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Velo-City: Perth » Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island

This video gives you a feel for some of the island’s cycling options


Paradise Lost?
by John McArthur

Can you imagine a holiday Paradise for a cyclist? What might it look or feel like?

Would it be a safe haven where a child or adult could ride with no fear of cars? Would it be an island, where one has no need to be constantly aware of what ‘that’ motorist might be doing next? If only there was a place that might be considered a cycling paradise…


A cycling holiday Paradise would have, at least in my imagination, very low traffic roads. It would have only a few essential vehicles. You know, for taking away garbage or bussing time short, elderly or infirm tourists. The roads would be quiet and smooth, warmed by a benevolent sun. Mmm, ah yes! It would have lakes and beaches of white sand and Mediterranean blue seas and architecture in sympathy with the environment and some lovely old restored settlers buildings and … okay I am really waxing lyrical at the moment.

I feel guilty suggesting things on a wish list of my own making. We all long for the “good old days”, when it was safe for our children to play on the street and when you sat down to a casual holiday meal and had to be introduced to a gathering of new and beaming faces that your own kids had brought home; kids from next door or the tent across the road or the place that fed your children the day before. Friends that you made just by saying hello. You know, the sort of holiday or weekend of memory only. A jumble of pushbikes leaned against an outside wall. Not locked, just leaned. Pink bikes and blue bikes; hire bikes or your own favourite bike; so many they threaten to topple over in a tangled heap of ‘who cares’. A cycling holiday Paradise is all very well in my dreams, I guess.

There is an old saying that goes “beware the man who dreams in the daytime lest he turn his dreams into reality”. Well folks, I have done it. I have dreamed in the daytime. I have turned dreams to reality. Well actually, I haven’t, but nature and some good folks have. You see, I discovered there is actually a place in the world where cares are forcibly removed from you. A cycling holiday dream world. It is in Western Australia. It is called “Rotto” by folks from that part of the world and is actually Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Fremantle.
Svimi and I have travelled a bit on our bicycles. We have travelled through the Rocky Mountains avoiding rattlesnakes, cougars and grizzly bears and we thought that was fun! We worked and cycled a little in the Arctic. We thought that was fun too. We are grandparents who love cycling. Then, in one of those seemingly random bits of good luck, whilst holidaying in Perth a local suggested, before we flew back East, to make sure we visited “Rotto”.

And so Paradise was found. Funny how even a copywriter would not be needed to sell this place as a cyclist heaven and yet the locals are so casual about it. That is what happens when Paradise is on your doorstep I guess. It is just accepted as “your due” at the end of a hard week or a hard year. Well, when we took up the suggestion to visit, it was to be “our due” for having cycled a few hard and fun days on the Munda Biddi Trail. Or was it our due? What has anyone done to deserve time in such a fabulous holiday place?

My wife and I, quite frankly, had not really earned our fun in this Paradise but, guess what, we didn’t care. Rottnest Island does that for you. Gently removes cares. That is what Paradise Found is all about, at least for me. Being a happy cyclist on Rottnest Island is Paradise Found.
We arrived from the mainland on a wave-cutting fast ferry. Smooth as silk. Our bikes were gently offloaded onto the wharf. Ahead was a small terminal and to each side lay a white sand beach, kissed gently by lapping water of an exquisite blue/green, crystal clear over a white sand bottom. We went in at the terminal, were given keys to our cabin and then it was but a short stroll into the village square where we were greeted by the sight of dozens of cyclists of all sizes and ages; as well as the resident peacock and dozens of the amazing quokkas, a wild, small type of kangaroo¬-like marsupial. These are the local lawnmowers.

De Vlamingh, the discoverer of the island, thought they were rats. Hence, Rottnest (rats nest) Island. We espied the supermarket, ice cream parlour, and a few fine looking eateries. Then we followed the map provided and ventured through the well restored original village, past some whitewashed settlers buildings and found our self-contained accommodation, nestled beneath delightful shade trees.
The remainder of the day was spent exploring, cycling the easy to ride roads through and surrounding the village. We cycled slowly past old barracks from military days, now re-born as accommodations and then we went on a circuit past superb beaches. No cars. We enjoyed the Class A flora and fauna (official classification) and Class A laid back cyclists and beach goers (unofficial classification) were also encountered. The road purred beneath our tyres. The heat warmed our spirits. The sea breeze was refreshing.
We returned to the village. Mums and Dads, Euro back-packer travellers and others wandered about. Kids squealed with delight as they gave their bicycles free rein on safe roads. Parents enjoyed catching up with new found friends. First-timers pedalled unsteadily. No need to worry about other traffic.
We sat at our cabin’s outside table and watched the world go by. A wine from Margaret River graced the table. Nibbles were nibbled. That night we slept and dreamed in vivid technicolour. Island life does that for you.
The next few days were spent further exploring the fifty five kilometres of undulating Island roads. A water container on the bike, a snack or energy bar and you can be away on an adventure to the wilder western coast of the island. You might ride to the top of Olivers Hill to view the lighthouse on a hill in the Island’s middle, or visit the newer coastal lighthouse, built after a ship tried to pass too close to the middle island light on a dark and stormy night and the island failed to move. No ship wrecks since the light was added on the coast, I was told.
There is so much to see, such as old underground WWII forts; beaches and dramatic coastal scenery; the original village next to the sympathetically designed and coloured newer ‘town’. The story of the Island and the indigenous peoples is well told on story boards near sites. Cycle many of the roads, away from habitation, and you may be the only cyclist. It feels like the island is uninhabited. Paradise is all yours.
But beware. Rottnest can conjure up your inner child in less than twenty four hours. You will never forget the sunsets. You may even smile a lot.

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