Wardan Nara Bidi
Start - Porpoise Bay (Bus Stop #4)
Finish - Rocky Bay (Bus Stop #13)
Length - 9.5km (One Way)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Beach, Paved Path
Vertical Climb - 117m
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Purple Markers
Date Hiked - 7th February 2017
Best Time - All Year Round
The Hike - During the summer months I tend to put the hiking boots away and concentrate on other things but with the opening of the Wadjemup Bidi in 2015, this doesn't always have to be the case.
With a desire to get out and snorkel a bit more over the summer, plans were made with the Puma Bait Squad to head over to Rottnest Island for the day and take in the remaining walks on the Wadjemup Bidi that I had not had the pleasure of hiking yet. Having previously done the Ngank Yira Bidi and Gabbi Karniny Bidi on a visit last year, I was keen to explore the wilder western side of the island to see what was what. Taking advantage of the $39 Telethon Deal through Rottnest Express, we were at B Shed in Fremantle early on a Tuesday morning to begin our adventure. The forecast for the day was a chance of thunderstorms with strong winds but given this had been on the cards for a while, we weren't going to stay home for a bit of weather. Conditions when we left were a bit cloudy, which I don't mind as clouds add another interesting feature to the photos, and thankfully the wind wasn't too bad.
With a very full pack (flippers, snorkel, swimming gear, fluids, cameras and other essentials) we boarded the ferry and were soon at Thompsons Bay ready to explore the island. The Wardan Nara Bidi was the first planned hike of the day and that required taking the Island Explorer out to Porpoise Bay ($20 for a day pass). We had some time before the first bus of the day so headed into the settlement to check out the Wadjemup Bidi Trail Head that had not been installed when I last visited and to grab a pie from the bakery. With full bellies we headed to the bus stop just west of the settlement and hopped on the Island Explorer that loops around the island at fairly regular intervals. Just as we left, the rain arrived and we all jumped into our packs to get the wet weather gear out. Not the most ideal start to a long day of hiking but at least we came prepared.
We hopped off at Porpoise Bay (#4 stop) and the rain had subsided so we stuffed our rain gear back into the packs and since the sun was now out, applied the sunscreen. The Wardan Nara follows the purple trail markers that are well placed at critical junctions so we started the trail by following the markers down Parker Point Rd. In case you aren't familiar with the Puma Squad, joining me today is Aron, Tom and Mel and they led the way while I pointed the camera in every direction and started clicking. The road walking doesn't last long as you are pointed into the coastal heathland and up to the high points of the dunes. From here we were rewarded with views from the lookout to the raging ocean to the south and back towards the islands interior.
We noticed that despite the fairly stiff wind that the wind turbine wasn't working. On the bus ride back to the settlement we found out that problems with the grid meant that they couldn't run the wind turbine and were shipping over extra diesel to run generators. Figuring something was up we moved on and towards the picturesque Parker Point. Before we reached the coast we passed through a thicket of spooky looking Rottnest Tea Trees where a group had gathered on the road. This usually means one thing on Rottnest - Quokkas are around and selfies must be taken. Sure enough there were a couple of the cute marsupials around and quite a crowd trying to photograph them so we had a look and then dodged all the bikes before moving on to Parker Point.
Apart from being super pretty, Parker Point is also home to a snorkeling trail that I was keen to explore. Unfortunately the winds were a bit strong and we decided that there would be plenty of opportunity to snorkel on one of the northern beaches. Instead we stood out on the wooden platform and admired the stunning landscape. With a boat anchored in the turquoise waters I took plenty of photos of the idyllic scene before we headed back to the trail and on to the other side of the point. The western side of the point is Little Salmon Bay, another fantastic little beach that also has its own snorkeling trail. When we arrived there was already a crowd of people there enjoying the sunshine so we left them to it and made our way back towards Parker Point Rd.
The road sections of this trail don't detract from the walk at all as they are usually accompanied by stunning views and this tiny section was no different. Overlooking Salmon Bay, you had the ocean to one side, the pristine beaches of Salmon Bay on the other and the Wadjemup Lighthouse in the distance. A bus snuck up behind us and gave a friendly toot for us to move off the road so we happily obliged. Just off the trail before you get to Salmon Bay is a little side track leading down to a limestone viewing area. The purpose of this is to provide an area to watch the Osprey stack on a tiny island off the coast. Luckily we were here at the right time and in the huge nest made of sticks, rope and bones were an adult Osprey and its chick.
