PARADISE FOUND AT ROTTNEST ISLAND IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA
For those who follow Mr Weekender on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you'll know I was in Perth last week. I flew into the very hot and sunny city early Sunday morning and decided to jump on a ferry over to Rottnest Island. I was even more intrigued when I found out the only way to get around the island is by walking or cycling. Excellent. How to get there If you live in Sydney like myself, the best way to get to Perth is by plane. I caught a flight with Virgin Australia; from Sydney it takes about four to five hours depending on tail or head winds. I stayed at the Rydges in the city of Perth on the corner of Hay and King Streets and caught a 25 minute taxi to the docks down at Freemantle. The ferry to Rottnest Island leaves from 'B Shed' so just tell your taxi driver you want to be dropped off at B Shed in Freemantle, they'll know exactly where to go, even if you have no idea. The Rottnest Express is a ferry which departs from B Shed every hour or so. You can easily book your ticket online or purchase them when you arrive. Personally, I would pre book online as the ferry was full on both of my trips. If you you booked online, make sure you walk into B Shed to get a printed version of your ticket which has a bar code. This will get scanned as you step onto the ferry. If have a little bit of time to kill when you arrive at B Shed, there are numerous coffee shops and a market which will keep you busy until the ferry arrives. The ferry journey itself takes 25 minutes and when you jump on from B Shed you'll notice it has two levels so when you are going towards Rottnest Island, sit downstairs as the ferry disembarks from this level when you arrive. And on the flip side, when you depart Rottnest Island, sit upstairs as the ferry disembarks from this level when you arrive at Freemantle. It certainly helps avoiding long waiting queues when getting off the ferry.
What to do
Once you arrive at Rottnest Island I recommend going straight to the Visitors Centre at Thomson Bay to grab a map of the island. If you plan on staying for a weekender or visiting as a day destination, the best way to get around and explore the stunning island is by bicycle. There are well placed signs which will tell you where you can hire a bicycle and other equipment so I would recommend organising this after you pick up a map. Once you have your bicycle, ride back in the direction of the Visitors Centre and pick up food and drinks from the General Store at Thomson Bay, which is more like the best supermarket I've ever been to. There is no drinking water or food available outside Thomson Bay or Geordie Bay so don't forget your supplies!
Cycling and snorkelling are the most popular activities on Rottnest Island, as with surfing and stand up paddling. So bundle your food, water and equipment together and start riding. As I only arrived at the island around 12.30pm, I didn't end up hiring a bicycle for the afternoon as I had to return it at 3.30pm. This was a bit of a shame as it really limited my exploring around the island, so try to get to the island earlier in the day if you can. The island itself is about 11km long and 4km wide so walking around is super easy.
I was told that the best spot for swimming and snorkelling was Pinky's Beach and The Basin, so I walked past Thomson Bay towards Bathurst Lighthouse and was left speechless after I came across Pinky's. I've been to some beautiful beaches in Australia, however this currently tops my list. Crystal clear waters, the softest white sand and stunning rockery literally took my breath away. I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon at this beach swimming, reading and sleeping under the sun. It was the first time I've been to the beach this summer without my surf board and I was a little apprehensive because I am used to being so active on the beach. However I enjoyed myself almost a little too easily.
With 63 bays and beaches, there is obviously a lot more to see and do at Rottnest Island other than luxuriating at Pinky's. If you love snorkelling, in addition to The Basin and Pinky's, definitely explore Parakeet Bay, Little Armstrong Bay, Little Salmon Bay, Parker Point and Porpoise Bay. If watching whales swim by is more your thing, during September and November head down to Fish Hook Bay, also well known for it's immaculate sunsets. If you love surfing, the best spot to find the perfect wave is Salmon Bay. You can also try your luck at Stark Bay, Strickland Bay and Little Salmon Bay. I also discovered an ocean break just in front of the Bathurst Lighthouse which offered the perfect sized waves for me. I was kicking myself for not bringing my board, but at least I'll know to the next time I come to Rottnest Island.