Having family and friends spread out across the globe as we do, we have many special places dear to the Kiwi and I. Places not even known to us yet! It’s only 4 weeks until I travel to New Zealand (first time ever – I know, bad Kiwi loving girlfriend right?!) but I know that Auckland, where the Kiwi grew up, his father still lives and now the home of my best friend, is going to be special to me. Auckland, I can’t wait to meet you!
But there’s one place that cemented itself as pretty special to us quite early on…Rottnest Island.
Trust me, it’s prettier than it sounds.
Most people travelling to Western Australia, which is less than you think when you consider the pull of the East Coast for those budget concious travellers, will tend to stick around the popular (mainland) pulls. Perth city, Margaret River and Fremantle to name but a few.
This small island located 18km west of Fremantle, is a bicycle-riding only, snake and quokka infested gem, located within a teaming and healthy section of A class reserve. For only a short ferry ride from Fremantle, it’s like being transported out of the built-up suburbs of sprawling Perth, and being transported back to your romantic ideal of ‘wild’ Australia…coupled with happy childhood memories of riding around on your bike all day with your gang of friends. A kinda B-Movie thriller of ‘Every Animal Wants To Kill Me’ crossed with your friendly neighbourhood close.
Miles and miles, well 19km’s worth of stunning scenery can be accessed by hiring a bike and making use of the extensive ‘cycle highways’ around the island. From salt lakes and swamps, to coral reefs and seal colonies, with no roads, no cars and only 100 residents on the island, you can saddle up with sun cream and water (Slip, Slop, Slap) and spend a whole day exploring without being disturbed by another human. Bliss.
One of the last times we went, we made a last minute trip with some of Marlen’s family. Last minute (as in the day before travelling), totally unplanned and on a national holiday, the Kiwi and I were hopelessly at odds of securing a place in one of the island’s holiday lets, but in hindsight, this couldn’t have worked out better for us.
Unperturbed by the lack of sleeping arrangements, a ‘No worries maaayte’ kind of situation, Marlen’s uncle kindly lent us the use of his boat to sleep on. A beautiful boat, and a veteran traveller to the island itself, the only thing lacking from it’s powerful engine, exhaustive fishing supplies and copious beverage stores, is a roof. As an English(wo)man and therefore completely unfamiliar to the concept of warm nights and guaranteed good weather, I should have been anxious, however once I saw that our ceiling was to be the stars, our boat rocking gently in the tide, I couldn’t have been more excited. The memory of those stars still gives me goosebumps.
Around 3am I was woken by the light, the light of a sky free from cloud and far removed from the light pollution of Perth city. The Milky Way branded the night sky and the sea lapped calmly at the boat as if on a lake. Moored from the shore, a view unrestricted by marinas or even other boats for that matter, I spent the next couple of hours watching the sky thinking how lucky I was to be who I was, just there, for those few hours. The Kiwi of course slept it through it all until I woke him at around 5am. Stars and boats are great…until you realise you need a wee. And it’s high tide. And did I mention there wasn’t a toilet on board?!
Still – greatest wee ever. And I’ve given these things some thought! Wading, waist deep in my pyjamas, watching the sun rise. You get the idea. Undignified yet utterly blissful.
On other trips to Rottnest, we’ve set our alarm clocks for the early morning to go out and watch the Milky Way. Even when exhausted from the day and its swimming, jumping and biking, there’s truly nothing more worth setting the alarm for 3am than chucking the tripod on the back of the bike and cycling to Bathurst point just to get a couple of snaps of the night sky. A camera with a long exposure is a must for any star hunters visiting the island and even our simple old Canon was able to pick up the brilliance of a Rottnest night sky.
Sadly, like much of Australia, the island’s history is a sad one, a recent history rooted in persecution, brutality and the umbrella that veils it all – colonisation. As many as 195 aboriginal graves are said to be on the island, all inmates of an aboriginal prison settled there and all victims of disease, malnutrition or their overseers brutality. Since then, the buildings in the Quod have been used as a boys reformatory and military infrastructure and are certainly worth a visit and read of the information boards dotted around.
The first western travellers to discover the island were the Dutch who fondly called the island ‘Rat’s nest’, Rottnest to us, after the teaming amount of quokkas found on the island. This is their native habitat and with an exclusion of natural or introduced predators on the island, they have thrived. You will find them everywhere! Shops, your house, your picnic! They’re sort of like cute little crosses between wallabies and, well reallycutebuteversoslightlylike big rats (the Dutch said it first!). It’s the tails. The faces however are cute level Ryan Gosling avec kittens. Tempting as it is, and as much as they try to help themselves, you have to resist feeding them. Even though when they beg they look like they’re smiling! “Booooo! Take all of my food!”
For those looking for a holiday from a holiday, an escape to somewhere different on the traditional tourist trail, Rottnest Island is a beautiful little must. All information on ferry times and accommodation can be found on the wonderful Rottnest island website.
Cycle, meet quokkas and see the stars,
For those of you looking for bluer waters closer to the UK, why not check out our guide to Porthgwarra and the beautiful blue waters of Nanjizal? Or if the history side interests you more, be sure to check out our visit to Gunwalloe.