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Paradises of Oz: Pumpkin and Rottnest Islands

14:00 AEST Thu Apr 7 2011

Pumpkin Island

Kelly Landry headed to the privately owned Pumpkin Island off Queensland's Capricorn Coast for some downtime. The tiny six-hectare island has no television or shops and minimal power. Transport is by quad bike and trailer. If it's solitude you want, this is the place.

It's reached by a 45-minute drive from Rockhampton Airport and then a 45-minute boat ride, or 40 minutes all up by helicopter from the airport.

Pumpkin was named by Captain James Cook in 1770. In 1930 it was "rediscovered" by an oyster collector, and 30 years later, was sold to a couple from Yeppoon for just £50.

Wayne and Laureth Craggs are the lucky owners and they have five self-contained, eco-friendly cottages. Choose from Pebble Point, Coral Cove, Tropical Tides, Oyster Box and Coco Pine. Pebble Point is the most luxurious and comes with a splash pool. You can rent the entire island with accommodation for up to 30 people.

Guests can fish for their dinner in the reef's shallow waters, harvest oysters from the rocks or pre-order gourmet meals and wines from the award-winning Waterline Restaurant in Keppel Bay Marina. Take your own food along and self-cater if you prefer.

Enjoy coconuts right off the palms, swim alongside turtles, and delight in land, sea and air wildlife. Their excellent website gives month-by-month details showing what you can expect to see. At sunset, you can head off with Wayne for a spot of squid fishing. He knows all the good spots.

Three peaks on the island give fantastic views of surrounding islands and reefs. Its lagoon is home to colourful corals, giant clams and loads of fish. Snorkel amongst it all, or take out a glass-bottomed sea kayak. The Craggs can arrange professional diving and fishing tours. Bays are perfect for kite-surfing and windsurfing and there's always a breeze around the corner.

By the way, Pumpkin Island is snake-free, so everyone is perfectly safe!

Rottnest Island

Jules Lund took a 30-minute ferry ride from Perth to visit Rottnest Island (from Fremantle it takes 90 minutes.) The little gem has 63 beaches and 20 bays. It is car-free and can be cycled around in less than three hours.

Rottnest is the largest in a chain, which includes Garden and Carnac islands. Between 1838 and 1931 it was a prison for Aboriginal people. It's been a tourist destination since the early 1900s when ferries took day trippers to the island for an outing.

Jules had a look around with ranger Andy Hodgkins who is lucky enough to call Rottnest home. Around 400 people live on the island, with day-trippers swelling the population up to 5000, but there's always a patch of sand or deserted cove to call your own for a day.

Free buses circle the island, but Jules reckons the best way to see Rottnest is by bicycle. It's a 24km ride and, of course, you can stop and detour as you please.

It would not be a Rottnest story without mention of the little swamp wallaby species known as the quokka. The cute little critters are actually responsible for the island's name. In 1696 explorer Willem de Vlamingh described them as a kind of rat, and named the island "Rotte Nest" meaning "rats' nest". It eventually became Rottnest.

In the main part of town, Hotel Rottnest is a favourite place. Sitting on Thompson Bay, it's just had a $6.5 million facelift. There are 18 units, some with direct beach access.

Meals are excellent, including fresh seafood, pizzas, steak and salads with a well-selected choice of wines and beers. The bar has water views in shaded, sunny or grassy areas.

Location

Pumpkin Island off Queensland's Capricorn Coast and Rottnest Island off the Western Australian coast.

Cost

Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Rockhampton from:
  • Brisbane $84
  • Sydney $149
  • Melbourne $160
  • Canberra $179
  • Adelaide $200
  • Hobart $219
  • Darwin $239
  • Perth $308

There are limited seats, which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at April 14, 2011, and are subject to change.

Pumpkin Island stays start at $75 per person a night, based on four guests. Each additional guest, to a maximum of six, costs $50 per person a night. Linen and towels, use of snorkelling equipment and glass-bottom kayaks are included.

Coco Pine Cottage is $330 a night for up to four. Pumpkin Island Pebble Point cottage is $525 a night. Discounts apply for longer stays. Pumpkin Xpress costs $25 for adults and $15 for children, one-way.

Rottnest Express 90-minute cruises are $50 for adults and $25 for children. They depart at 11am every day. Bicycle hire is $28 for adults and $20 for children a day. They can fit you out with snorkelling, fishing and surfing gear. Bicycle hire is $28 for adults and $20 for children for a day, $41 and $35 for two days and $56 and $45 for three days.

Prices correct at April 7, 2011.

For further information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789
www.virginblue.com.au

Pumpkin Island
Ph: (07) 4939 4412
www.pumpkinisland.com.au
bookings@pumpkinisland.com.au

Rottnest Adventures
Rottnest Express
Ph: 1300 467 688
www.rottnestexpress.com.au
bookings@rottnestexpress.com.au

Hotel Rottnest
1 Bedford Avenue
Rottnest Island, WA 6161
Ph: (08) 9292 5011
Fax: (08) 9292 5188
www.hotelrottnest.com.au
reception@hotelrottnest.com.au

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