Rottnest Island & Perth

We spent too much time on the beach, petting quokkas, and relaxing to do a post a day. Here are the notes about the end of our vacation. We’re safely back and already looking forward to more adventures…

We left Perth and headed out to sea. Rottenest Island is about an hour’s ferry ride from the city center. The small island is about 11km long and home to a number of sheltered beaches. We decided to spend the last days of our vacation enjoying the sun and sand. The ferry ride out goes down the Swan river which is the main waterway through Perth.  Along the shores, gorgeous homes spring out of the water until you reach Freemantle.

There, the port looms large with huge container ships being docked to off load their goods. From our ferry, we could see the giant cranes moving containers from ship to shore and back again. The trip over the ocean was short and relatively smooth.
We arrived on the island and immediately met one of the locals. The island is home to a small marsupial known as the quokka.  They are reasonably docile and will approach humans to see what’s going on. They seem happy to be petted by calm adults, but one jumped nearly a foot in the air when a little girl startled it.
The island is technically in the Indian Ocean and the water was colder than expected. It is as clear as most places in Tasmania (Wine Glass Bay being clearer) and there are a number of reefs as well as shipwrecks which you can go snorkeling out to. The beaches on our side of the island are full of soft sand and remarkably free from shells. The limestone around the island is layered with ancient shells, but we only found loose shells on the north side of the island.
We spent the second day doing what we joked was 2/3 of an “island triathlon”.  The morning run by the ocean was lovely. After breakfast, we took a leisurely 10K bike ride along the coast and across the center of the island.  Since there are no cars on the island, riding a bike is the easiest way to get across it. The ride was nice, not too hilly, and wound by some amazing coastline.  We saw lots of people out swimming and the roads were busy with cyclist. We stopped at the lighthouse, which has been operating since the late 1800s and was an important guide for ships heading to Perth.  From there we rode back into to town and had a relaxing afternoon of reading and watching the waves.
Day three was more biking, this time to the north side of the island. The beaches here were just as nice. Half way through our trip one of the quokkas got inquisitive.  He hung out with us for a while before we headed on. Ashley found a ceramic fragment and some sea glass in the sand. We spent the afternoon playing minigolf (Ashley won by one) and air hockey (Drew won). The golf quokkas were much more skittish than the beach ones and didn’t want anything to do with us.  We let them be. Later that night, some hopped into our back yard and we got even more pictures with them.
The last day we woke early and rode out to the beach for sunrise. Some locals nicely decided to tether their boats in just the right spot to get some pictures.  After a sugary breakfast (waffles with sugar baked into them), we returned to Perth proper.  Our only adventure was to the Perth Mint. It’s one of the few remaining mints that actively trades in bullion.  At the trading desk, we could purchase stamped ingots ranging from an SD card sized 10 gram (~$423) piece to full bars weighting several kilos. The tour was nice but the real highlight is the gold pour. The mint keeps one of it’s old furnaces running and enough gold in it to make one, 12.4 kilo standard bar.  The heat and smell of the furnace were impressive even from the stands.  Sadly, no pictures were allowed for security reasons.
We’re happy to be back in Alice, but it was an amazing adventure. From coast to coast on a continent, devils to quokkas, whiskey to gold, we’re enjoying every part of our time in Australia.
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Rottnest pictures are here and Perth/Freemantle pictures are here. See you all soon.

Margaret River

Pierce, Ashley, & Gary

Sorry for the radio silence folks. We’ve been busy crossing a continent and trying as many wines as we could. We left Tasmania and flew to Perth to meet up with our friends Pierce and Gary. We immediately grabbed a rental car and made the long drive out to Margaret River to begin the next leg of our adventure. The food was quite good – we’d definitely recommend The Bakery, and there is also a lot of surprisingly good Tex Mex.

