ABC Saturday Breakfast … discovering hidden treasure on our most treasured destination

While our Hidden Treasures are traditionally within areas that maybe you haven’t considered visiting before, our next Hidden Treasure is all about what you might not know, or have experienced, at one of our most treasured destinations.

It’s not Broome, it’s not Margaret River and it’s not Three Springs or Narrogin.

It’s Wadjemup! 

Enjoy listening to the broadcast – live from Wadjemup – on the link below and enjoy reading below, about a couple of days on Wadjemup with my Producer, Tom Parry.

I’ve done a few stories on Wadjemup over the years, including a rite of passage visit with Matilda which was all about snorkelling at the Basin, getting a cream bun and a choc milk from the bakery and riding a bike and only stopping for quokkas, dugites and Ashton Agar.

I’ve covered the island’s remarkable ANZAC Day Dawn service and more recently Tom and I jumped across to the island in a seaplane, lifting off from the Swan River and spending time on the island to help Tom find his spirit quokka.

This sand-in-your-toes destination has the effect on West Australians that I described in last weekends staycation discussion.  You know you’re going to have fun but it’s the ability to relax and take on a pace of life far removed from your normal city life that is so appealing to us.

If you haven’t been to the island before you will typically hit the Basin, Geordie Bay, cycle around the island, hit the bakery three times a day and try desperately to remember what your Maths teacher taught you about angles when trying to capture a selfie with a quokka.

Interestingly, if you have been to the island before, you’ll probably still just do those same activities and experiences.  As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” but as I would say, “Let’s see what treasure is still to be discovered on our favourite island in the sun.”

Let’s discover a few of the experiences that those who work on Wadjemup wish visitors spent some time doing … just for fun and just for a bit of understanding.

A cultural tour is where a Wadjemup rite of passage should begin.  Before you put the flippers on or hop on a bike, put your cultural curiosity into gear.  

Enjoy a walking tour of the island that’s much more than a tour, it’s an experience that enriches your understanding of the island from an Aboriginal perspective.

Some of it is devastating and notorious but there’s also the beauty of a dreamtime story that describes how important the west end of the island is to Aboriginal people. There are traditional songs and a very special sand ceremony that reminds you of a time when Wadjemup was connected to the mainland.

The Wadjemup Museum has been recently renovated and full of new displays and new stories and ways of interpreting old stories through touchscreens and audio experiences.  Also, out the front is a new engaging space with a mini amphitheatre and installation of sculptures with interpretations of the island. 

New sculptures at the Wadjemup Museum

A military maze of tunnels that take you underground and give you an understanding of the importance of Wadjemup during World War II.  You descend down steep stairs into the bowels of Wadjemup and from there the artillery shells for the big guns on Oliver Hill were stored and plotting rooms calculated the required trajectory of the big guns that protected the sea lane approaches to Fremantle. Make sure you ask lots of questions because your guides know more than Google. It’s a well paced tour with lots of opportunities to learn and even more opportunities to go ‘Wow!’.

Into the bowels of Wadjemup we go

If you don’t have a boat when you’re at Wadjemup there are a few ways to get on the water and see the island from a different perspective. This summer there are fishing trips for kids to catch some herring and whiting and there are whale watching tours which mean you’re right in the middle of the action rather than departing from the mainland. If you don’t mind getting completely drenched, try the Rottnest Express Adventure Tour which races around the island but slows down and gives way to seals and whales.

Whales, seals and a good drenching

Wadjemup sits in the middle of the Leeuwin Current and this explains why the waters around Wadjemup are always a bit warmer. As I said to Tom, “You can’t blame the seals for the water being warm.”

The Thompson Bay Jetty is perfect for catching a squid in the evening. Cast a line with your mate, hold the torch light on the jig as it floats in the water looking like a prawn on its way to a nightclub and wait for a Kraken from the deep to slide its tentacles over the jig and then pull him in and try and avoid the spray of black ink as he leaves the water.

Herring, whiting, stingrays and squid … there’s a lot going on at the end of Main Jetty

Geocaching is modern day treasure hunting that gets kids outside while using their devices!  How cool is that?  Across more than 190 countries there are more than 3 million geocaches and a sneaky number of these little hidden stores are on Wadjemup. 

As part of your geochaching expedition, or to see Quokkas in the wild and not just outside the shops or inside your cottage, try one of the walking trails that criss-cross the island. The trails are a favourite hangout for the rangers who love sitting quietly and seeing what Quokkas do when they’re aren’t cake crumbs around.  

The path well-travelled on Wadjemup inevitably leads to the bakery. While the bakery is a wonderful rite of passage in its own right and eating a cream bun in the shade of a big old Moreton Bay Fig tree is a real treat, try a road less travelled and grab a felafel wrap loaded with jalepenos from the Lane Café, on the other side of the mall. Actually, even better than the felafel wrap is the Cray Dog. I’m no food reviewer but I know the words to use; succulent, dreamy, fresh, indulgent and joyful.

Cray Dogs. That’s right. Cray Dogs.

Wadjemup is a hidden treasure because there are tours and opportunities to get a better understanding of the Aboriginal experience and stories of Wadjemup … and because you can still snorkel and ride your bike but there’s time to explore bunkers and tunnels … and you can still have a cream bun and a choc milk but you can enjoy a felafel wrap as well. Or a Cray Dog. Or two. 

So next time you’re on Wadjemup, think about how you can discover some hidden treasure.

Wadjemup sunset from the Bathurst Lighthouse

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