Frugal Traveler: In and Around Perth, Natural Wonders Abound
The conventional wisdom that kangaroos box is partly true; when they fight, they more closely resemble a kickboxer than Muhammad Ali, balancing on their tails and clawing with their legs. (I recommend keeping a safe distance, especially in the more obscured bush areas, where you may stumble upon a napping kangaroo. I accidentally got too close to one and he jumped up from his prone position, startled.)
There are more controlled ways to view the wildlife of the outback; it will naturally cost a bit more. The Caversham Wildlife Park, about a 30-minute drive from the city center, is a family-friendly way to see some of Australia’s native creatures. For a 28-dollar admission (12.50 for children), you can see koalas, bettongs, kangaroos, even a Tasmanian devil. There’s a “meet the wombat” event where you can, well, meet a wombat. I was paired with Neil, a southern hairy-nosed wombat. He seem less than thrilled to meet me, but I found his company pleasant enough.
The most enjoyable solo trip I took, though, incorporated all of Perth’s major appeals. Rottnest Island, about 11 miles from the coast, is a small, relaxing island known for its blessed lack of automobiles (bicycles are the primary means of transport) and its population of a tiny, cute marsupial called the quokka. Daily ferries go to and from Perth and Fremantle (I recommend leaving from Fremantle, as leaving from Perth tacks on quite a bit of time to the boat trip). The ferry cost me 30.50 dollars each way, plus an 18-dollar admission fee to the island. With a 30-dollar bike rental tacked on, this isn’t the cheapest trip, but there’s enough on the island to keep you busy for a day.
What’s there to do, you ask? Simply bike around and get lost, as I did, knowing that on such a small island, you’re never truly at risk of going astray. I went to a couple of beaches, including the gorgeous Parakeet Bay, where I was one of just a handful of people.
I also got to hang out with my favorite marsupials of the trip, the adorable quokkas. Their almost complete lack of fear around humans makes them vulnerable (do not feed or touch them) but also extremely easy to photograph. While I wasn’t able to score a vaunted “quokka selfie,” I found the little guys to be much like Perth and its environs — laid-back, friendly, outside the mainstream and definitely underrated.
A picture caption with an earlier version of this article misidentified a beach on Rottnest Island. It is the Basin, not Longreach Bay.
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