PLACES TO GO
Rottnest is only 11km long and 4.5km at its widest, covering around 1900ha. Its diverse habitats include salt lakes, bays and beaches with squeaky white sands, and turquoise waters teeming with fluorescent tropical fish, swimming against a background of brilliantly coloured coral. Head out on heathland walks and bike rides, go fishing, diving or snorkelling, and surf the break at Strickland Bay, ranked in the top 50 in the world. Outside the Settlement, the island is an A-Class Reserve which functions like a national park (no fires are allowed). The island was extensively prepared to defend Australia in the two World Wars, with two of the biggest guns ever built located here. One is beautifully restored, and can turn 360 degrees and fire beyond Perth. A visit to the Oliver Hill Battery to see these guns and tunnels is a must-do for young and old, to get a true appreciation of this unique military heritage. Rottnest is a popular day trip, but most people stay at least one night to soak up the laid-back island experience. Demand for accommodation is 4:1 during summer and Easter, so book well in advance (the ballot system is no longer is place). Camping, backpacker, hotel and lodge accommodation is also available and can be booked all year round. Rent bicycles, sports gear and snorkelling gear, plus surfboards, paddleboards, vu boards and dive gear (there is a compressor on the island), all available at Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper.
THINGS TO DO
Visit the seals
Spot the New Zealand fur seals; walk along the dirt track just before Cape Vlamingh and look for the flippers sticking out of the water. The seals are often very playful – but, like all wild animals, they should be approached with caution.
The upgraded bowling green is available for night bowls ($15pp for a two-hour session) and, as of late autumn 2014, the venue is licensed.
Offshore Try the ‘secret spot’ where sea containers litter the ocean floor, creating
a haven for salmon and silver trevally in late winter. For coordinates, search for ‘Rottnest containers’ in notable fishing forums.
Onshore Cast into the sandy-bottomed holes at Ricey Beach, where the reef extends from the shore. Also try Salmon Bay, the rocks to the left of Geordie Bay, and Natural Bridge (best for kids, at low tide with an ample supply of berley).
Forgot your rod? You can buy fishing rods and bait from the General Stores in Geordie Bay and Main Settlement in Thomson Bay.
Snorkel the Shipwrecks
Easy-to-reach wrecks are The Shark at Henrietta Rocks and The Uribes at Thomson Bay. Check seabreeze.com.au for the weather conditions.
A WEEKEND ON ROTTO
Getting there | The earliest ferry on a Saturday is 7.15am from the B-shed, Fremantle, and the last back to Perth on Sunday is at 4.25pm. Avoid wasting any time shopping by pre-ordering your groceries from the General Store, which will be delivered to your accommodation on arrival (for free!). If you’re travelling on your own boat, moorings can be rented online or on the day. Bear in mind that you’ll need to find a berth with an appropriate coloured sticker, based on vessel length, and the official licensee always has priority. If you leave your vessel, don’t forget to display your name and a contact number: get a laminated version made up before you leave.
Where to stay | Hotel Rottnest and the Rottnest Lodge are good weekend options and both will store your luggage for you if you arrive before check-in. The Rottnest Lodge has an earlier check-in (1pm) and also has a self-contained family room available so you’ve got the option to cook some meals at home. Other self-contained lodging includes the Kingston Heritage View Cottages that feature great outlooks; the closest cottage to town is located next to the tennis court. Keep in mind that it may be better to avoid the premium view villas with balconies if the weather forecast is looking stormy, and opt for one with a protected courtyard instead. You can check out the map of all the accommodation online at www.rottnestisland.com. For basic accommodation there are chalets and bungalows, a hostel and the campground.
Getting Around | The easiest way to travel around the island is to bring your own bike – they can take a while to be unloaded from the ferry, but if you’re arriving after 2pm you can assign someone to check in at the visitor centre while you wait for the bikes. There’s a massive benefit to packing hand luggage only – you can rent a cargo carrier (30kg capacity, child carriers are 45kg) from the hire shop, and be on your way as soon as you’ve collected your wheels, otherwise you’ll wait for your gear to be delivered to your accommodation. If you prefer to hire a bike, simplify the process by booking and paying for one prior to your visit. There’s also a buggy for wheelchair-confined visitors. It can be booked for a three-hour period, and is free to use (it was donated by a generous benefactor).
TOP SPOTS OUT OF THE BREEZE
Southerly wind | Little Armstrong Bay, Parakeet Bay and The Basin
Northerly wind | Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay
Northeasterly | Little Armstrong Bay
Southwesterly | The Basin.
Cycle around the island
Snorkel the bays
Spot Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals
See the guns at Oliver Hill
Catch the Island Explorer Bus
Dive the shipwrecks
All these events and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo