After a few weeks back in the office routine, I finally got around to visiting Rottnest Island, a popular place to visit just 20km west of Perth. Rotto, as it's affectionately known by the locals, was first 'discovered' by a Dutchman in the 1690s, and was named Rat's Nest Island in Dutch, due to the local inhabitants – quokkas – that look like huge rats. They're actually marsupials, and on closer inspection they're like a cross between a rat and a kangaroo, and stand about a foot tall. They've also got cute little faces, which is perfect for survival in the tourist age (even if you're not supposed to feed them).
Rotto is an interesting place. You can't bring a car onto the island, and the most popular way to 'do' the island is by bike. As the island is only 11km long (that's just under seven miles) it's an easy bike ride to explore the whole thing, but I decided to walk it, and it turned out to be a good idea.
Rottnest is pretty well untouched once you're out of the tourist settlement on the east end of the island; at least, that's how it looks when you're used to the city. However, there are some serious gun emplacements left over from the second world war, a grand old lighthouse right in the middle of the island, and some other little settlements, all of which turn the relatively scrubby landscape into something worth touring. There are a number of salt lakes inside the perimeter of the island that dry up in summer, but as it was winter when I visited, they were reasonably full.
The coast is quite varied within a short distance. The north and west coasts (insofar as an east-west lozenge shaped island can be said to have a west coast) are very rugged, and the eastern coast has sandy beaches, but the fun part of the island – and the reason it is well known – is the quokka population. Sit down and break out the food, and you'll get these cocky little things climbing up your legs, jumping on the table, all to get a little taste of your lunch... but they're so cute it's great fun. You can see why Rotto is a fun day out for the kids – and big kids, of course.