Rottnest Island

james's picture
Me on the Rottnest ferry

Rottnest Island is a small island 19km off the west coast of Perth (Perth doesn't really have any other ocast). It's 11km by 4.5km at the widest point. And it's populated by Quokkas - a sort of giant marsupial rat (the name rottnest comes from the Dutch explorer who discovered it, and mistook the Quokkas for rats).

Leaving PerthI take the ferry over in the morning. It takes about two hours and provides a wonderful view of Perth from the river on the way over, over half the journey is navigating the river which has speed restrictions. There's a commentary pointing out interesting things along the way, though I got chatting with some locals so wasn't paying very much attention to the commentary.

Approaching RottnestApproaching the island is like nothing I've seen before. It's the perfect tropical island, surrounded by the glorious blue ocean, with sandy beaches and palm trees and a few buildings on the shore. We pull into the jetty and come ashore.

We're not that far from the mainland, so we can still see quite clearly the vast expanse of Australia, vast and flat, with just a crop of skyscrapers rising up to mark the city.

I take a stroll around the Thomson Bay settlement, and invest in some sunscreen as I've forgotten to bring any. It's a beautiful little village, but to see the island properly you need to get out into the country, and that requires transport. Here there are two main options, either the bus which circles the island and allows you to jump on and off as often as you desire, or renting a bike which lets you go where and when you want. I opt for the bike and go to the rental shop.

Cycle HelmetHere I'm given a choice of gears or no gears. I opt for a mountain bike with gears as I know I'll be glad of them when I get to the hills, even though it's a little more expensive. I'm also told that Australian law requires the wearing of a helmet. I grumble at this and try arguing that my hat should qualify as a helmet, but eventually figure I can fit a helmet over my hat, even though it doesn't look very pretty. Well worth it to keep the sun off my neck.

Sunscreen and hat prove important as the weather is glorious, with the bluest sky I have ever seen. I later learn this is due to the thin ozone layer, so perhaps not quite so good. I don't know what the temperature was, but it was plenty warm enough for me. I'm glad to have come at a relatively cool time of year.

Heading off on one of the main roads out of Thomson, I'm taken through some glorious scenery. A series of shallow inland lakes runs along the eastern end of the island, and these are beautiful, and I see many interesting birds along their shores.

Moving further inland, I divert off a side road to the Oliver Hill gun post. The focal point is a gigantic world war II gun that helped defend the coast during the war. There's also a train here. There seems to be someone manning it, though it's not entirely clear if it's running. The train line used to carry ammunition and supplies to the gun post, but now carries tourists from the settlement.

I head back to the main road and follow the coast around. The scenery is absolutely breath taking. I follow the longer cycle route most of the way around, though I don't make it all the way to the western end as I'm worried about making it back in time for the afternoon ferry. I haven't really seen quokkas properly yet, though I've caught glimpses scampering about, and at one point one ran across the road in front of me.

QuakkasThen I reach Parker Point, on the south coast of the island. I stop to admire the sea view, then notice some activity near to some bins. A family of quokkas are congregating around the bins, and seem quite content for me to snap some photos. I'm tempted to offer some food to tempt them out into the open, but decide against it.

It's now getting on a bit, so I make fairly quick time over the last 5km back to Thomson. I leave my bike back and buy an ice cream before heading back to the ferry.

The trip back is pretty, with more nice views from the boat.

Rather than go all the way back to Perth, I get off in Freemantle and meet Dave for a drink and watch the sun set over the ocean.

All in all, a wonderful day.

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