Who doesn’t love a big dose of cute?
And there is nothing cuter than a quokka…if you can find the little buggers, that is!
Roger Federer, you have a lot to answer for!
You may remember a few years ago, a super-cute photo of a smiling quokka and a smiling Roger Federer almost broke the internet. This photo confirmed in my mind that one day, I really should see both in action.
With Covid19 closing our international borders, the chance of seeing Roger’s tennis brilliance was non-existent, but a trip to Western Australia was much more achievable – overzealous-Western-Australian-Premier permitting. And so, a trip to Rottnest Island was duly booked and I tried to tamp down my excitement of getting up close to these cheerful, cuddly creatures.
Rottnest Island is located approximately 24km off the coast of Fremantle, Western Australia. It was ‘discovered’ by the Dutch in 1696 and they named it Rottnest thinking that the whole island was infested with large rats. Little did they realise the endless cuteness they were missing and little did they know that the local Whadjuk Noongar people had, thousands of years previously, named the island Wadjemup, which means ‘place across the water where the spirits are‘.
If you have your own boat (lucky you), you can take yourself off to Rottnest Island anytime you like. For the rest of us Commoners, one of the many ferry companies is the easiest and quickest way to get across to the island. You could easily tell apart locals vs visitors, as the locals arrived with their small wheelie carts loaded to the brink with snorkels, flippers, buckets, spades, umbrellas, picnic hampers and every other item required for a happy beach day. Some even wheeled their own pushbikes up to the ferry and, we were to learn later, that was a very smart move.
There is much more to Rottnest Island than just pushbikes and quokkas, and for some people, this is their long Summer holiday destination. All sorts of accommodation and beach houses, of various levels of luxury ,are available including an old WW2 military installation, Kingstown Barracks, that has been converted to more simple dormitory-style accommodation.
With only one day to spare to visit Rottnest Island and its famous quokkas, we decided to hire bicycles to explore the island and observe the quokkas in their natural environment. You can hire bikes as part of your ferry ticket and we enthusiastically collected our helmet, bike and lock as we stepped off our ferry onto the jetty.
This is so exciting! We were off to see quokkas!
One of the many excellent things about Rottnest Island is that there are very few cars and the roads are blissfully empty. Only rangers and other maintenance staff are allowed cars to carry out their duties and, this distinct lack of vehicles, maximises your cycling enjoyment. We decided to ride clockwise around the very edge of the island to make the most of the water views and to cover as much of the island as possible.
Rottnest Island is a swimmer’s, snorkeler’s and surfer’s paradise. Words cannot describe the brilliant blue/green colours, the crystal clarity of the water, and the whitest of white sand. Damn, we are lucky to live in Australia!
As we puffed, panted and slogged up hills – don’t let anyone tell you Rottnest Island is flat – we distracted ourselves with the glorious views out over sheltered bays and coves, watching soaring ospreys AND keeping an eagle eye out for any quokkas hiding in the bushes.
Smart people on e-bikes whizzed passed us and I do admit to looking longingly at the shuttle bus as the day grew hotter and hotter, and I realised that the front brake of my bike was stuck ON! No wonder it was hard going.
Patient plein air painters were making the most of the landscape, set up at various lookouts and rest areas. At the same lookouts, volunteers guides were happy to share their passion for the Island and their extensive knowledge of its flora and fauna. Another good reason to get off the bike, catch your breath and chat awhile.
Again, smarter people than us broke up their visit with swims, snorkels and a glass of wine at the protected beaches. In many places, the beaches are quite shallow which is just perfect for children to paddle and romp. We didn’t have time for that, our priority was to see quokkas.
Tip: Before you leave the jetty area, pop into the Tourist Office and grab a copy of the Island map. It shows the best paths to take and it will tell you that it is only 22km to cycle a complete circle of the island. Don’t believe it! It is closer to 30km. I agree that is no huge distance, but add in heat, hills and an antiquated bicycle and it felt like 50km!
Cycling, cycling, cycling and still no quokkas. Damn you Roger Federer, you gave me the impression that the bloody island was covered in them.
In disgust, we gave up and turned our bikes homeward toward the settlement, having decided we would catch the early ferry back to the mainland. 50m from the jetty, what do we see? One lonely, moth-eaten quokka! At bloody last!
We instantly dumped our bikes on the side of the road, grabbed our cameras and took thousands of photos just so we could say we had seen a live quokka! Yes, just one lonely quokka.
Of course, later everyone would tell us that if you want to see a quokka, just go to the pub or bakery on the island as all the quokkas hang out there for snacks and treats! Now they tell us! We could have saved ourselves a whole lot of sweat and effort, and had a refreshing beer at the same time.
No, we would still have ridden around the island.
It truly is a small patch of Paradise and well-worth the visit…just don’t expect to see quokkas or Roger Federer!
When has the reality been different to your expectations?
What: Bicycle hire costs an additional $30 pp when booked with your ferry ticket. The bikes do have gears, but some have seen better days and have had a hard life. Note: the bikes are only one size, so taller people may struggle to pedal comfortably.
Where: Most of the Island’s facilities are clustered around Main Jetty and Thomson Bay. Take all you need with you as you travel around the Island, including plenty of water, as there is little opportunity to eat or drink once you leave the settlement.
When: We visited in Autumn and it was hot, hot, hot. I suspect this would be a gem of a destination at anytime of year, just be prepared for some serious temperatures in Summer.
Why: If you get sick of the hard surfaces and urban landscapes of mainland Perth, head out to the wide open spaces of Rottnest Island and fill your lungs with salty air.
How: Hop on the train from Perth to Fremantle ($4.90pp one way) as there is limited parking at the wharf/ferry jetty in Fremantle. Most of the ferries leave from B Shed, diagonally across from Fremantle Train Station.
Who: It’s an old cliché, but Rottnest Island has something for everyone. It is rich in history, water sports, indigenous culture and apparently it has a fabulous bakery. Our waistline is grateful we missed the bakery and its resident calories.
Related Posts: If you don’t mind a boat ride, have a look at what we saw poking up the Franklin River in Tasmania.
Related Blogs: To learn more about the wildlife of Rottnest Island, check out Rottnest Wildlife Blog for everything with fins, feathers and fur.
Read About It: And now a book for the kids, Clancy the Quokka by Lili Wilkinson. Follow Clancy’s raids on picnics and birthday cakes, and perhaps avoiding tourists like me! Go straight to Book Depository.
#rottnestisalnd #travelinspo #westernaustralia #fremantle #shortwalks #cycling #dayswalks #scubaandsnorkel #beachbreaks #indigenoushistory.