In January every year, the Boy’s family organise a joint holiday for all of us somewhere north of Perth. It is a big endeavour to get all eight of us able to coincide this time together so in order to simplify things for everyone they decided to change the tradition and take us over to Rottnest Island for a day trip instead. Rottnest Island is located about 18 kilometres off the coast of Perth and is only about 11 km long and 4 ½ km wide. Despite being a popular tourist destination since the early 1900s, the island itself is not overly developed having just a modest number of fairly basic beach shacks and villas, a YHA backpacker’s hostel and a camping ground. There is also some accommodation at the only pub on the island which now called Hotel Rottnest (it used to be called the “Quokka Arms Hotel”).
One of the most popular ways to get to the island is via one of two ferry companies. We travelled with Rottnest fast ferries. Ticket prices for day trippers are $82 for an adult, $43 for a child or you can purchase a family pass for $210. The ferry that we boarded was slightly old and run down. With Perth currently being in the thick of a heat wave; the ferry’s air conditioners struggled to cope leaving a stale almost mouldy smell in the cabin. Not pleasant.
Our journey over was pretty rough going which I am told can be quite a common occurrence. If you are one of those unfortunates who are prone to getting seasick, I strongly recommend dosing yourself prior to departure with some travel sickness tablets. Thankfully neither the boy nor I suffer from this but it was a completely different story for the poor children. Shortly after embarking from Hillarys, I noticed each child gradually turning from white to green and becoming unusually quiet. It wasn’t long before our niece admitted defeat and was headfirst in a sick bag, tears streaming down her pale face. Our nephew tried his hardest to tough it out at first, repeatedly saying to us that he felt absolutely fine and stubbornly refusing to take a bag. The Boy loves to stir the pot at any opportunity so he started to show our nephew photos on his phone of delicious greasy hamburgers and barbequed pig’s intestines! This didn’t go down very well and before long he was grabbing for a bag and joining his sister. Already surrounded by the thick stale air, the smell quickly diffused throughout the cabin and even I started to feel a little nauseous! I certainly didn’t need a bag though.
On arrival to the island the Boy’s parents wanted to catch the bus around the island in order to see the sights. On such a glorious day, the last thing I wanted to do was be stuck on a bus with a bunch of tourists, so I suggested to the Boy that we hire some bikes and explore on our own. Rottnest Island Bike Hire is the largest facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere with over 1,300 bikes available. They provide helmets, locks and each bike has a luggage rack for you to store your beach towel or other belongings. Hire prices are very reasonable; we paid $27 each for the full day (plus a refundable $25 bond per bike).
The boy and I used to do a lot of outdoor exercise together in years gone by. We once walked 34 km on a round trip from our chalet in Margaret River to Clairault Winery in order to enjoy their five course degustation. However over recent years, my keen running obsession combined with his devotion to strength training with weights has meant our exercise regimes have drifted apart. Treadling around the island with him was so much fun that I might consider diversifying my exercise a little so we can enjoy our endorphin highs together.
After working up a bit of a sweat coursing up and down the hills, we stopped off at The Basin for a well-earned dip in the cool ocean. The water was so refreshingly good that after drying myself off in the glorious sunshine, I felt rejuvenated and ready for more exploring. The boy had a different idea and I have to admit it took minimal persuasion for him to convince me to join him at the pub while we waited for his parents to return with the kids form their bus ride.
The Hotel Rottnest is located at Thompson Bay in the main settlement area on the island. The historic building dates all the way back to the late 1800’s where it was originally the Governor’s residence. In 2007 the building underwent a major restoration which took over two years to complete. It has a spacious outdoor dining area facing directly onto the beach and its presence injects a bit of a much needed modernisation to the otherwise out-dated architecture on the island.
The hotel was well prepared to cater for gluten-free customers with a ready prepared list of suitable items from their menu. The boy and I chose to share the grazing plate, a bucket of Exmouth prawns and some chips. The grazing plate wasn’t the best value nor did it’s ingredients show any flair or talent of the kitchen. The prosciutto was delicately flavoured with the perfect balance of slightly salty and fragrant sweetness. The bresaola was not as good quality, it was sliced a little too thickly making it a bit chewy in texture and must have been sliced a considerable time before serving as it had dried out and gone a little hard.
The menu mentioned the tasting plate featuring a third meat, some lombo (meaning pork) however this wasn’t on the platter and was replaced by three dolmades. We were not advised of this at any point by the staff. The dolmades tasted like they were from a can. The fetta and olives weren’t really anything special either. The platter also had some fresh Fremantle sardine fillets topped with gremolata. Thankfully I came prepared with some gluten-free crackers, and topped with the sardines they were a treat.
The Bucket of Prawns contained about a dozen juicy and fresh prawns. We felt they were quite overpriced at $42 considering most of the bucket contained ice. This is when compared to other touristy places in Australia such as On The Inlet in the beautiful Port Douglas marina where they cost less than half the price at $18.
Overall our experience was relaxing and pleasant however there is a lot of room for improvement with the food and the prices. Being the only pub on the island has allowed them to overinflate their prices because customers don’t really have anywhere else to go!Hotel Rottnest 1 Bedford Avenue, Rottnest 6161 | (08) 9292 5011 | hotelrottnest.com.au Price: $$$$ ($25-42 entrée, $26-42 Mains) Food: 2.5/5 (boring and overpriced) Service: 3/5 (didn’t inform us of menu alterations) Ambience: 3.5/5 (great scenery and relaxing vibe on the terrace on the beach) Drinks: 2.5/5 (again overpriced, limited wine selection, at least they had fresh limes this time!) Total: 11.5/20