Whether you’re a diehard history buff or just an admirer of amazing architecture, our great state has plenty of historical hidden gems for you to add to your travel list.
Article by Aimee Glossop
From former flour mills to convict-built warder housing, we’ve rounded up the 10 best historical stays that feel like a portal to the past.
Warders Hotel, Fremantle (1851)
For the hardcore history buff, you can’t go wrong with a stay at Warders Hotel. Formerly used as accommodation for warders at the nearby Fremantle Prison, the hotel offers a glimpse into the not-so-glamorous history of Fremantle’s penal colonies. The Warders Hotel has leaned into its heritage, completing the restoration of block W1 in 2020 to unveil a boutique eleven-suite hotel and a small corner bar called Gimlet. As of July this year, a further 12 rooms are also available for guests in block W2, located directly across from the original hotel. With much of the original timber and stonework having been preserved, staying at the Warders Hotel truly does feel like stepping back in time.
Book: Warders Hotel
Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle (1850)
Overlooking the Indian Ocean from the shores of Fremantle, the Esplanade Hotel exudes historical charm with its gorgeous Victorian façade. The building itself dates back as far as 1850 when it was first used to house convicts who were transported to the port city from Great Britain. Now owned by hospitality provider Rydges, the Esplanade Hotel offers over 300 rooms and several premium amenities including a restaurant, bar, and two outdoor swimming pools.
Those staying at the Esplanade are spoilt for choice in terms of historical sightseeing, with Fremantle having been home to the first British colony to settle in Western Australia. The hotel itself is in the heart of the city, placing must-see destinations such as Fremantle Prison and the WA Shipwrecks Museum just a short walk away.
Book: Esplanade Hotel
Port Mill B&B, Fremantle (1862)
It wouldn’t be difficult to mistake this charming bed and breakfast for belonging to a small European town. Housed within a restored 19th-century flour mill, Port Mill Bed & Breakfast has a homely atmosphere that sets it apart from other historic stays on this list. The limestone building has retained much of the original façade and overlooks a beautifully paved outdoor area. The property boasts four cozy suites, each with its own ensuite and Juliet balcony that looks like it has been pulled straight out of a Shakespearean play. Guests can also enjoy all that Fremantle has to offer, as the B&B lies just moments from the well-known Cappuccino Strip.
Book: Port Mill B&B
Farmers’ Home Hotel, Northam (1866)
As one of the wheatbelt’s oldest settlements, Northam is steeped in history for the modern-day traveler to explore. Dating back to 1866, the Farmers Home Hotel was established by George Throssell (who would go on to become Western Australia’s second premier) after a four-year-long battle to obtain his liquor license. Despite welcoming many famous faces through its doors over the decades, age and neglect eventually caught up with the hotel.
After being acquired by the same owners as the Premier Mill Hotel, the heritage-listed Farmers’ Home Hotel underwent restoration which was completed in early 2020. The Victorian-era details of the hotel serve as a nod to the building’s heritage, though modern-day luxuries such as pendant lighting and plush bedding are certainly not forgotten. Guests can also enjoy a drink downstairs at the irreverently named Temperance Bar, where the liquor flows each evening despite Northam’s history as a temperance town in which consuming alcohol was discouraged.
Book: Farmers’ Home Hotel
Settlers’ Cottage, Peerabeelup (1870s)
For a more intimate getaway, the Settlers’ Cottage is the perfect way to immerse yourself in history while enjoying the privacy of self-contained accommodation. The cottage is part of Ampersand Estates, a luxurious wedding and accommodation venue just a half-hour drive from Pemberton. Built in the 1870s, this quaint cottage sleeps up to four guests and has been recently renovated to bring a fresh and airy feel to the historic home. During your stay, delight your tastebuds at the on-site winery, take a walk around the estate, or settle in under the night sky at the stargazing lookout.
Book: Settlers’ Cottage
COMO The Treasury, Perth (1875)
Located in the heart of Perth on the corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street, COMO The Treasury is a luxurious 5-star hotel offering first-class amenities and an unbeatable location. The hotel occupies the State Buildings, which refers to three red brick buildings constructed in 1875. The buildings were once home to government offices but were left vacant in 1996, remaining empty until recently. In 2015, the iconic location’s transformation into a retail and hospitality hub was unveiled. The crown jewel of the restoration is COMO The Treasury, with the hotel offering 48 opulent suites, two restaurants, a bar, and a wellness centre.
Book: COMO The Treasury
Premier Mill Hotel, Katanning (1891)
This former flour mill was once the lifesource of Katanning, with its commercial success putting the country town on the map. But when the mill’s success dried up in the 1980s, the local icon was at risk of falling into disrepair. A mammoth two-year restoration effort was the saving grace for this stunning historical site, with the mill reopening as a luxury boutique accommodation in 2018. The restoration was careful to retain relics of the past – including the century-old boiler that powered the original mill – resulting in a seamless blend of industrial charm and contemporary comfort. Guests can choose one of four unique room categories that reflect the original usage of the mill, creating a truly immersive experience.
Book: Premier Mill Hotel
The Melbourne Hotel, Perth (1897)
First unveiled in 1897, The Melbourne Hotel has stood the test of time as one of Perth’s most beloved metropolitan hotels. The hotel had a tumultuous first few decades, with a slew of liquor license violations, burglaries, and the untimely deaths of owners. Thankfully, the building’s colourful history has stayed in the past, and the hotel is now a 5-star accommodation with a prime Milligan Street address. Guests at the hotel are invited to choose between heritage or contemporary rooms. The hotel’s heritage rooms are described as a nod to the past, with each room offering a fusion of historic charm and modern comforts.
Book: The Melbourne Hotel
Caves House Hotel, Yallingup (1903)
After the discovery of Ngilgi Cave in 1899, the Government of Western Australia swiftly realised the excellent tourism potential of the Yallingup area, nestled within the Margaret River Region. Less than a year after tenders were called, the original two-story timber Caves House was completed in January 1903. The first ill-fated building was ravaged twice by separate fires, however, leading the hotel to be completely demolished and rebuilt in 1938.
In 2016, the current custodians of Caves House Hotel renovated the building, preserving the character-filled art deco appearance while also reopening sections of the hotel that had been neglected. Today, the hotel is a vibrant live music and dining destination that is beloved by guests and locals alike.
Book: Caves House Hotel
Grand Mercure Basildene Manor, Margaret River (1912)
Set on a sprawling 14-acre property in the Margaret River Region, the Grand Mercure Basildene Manor dates back to 1912. The residence was built as a family home for the Willmotts, whose descendants remained at the property until the late 1970s. The manor was built primarily from locally sourced materials including granite rocks quarried on the property and jarrah from the region. Guests can choose from 19 elegantly styled rooms and suites, and revel in the manor’s incredible facilities including a reading room, outdoor swimming pool and tennis court.
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