Discoveries Down Under Part 1 – Perth And Rottnest Island WA

 

Brian and I were beyond excited with our three weeks planned trip to Australia, not only because it was a dream trip for us, but also because we were about to reconnect with Brian’s long lost Scottish relatives on a three weeks trip that would take us to Perth, Brisbane, Caloundra, Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach and finally to Sydney.

Bleary eyed after a long flight from London to Perth via Dubai with Qantas Airways, we landed in Perth at an unsociable 2 am local time and we were delighted to come out of arrivals straight into the welcoming arms of lovely Yvonne, who kept herself awake with copious amounts of strong coffee to greet us so warmly on our very first trip Down Under….Welcome to Australia!!!

We were in Perth from Saturday 4th of February to Thursday 9th 2017 staying at Brian’s cousin’s spacious modern house in the lovely neighbourhood of Mullaloo, only a few metres from a beautiful white sandy beach which we took full advantage of during our stay, enjoying some nice long walks along the sea front,  watching the kite surfers make the most of Perth’s reputation of being one of the windiest cities in Australia. On our first full day in WA we felt like waking up from hibernation, since the dark and damp British winter had taken its toll on us and we were in desperate need of light.

Brian, Yvonne and her husband John at a lively Sunday morning at their local beach

We were surprised to see so many kids on a Sunday morning having group swimming lessons or leaning to be sea rescuers. The local beach was a lively hub of activities and looked like all the kids were having so much fun. It dawned on us how different their lifestyle is with the great sunny weather they are able to make the most of the many outdoor activities available.

Sunday morning at their local beach was a hub of water activities

During the next few days our hosts gave us a taste of life in Western Australia, we met their 2 daughters, Lexie and Maddie and got to hang out with them and catch a glimpse of their routines and every day lives. John even cooked us our very first Aussie barbecue.

Australia is full of amazing wild life  and although part of me knew that our cousins would not have a kangaroo or two living in their back garden, or that we would not see them skipping down a back street in the Perth suburbs, I still did keep my eyes peeled just in case and in the hope that one would see the bouncy little creatures around the next bend on the road. To rescue the situation and placate our disappointment, John come up with the goods. He took us to the peacefully green nearby Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park, and there among memorial plaques and flowers we found these interesting Marsupials hanging out in groups and carrying their babies inside their front pouches. There were whole families of ‘roos of all sizes and shapes . I am not sure what it is about these implausibly bouncy creatures that makes me giddy with joy, but I think they are just such cool animals. They did not seem to mind us being there and taking photos, as long as we did not get too close.

Seeing a cuddly Koala was also top of my list, but again an elusive little creature that is difficult to spot in the wild, according to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) these cute Marsupials (they also carry their young in a pouch) are in danger of becoming extinct, since their natural habitat has been destroyed in many areas of Australia. Therefore John and Yvonne took us to Yanchep National Park, 50 Km North of Perth for a chance to see these iconic Australian cuties. Koalas only eat Eucalyptus leaves and they sleep between 18 to 20 hours per day, since this type of diet requires a lot of energy for digestion. Yanchep has had a colony of Koalas since 1938. The park has many walking trails, but we headed straight to the raised Koala boardwalk and we spotted the cuddly creatures sleeping amongst the branches of the Eucalyptus trees. A sight to behold!

When we first spotted this little fella it was sound asleep, but we could not believe our luck when he woke up and started slowly and gently climbing down from the tree branches in search of his breakfast. It did not care about us there staring at him mesmerised. 

Chasing Koalas and walking bush-land trails can get very exhausting. We stopped for tea and scones at the charming tea house overlooking the lake, listening out for the noisy birds and watching them flying around us. We kept looking out for Kangaroos which can be seen here in abundance, but they often avoid the hot midday sun and prefer to come out early or late in the day.

Rottnest Island

One of the highlights of our trip to WA was our day trip to Rottnest Island, “Rotto” as the local’s call it and a chance to meet another of their endemic wildlife. The Quokka is the only mammal which is native to “Rotto”,  belonging to the Wallabies and Kangaroos family, it has black eyes and nose with the cutest little round ears. There is a population of 10,000 to 12,000 living in Rottnest Island, although they are mostly nocturnal animal’s we spotted plenty during the day we visited.

We caught the early 7:30 am ferry from Hilary’s Harbour, just a few minutes down the road from Yvonne and John’s house on a fresh and sunny Monday morning. The journey takes about 45 minutes and we were lucky to have pleasant and calm seas. It was lovely that their teenage daughter Lexie managed to come with us. Our party of five arrived at the Island Harbour and made a beeline for the coffee shop, where it did not take very long for a curious Quokka to start sniffing around looking for some crumbs of food.

