Western Australia are celebrating the birthday of this Australian icon this September with a whole lot of events on its island home – Rottnest.
It’s official, the Australian Quokka, with its super smiley furry face is the happiest animal on the planet. Everyone who travels there across the bay from Fremantle in Perth, on the Rottnest ferry wants a selfie with them. It’s really become quite a thing – even Roger Federer on his visit to play in WA caught the Quokka bug and managed to get up close and persona!
Rottnest island doesn’t sound like a particularly scenic destination. Called “Rotte nest” (meaning “rat nest”) because in the 17th century a Dutch sea captain mistook the quokkas for giant rats – but Rottnest Island is in fact a very beautiful small island indeed. Kids go free to Rottnest island on this Quokka birthday so it’s a great time to visit!
No cars allowed!
Rottnest Island, known as Wadjemup to the local Noongar people, and ‘Rotto’ to the local Ozzies, is 11 miles west of Fremantle and covers a mere 7.3 square miles. It has its own Island Authority and no cars are allowed on the island (other than a few services vehicles and tourist buses.) It’s pushbikes all the way on Rotto.
If you want to catch the quokka birthday events you need to hop on The Rottnest Express. There are daily ferry services from Perth and Fremantle to the island. While the crossing isn’t very long, things can get rather frisky due to the windy conditions here.
This can make you feel a bit queasy and it doesn’t really help when the broadly smiling crew member comes around offering sick bags to passengers. Just fix your eyes on the horizon and concentrate on the rainbows that appear in the spray and you’ll be there in a jiffy. At least that’s what I did, as I’ve never been the best sailor.
This low lying island is a protected nature reserve and home to the world famous quokkas, a vulnerable native Australian species. The quokkas only exist in small pockets elsewhere and Rottnest island is home to the last large population of them anywhere on earth. The quokka is a small furry marsupial about the size of a cat. It lives in and around the bushes all over the island but you are most likely to spot them at the side of the road.
How to find a quokka
Finding them is easy as they have very little fear of humans and are naturally friendly and curious animals. We came across several little parties of them, some with mums and baby micro quokkas, which are unfeasibly cute.
They hopped over to say hello, explore our bikes and try to sniff out food in our rucksacks. You’re aren’t supposed to feed them at all and I was admonished by the local wardens for giving a small piece of apple to one – even though it was a Western Australian apple.
The happiest animal on the planet
The quokka’s island home
Rottnest island separated from the mainland about 7,000 years ago. It is home to a number of bird species including the osprey, and we actually saw one sitting on its nest atop a pile of sticks on a rock while we were there. The island also has colonies of Australian sea lions and southern fur seals. It is home to three endemic tree species, notably the Rottnest Island pine.
Human artifacts have been discovered here dating back at least 30,000 years. However it was uninhabited when the Dutch sailors discovered this enchanting place..
The adorable quokkas are a main attraction but the island’s coastline is spectacular. The island is dotted with the most beautiful little coves and beaches, with pure white sand fringing the turquoise sea. Rock pools make shallow reefs. Bands of water create patches of lighter greens and blues visible from the clifftop road. As pretty as anything you will see in the Caribbean, Rottnest island has a lot less people too!
Rottnest island – cycling heaven
You can hire bikes or take your own on the ferry crossing. There are about 11 miles of safe cycling all the way around the island. The routes wind up and down quiet roads, to and from lovely little beaches. We stopped off at one beach for a bit of a rest after some vigorous pedalling. There was literally no one else there when we arrived.
Rottnest island really is like paradise and Robinson Crusoe would definitely have approved. There are quite a few hills to tackle though, and it does take a bit of effort to cycle all around it. The hill up to Wadjemup lighthouse is especially steep. It was worth it though – I do love a lighthouse.
Beaches on Rottnest include Ricey beach, Parakeet and Porpoise Bay, Crayfish and Fishook Bay and of course of particular interest to me, Wilson Bay and Geordie Bay!
We have some lovely beaches on our North East coast at home in the UK, but not quite like this one here…
The inaugural quokka birthday!
The crystal clear waters, fine powder white sand, coral reefs and unique wildlife make this a very special place indeed. Access to Rottnest is carefully controlled. There is accommodation here, but it is limited and quite expensive, so things have remained largely unspoiled.
The old buildings from the 1800’s give the place a rather quaint air. The happy quokkas largely have the island to themselves after the last ferry has gone. We rode back into Thomson Bay to catch our ferry home. Before we left the island I tried a salted caramel ice cream courtesy of Simmos ices which was delicious!
Prettier than any picture, and home to the uniquely adorable quokkas, Rottnest island is a real gem, and a must do if you ever get to travel to this spectacular sunny, side of the world.
What a fantastic place to celebrate this very special Quokka birthday!