For my birthday this year I spent a relaxing weekend on Rottnest Island in Western Australia. Only 18kms from Fremantle I particularly liked the idea of not enduring long travelling hours to reach. It was one of the most relaxing holidays I have had, also the closest holiday to home I have experienced!
Rottnest Island is a popular holiday destination for most West Australians; it is car free and boasts 63 sheltered bays and 20 bays exposed to the elements of the Indian ocean. In a recent survey conducted by the Rottnest Island Authority 48% of visitors have been to the island over 10 times and this is my 5th time to the island. The 11km long island is a conservation reserve with a diverse plant and animal life. There is a pretty impressive marine ecosystem around the island and a few sanctuary zones to snorkel and dive. Whales migrate past on a yearly basis and the Leeuwin Current brings along a multitude of tropical marine life.
Rottnest Express run regular ferry trips to the island from a number of terminals around Perth. The E Shed Terminal is pretty cool as you board the Ferry in the Fremantle working port. The Barrack Street Terminal in the CBD is a longer trip (90 minutes) to Rottnest however if you are not in a rush, it is enjoyable cruising up the Swan River. Northport Terminal offers secure parking bays ideally suited for campervan travellers. Rottnest Fast Ferries run a service from the northern suburb of Hillarys and there is also the option of a 15 minute flight from Jandakot in a light aircraft run by Rottnest Air Taxi. We purchased our tickets online through Rottnest Express and all up for two people including bicycle freight to transport our bicycles, car parking at Northport, Rottnest Island pass and return ferry tickets the journey cost was around $130.00. We left the car behind at Northport Terminal and took our bicycles, luggage, an eskie of food and beverages, snorkel set and beach tent.
The Rottnest Express Ferry was ultra modern and big, our ferry was fitted with a refreshment bar, toilets, 3 levels of seating including an outside seating area. The staff were incredibly friendly and all looking very ‘sunkissed’. I loved the table seating instead of the traditional row seating. The journey across was so quick taking under 30 minutes, no need for my ipod or book. Disembarkment on the Thomson Bay jetty was effortless, all we needed to do was collect our bicycles and all checked in luggage would be delivered directly to the accommodation.
Arriving at Rottnest Island
The ferry drop off point is central to most of the facilities on the island. As we walked along the jetty on the left was The Rottnest Hotel, on the right a family fun water park and straight in front was the tourist centre and public toilets. The Settlement, tour departure points, Rottnest Hotel, Lodge, Salt House, Fun Park and The popular Basin Bay are all within an easy walk from the jetty.
As I mentioned the island is car free and to get around you can bring your own bicycle, hire one or use the bus that loops around the island. If you travel with Rottnest Express you can purchase a ferry and bike combo ticket, the bicycle will be given to you as soon as you disembark the boat. Alternatively you can go to the island bicycle hire place behind the hotel.
Cycling is a popular way to get around Rottnest
With a few hours to kill before check in time we cycled to Geordie Bay Settlement passing the Basin, Fays Bay, Longreach Bay and Geordie bay. The path curves close to the beaches and as the island is hilly, we observed some beautiful views of the turquoise waters whilst cycling.
Cycling close to the beaches
Shaded path to The Basin
We stopped at Geordie Bay under a tree for a drink, it was a lovely 34 degrees day. From our little spot we were in view of the beach and behind were the salt lakes. There are a few holiday units and apartments at Geordie Bay and Longreach Bay, although they are fairly basic they offer a direct view of the beach. The beaches along the route are fairly sheltered and calm thanks to the limestone reefs that surround them.
Pitstop under a tree
Most West Australians love the outdoors and boating is a popular activity. On the long weekend the bays with boat moorings were full.
It is a full house
Geordie Bay Settlement has a general store, cafe, courtyard and playground. Kids rule in this area, their bikes and scooters are scattered everywhere and they are running around, devising little plans. We stopped by the new Geordie Cafe for some drinks and a snack, view details of our visit here.
Geordie Bay Settlement
Unique to the island is a kangaroo cross rat looking marsupial called the Quokka, they are all over the island and the cheeky little things will rummage through your bag if you happen to leave it open. It is very important not to feed the Quokka as they have a sensitive immune system.
Just a few more stunning bays to swim at
After our refreshment stop we cycled back to Thomson Bay to check into Hotel Rottnest. Hotel Rottnest was originally the governor’s summer residence and then it became the Quokka Arms Hotel before being renovated to the now Hotel Rottnest. The hotel has only a small number of rooms in a courtyard layout and a couple on the other side overlooking the beach. The hotel is very central to everything on the island, you could even get away with walking around instead of cycling.
The pub and restaurant was located next door to the accommodation and as we walked in we noticed the staff were setting up the stage for the Hoodoo Gurus concert. A crowd was gathering, drinking away as Aussies do so well. We walked through into the small reception room with two staff where we checked in and were given a free pass to the concert. Our luggage was conveniently waiting in the courtyard room.
The resident Peacock guarding reception
Accommodation on the island differs from the main land, the rooms have been designed for the beach lifestyle in mind. Our courtyard room was comfortable with all the modern conveniences of a flat screen TV, air conditioning, mini bar fridge and hair dryer. The rooms are serviced daily however there is no room service. I can’t recall if there was internet, I never had an urge to use it! Some people might be put off with the rooms being centred around a common courtyard however with a fully booked hotel we hardly saw any of the guests and enjoyed the courtyard outdoor table area to ourselves a few times with the exception of the first night when the Hoodoo Gurus were gathering after the concert! There are bay view rooms that have a small private court yard however the bicycle path runs nearby so considering the price difference I was happy with our room selection.
The pub is open from noon onwards. It would have been nice if it were open for breakfast and coffee in the mornings too. Taking advantage of the year round good weather, the majority of the pub is outdoors, the large terrace is cleverly designed for big groups, families and couples.
Section of the pub
Following an afternoon siesta we joined the crowd watching the Hoodoo Gurus perform on stage. The place to be though was on the beach front, kids and parents were dancing to the rock songs and others were hanging in their boats.
Hoodoo Gurus Concert
Afterwards, we cycled to to the Army Jetty and Kingston Barracks where the hostel and other styles of accommodation are located. I spotted some tennis courts and next time I think I’ll bring along my racket! Returning to the hotel we stopped past the little airport on the island.
Jimmy Woods Airport Terminal
I love the bicycle culture that Rottnest Island has, we took every opportunity to cycle around and in the evening we cycled to Rottnest Lodge for a dinner reservation at Riva Restaurant. Rottnest Lodge was recently acquired by the Karma Royal Group in 2012 and the Italian restaurant offers a new menu.
It was a lovely restaurant and we had a romantic meal over candlelight by the resort’s pool. The service was fantastic and the staff looked after us very well. Read more about our visit here.
Rottnest at night
The next morning we cycled to the popular Basin for a swim.