Australia, Best of the Blog, Destinations, Oceania, Stories from the Road

In Search of Quokkas on Rottnest Island

The sun shines bright on Rottnest Island, the water is a crystalline turquoise that beckons me to its warm embrace, but there is only one thing on my mind, a small, approximately one foot tall marsupial called a quokka. I, like so many others before me, have ventured to this little island about 25 km off the coast of Perth to see a quokka. For a bit of background, I am a nature nerd at heart, I grew up on Nature documentaries and Animal Planet, and I have been known to go on excessively long quests to spot native wildlife. I even went to Costa Rica for the sole purpose of a cheap flight back to the States and, more importantly, to see a sloth. After three days and one night safari, I finally saw my sloth in Costa Rica and I had assumed spotting a quokka would be similarly difficult. I was so wonderfully wrong.

There is nothing cuter than a smiling quokka.

Quokkas are everywhere on Rottnest Island and they are quite possibly the friendliest, least fearful wild creatures I have ever seen. They are so curious that the ‘quokka selfie’ has gone viral, due to their adorable smiling faces and constant desire to see if that human over there has food. (However, while the quokkas are very friendly, please do not feed them as they are still wild animals and do not digest Cadbury very well. There is also a $500 AUD fine for feeding them, but I don’t think it’s strictly enforced.)

It takes me approximately 5 minutes of being on Rottnest to spot my first quokka. He is asleep in the middle of the town square, head folded over onto his tiny feet, snoozing away without a care in the world. I squeal, “Quokka!!!” appropriately loudly and hurry over to snap a couple of pictures of this ball of fur. Kane, being from Perth, is less impressed and jokingly tells me, “I told you there would be a million quokkas.” We leave the little one to sleep, after all they are nocturnal, and go in search of more, hopefully awake, quokkas and a nice patch of beach to camp out on for the day. We succeed very quickly in both ventures.

Obligatory quokka selfie.

While most people come to Rottnest for the quokkas (it is home to 8,000 to 12,000 quokkas as of 2008) the island itself is one of the most beautiful I have been to. Rottnest is not a tropical island, so don’t expect palm trees, but it does have white sand beaches, brilliantly clear waters, and many opportunities for recreation, from cycling around the car-free island to paddle boarding during the early morning calm of the ocean. It reminds me a little of a trip my family took to Catalina Island (located off the coast of Southern California) when I was younger for my grandma’s birthday. Both islands have a laid back, family vacation feel to them that comes from the quiet, peacefulness that exists there.

Kane and I spend the day relaxing on the beach, reading, and taking pictures of quokkas, but by the time the ferry arrives to take us back to Perth I’m not ready to go. I wish I could stay in this little slice of quiet island life for longer, but the accommodation prices us budget travelers out and we need to get back to our (free) lodging at Kane’s parent’s house. With one last look, I wave goodbye to the quokkas and bounce back to Perth across the afternoon chop of the Indian Ocean.

Enjoying the beauty that is Rottnest Island.

Tips for a Day Trip to Rottnest Island from Perth:

Getting there: Get to the train line from wherever you are staying and make your way down to Fremantle. The Rottnest Express ferry leaves from the Fremantle port, which is about a 5 minute walk from the last stop on the Fremantle line. We went on a Tuesday as the Rottnest Express has a discount fare on Tuesdays, a single adult round trip ticket costs $39 AUD rather than the normal $80 AUD. Book a ferry here.

Food: Eating on the island is very expensive. If you aren’t willing to pay upwards of $25 AUD for single meal bringing your own food would be a good idea. We did not think about this beforehand and paid the price.(These prices are for the restaurants on the island; there is a bakery with reasonably priced meat pies and some simple sandwiches that we ate at for breakfast, but as we didn’t want a repeat meal we ended up at the restaurants for lunch.)

What to Bring: Snorkeling gear, towel, hat, sunscreen, change of clothes (if you want to go to the nicer restaurants in something that hasn’t seen a lot of sand), food (if you don’t plan to go to the expensive restaurants), and a phone to take quokka selfies.

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