Nov 04

To Western Australia in search of the quirky quokka

by in Adventure, Australasia, Blog trip

In search of the quokka - Rottnest Express - Fremantle - image zoedawes

The Rottnest Express in Fremantle

What on earth is a quokka?

Aye, that is the question. I get an email outlining the itinerary for our blog trip to Western Australia and there, on Day 1, it says we’ll be visiting Rottnest Island, with its ‘casual atmosphere, picturesque scenery and some of the world’s finest beaches.‘ Sounds lovely but I’ve never heard of Rottnest Island. As soon as I type Rottnest Island into Google, the words ‘quokka‘ and ‘animals‘ come up. I am intrigued. I need to know more …

Parker Point Rottnest Island Western Australia - photo zoedawes

Parker Point on Rottnest Island

Western Australia website says, ‘… you’ll meet the cutest mini marsupial, found only in Western Australia, the world famous quokka, as well as many unique plant and animal species. Apparently, Rottnest Island Golf Course is being ‘plagued by an explosion of quokkas.’  It’s described as the ‘happiest animal in the world’ and the internet is alive with photos of grinning quokkas.  Good heavens. What on earth is a quokka?

The quokka - happiest animal in the world.

The quokka – ‘happiest animal in the world’. Photos from internet

The Quokka

The quokka is small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as kangaroos and wallabies), the quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal. It has a stocky build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head. Although looking rather like a very small kangaroo, it can climb small trees and shrubs. Its coarse fur is a grizzled brown colour, fading to buff underneath. Wikipedia

Even more intrigued, I am now really looking forward to seeing one of these quirky creatures.

Quokka eating a leaf - Rottnest Island in Western Australia - photo zoedawes

Quokka eating a leaf

Rottnest Island

We board the Rottnest Express in Fremantle on the west coast of Australia and in less than half an hour we’ve arrived in another world, where life moves at a more leisurely pace, bicycles replace cars and the elusive quokka has taken over the golf course …

Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island Western Australia - photo zoedawes

Thomson Bay

We get on our hired bikes and pedal off towards the Visitor Information Centre. Whilst a helfpful guide shows us where to go on a map, all I want to know is where the quokkas are. Will I get to see one easily? Are they shy? Where’s the best place to see them? ‘Oh they’re all over the place. You’ll see plenty in and around town and they’re not at all shy. You can take photos but please don’t touch them or feed them.’ I’m starting to feel quietly excited …

Rottnest Settlement and quokka - collage zoedawes

Rottnest Settlement and quokka

Downtown Rottnest (the Settlement) is a short tree-lined walk of shops, cafes and a bakery. We leave our bikes and there, next to the bike stand, is a chubby quokka fast asleep under a tree. I stoop down to take a photo and the quokka wakes up. It gives me a quick stare then starts grooming its tummy. Looks cute but definitely more rat than cat-like! Outside the bakery a quokka is on the table eating crumbs, surrounded by ooohing and aaahing admirers. In front of the supermarket, one is hopping along looking vaguely shifty; there’s a big sign saying No Quokkas.

No quokkas here - Rottnest Island

No quokkas here

I set off with the other bloggers on a bike ride round the island, but it starts to rain so I decide to go to the little Museum, housed in one of the Victorian buildings left from the days when Rottnest was a prison island for Aboriginal People. There is an excellent exhibition telling the sad story of these prisoners, as well artefacts from the days when the island became a holiday resort. In the middle of the room is a cabinet with a stuffed quokka, bearing the title, The controversial Quokka. 

Stuffed quokka in Rottnest museum

Stuffed quokka in museum

Rottnest Island (known as Wadjemup to the local Noongar people and Rotto by many), was named Rotte Nest (Rat’s Nest) by a Dutch explorer in 1696. The island was overrun with quokkas but the introduction of foxes and destruction of their natural habitat meant their numbers dwindled almost to extinction. The island is now a designated protected area and there are about 12,000 quokkas living on Rottnest.

Quokka on the town - Rottnest Island - photo zoedawes

Quokka on the town

When the rain stops, I get the Hop-on, Hop-off Explorer Bus which goes round the coast. The island is ringed with gorgeous, sandy beaches and enticing bays. I get off at Parker Point and go for a paddle in the shallow, translucent waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s a bit chilly but the sun’s out and I can imagine how refreshing it must be in the height of summer.

Rottnest Island Beaches Western Australia - collage zoedawes

Rottnest Island Beaches

Walking on round the coast, people pass on bikes, waving hello as they glide by. I flag down another bus at Salmon Point and we head off past Wadjemup Lighthouse towards Cape Vlamingh at the western end of the island. At the bus-stop a group of tourists are gathered round a quokka on its hind legs, begging for food. Cameras and videos capture the moment; these little creatures are real super-stars of Western Australia.

Quokka near Cape Vlamingh Rottnest Island - photo zoedawes

Quokka near Cape Vlamingh

The bus winds its way past the Salt Lakes and holiday homes before arriving back at Thomson Bay. I get off and have a look at the historic buildings. As well as the old prison Quod, there’s a chapel and a quaint little Picture House, showing Roald Dahl’s ‘The BFG’. Quokkas are everywhere, particularly under the Island Tea Tree and Rottnest Island Pines, where they find their favourite food. I see a group of them in a wooded area near the Picture House and sit down to watch them. One wanders over to have a look at my rucksack, which has some fruit inside. This curious chap clambers all over my bag and camera trying to get at them. He’s very close and the temptation to reach out and stroke his furry back is almost overwhelming. I grab my iPhone and video him (or maybe it’s a her?). I take a photo; my hand is shaking at being so near, not wanting to scare him away …

Up close with a quokka - Rottnest Island - photo zoedawes

Up close with a quokka

Eventually he gives up and potters off. It’s time to meet up with the others at Hotel Rottnest for a bite to eat before we leave the island to return to Fremantle. I’ve not managed to get the famous ‘quokka selfie’ but I have got VERY close to one of the world’s rarest and cutest wild animals. It’s our first day here and already I’m a bit in love with this part of Australia, but even more, I’m totally besotted with the quirky quokka.

