What’s got 63 beaches and 20 bays of clear turquoise water, as well as 10,000 adorable little marsupials, snorkelling, cycling, lighthouses and is only half an hour from a big city? Rottnest Island, only a half-hour ferry ride from the Australian city of Perth, is a brilliant day trip and I’d love to go back for a longer sojourn.
We set off for a few hours cycling, covering about half the island in an afternoon. Rottnest Island is 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) long by 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) with a land area of 19 square kilometres.
At Salmon Point the water was stunningly clear and as turquoise as any tourist brochure could boast. From here the Parker Point Marine Sanctuary extends along the coast, offering amazing diving and snorkelling, or even views of the beautiful Pink Coral reefs from the quiet road for bikers.
I’m a big fan of lighthouses and the lonely lighthouse on the high point of Rottnest Island is very picturesque, as is the abundant birdlife on the salt lakes.
The last stop before returning to Thomson Bay was a swim and a snorkel in the sheltered waters of The Basin, where the colours were bright and the sand soft and white.
Before its reincarnation in the past 50 years as a popular holiday destination Rottnest Island had a sad history as an Aboriginal prison under the auspices of the notorious Fremantle prison. Subsequently it has been home to a boys “reformatory” institution and a prisoner-of-war internment camp during the two world wars.
This painful past shouldn’t be forgotten but now it’s all about relaxation and nature with wildlife spotting opportunities for visitors including New Zealand fur seals, nesting Ospreys, dolphins, rays and even migrating humpback whales.
The Quokkas of Rottnest Island
These furry beasties are seriously cute. In the 16th century Dutch mariners visited Rottnest Island and thought they were giant rats – hence the name “Rotte” nest island.
Quokkas are everywhere, particularly around the village where they are obviously very habituated. Don’t feed them as this can only be detrimental to their health and it was distressing to see them harassing patrons and fighting over food scraps in the pub garden.
Rottnest Island visitor information:
Ferries depart from Shed B, which is a two-minute walk from the Fremantle train station and all day parking here costs just $6.50. There’s a market next door in Shed E to browse through while you wait for the ferry and there are dive shops that hire snorkelling gear.
You can arrange a day tour, which will meet you off the ferry, or it’s easy as pie to organise your own cycle hire when you arrive. If you don’t want to cycle there is a hop-on-hop-off Bayseeker bus service. You can even buy a bus-bike combo ticket that allows you to cycle as far as you want and then leave the bike and return on the bus!
The village at Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island has cafes, pubs, a bakery, icecream and even a small supermarket, as well as a tiny museum and cycle hire shops.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited beautiful Rottnest Island in Western Australia?