There’s a little island off the coast that for quite some time now has attracted Western Australians, other Australians and increasingly the international traveller seeking a genuine sand-in-your-toes destination or maybe just an insta-worthy-pic with the worlds cutest animal.
Wadjemup (Rottnest) has just taken a couple of Red Bulls and is revved up for a summer that can still remain laid back or it can put you on your back with exhaustion.
Skydiving, fishing tours for kids, water parks, walking tours and new facilities like refreshment vans on the west end of the island now mean you don’t need to carry litres of water on your bike (plus, always remember that the various tour sites with volunteer guides carry lots of water that you can use to top up your water bottle ….. for free).
Tom and I began our day a bit differently for a trip to Wadjemup. Rather than Barrack Street, Freo or Hillarys, we head to the South Perth foreshore. Within minutes of our arrival, the Cessna Caravan from Swan River Seaplanes comes diving out of the morning sun and lands smoothly on the water in front of us.
Above: From South Perth to Wadjemup
The take off was more graceful than my graceless body surfing at City Beach. The aircrafts pontoons lift off the water in the direction of Crown Casino and the Optus Stadium before banking to the west.
There was time to take in the view of the city, the coast, the ocean and then Wajemup came in sight.
I was scheduled to go live on air, in the air, with 6PR radio to describe the experience but the flight was so fast we’d landed at Wadjemup before they could cross to me. Even with two laps of the island to take in the view the flight was only 20 minutes.
Above: Wadjemup from the air with Swan River Seaplanes
Meeting us on the island is the Rottnest Island Authority Executive Director, Michelle Reynolds, who has very generously accepted the challenge of showing us around the island. For the next few hours we are regaled with historical stories, modern day plans and have the opportunity to learn and experience the island like I have never done before.
A climb of the Wadjemup Lighthouse is 155 steps and because I’m a father I’m allowed to generate the odd dad joke or two so I asked Tom how many steps it was coming down. Easy. Remember he’s only ten.
Above: Wadjemup Lighthouse and one of the new refreshment vans
We visit the bays, inspect the beaches, salt lakes and tuart groves and watch as ospreys nest and seals bask and loll. We buy refreshments from the new vans and felt a bit guilty, as we entered Michelle’s airconditioned car, that we were possibly depriving a thirsty cyclist of a much needed peach iced tea.
Above: Refreshments from the van at Fish Hook Bay
When we parted ways with Michelle it was with a new appreciation for the work that is going into making Wadjemup better but also for acknowledging what people love most about the island experience, a laid back lifestyle where even sunburn and grazed knees just don’t seem to hurt as much as they do on the mainland.
Tom and I headed to the bakery to get a well deserved cream bun and a choc milk before making the ten minute walk to The Basin for a well anticipated swim. Along the way Tom met his spirit quokka. We didn’t attempt a selfie but first contact was made as Tom got down to eyelevel with a quokka and his outstretched finger was sniffed and touched by this amazing little animals nose.
At The Basin, a Christmas choir was singing from the waters edge and even the fish were joining in. As carols reverberated off the limestone cliffs Tom and I swam along the reef edge and spotted all sorts of fish that were bigger than my foot, in fact both feet put together! Bream, Trevally, Snapper and even a couple of retired old cods, just hanging out by a weed bank discussing the latest flotsam, jetsam and tidal trends.
The fast and comfortable journey back to Perth by SeaLink ferry was made even better by the opportunity for Tom to take the captains chair on the bridge and monitor the compass as we made our way into Fremantle Harbour. He was in his element, scanning from river bank to river bank and warning pelicans to get out of the way.
Above: Tom gets instructions from the SeaLink Skipper
What a way to spend a day in WA!
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For information on my day with Tom on Rottnest have a look at my Instagram account @chrisparrywritesforus