The Quirky Quokka of Rottnest Island Western Australia - photo zoedawes

The Quirky Quokka of Rottnest Island

You can see more of beautiful Rottnest Island in this Quirky Travel Guide video, which also features the quokka clambering over my rucksack!

I travelled to Perth, Fremantle, Rottnest Island and Margaret River courtesy of Tourism Western Australia #justanotherdayinWA and would like to thank everyone, including a great bunch of fellow bloggers, involved in making this such a memorable trip.

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In search of the quirky quokka - zoedawes


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19 Responses to “To Western Australia in search of the quirky quokka”

  1. From Zoe Dawes:

    We only had a day on Rotto but if you have time, stay for a while. It’s a lovely place and somewhere to really unwind. And of course, you’d get to spend more time with those quirky quokkas!

    Posted on November 4, 2016 at 10:11 am #
  2. From John MacBeath:

    That’s a very strange wee animal- are you SURE it’s not a giant rat?! Looks like you got some good weather there.

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 5:10 pm #
  3. From Zoe Dawes:

    Of course it’s not a rat John!!! They are very tame and curious and anyway, rats don’t carry their babies in pouches like kangaroos 🙂 We were lucky on Rottnest because it cleared up after the rain. South and Western Australia had some really bad storms whilst we there so I guess we were lucky to see any sun.

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm #
  4. From Mary Wood:

    Ah what a cute animal 🙂 I’d not heard of it either. We looked it up on the internet. Those quokka selfies are fun. We’re going to visit relatives from n Perth in January so must try and get out to Rottnest Island this time.

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 5:19 pm #
  5. From Zoe Dawes:

    It was great to get so close to them Mary. (On the quokka selfie, if you can get really close they look even cuter!) Hope you make it from Perth – the Rottnest Express goes from there. Just one bit of advice; as you’re going in summer, try to avoid the weekends as apparently the island gets very busy then.

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm #
  6. From Fiona Graham-Spicer:

    What an amazing trip you had – I had never seriously considered Australia but this has got me seriously thinking that I should take a proper look – thank you Zoe!

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 10:45 pm #
  7. From Zoe Dawes:

    Must admit I was more of a New Zealand fan than an Aussie one til I actually explored more of Oz. Western Australia is so different from what you imagine the coutnry to be – and sure you’d love Fremantle – very laid -back. Perth is rather like Vancouver with a funky but relaxed vibe.

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 11:51 pm #
  8. From Vaughan:

    The Quokka! Never heard of it but what a funny little thing 🙂 Great post.

    Posted on November 8, 2016 at 10:52 am #
  9. From Marianne Turner:

    What an amazing place to visit, even the name conquers up all kinds of images. I have really enjoyed reading about the Quokka having never heard of it before. Thanks Zoe

    Posted on November 9, 2016 at 5:57 pm #
  10. From Becky Hindley:

    Hi Zoe,

    So glad you eventually found the quokka and what a cutie they are. I’ve never heard of them but then I’ve never been to Australia. It’s always been on my list along with New Zealand. Sounds like you had a great time. I’ll be in touch for tips and info if and when I go.

    Posted on November 9, 2016 at 8:24 pm #
  11. From Zoe Dawes:

    Cheers Vaughan – great to add this little critter to your list of cute animals!

    Posted on November 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm #
  12. From Zoe Dawes:

    Glad you enjoyed the article about Rottnest Marianne and thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    Posted on November 11, 2016 at 2:01 pm #
  13. From Zoe Dawes:

    Sue you’d love the Perth area Becky. More relaxed and the wild flowers in spring are amazing – so much variety. Hope you may it out to Australia and/or New Zealand one day – well worth the long flights!

    Posted on November 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm #
  14. From Pat Sills:

    Enjoyed seeing details of this area of Australia. Tend to like seeking out ‘alternative’ venues and itineraries for holidays and much as I know the east coast of Australia is popular, I have a feeling and from good authority that Western Australia has much more to offer for people such as myself and my family. Being a huge animal lover, I am excited at the thought of being able to see the cheeky quokkas!!!

    Posted on November 26, 2016 at 12:38 pm #
  15. From Zoe Dawes:

    As you say Pat, it’s a great place for animal lovers and there’s certainly plenty to do in Western Australia for families and people of all ages.

    Posted on November 27, 2016 at 5:49 pm #
  16. From Charlie Mason:

    Very quirky indeed. What a strange little fellow the quokka is! We’re planning a trip to see friends in Fremantle next year and will definitely visit this island – thanks for telling us about it 🙂

    Posted on November 30, 2016 at 11:13 am #
  17. From Zoe Dawes:

    You’re welcome Charlie – hope you get to see them for yourself next year 🙂

    Posted on December 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm #
  18. From Sandra Waters:

    I was surprised and delighted by the appearance of these creatures when I was picnicking on Rottnest Island some years back. I’d taken the boat over from the beautiful Fremantle and hired a bike to a sandy spot. They came up really close and I (probably against the laws of nature) did feed them a bit of my sandwich! The island is great for cycling around – flat and easy. Part of a wonderful five days in Fremantle and Perth.

    Posted on February 9, 2017 at 9:43 am #
  19. From Zoe Dawes:

    Oh sounds like you had a lovely time on Rotto, Sandra! It’s a lovely island isn’t it and a great excursion from Perth or Fremantle. Cycling is very easy as you say, even for unfit bods like me 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Posted on February 9, 2017 at 10:52 am #

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