Quokka selfie…she did smile eventually

Very few people live in the Island, since it is a nature reserve. Although accommodation is limited and there is high demand there are a range of holiday chalets, cottages and hotels or more basic accommodation such as small bungalows, cabins and dormitories, I believe prices take a hike in the high season and due to limited availability booking ahead would be necessary. The Island is mostly car free, most people get around by bicycle, by foot or making use of the hop-on-hop-off explorer bus service that stops at many off the unique bays, beaches and coves around the Island.

We bought a day ticket (which comes with an Island map) for the hop-on-hop-off bus from the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre soon after arriving in the Island and we did not have to wait long for a very friendly driver to welcome us into the bus and drive us to our first stop at Little Salmon Bay. The bus circumnavigates the Island, with about 19 stops to explore. Little Salmon Bay is  a great place for snorkelling and very safe to swim,  we managed to see pretty coral, shoals of small fish and some larger fish in the shallow and crystal clear waters of this secluded bay. The water was on the cool side, but we lucked out again with a sunny and warm day.

Brian basking in the sun at Little Salmon Bay

 

Shallow and crystal clear water of Little Salmon Bay

Next we stopped at West End, the wild and windy side of Rottnest with beautiful views of the turquoise water. From bus stop 11 it is about a 5 minutes walk to Cape Vlamingh, with some dramatic cliffs and rock formations,  a viewing platform. and a board walk from where you can spot wildlife such as lizards,  seals, humpback whales, and dolphins (we did spot dolphins, wohoo!).

Yvonne an her daughter Lexie at West End

 

West End

Parakeet Bay was another great spot for snorkelling although we mostly relaxed and enjoyed the warm sun lying on the white sandy beach, too lazy to move or do anything more energetic than applying the sun-cream, although John did venture out to sea for a spot of snorkelling.

Parakeet Bay

We finished the day at the main Island settlement for a bite to eat and refreshments, again the wild life around us were a great source of amusement as we watched a fight between a peacock and a Quokka for scraps of food. Feeding them is not allowed, but they walk around unfazed by the tourists and grab food at every opportunity.

Lexie offering the Quokka a drink of water

Perth Central Business District and Elizabeth Quay

From John and Yvonne’s house in the suburb of Mullaloo it was just a 20 to 30 minutes drive into the centre of Perth’s business district and Elizabeth Quay via a main highway. Perth is the capital of Western Australia, set on the banks of the Swan River, and it is known as the sunniest state capital averaging 3, 000 hours of sunshine per year. We got a birds eye view of its skyline from the 6th floor of the Bell Tower located at Elizabeth Quay. The tower was custom built to house the historically significant bell’s of Saint Martin which date back to the 14th Century,  one of the largest musical instruments in the world. The 360 degree view from its open air observation deck offers a great way of getting your bearings of Perth’s CBD area, the Swan River and King’s Park in the distance.

Bell Tower

Perth’s Elizabeth Quay and CBD Skyline from the Bell Tower

Queen Elizabeth Quay and Bell Tower

There is a lot of new leisure development and construction work going own in this area, the harbour area is looking modern, with lots to do, great places to eat and hang out.

Kings Park and Botanic Gardens

Another must visit when in Perth is the Botanical Gardens at King’s Park offering great views over Perth’s city centre and the Swan River. The park also offers some great trails on its more than 400 hectares of botanical gardens and wild bush-land on Mount Eliza. It is one of the largest inner city parks in the world,  and we enjoyed going for a stroll over the tree top boardwalk among the gum trees and trying to spot the unique wild life. There is also a State War Memorial here dedicated to service men and women who died in World War I and WWII. Mount Eliza was known as Mooro Katta and Kaarta Gar-up by the Aboriginal tribes who inhabited this area long before the European settlers.

Yvonne and I on the tree top board walk

Fremantle

A major Australian port city and the gateway into Australia for many of the early European settlers, it has great significance to Yvonne and her family, since it was here that they first arrived after a long sea voyage from Scotland to Australia in the early 1960’s. We parked by the WA Maritime Museum at Victoria Quay to visit the “Welcome Wall” , it features over 400 panels commemorating the names of migrants who arrived by sea to begin a new life in Australia.

One of the many panel’s of the “Welcome Wall”

 

The Wright family spent about 6 weeks aboard the Fairsea to finally arrive in Fremantle. Yvonne tells us that it was a difficult journey for her, her mother Rita, father Alec, her older sister Carol  and younger brother Bill. After arriving in Fremantle they eventually settled in Geelong near Melbourne where her father found work at Ford. Yvonne returned to Perth many years later after meeting John. They both decided that a new life in Western Australia was the perfect start to their life together as a couple. Her older sister Carol also left Geelong to pursue a new life in Queensland, she settled in Caloundra, near Brisbane (we later had the pleasure of staying at her lovely home and get to know her, her son and one of her granddaughters). Younger brother Bill got married and started a family of his own, he lives in Melbourne (unfortunately we did not have enough time to visit Melbourne and meet Bill and his family, something we would love to do in a future visit to Australia).

