They say Perth is the most isolated city in the world, a fact that gives the impression of a lonely city in the middle of nowhere, far from civilisation and any other vestiges of humanity. But in truth Perth's surroundings leave visitors spoiled for choice for ideas for a driving holiday- whichever direction you travel there are there are fresh and different destinations to explore and quaint holiday resorts set amidst beautiful scenery. On a recent visit to Perth I decided to take a day out and head south to the vibrant and growing coastal centre of Rockingham. The 50 kilometre run down the Kwinana Highway took me about 45 minutes, and although I was expecting just another seaside resort the general feeling of the town and the outstanding scenery gave me a pleasant surprise.
The standout feature and the basis for much of the recreational activity are the beaches. The main beach is Rockingham beach, a white expanse that borders the smooth waters of the Cockburn Sound. Not as crowded as I thought it would be on a summers day, its a great beach for swimming and has a very family atmosphere. There is a wide, concrete cycleway running up its length that will please exercise junkies, and on the grassy foreshore there are a number of picnic and barbeque areas. The beach runs down to Point Peron, and below the point is Shoalwater Bay Beach, which is popular because we are allowed to walk our furry four-legged friends on it. Below that beach we come to Warnbro Sound, where apparently there is a nudist beach at Port Kennedy, at the south of the town.
The slogan that Rockingham has used to promote their tourism is "Your Aquatic Playground", so much of the recreational activity is water based. The diving and the snorkelling is apparently spectacular although I didnt do any of it myself, and it is easy to hire the necessary gear and to hire other equipment like jetskis and tinnies. Tinnies are the transport of choice for fishermen who frequent the bays, coves and beaches of the shoreline trying their luck for the many species here. Jewfish grow especially large, and are a popular prey. Point Peron is a popular fishing spot as well, as it has lots of rocky feature and borders a large sandy bay. Its also a great place for a walk, as most of it is a nature reserve and there are a number of footpaths that criss cross the point. Another haunt for fishermen is the jetty at Palm Beach, which has a very tasty deli right next door.
There are a few islands lying off the coastline that are popular amongst tourists seeking a days adventure. Penguin Island lies 700 metres off shore and is home to a colony of fairy penguins from March through to December. You are also likely to see the other local resident, the Australian Sea Lion, on your tour of the island which departs from Mersey Point just south of the township. Further offshore is the larger Garden Island, which is over 10 kilometres in length and has a shoreline which contains an exciting mix of beaches and bays. A haven for wildlife, look out for the native tammar wallaby while you are there.
If you would like to learn a bit about Rockingham itself and the history of the town then pop into the Rockingham Museum, it only costs a couple of bucks. It has a diverse collection of memorabilia that cover the early days of settlement and much of the Rockingham history. Included are regularly changed costume displays. Another popular museum is the Granary Museum at the CBH grain terminal. This takes an in depth look at the history of grain farming and its importance to the region and to WA in general. Fully trained tour guides will take you past interactive displays, a theatrette, and reconstructed scenes of rural WA. And its all for free! Definitely worth a look then...
I was impressed by the upbeat vibe of Rockingham. This is a town that is clearly looking to the future, especially if the huge developments taking place at the Waterfront are anything to go by. Id expect that as the Perth citysprawl extends outwards there will be little to differentiate between Rockingham, Fremantle and Perth, but something tells me that even as this happens it will still hold onto those qualities that make it a classy and peaceful seaside resort. I hope so anyway!
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit Perth Car Hire