlers established the Swan River Colony in Western Australia. It was designed by the colony’s official civil engineer as a small prison but later became a police lockup and the home of the chief constable.

Tour this historic prison to see that it isn’t actually round, visit a range of small exhibits to learn about prisoners and see the old cannon in action.

Enjoy spectacular views of the Indian Ocean as you wander up to the building. It sits atop Arthur Head and looks out over central Bather’s Beach and the surrounding harbors. Drop by at 1 p.m. to see the cannon fire, a tradition originally established to help mariners and local residents synchronize their watches and ship’s clocks. You may even be chosen to be the gunner for the day and fire the shot.

Head into the compound itself to admire the austere colonial architecture. You’ll notice the building isn’t actually round but has 12 sides. Guides will point out that it got its name from residents down in the town, where the corners are barely visible. Make your way inside to explore the cells, guards’ quarters, bakery and laundry. There are plaques with information about prisoners and the crimes they committed. Volunteer staff will be on hand to answer questions and provide further details.

Walk through the tunnel directly below the house and out to the beach for a dip in the waves. You’ll also find art galleries and studios, restaurants and cafés in the area.

The Round House sits on the coastline of central Fremantle, about 13 miles (22 kilometers) from Perth’s city center. It’s open daily from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Admission is by voluntary donation. You can take a car, bus or train to Fremantle, from central Perth. The most scenic way to get there is by ferry over the Swan River.

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