I didn't pack my long lens but managed to get a fairly clear photo of the two as they went about their business. With a cool wildlife experience in the bag we headed off to Salmon Bay and the first of two stretches of beach walking. By now the sun was out in full force and the colours of the bay looked fantastic. A few groups were dotted around the stairs leading down to the beach so we joined them and headed off towards the lighthouse. Aron broke out the mini-football and we tossed that around while we ambled along the white sandy shores. Several times along the hike we had said that we were on island time and there was no need to rush, this was one of those times. The hard sand gave way to some softer stuff as we rounded the bay and arrived at the stairs leading back up towards Parker Point Rd.
The trail crosses Parker Point Rd and heads off into the scrub before coming to a T-junction. To the right is the side trail leading up to Oliver Hill (the final part of the Ngank Yira Bidi) and to the left is the path to Wadjemup Lighthouse. As we had plenty of time we headed up to Oliver Hill so everyone could check out the cool sites associated with the islands WWII history. The side trip isn't included on my map but will add an extra 1.5km to the hike. In this area you will find old plotting rooms, the two big 9.2 inch guns, the Oliver Hill Railway and plenty of lookouts providing great vantage points out over the island. When we had finished we made our way back to the T-junction and continued on our way to Wadjemup Lighthouse.
With grey clouds now taking up most of the real estate in the sky, the walk to the lighthouse was a bit gloomy. Being summer, the yellow grasses didn't help things but we soon climbed up the hill to the lighthouse and joined the crowds admiring the white tower at the highest point on the island. Taking a break on the benches we had a drink and decided that we would catch the bus back to the settlement after this trail was finished for lunch instead of immediately starting the Karlinyah Bidi. The inclement weather was a factor in this as the wind had picked up considerably, making for a wild trek after the lighthouse. Departing the lighthouse we made our way onto the barren inland section between the west coast of the island and the lighthouse.
Much of Rottnest was cleared after settlement so I'm not sure if this area was once home to either the native pines or tea trees. Tom remarked that it resembled a dry English meadow and from some angles it has its moments but for the bulk of this section leading to the coast, it is fairly uninspiring. Given you have to travel through the area to get to the coast, I doubt there is a better route that could have been taken. It has a certain wild quality about it but being on sandy 4x4 tracks doesn't make for a pretty walk and you just have to accept this section for what it is. Things liven up after you pass the intersection with another 4x4 track and you climb up to the lookout leading to Strickland Bay.
We had a group vote and decided against the detour to the lookout so moved on and headed towards the last beach section. The scenery improves significantly when you rise up into the dunes and catch a glimpse of the ocean again. The wind was blowing quite hard and further out to sea you could see the result with plenty of white tips in the swell. The trail moves from the dunes to the limestone platforms that protrude out into the gentle lapping swells of the bay. This section provides a change from the beach walk along Salmon Bay as the geological patterns in the limestone provides some mental stimulation along with the always enjoyable childish antics of rock hopping from one platform to another. For those that aren't as sure footed then there is a well worn path to the right that can be traversed.
About half way down the beach is a cool little collection of old posts and buoys that provides a nice photographic opportunity with the sea in the background. Leaving the beach there is a wooden platform taking you up to the Mammong Dreaming Sculpture and a motion powered (you will see) story from Traditional Owner, Kerri Anne Winmar. I won't spoil the story as its best experienced at that spot so make sure you take the time to listen to the whole thing. From the sculpture it isn't much further until the end of the trail at Rocky Bay and you are treated to yet another fantastic scene of a sheltered bay. It is just past the bus stop for Rocky Bay that the trail ends and where the Karlinyah Bidi begins. That was to be our second trail of the day but we checked the timings of the bus to get back for lunch and then out here again and we would have had just enough time to do the trail at a quick pace but not had the chance to do any snorkelling. I guess island time caught up with us.
Post Hike Activities - With no second trail on the cards and the winds increasing (the ferry ride back was fun roller-coaster ride) we took it easy and enjoyed some mini-golf after lunch before heading out to The Basin for some snorkeling. Having lugged our gear over it seemed a waste not to use it and with the sheltered nature of The Basin, we enjoyed swimming around the reef and photographing the various fish species that call this area home. Definitely a great way to finish a day on Rottnest (besides a drink at the Rottnest Hotel, which we also did).