One of my absolute highlights while I was down in Fremantle, was a day trip I took over to Rottnest Island. Some of you may have heard of these delightful little creatures called Quokkas after the craze started for getting selfies with these incredibly tame animals. I only first heard of the quokka during my first year in Australia and ever since then I've always wanted to see one with my own eyes, yet another Australian animal to add to my ever increasing list of unique natural sights. From kangaroos and wallabies, to wedge-tailed eagles, koalas, dingoes, wombats and kookaburras - the only ones I haven't seen in the wild are cassowaries and Tasmanian devils. So I was keen to check out the quokkas and also to see the incredible nature beauty of Rottnest Island, which is supposed to be a real jewel on Perth's coast.
Visitors take a ferry over for the day, or can spend the night - there is even a hostel on the island - and then spend the day biking around the island or taking tours to view the highlights, snorkel, relax on the beaches and of course, to spot quokkas. I was excited at the prospect of a day out on bikes exploring a new place and was keen for some fresh sea breezes and sunshine, but when I looked at the price, my heart sank a bit. Prices for the ferry and bike hire started at $100, and went higher if you needed to hire a snorkel as well. It doesn't sound like much, but I thought it was quite expensive for a day trip, especially when all that was included was ferry and bike hire. I was on a backpacker budget and although this was the start of my holiday after working for so long - I didn't really want to wave goodbye to $100 of my budget for my West Coast trip. Cue frugal Lucy thinking about ways to reduce the price.
Luckily, I was chatting about the trip with a few of my friends at the hostel and was told that the Rottnest Express ran special deals on a Tuesday which took the price down to $39 for the ferry, or $59 for both ferry and bike hire. That was a much more acceptable price, and since I could borrow snorkels off people in the hostel, I ended up saving around $60 on the price. Definitely look into booking this way - use this link. After all, we backpackers have to be smart with our money if we want to travel for as long as possible. The next issue, was to find a day that would offer the perfect weather for exploring the island - the weather in Perth at this time was a tad unpredictable with brilliant sunshine some days, torrential rain other days and cold winds. Some people who had no choice but to go on the trip on the rough weather days came back miserable, cold and wet because the island is so exposed and there is no shelter. Those who went on the sunny days came back full of tales of adventures and quokkas with big smiles on their faces - I knew what experience I wanted. I gave up on going on the trip three Tuesdays in a row, and then magically, on my final Tuesday at the hostel, the sun was due to shine and give us a perfect day for it. A big group of us booked the trip and were really excited for a day of snorkelling and sunshine.
Planning your day
We took the 9.15am ferry from B Shed - just a short walk from our hostel - and arrived at 10am, perfectly timed to grab our hire bikes, complete a loop of the island and then be back to catch our return ferry at 4.25pm. You could easily go on an earlier boat and come back later if you want more time to explore, but I felt the time we had was perfect - we had plenty of time to see everything at our own pace and to relax on the beaches and snorkel. When you arrive, pop into the visitor's centre at the end of the jetty to collect a map and to have a quick chat with the guides who work there - they can advise the best route around the island depending on the weather and how much time you have so you can hit as many of the best spots as possible. Make sure to take a packed lunch, plenty of water and and alcohol you might way as the shops there are expensive and are only in the centre, not out near the beaches.
We decided to take a left at the end of the jetty and to head towards Kingstown where we spotted our first quokka - they were so much bigger than I expected that I almost thought it was a possum. We couldn't believe how close we could actually get to these incredible tame creatures and how friendly they were. We snapped a few photos and then headed on our way towards Bickley Bay and Bickley Point, taking in the stunning views along the way. Heading down to Porpoise Bay for our first go at snorkelling - we were incredibly lucky and saw wild dolphins playing in the water barely 30m away from where I was standing. Parker Point was another stunning viewpoint with so many quokkas just waiting to be captured in your selfies. Then we headed round to Little Salmon Bay and Salmon Point where we went snorkelling again and enjoyed the sunshine. My friend and I went snorkelling all around the rocks and saw so many fish hiding amongst the coral.
As it hit the afternoon, we decided to start heading towards the lighthouse and back towards the jetty. Our way back was a beautiful bike ride through the lakes, passing Serpentine Lake, Lake Herschel and Government House Lake as we raced each other and laughed our way round.Now we had a lot of time relaxing and snorkelling which was exactly what we wanted out of the day, we only completed half of the island loop, but that was perfect for us. You could easily go a bit earlier and return later so you could complete the whole loop, but I don't think you would have as much time for snorkelling and just enjoying the beaches. However, I would also recommend checking out the top half of the island where there are many amazing snorkelling spots including The Basin, Longreach Bay, Parakeet Bay and Little Armstrong Bay. Or head to the further away point for snorkelling at Abraham Point, Mabel Cove and Fish Hook Bay, and even surfing at Cathedral Rocks and Radar Reef.
It was a perfect day that was much needed for all of us and a lovely escape from Fremantle. With many of us leaving the following week, it was a great way to celebrate our time together and to see one of the most incredible natural beauties Perth has to offer. I got to swim with wild dolphins, take selfies with quokkas, snorkel with fish, climb rocks, bike over 10km and relax on the beach - a pretty epic day.
Have you been to Rottnest Island - what was your highlight? What other amazing islands can you recommend to visit in Australia?