Fremantle is a great port city, buzzing with street life, trendy cafes and bars, in many ways it reminded us of the UK, with it’s Victorian architecture and old England charm. We stopped for coffee and a quick bite to eat in the town centre. Before heading home we stopped at one of Australia’s first craft brewery, inside the Sail and Anchor pub set on the water front at Fishing Port Harbour. Apparently it was in the year 2000 that “Little Creatures” started brewing here in a old warehouse, that used to be a crocodile farm and the Australian craft beer was born.

Little Creatures brews a variety of award winning craft beers and ales on site and also serves some good pub grub, we are told the beer garden is one of the top 10 in Australia, but we choose a cosy corner upstairs with port views instead.

Sadly our Western Australia adventure was coming to an end, it totally exceeded our expectations, both in the beauty of these area and the warmth of its people. Our Aussie cousins could not have been more welcoming and generous, to meet and hang out with them was a highlight of our trip Down Under.

Thank you Yvonne, John, Lexie and Maddie for making our stay so memorable, we hope to meet up again in the very near future.

Myself, Maddie, Lexie, John and Yvonne on our last evening together at a nearby restaurant

 

Lovely sea-views and gorgeous sunset from Yvonne and John’s roof terrace.

The next leg of our journey will take us to Queensland, where we stayed with cousin Carol in the pretty coastal town of Caloundra. We were delighted that Yvonne was also coming with us and the three of us flew together with Qantas Airline to Brisbane.  We used the Qantas “Walkabout pass” for all our Australian internal flights, something that worked well for us both financially and practically. Stay tuned for my next blog post.

Have you been to Western Australia? What is your take on it? 

 

 

 

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25 Comments on “Discoveries Down Under Part 1 – Perth And Rottnest Island WA

  1. I’ve never been to Perth. It looks amazing and you had a lovely trip. How nice to connect with family too. It makes it extra special. Your pictures are wonderful, especially the one of the red bike. I’ve only ever been to Sydney and really liked it. We got to see kangaroos and koalas as well. I certainly hope the koalas don’t become extinct. I enjoyed reading about Freemantle and really looking forward to the onward journey post.

    • Perth was the perfect city to kick start our trip Down Under. Staying with family was fantastic, it made our stay so memorable and as you said “extra-special”. The Kangaroos and Koalas are amazing, it would be heart breaking and a total disaster if the Koalas were to became extinct. I am glad you liked Sydney, we also loved it there. Thank you so much for your lovely comment Kemkem 🙂

  2. Hi, great post and amazing photos. Perth looks lovely and I’ve made a few notes for when we get there in a few weeks time. Looking forward to hearing more about the rest of your trip. Dan

    • Dan, Perth is gorgeous and has a lot to offer, I hope you will love it as much as we did. I would recommend a visit to Rottnest Island if you have time. Sounds like you are having a great time in NZ, I am enjoying following along.

  3. Australia has long been on our radar so I completely understand your excitement to finally get there! So many extraordinary creatures and so much natural beauty. I laughed at your paragraph about “keeping your eyes peeled for kangaroos, just in case” because that’s exactly what I would have been doing too! Anita

    • Anita, Australia was in my bucket list forever and to finally be there was a “pinch me please” moment. The unique wild life was amazing, I particularly loved the kangaroos and koalas. It is such a massive country that we will have to go back there again in the future to explore more, 3 weeks was just not enough.

  4. What an adventure you had Gilda! Your cousins looked so happy, it must be all that sunshine! I loved this blog post with the description of the different animals. I would have fallen in love with them too! Pretty impressive how much you saw and experienced in such a short time.

  5. Val it did feel quite adventurous and I am glad we managed to go for 3 weeks since it is a huge country we barely scratch the surface. The cousins were great hosts and looked after us extremely well, we were totally spoiled. The animals OMG I loved them all and in particular the Koalas and Kangaroos. Thanks for commenting : )

  6. Fabulous! What a dream trip! 🙂 🙂 Funny how we instantly think of kangaroos when anyone even mentions Australia, Gilda 🙂 Adorable with their Joeys. I follow a blogger in Perth called Rosemay so I’ve seen how lovely it is. Your photos are beautiful.

