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Paradise on Earth
Rottnest Island (Australia)
Member Name: bujin
Rottnest Island (Australia)
Date: 24/07/03, updated on 24/07/03 (311 review reads)
Advantages: Too many to mention!
Disadvantages: None that spring to mind.
Sorry, this one's quite a long one... ;o)
== The island ==
Rottnest Island, or Rotto as it is known to the locals, is a small island approximately 15km off the Western Australia coast, near the state capital of Perth. It measures 11kms long by 4.5kms wide (at its widest point). The island is a popular holiday destination for both Australians and internationals alike, and attracts approximately 500,000 visitors every year. The island has a permanent population of roughly 400 people who all work on the island. Motorised vehicles on the island are restricted to public transport (buses and a train), maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles. All other transport is either by foot or bicycle.
== History ==
Ancient history first. Rottnest "Island" has been inhabited for as much as 30,000 years by the indiginous Australian people (Aborigines). At that point, it was still part of the Australian mainland, but separated around 7,000 years ago with the rising sea levels. The Aboriginal name for the island is Wadjemup, meaning "place across the water".
In the 17th century, the island was first encountered by Dutch explorers searching for a lost ship. The island was named "Rottnest" (rat's nest) in 1696 by Captain Willem de Vlamingh on account of the small marsupial animals known as Quokkas which look like large rats. The island was described by Vlamingh as a "paradise on Earth" and "pleasurable above all islands I have ever seen".
In the 1830s, Rottnest Island became a confinement place for Aboriginal prisoners. By the 1880s, the prison population had grown from an original six (who incidentally, escaped!) to around 170 people, sixty of whom died in an influenza epidemic. It remained a prison island officially until 1903, although the last prisoner did not leave until 1931.
In 1917, Rottnest became a 'A' Class Reserve, protecti
ng all plants, animals and cultural sites on the island and with the closure of the prison, it quickly became used for recreational purposes.
In the late 1930s, with the growing threat of a second major war, Rottnest took up an important role in coastal defence. The Settlement buildings were requisitioned for military use and guns and military installations were built at Oliver Hill and Bickley Battery, as were the Barracks at Kingstown. By 1942, military personel on the island numbered around 2,500.
The island was still used for military training after the war until 1985, where Kingstown Barracks were handed over to the Rottnest Island Authority, where the island has been used until this day for recreational purposes.
== The Settlement ==
The Settlement is the main population centre on Rottnest, situated on Thompson Bay on the Eastern side of the island. It contains all major facilities, such as shops, post office and cash machines. There is a camp site for people to pitch their tents, or if the local wildlife makes you feel edgy (:o) ), you can opt to stay at either the Rottnest Hotel ($80 - $200 per room per night depending on room type and time of year) or Rottnest Lodge ($130 - $460 per room per night depending on room type and time of year).
If you don't mind a walk, and don't mind sharing rooms, a much cheaper option is the Kingstown Barracks YHA which is 1Km away from the Settlement. Beds cost as little as $20 per night.
(N.B. I've put the conversion rate at the bottom!)
== Activities ==
First and foremost - the beaches. Rottnest Island has some absolutely magnificent beaches. One of the most popular ones is the Basin, around a 1km walk from the Settlement. It can get quite crowded there though, but travelling around the island uncovers some fantastic secluded beaches for you to simply lie down and relax!
These beaches are not li
y that you would find in the UK. The water is clear, the sand is sof
t and fine (and hot!). Word of warning though - don't think that just because it is hot in Australia that the sea will be warm - IT ISN'T!!! ;o)
There are a wide range of water activities available, from snorkelling and surfing up to boating.
Getting around the island can be achieved in a number of ways. Given the lack of motor vehicles, walking is very safe and very enjoyable. There is a bus service that runs around the island for a small fee, also a two hour bus tour of the island. (Word of warning, though, they can get quite busy during the summer months, and being stuck on a packed bus in temperatures as high as 35 degrees can get quite uncomfortable!). A free shuttle bus also runs between the main accommmodation areas on the island. There is also a train that runs from the settlement to the Oliver Hill gun battery for a guided tour of the site.
Most people, however, opt for biking. Like walking, biking is a very safe and pleasurable way of seeing the island. Bicycles can be hired for an hourly fee including a free recovery and repair service for anywhere on the island.
