Exploring Western Australia’s Rottnest Island
Last weekend was an adventure that easily ended up being the best time I’ve had since landing in Perth. Rottnest Island, or what the locals affectionately refer to as Rotto, is a short half hour ferry ride from the seaside community of Fremantle. After a nauseatingly wavy ride across the Indian Ocean, we hopped off the ferry with our backpacks on our backs just after the sun went down and the port glowed in the dark.
As soon as I stepped off the ferry I felt a strange sense of home in a place I had never been before. There’s something about the air on an island – I swear it’s different than normal air. It’s like the humidity cranks up just a notch and there is forever a gentle (or not so gentle) sea breeze drifting in. There’s a feeling too, life is just better, it feels so natural, so free and just right. Like that is where you’re supposed to be. Or maybe that’s just me, who knows.
So off we walked in search of our hostel. With the standard prices on Rottnest Island being a touch above the budget of our au pair lifestyle, we booked two nights in a small 4 person room at the Kingstown Barracks hostel and then crammed in an extra four people – 8 people, 1 bed and 1 bunk bed. Our first night began with drinks and games in the room and ended with a walk to the water to skinny dip under the stars.
After an early morning and a slightly hungover breakfast at Dome we were off to rent bicycles to use for the weekend.
Since you’re not allowed to bring cars onto Rottnest Island, the best (and most fun) way of getting around is by bike. If you’re not into biking, there is a bus that runs around the island as well. From town you can essentially bike around the entire coastal loop – discovering as much (or as little) as you feel like. While we had big plans to explore every bit of it that we could, we ended up having so much fun at each spot that we settled on seeing less but staying longer at each stop.
With everyone on their bicycles and music coming from the speaker in Lindsey’s backpack, we took off down the road that followed the coast, winding our way in and out of beautiful views of rocky coastline on one side and stretches of bush land on the other. Our first stop at Henrietta Rocks was so mind-blowingly beautiful that we stayed there for ages. Some kicked back in the sand while the rest of us strapped on our snorkels and dove into the clearest water I have ever seen in my life.
Our entire weekend on Rotto turned out to continue much the same way it started: 48 hours of riding bikes along the coast, cooking up family-style dinners and brekkies, laying in the sun and snorkeling in the sea for hours. Luckily for us, we were with a group of boys just as keen to go out and discover what was hiding beneath the surface of the water and were constantly pointing out little sea caves, sting rays and anything else they could find us.
With everyone always up for a laugh, a drink, and a swim, it couldn’t have been a better weekend. After we’d had our fill of swimming for the day, we finished off the weekend settling in to a lookout point that looked over the sea and a huge stretch of beach, cracking the last of the beers from the night before, snapping one last group photo and watching two huge rays floating through the water below.
My Top 8 Tips for Visiting Rottnest Island
If you plan on hopping over to Rottnest Island when you’re in WA (and you definitely should – you can’t miss it!), here are my top tips for a great weekend:
Book Ahead! Accommodation fills up fast, especially around the holiday season. We were lucky that we found a room just a week in advance but if you’re organized and know when you want to go, it’s best to book your stay as far ahead as possible.
Rent a Bike! It’s the best way to see the island and have as much freedom to do as you want if you aren’t into relying on bus schedules.
Water! Always have a water bottle on you – biking in the heat is sweaty work and you don’t want to be stranded without any drinking water.
Snacks! Because snacks are just a good idea anywhere, anytime. Pack a few in your backpack for a nibble on the beach.
Sunscreen! The sun is strong down under and it’s impossible to escape the sun when you’re biking and snorkelling. Apply lots and often.
Respect the Wildlife! Quokkas are cute and they’ll eat from your hand and smile for a quokka selfie but please, just love them and leave them alone. Besides, animals are most beautiful and happy when they’re natural, free and not forced into exploitation for your five minutes of happiness. Same goes for marine life.
Leave the Crowds! Find a little slice of paradise all for yourself and your friends – Rotto has tons of little bays and coves to discover if you’re feeling adventurous.
Stay Awhile! Lots of people visit Rottnest Island for two days over a weekend or even on a day trip. While both will still be an amazing time, I easily could have stayed for three or four full days to really see everything that I wanted to see.