Heritage-listed Fremantle accommodation attracts cross-country interest

Along with several residential and commercial properties, the three-storey limestone B&B forms part of the 1862-built flour mill. Picture: Kent Chia, Project 3 Axis
Along with several residential and commercial properties, the three-storey limestone B&B forms part of the 1862-built flour mill. Picture: Kent Chia, Project 3 Axis

Buyers from across the country are showing their interest in a boutique bed and breakfast located inside an 1860s Fremantle flour mill.

Known as The Port Mill Bed and Breakfast, the heritage-listed limestone building features four bedroom suites across three levels, all with private balconies and with two overlooking a courtyard.

On the ground floor, a self-contained area is an ideal home for a manager or caretaker.

The building is located in an 1862-built flour mill that has been turned into a U-shaped precinct comprising several commercial and residential properties.

The long-running short-term accommodation business has a net profit of $70,000-$80,000 with a sale price of $1.55 million to buy the freehold. Buyers also have the option to convert part or all of the property into a residential home.

There is also an option to lease the accommodation business for $60,000 per year, plus outgoings and GST.

Unique appeal wins local and east coast interest

While Western Australia’s borders were locked down until March of this year, NAI Harcourts Metro sales agent, Sam Fazio said this hadn’t stopped plenty of east coast buyers from inquiring about the property.

“We’re getting very good interest in this property from Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland,” he said.

“Most of the interest has come from investors who plan to continue running the property as a B&B.”

Balcony view of limestone courtyard at the Port Mill bed and breakfast

Each of the four bedroom suites has an adjoining balcony. Picture: Kent Chia, Project 3 Axis

Mr Fazio added that the property was ideal for retirees as they could run it as a business for several years before converting it into a residential home.

Adding to the property’s appeal is its excellent position in Fremantle and its unusual limestone exterior which reminded many guests of Tuscany or Spain, Mr Fazio said.

“The B&B is in the heart of Freo and is close to South Terrace, nicknamed the cappuccino strip,” he explained.

“You’re within walking distance of Fremantle Markets and Fishing Boat Harbour, a very popular landmark.”

Property likely to benefit from domestic tourism

The property’s proximity to the beach and local cafes makes it an ideal accommodation option for tourists and it is likely to benefit from the shift to domestic travel that has occurred since the onset of the pandemic.

Western Australia welcomed 9. 8 million domestic tourists who spent $8.3 billion in the 12 months up to December 2021, according to Tourism WA.  The majority of those visitors would have come from within the state, as quarantine free travel from other states and overseas only resumed four months ago.

Bed and chest of drawers inside the Leeuwin suite at the Port Mill bed and breakfast

This suite on the third floor has three-metre high ceilings. Picture: Kent Chia, Project 3 Axis

Mr Collins said state-wide “staycations” would have helped places such as the Port Mill Bed and Breakfast through the worst of COVID with only Perth CBD accommodation properties reliant on interstate business travel suffering from border lockdowns.

“Domestic tourism in Western Australia was very strong as what we lost in international and interstate tourism business, we picked up in domestic tourism,” he said.

Rich history flows through the building

Port Mill’s unique architecture makes it a local landmark with people often stopping to look at the precinct from its wrought iron gates, according to Mr Fazio.

The building was built in 1862 for Nicholas Patterson and William Cornish and the flour it produced was sold within the local Fremantle area and also exported.

The flour mill closed in 1910 and it was used as a foundry and workshop through the 1920s and in 1939 an engineering company producing tank parts was established on site.  Tank parts and army wheels continued to be made at the mill after the war, it was later sold to a local panel beater.

The National Trust classified the mill in 1974 and it was later added to Western Australia’s Heritage Council register.  The Heritage Council database describes it as “a rare example of mid-nineteenth century light industrial development, and representative of pre-goldrush development in Fremantle”.

Reception desk and stairs at the Port Mill bed and breakfast

The ground floor reception includes a fully self-contained home, ideal for a manager or caretaker. Picture: Kent Chia, Project 3 Axis

The mill precinct was transformed into residential units in 1993 and the Port Mill Bed and Breakfast has operated from this site for over 20 years.

Circa Heritage and Lifestyle Property Specialists’ Dominic Romeo described it as a rare opportunity to operate a successful tourism accommodation venture.

“When entering this building, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in a piazza in a historic Italian village or a hamlet in France,” he said.

“Yet this remarkable historic stone building is in the heart of one of Australia’s important cultural heritage cities.”