Off the island, there is a glass-bottomed boat-tour of the island to view the fascinating reef structure around the island and some of the many shipwrecks that have occurred over the past few centuries.
== My Experience ==
Before I start with my experience, please note that the above description of the island is limited. I could not describe everything as it would take forever!!! I have just tried to give you a general picture of what the island is like.
I went to Australia on January 15th 2001. A friend of mine had been backpacking over there for the past year and was working on Rottnest Island in the Dome Cafe. It had been arranged since before he went out there that I would go out to meet him at some point, so on a col
ary morning, I got up at 3:00am to go to Manchester Airport for my 30 hour
flight (on my own too!) to the other side of the world. I arrived in Perth at 9:36pm on the 16th January and was ushered quickly through customs on account of me wearing my Welsh Rugby shirt and the Australian customs official being a former resident of Llandudno!!! I met up with my friend in the airport, made the 30 minute trip to Fremantle where we stayed overnight, then went to Rottnest the following day for my stay on the island. The 45 minute ferry trip was quite bumpy and I admit to feeling a little seasick! :o)
For the first week, I stayed with my friend in their accommodation to get my bearings, but after that I moved to the Barracks at Kingstown. At first, I was apprehensive of staying in a room with complete strangers. I'm not exactly the most out-going person on the planet. However, there was nothing to worry about. It's a great way of meeting people from all over the world. Although, one night when two Dutch girls came back at 3am in a rather drunken state...
The one thing that struck me about the place was how polite everyone seemed to be! No offence meant to any Australians reading this, but I had always pictured them as the stereotypical Aussie - straight-talking, no-nonsense stuff. But everyone I met was extremely nice and polite. Granted, of the people I met out there, my friend is Irish, his girlfriend is from New Zealand, as were most of the others he worked with, and his bosses were also both Irish! But I did meet some very nice Aussies too!
Another thing that I only noticed when I got back was that for some strange reason, even though I am arachnophobic with the (harmless) British house spider, I was sleeping in rooms full of spiders and not having any problems at all! And Australian spiders can be lethal!!!
So, onto the island itself. I am unlike many people of my age (I was 23 at the time).
I am not intere
sted in going to places like Ibiza and partying all night. I like nice relaxin
g holidays in the country where I can walk about, getting a bit of exercise and fresh air. In this respect, Rottnest Island is DEFINITELY the best place to go. As I mentioned in the description of the island, the lack of cars on the island makes it extremely safe to walk around on.
Just don't do what I did. On one of my walks up to Oliver Hill, my trainers were digging into my heels quite painfully. I took off my shoes and walked barefoot for just 100 yards or so. BAD IDEA! I spent the next four or five days in agony due to massive heat blisters on the soles of my feet! I could just see the looks on the doctors faces in the medical centre as they thought "another stupid pom!".
However, most of my three and a half weeks on the island was spent walking around exploring the island. It has fantastic scenery and great wildlife (obviously the Quokkas, but it's also got some more dangerous animals, including a very poisonous snake - thankfully, I didn't see one of those!!!). I went snorkelling a few times, took the boat trip to see the wrecks, borrowed a bike to cycle around the island and generally just lay around on the beaches getting a T-shirt suntan (not one for going topless!!!)
If I have one bad point to say about Rottnest Island it's that being there for three and a half weeks, I ran out of things to do. I could have, but I'm not an aquatic person and have never been interested in surfing, etc... I am not going to deduct any points for that though as most people only stay there for a week or so. In those cases, you will never get to do everything you want!
I felt sad to leave the island though. I'd made quite a few acquaintances there - friends of my friend - and as Willem de Vlamingh said, the place was "paradise on Earth".
I cannot recommend this place enough
. If you ever go to
Western Australia, this is a MUST see location.
== Conversion Ra
£1 (UK) is approximately $2.50 (AU)
$1 (AU) is approximately £0.40 (UK)
== Links ==
(N.B. In re-reading the review, I noticed that Dooyoo puts linebreaks and spaces in where they should not be! None of the following links are supposed to have spaces in them, so if you find that a link doesn't work, check that it is complete - remove any spaces and then it should work.)
Rottnest Island (general):
Kingstown Barracks YHA: