Sunday, 9 September 2018

Wardan Nara Bidi (Rottnest Island)

Exploring the eastern side of the island, the Wardan Nara Bidi links many of Rottnest's best snorkelling sights. Starting at Porpoise Bay, the trail takes walkers to the dramatic snorkelling spots of Parker Point, Little Salmon Bay and Salmon Bay. Heading inland, the track provides access to Oliver Hill and the Wadjemup Lighthouse before a rugged finale along Strickland Bay

Distance: 10 km (one way)
Gradient: Some moderate descents and ascents from the beaches and along the roads. Relatively flat otherwise
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained - mix of beaches, purpose-built walk trail and road walking
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the the Wadjemup Bidi markers providing clear directional information
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 2-3 Hours
Steps: Many steps, particularly to and from the beaches
Best Time to Visit: All Year
Entry Fee: Yes. Rottnest Island entry fees apply
Getting There: Rottnest can be reached by ferry or private vessel. The trail starts at the Porpoise Bay bus stop and finishes at the Rocky Bay stop

With our Ningaloo trip fast approaching and with Perth experiencing mild and pleasant Spring weather, Alissa and I decided to head across to Rottnest Island to complete the last of the five trails in the Wadjemup Bidi network - the Wardan Nara Bidi - and to get some practice snorkelling in before heading back to the Coral Coast. With somewhat cool morning temperatures, Alissa and I decided to start with the walk and snorkel in the afternoon, so we hopped on the Island Explorer bus to Porpoise Bay where the Wardan Nara Bidi's trailhead is located.

The walk starts somewhat unimpressively - while featuring an informative trailhead, the trail then runs along the road. Given that this is literally the same road the bus goes down makes this a bit uninspiring, however it is less than a kilometre before the Wardan Nara Bidi branches off the road and onto single file walk track.

The walk track leads to the first good views of the ocean near Tree Hill. A large warning light is located on the hill presumably to aid ships in navigating the island, however for walkers the main highlight will be the views of the dunes below for the lookout. The coastline on this part of Rottnest is quite moveable and some work has gone into stabilising the dune system after much of the island's vegetation was removed during European settlement.

From the lookout the track descends and it initially appears like it is heading towards the dunes themselves, however the walk veers sharply to the right before returning to walk along the road.

The road walking is far from inspiring for the most part, however it does feature a nice stretch through Watson Glade. The area is of historical and ecological significance as the area was where Aboriginal prisoners being held on the island would spend their free Sundays, and it continues to play an important role in supporting the island's rich birdlife.

With pleasant but not exactly thrilling walking up to this point, the quality of the scenery increases dramatically at Parker Point. One of the island's best snorkelling spots, the beautiful clear waters are home to all kind of marine life including one of Australia's most southern coral communities. Parker Point features a well regarded snorkel trail that is listed amongst Trails WA's Top Trails.

Continuing along the road, the Wardan Nara Bidi reaches the smaller but equally beautiful Little Salmon Bay. Another of the island's great snorkelling spots, the calm sheltered nature of the cove makes it a perfect spot for less experienced snorkelers to see a beautiful array of fish and corals close to shore.

The walk continues along Salmon Point as it overlooks the beautifully blue waters of the reef below. With fairly rough seas on the day of our walk, this did not look like a particularly safe place to be snorkelling at the time, however  the view of the reef did make me want to come back and explore sometime in the future.

Rounding Salmon Point, the Wadjemup Lighthouse comes into view. This is the feature landmark of the Wardan Nara Bidi and seeing it from afar make it work as an anchor that draws the walker to the island's high point.

Just off the coast at Salmon Point is a small rock island that is one of the island's famous locations. Home to a massive osprey stack, the nest is an impressively large structure made by the birds that are the island's avian emblem. If you look carefully, you can see one of the birds within the stack and Alissa and I were lucky enough to spot one hovering around overhead as well.

After a fair amount of road walking, Alissa and I were excited to descend a flight of stairs leading to our first bit of beach walking at the larger Salmon Bay.

Another immensely beautiful beach, Salmon Bay is also considered a great snorkelling spot, with shelves of limestone making it an area that just invites more exploration. That would have to wait for another time however, as Alissa and I were keen to get all our walking done at this stage of the day.

The 1.2 kilometres of beach walking were relatively uncomplicated and unchallenging, with another set of well constructed steps leading us out of the beach and back onto the road.

From the road, Alissa and I reached an inland section of walk track. Leaving the coastline behind, the Wardan Nara Bidi's focus during this middle section is an optional side trip to the Oliver Hill Battery and the Wadjemup Lighthouse.