We started our wine adventure at House of Cards. We’d recommend stopping there, but not for the wine, which was good but not our favorite. Instead, next door is an amazing chocolatier – Gabriel Chocolate. We all enjoyed the tasting and grabbed some chocolate to go. The sales clerk turned out to be from Vancouver, and she gave us a lot of advice on where to stop. (We found this a reoccurring theme for the trip – North American west coasters all flock to Margaret River. The climate and culture are similar to San Diego. I think the hometown furthest east of anyone we met was was Arizona.)

Next we checked out two more wineries and a brewery. The first winery (Windows) was very good, and a few bottles are heading our way. The brewery (Bush Shack) was somewhat disappointing. The brewery did have a wide selection of alcoholic sodas that were sneaky good, but the beer was nothing spectacular.

We finished our first day with a delectable meat/olives/bread plate before visiting our last vineyard (Happs). The wines were excellent (a few more bottles are destined for our wine rack), and they had over 30 to taste. They also had a potter in residence, and we picked up some bowls in a lovely blue.

The next morning we went for a run along the beach. There were some great warning signs about helicopter sharks and feral bicycles along the way. There was also a major surfing competition going on, so a good chunk of the beach was closed.

Olive tree

After another delicious brekkie, we found an olive grove and tasted some fresh olive oil. We hit up one final brewery/winery where the wines outshone the beer. If it seems like most of the trip is about food and booze, it is. Where Tasmania is known for its pristine wilderness, MR is known for the food. It’s been nice to eat food we can’t get in Alice. It surprises us how used we get to the selection in Alice and how much we miss certain things.

After three great days, we left MR and drove back to Perth. Our activity for the day was the Little Creatures brewery. The brewery tour was surprisingly interesting. Before founding the brewery, the brewmaster had worked in Oregon and styled these beers after the ales he had brewed with there. The food was excellent and we had a relaxing day in Perth. We didn’t get much of a choice in that regard since everything closes early in Perth on Saturday and isn’t open at all on Sunday. Apparently this is designed to encourage Perhers (Perthians? Perthites?) to spend more time with their families but it makes going out to eat on a Saturday night difficult.

Wineries and tasty meals make for happy travelers but not for epic pictures. Our photos are here. We’re off to the beach for a couple of days. It’s an island off the coast of Perth so we may not get a good internet signal. If not, we’ll see you all when we return to the mainland.

Last Days in Tasmania

Our last few days in Tasmania were wonderfully relaxing. On Sunday, we spent the day on the shores of Great Lake in a friends’ fishing cabin/shack. The cabin is a cozy affair, heated by a wood stove an an open fire. We spent the first day curled up in front of the fire reading and knitting. The quiet day was a wonderful reprieve after the the long drives. That night, we went out and took some photographs of the stars. There are no lights for miles; not across the lake, nor from the road behind the shack. The Milky Way was instantly visible from the lake shore. The pictures came out so-so, but the stars were breath taking.
We spent the next day fishing the Mersey river.  The river was the color of strong tea from the recent rain but the fish were very active. Trout were frequently seen coming to the surface, and occasionally leaping out of the water to catch a new mayfly. Despite their activity, only one small brown trout was caught (by Drew). Ashley had a couple on the hook but couldn’t land them. To make up for it, she caught a glimpse of a platypus. The day was nice and we returned to our fires and the cozy cabin for a final night.
Our last day in Tassie was unseasonably warm. We took the long way around the Great Lake in order to stop at the Nant Distillery. We’d stopped at their bar on our first day, but decided to visit the actual distillery for another taste and tour of the beautiful countryside. Most of the buildings date from the original owners the property (when it was a flour mill). Because it was early on a Tuesday, we got a private tour from the guide and one of the distillers.

From there we drove back to Launceston.  We visited the gorge near town and then headed to one of the parks. The park was lovely – full of old trees, and strangely enough, a troop of macaques.  Ashley found a friendly kookaburra posing in one of the trees. After enjoying a lovely dinner, we packed and got ready to head off to Perth.

As always, the rest of the pics are here.