Freda began as a persistent low in a monsoon trough that extended through the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. At 1800 UTC 24 February the low began moving eastward, crossing the west coast of Cape York Peninsula approximately 65 km north of Edward River Mission at 2300 UTC 24 February. The low continued to slowly deepen and moved east-southeast, reaching the Coral Sea at about 0200 UTC 26 February. Heavy rainfall was associated with its passage across the Peninsula and 24-hour totals of up to 260 mm were recorded along the far north Queensland coast and in adjacent inland areas. This caused some flooding in coastal streams, particularly the Barron, Herbert, Tully, and Johnstone rivers.
The low continued to deepen and move east-southeast. By 2300 UTC 26 February surface reports indicated that gale force winds had encircled the system. Freda then moved to the southeast, parallel to the Queensland coast and about 380 km off shore. During the next 24 hours Freda caused gales on the off shore islands and the exposed parts of the central Queensland coast, but there was no loss of life and no significant damage reported. However, a ten-metre fishing trawler capsized about 300 km east of Mackay in the very rough seas generated by Freda . The four people aboard the vessel were subsequently rescued.
Freda was somewhat erratic in both its movement and rate of development. It reached its peak intensity in the Eastern Region at 0800 UTC 28 February when.its central pressure was estimated to be 972 hPa, it then began to move away from the coast and weaken for a period. There was a major change of direction on the afternoon of 1 March when Freda began moving towards the northeast. This direction was maintained until 4 March when Freda began to move to the southeast again. The cyclone rapidly deepened as it passed close to the northwest of New Caledonia on the night of 6 March. At this time it reached its overall peak intensity with a central pressure of 962 hPa. Freda then accelerated to the south-southeast, gradually weakened, and became a cold-cored system.