Fremantle Stuff > South Beach. See also: South Fremantle (suburb), South Beach Kiosk.

South Beach

South Beach is south of the Fremantle Sailing Club.

South Beach Hydrodome, Izzy Orloff, 1924?, courtesy SLWA 111820PD (from Facebook)

South Fremantle Beach Children's Day, 1923, courtesy SLWA 112391PD (from Facebook)

Heritage Council page:
Statement of Significance
South Beach is a large coastal beach and park recreation area providing many facilities to the local and wider community. The place has aesthetic significance for its picturesque setting on the beach front and the landmark qualities of the tall pine trees and Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus) trees. South Beach has historic significance as the site of the first horse race in Western Australia (1833) and has a long association with the horse racing industry. Several horse trainers had their stables in South Fremantle, and the foreshore at South Fremantle was a favoured venue for training. South Beach has social significance as a popular recreation and tourist 'resort' since the late 1890s. In the 1920s, the concert hall was upgraded and became known at the Hydrodome. The complex housed change rooms, tea rooms and a concert venue upstairs. Swimming baths were also built about this time. The beach has been the venue of many community events and festivals, and the 10th Light Horse Brigade camped there during World War One. South Beach has historic significance as the terminus of the South Fremantle tram service, with a tram shed located near the Beach in Douro Road.
Physical Description
A white sand beach and dune area with a grassed recreation area behind. Many tall pine trees are located within the grassed areas. There are several structures including toilets, café and kiosk. These structures are generally concrete and rendered brick. Services in the area include footpaths, car parks, telephone and street lighting.
South Beach was the site of the first official Horse Race in WA, run in October 1833, and was used extensively for exercising and training some of W.A.’s famous horses. The first race was run by seven imported Timor ponies and was a lavish affair – complete with booths erected on the hill, a ginger-bread nut stall and a fiddler. A second race was staged in April 1834, but no further formal races were held until 1851. The Gold Boom saw an increase in the popularity and regularity of horse racing. Stables and training tracks were developed in the area, and South Beach continued to be used as a training ground. The foreshore afforded a long run for gallopers and pacers, and an extensive network of trails was established in the surrounding bushland. Horses swam off the beach, accompanied in boats by their trainers. When the weather or the tides prevented training on the beach, trainers worked their horses in the dunes. C. Y. O’Conner rode and trained his horses at South Beach on a regular basis, including the hunter Moonlight, which won the Fremantle Hunt Club Cup in September 1901. It was at South Beach, near Robb Jetty, that he shot himself in March 1902. Robb Jetty was built at South Beach in the late 1890s, allowing cattle to be offloaded there. Aboriginal stockmen who had accompanied ship loads of cattle from northern stations then camped at South Beach while they were in Fremantle. South Beach was established as a popular place of recreation at the beginning of the twentieth century with the assistance of government funding. Trees were planted on the reserve over a period of time. Most of the Norfolk Island Pines and Moreton Bay figs that remain were planted in the 1920s and are evidence of the Council’s determination to transform a sandy dry area into a tourist and recreation destination. The beach was also a popular holiday destination, boasting its own “Luna Park-style fairground” and concert hall in the early 1900s. The area was frequented by day-trippers from Perth and surrounding areas and was known as “the Brighton of the West”. The area was used to stage numerous public events, including a Children’s’ Gala on Australia Day, 1914, which incorporated a Greasy Pole and Barrel Ride, sports, and the free distribution of fruit to children. The Fremantle Tram system opened in 1905 and by April 1906, the initial routes had been completed. The service to South Fremantle terminated at South Beach (Douro Road) where a tram shelter was located. However, it was not until 15 November 1909 that South Beach was declared officially open by Governor Sir Gerald Strickland, in a ceremony attended by upwards of 35,000 people. The Beach was only gazetted in January of the following year and vested in trust to the Council for the purposes of recreation. Numbers of horse trainers in the vicinity grew after 1900, increasing the demand on the facilities at South Beach. After the World War I, horse training at South Beach continued well into the 1920s and 30s and included the training of horses for trotting, as this sport became popular. Fremantle was regarding as ‘one of the State’s top training centres’, and horses were trained there up until the 1970s. South Beach was a training ground for the 10th Light Horse Regiment during World War I, training horses for service overseas. South Beach held onto its popularity as a resort after the war, and in 1922 improvements according to the design of A. E. Atkinson were made to the Concert Hall. It became known as the Hydrodome and incorporated a dressing room for bathers on the lower level, with tea rooms and a concert hall above. The Hydrodome was officially opened in 1923. Swimming baths were established and were popular with the public and holidaymakers, as well as the Ladies Swimming Club, which was headquartered there. Local kids had swimming lessons at South Beach. There was also a campground at South Beach, and sailing was a popular pastime. The Fremantle Sailing Club built a Clubhouse at South Beach, near the Hydrodome, in 1924. From the early 1970s, the number of horses training at South Beach was reduced as many of the stables in the area shut down. In 1991, a re-enactment of W.A.’s first horse race was staged, attended by some 5000 spectators. From the mid-1990s, community efforts to improve South Beach were underway. A statue commemorating C. Y. O’Connor, by sculptor Tony Jones, was installed 50 metres from the shore at South Beach in 1999. Other works during the 1990s included upgrading the beach and pathways to it. The place was included in the "Heritage Study South Fremantle", prepared by John Taylor Architects, for the City of Fremantle, June 1993.
High degree of integrity (original intent clear, current use compatible, high long term sustainability). High degree of authenticity with much original fabric remaining. (These statements based on street survey only).
Creation Date20 Jul 2011
Last Update22 Mar 2019

References and links

Many photos above from the Orloff collection in SLWA. See also the set of photos of Mr Cowell's excursion train.

Heritage Council page for South Beach.

Wikipedia page for South Fremantle.

Garry Gillard | New: 23 July, 2021 | Now: 30 October, 2021