Rottnest Island is one of the more unusual day walk destinations in Perth. The island is only 30km from the city centre and is viewed by locals as an ideal holiday destination for water sports and cycling. There is just one settlement on the island, virtually no cars and no hiking trails.
That doesn’t sound promising for walkers, but the island actually has some unexpected pluses as a day walk destination. The obvious attraction is that it is just a 25 minute ferry ride from Perth’s port city of Fremantle. In addition, you can walk on the roads, since the only traffic will be the half hourly bus and a scattering of cyclists.
An interesting and varied walking route is to catch the bus to the far western end of the island and walk back to the ferry landing at Thomson Bay. The first bus of the day will take you to Cape Vlamingh (aka West Point). Later buses only go as far as the Roland Smith Memorial, so you need to walk the last 2.7km to the cape.
Cape Vlamingh is named after the Dutch naval captain Willem Vlamingh, who visited the island in 1696. The lookout is on the site of a WWII searchlight and has spectacular views of nearby Cathedral Rocks and Fish Hook Bay. If you look westward across the blue Indian Ocean, the next landfall is 6400km away in Madagascar.
From the cape, you follow the road through rolling, scrubby terrain past the Roland Smith Memorial. Continue heading west past eerie wind-pruned trees towards Green Island sanctuary, which is a nice spot for a swim if you are feeling hot. You may also spot some ospreys or oystercatchers as well.
After passing the access path to Wadjemup Lighthouse, take the road to the left, which goes through the centre of the island back to the main settlement and ferry landing. The road gradually becomes more hilly and windy, but remains fairly easy going.
If you keep a watchful eye on shady patches beneath the occasional trees, you will probably see some quokkas. These marsupials are about the size of a cat, and look like miniature kangaroos. They are quite tame and mostly ignore humans, but will become much more inquisitive if you stop to eat your lunch.
The island actually takes its name from the quokkas. Captain Vlamingh thought they were large rats and named the island Rottenest, which is Dutch for Rat’s Nest.
The road continues past the Oliver Hill Guns, visible on the hilltop, and runs between a series of salt lakes. These are another good place to see some interesting birds, including ducks and waders. The walk ends at the Thomson Bay settlement, which has historic buildings and shops.
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Words and Photo_Keith Hall