    • Jo, the little Joeys are so cute, it is adorable to see them cuddled up to their mum’s all snug inside the pouch. It was a dream to see the Kangaroos, the Australian wild life is so unique, the Koalas and Kangaroos are iconic, but also the Quokkas, are amazing. I will look out for Rosemay’s blog 🙂

  7. I haven’t been to western Australia but would love to, it looks amazing! I wish we’d had more time/money to explore Australia but sadly we only manage Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Looking forward to reading more of your Aussie adventures! It must have been amazing to escape the British weather!

    • Amy, I remember how excited I was to read all your blog posts from Australia, to visit it myself was a dream come true and I absolutely loved it there. Escaping the British winter was definitely a plus, we had amazing weather throughout our 3 weeks stay. I have few more posts to write on Australia. I am so looking forward to your Nepal adventures…not long now 🙂

  8. I really would love to see kangaroos and koala bears in the wild, so I really enjoyed your photos and descriptions. The beach ones are terrific too. We have not been to Australia yet but perhaps we will get there one day.

    Peta

    • Seeing the animals was amazing, it is such a shame that it is very difficult to see the Koalas in the wild, since their natural habitat is fast disappearing. But we did manage to see them in conservation areas. The beaches are gorgeous and we were so lucky to have perfect weather. The only downside is that it is a very expensive country to visit, but definitely worth it.

  9. Hi Gilda. 🙂 Here’s the lady I was telling you about. I don’t know if you got my other link but I’ve left yours on her site too 🙂 🙂 Happy Easter!

  10. Hi Gilda Iovely post – Restless Jo sent me the link to your blog as I am a Perth based blogger (from the UK originally!). You were staying just up the road from us about a 10 minute drive north! Looks like you had a fantastic time – Perth is beautiful any time of the year but I do love the autumns probably my favourite season though am looking forward to winter and lighting the wood fires (it does get chilly here in winter!). Hope you have a fabulous rest of your time in Australia, very best wishes Rosemary, Le Chic En Rose https://lechicenrose.com 🙂

    • Hi Rosemay, I thought I had replied to this comment already?? but it appears to have disappeared into a big black hole….sorry. Brian and I loved Perth and would go back in a heart beat. It was great to be there during the summer, but I am sure it would be beautiful throughout all the different seasons. It is lovely of Jo to link us up, I have now subscribed to your blog 🙂

      • Thanks Gilda – no problem at all! Perth is certainly beautiful throughout the year. Autumn brings cooler nights but still warm during the day. By the time we return from our trip at the end of next month we will lighting the fires! Thanks so much for following my blog and reading all my posts. I’ll be catching up on blog reading once we’re on the road – it is a bit frantic here trying to get everything packed for our trip leaving overnight tomorrow. So glad Jo put me on to your blog too! 🙂

  11. What a lovely post Gilda!

    I haven’t yet been to Australia, but based on your description, Perth is a must when we do so. I’m not in the least surprised that you were expecting kangaroos at every corner. As a child who grew up on “Skippy” I’d probably do the same. I’d also expect them to be able to talk too lol!

    When my son was young, I gave him a present of two cuddly koalas entwined together. He’s 15 now, but he still has them, albeit at the corner of his room, but still there nevertheless!

    p.s. Great photography of you all with family. Simply the best! 😀

    • Victoria I also grew up on “Skippy” hahaha, although Skippy in my case spoke Portuguese rather than English…I don’t know how he managed that hahaha. Joke apart Perth is beautiful and we particularly loved Rottnest Island…stunning place. The Koala encounters were particularly special since it was my dream to get very close to this cutest of Marsupials. Seeing the family was “simply the best” 🙂

  12. Yay so wonderful to see posts from your Australia trip! Perhaps a re-design of the blog too? We did nto go to Western Australia so extra special to have your tour. excellent that you got to see a koala and the fact that it wasn’t asleep! Such a gorgeous country with friendly people. Having locals to show you the best spots an extra special benefit.

    • Sue, I am trying to improve the blog, although I am not very technical and still have lots to learn about WordPress 🙂 To see a Koala was amazing, she woke up just in time to keep us all mesmerised with her very slow and graceful climbing down from where she was sleeping. Having family has made our trip Down Under very special, our cousins spoiled us completely 🙂

  13. Perth really seems like an awesome place to visit and it definitely has lots to offer, Gilda! How many days would be enough to explore it and see all the highlights?

    • Agness, we loved Perth since it was the first place we visited Down Under. We were very lucky to have the family showing us around…I would recommend at least 3 days to see some of the highlights, we stayed 5 days and could have stayed longer…a trip to Rottnest Island would be highly recommended also. Have you been to Australia Agness?

I would love to hear from you, leave a reply.

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