The main track reaches a trail junction a short distance along the inland section, with the trail to the right leading towards the Oliver Hill Battery and joining onto the Ngank Yira Bidi. Having explored the Ngank Yira Bidi and Oliver Hill on our last visit, Alissa and I actually used this linking trail at the time to get us to the road and to the nearest bus stop. Being only of value if you've never been to Oliver Hill before, Alissa and I decided to give the linking trail a miss and instead continued on towards the lighthouse.

Passing one of the island's many inland lakes, the track provides good views of the lighthouse and the island's high point.

We had been warned that dugites were out and about by the driver of the Island Explorer bus, so we were unsurprised to see one just off the track. With a recent snake bite incident on the Bibbulmun Track, there has been much discussion about the safety of walking in snake territory and what precautions people should be taking. Alissa and I have encountered a lot of snakes in our hiking adventures, and had found that snake are generally fairly timid and are more likely to flee than attack unless they are cornered. Nevertheless, we always walk with a medikit and a PLB just in case. This particularly snake was obviously sluggish after sleeping through most of the winter and was actually a bit startled by my footsteps as I walked past it. It ended up crossing the track to the other side rather than doing the more sensible thing and fleeing further into the bushes, but that was the extent of the incident with no harm to either humans or snake.

Heading through a forested section filled with Rottnest Island Pine, Alissa and I could see that we were getting closer and closer to the lighthouse.

The track up to the lighthouse was quite sandy but not overly steep; while this is the island's high point, the overall height is not exactly mountainous and would be in easy reach of most able bodied walkers.

Standing on the island's highest point, the Wadjemup Lighthouse provides 360 degree views of the landscape. There are regular tours on offer, however Alissa and I had a fairly tight schedule and were keen to simply keep going so we could get in some snorkelling in the afternoon.

From the lighthouse, the track runs through a section of low heath. This is classic snake territory and Alissa and I walked with certain amount of caution as a result. Something I find really interesting about Rottnest is that unlike other areas of Western Australia, the coastal heath appears to be less colourful and filled with wildflowers. This makes the heath sections a lot less interesting than walking through the heathlands of the Cape to Cape Track or the incredibly biodiverse heath of Fitzgerald River National Park.

Returning to the coast after the heathland, the track brings walkers to a side trip to the eastern end of Strickland Bay. This is considered the island's most famous surf break, and with the swell well and truly on on the day of our visit, this was as spectacular as advertised. Given the perfect conditions, it was no surprise to see a large contingent of surfers out enjoying the excellent waves.

Given the waves, the track does not head immediately towards Strickland Bay and instead doubles back slightly and then follows another section of inland heath before descending to the beach.

This final stretch of beach walking is amongst the island's most spectacular as it heads along a limestone shelf with the waves crashing into the rocks.

This limestone shelf reminded Alissa and I of the spectacularly walking along the Karlinyah Bidi on the other side of Rottnest, as well as the limestone shelves seen along the southern sections of the Cape to Cape Track. I love this kind of walking, and this was probably my favourite part of the entire Wardan Nara Bidi.

With the high swells, it was the perfect time to be visiting this part of the island, and it made the walking all the more spectacular.

Given the rough conditions, it was surprising to see a lizard sitting along a shelf close to the water, however it appeared to be enjoying the sunbathing on what would have been a relatively warm day after the cold of winter.

Exiting the beach, the track passes by the Mamong Dreaming Sculpture by Peter Farmer. An indigenous artist, the sculpture is designed to represent both the tracks and waterholes of the Noongar people and the fins and flippers of the whales along their migration through the Southern and Indian Oceans. The artwork along the Wadjemup Bidi network really add to the overall vibrancy of the trail network, and it is my opinion that this would probably be one of the most successful pieces on the island.

From the sculpture, it is only a short walk to the bus stop at Rocky Bay - the same stop Alissa and I know well as being the start point for the Karlinyah Bidi and Ngank Wen Bidi.

The Wardan Nara Bidi was a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the beaches along its length are some of the island's best and most beautiful. This would have to be the best walk for anyone who wants to walk from one amazing snorkelling spot to another, and the final stretch along the limestone shelf is some of the most stunning walking of the entire Wadjemup Bidi network. Unfortunately, the track's best features are let down by the fact so much of it is along the island's roads. I get the fact that there is very little in the way of traffic on the island's road network, but black bitumen does not make for particularly inspiring walking. As a result, I would have to rank the Wardan Nara Bidi a bit below the Karlinyah Bidi and Gabbi Karniny Bidi, which are my favourites due to their overall quality. Nevertheless, I still contend that Rottnest is the best place in the Perth area for bushwalking other than the Darling Scarp, and while flawed I would still recommend the Wardan Nara Bidi as an enjoyable walk to undertake while on a Rottnest Island adventure.


  1. I think this is one I'll do with Sam next time we are over west Donavon. Thanks for writing it up.