A Long Ride Around Rottnest Island
In 1696, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh came across an island off the Western Australian coast and, after brief exploration, was astounded to see enormous rats running rampant. As such, the newly discovered island was aptly named ‘t Eylandt ‘t Rotten- est, which in English translates
to Rats’ Nest Island. Little did de Vlamingh know that these giant rats were actually quokkas, the cute little marsupials that are found only on a few islands off Western Australia.
To get to Rottnest Island you can fly, take your own boat or, like us, jump on a ferry from Fremantle, which is a pleasant 30-minute journey away.
Rottnest Island is 11 kilometres long and 4.5 kilometres across at its widest point. It is surrounded by secluded bays and pristine beaches and is a snorkelling, swimming, surfing, hiking and pushbike-riding haven.
As soon as we arrived on the island we claimed our pushbikes, which were supplied by Rottnest Express, a Rottnest Island partner that organises complete island packages including ferry transfers, pushbike hire and accommodation. Bikes can also be hired on arrival at the island.
Cycling and walking are the main forms of transport on ‘Rotto’ as no cars are permitted, aside from buses and essential services vehicles.
The ride from the wharf to our accommodation at Karma Rottnest took only a few minutes and along the way we saw our first quokka. We soon realised that the cute and friendly little macropods are quite conspicuous, happily foraging for food even in the island’s busiest locations. The island is home to over 10,000 quokkas, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one for that special furry ‘quokka selfie’. While they’re generally known as a nocturnal mammal and considered to be more active and prominent at night, we quickly found out they can be seen at any time of the day. Welcome to ‘Quokknest’ Island, I thought to myself!
With only one night and two days on the island, time was at a premium, so after unloading our bags we immediately went for our first island ride.
The Karma Rottnest is centrally located and an array of cafes and restaurants, a general store, a pub and various beaches are only moments walking distance away.
At the first beach we visited we were greeted by a fever of inquisitive local stingrays, which cruised in to check us out before vanishing back into the blue abyss.
Some of the bike riding is quite challenging due to the island’s undulating topography (and too many breakfast buffets on my behalf ), but there’s a very handy hop-on/hop-off bus service that traverses the length of the island if the legs begin to get weary.
We rode our bikes for a couple hours and ended up at Bathurst Lighthouse, where we met some more of the local quokkas that were on hand to greet us, before turning around and heading home before the sun set.
The island is so serene that we slept like babies and were up early the next morning to do a 90-minute ‘Rottnest Express Adventure Tour’ island circumnavigation boat tour, upon which we got to see the beaches that we’d cycle to later in the day from a different perspective. The boat tour was thrilling and a high- light of our stay.
The tour took us to rugged coastal coves and inlets that are only accessible by boat, where we were lucky enough to see New Zealand fur seal colonies and massive sluggish sea lions strewn across isolated beaches that they shared only with ospreys and a variety of other smaller birds.
Finding a secluded beach on the island is definitely not a hassle as there are no fewer than 63 beaches and 20 bays to choose from.
While we were on the boat we observed the stunning Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay for the first time. Both were only about five kilometres away from our resort and as soon as we disembarked from the boat we quickly arranged a picnic lunch and cycled back to Little Salmon Bay. It was like we had fallen down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole, such were the beauty and vivid colours of the beach and bay upon which it lies.
Here we swam, ate, drank, sunbaked and drank some more until the late afternoon sun started to melt into the Indian Ocean. Coming from Australia’s eastern coast, it’s still breathtaking and fascinating to watch the sun setting over the ocean.
I imagine that if the explorer Willem de Vlamingh were to re-visit Rottnest Island today he’d be happy to see that it is just as beautiful as it was when he stumbled upon it all those years ago.
Where to stay
(08) 9292 5161
How to get there
Rottnest Island Express
1300 467 688
Vicky Gilden at Rose Bay Travel
(02) 9371 8166