Just off the coast of Perth is the small island of Rottnest, originally named by Dutch travellers, an idyllic nature reserve that is home to the unique marsupial the quokka.
Once home to the Whadjuk Noongar people, this island has a wealth of history, dating from the aboriginal oral histories to heavy use during both world wars. Even when the island was cut off, it remained a site of cultural significance for the Aboriginals who believed it was a place souls travelled to on their way to the afterlife. However, the most recent Aboriginal history was not so great, with the island becoming a prison colony for those who broke the new laws that came with the colonists. It remained a prison and labour camp until 1931, where efforts to turn it into a tourist attraction took a forefront. Rottnest played a small role in both world wars but following this military use eventually dwindled and the tourism took over, turning the island into the paradise it is today.
Scott and I took the ferry across from Fremantle, a quick trip that lands you right in the centre of the settled area that surrounds the jetty. After a quick stop for coffee and a snack from the Rottnest Bakery we nipped straight to the Pedal and Flipper to rent bicycles; this was one of the best decisions of the day and allowed us to really take the island in.
We headed south out of the village, following the main road down and around the airport. This took us to our first salt lake of the day, a feature on the island that makes up 10% of its surface, many of which are permanent with beautiful white beaches. Just around the bottom corner of the I spotted an old building on a hill to the south; we hopped off our bikes and walked them up to Jubilee Hill Battery, a remnant from WWI.
Back on the main road, we next stopped off at Henrietta Rocks where we stumbled upon a lovely shipwreck just back the surf. This metal frame is all that is left of Shark, a barge that ran aground on the beach at Porpoise Bay in 1939. After a quick paddle out to it, we got back on the bikes and took the road all the way around the bay to Parker Point.
Next stop on our random self-led tour was Wadjemup Lighthouse. Built in 1896 at the centre of the island, it offers views of the entire landmass. You can pay to go to the top, but we chose not to as lunch time was fast approaching.
Wizzing on our bikes down the central road towards the town, we stopped at Frankie’s on Rotto for some seriously good pizza, chips and milkshake. While eating we were joined by a little quokka hopping around under our tables, much to our delight.
Before heading off again, I rented a snorkel, something I should have done earlier considering Rottnest is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs. This time we went out the north side of the island, following the road until we got to Little Parakeet Bay, by which point it was too hot to keep cycling. A dip in the sea was definitely in the card, and this bay did not disappoint. I took my snorkel for a spin, spotting several different kinds of fish and even a little stingray.
We then braved the heat again as we followed Defence Road all the way to Oliver Hill Battery. The steep hill up to it is where Scott met his quokka soulmate, the quokka that features at the head of this article. Once reaching the top, we explored the Battery, another leftover from the war that provides stunning views.
Having reached the end of our amazing day on the island, we went back to the town to catch the ferry back to Perth, stopping for icecream on the way of course.
The best way to access the island is through one of the three ferry companies, the price of which will involve the return trip and the entrance fee.
Once there, I’d definitely recommend renting a bike (or take your own) to really get to see the island. There is also a hop-on bus tour that follows the main road.