It has been a stressful, exhausting few months to say the least. Rewind to the blissful ignorance the world was in in January. *Insert sarcasm* The good old days right?
COVID-19 was being discussed often on the news in Australia back in January, but it seemed like a far off problem and I hate to say it, but it was framed as a China problem on the media outlets their. The country closed off their borders to China and every country in the pacific was screening travelers if they had been to China in the last 14 days. Seems like it could have been enough? In hindsight definitely not. Two main issues besides the now well known facts that many carrier of COVID-19 were asymptomatic: 1. “screening everyone” isn’t actually screening everyone, and 2. people lie. People will lie on those immigration forms (if they are even collected) or travel with a different passport. If someone who was in an infected area wanted to get out there was about two months of a gap where they could do so almost seamlessly. Unfortunately, a lot of that happened and that’s how a lot of people were infected.
Australia pretty much thought they solved the problem in early February when they closed their borders to China. The result was that many people went on with their lives like normal (and perhaps even beyond what they normally would be doing because travel prices had dropped) for 2-3 more month when precautions should have already been made. This led to people being blissfully unaware until all of the sudden Australia decided to immediately shut down their borders to non-citizens on a Friday and to all citizens that following Tuesday.
This caused a panic and price escalation, which was also seen all over the world. People couldn’t get home or didn’t know how to. Within Australia the economy was facing many of the same issues as the the rest of the world – toilet paper shortages, food/pasta shortages, lack of job security, etc. As great of a country Australia is it wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of the global pandemic.
So where did that leave me?
Well I was living it up on an island in Fiji without any service or wifi the Thursday Australia announced they would be closing their borders the following evening at 9pm. When I woke up to the news on Friday morning, it was virtually impossible to make it back by that evening deadline. Well shoot….now what?
The choice became stay in Fiji or go home to the United States. It was a tough one and I really was leaning towards staying in Fiji, and of course the mindset was, “I could stay in this tropical paradise for another month….maybe two, but what if it was longer?” I couldn’t work in Fiji as I was there as tourist, and technically my visa was only valid for another two months. Then the practical reality of the what ifs hit, i.e. what if I did get sick and needed a doctor, the health care options would be an issue.
I made the practical, realistic, adult (blah blah blah) choice of going home for the time being (again hoping and thinking that time would be two months max) and getting back to Australia ASAP. Truth be told I was excited to go home for a bit and spend time with my family, sleep in one place for an extended amount of time, be in the same time zone as a majority of my friends, etc.
Hello! 2020 has been wild to say the least right? Not the good kind of wild either. When COVID-19 was at its peak of hysteria I was in Fiji and decided to hit pause on traveling to head back home to the United States. Of course I thought that it would all “blow over.” Well 12 weeks later and there’s still no end in sight unfortunately.
I haven’t been too productive and I should have don’t more with my free time, but I just honestly did not feel like it. I somehow let this travel blog become a book review blog, and that’s just not cool. So I’m writing to say I’m officially back. Stay tuned on more reviews/descriptions of my travels pre-Corona, and I’ll probably also go back further in time and talk about the other destinations I’ve traveled to in the past.
I know I said I would chill out on reading, but then Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty was waiting for me at the Radison’s guest library. The first book I read by Liane Moriarty was What Alice Forgot for a book club a few years ago in NYC. I really loved that book. It was a captivating story and set in Australia so I knew I liked Liane Moriarty’s writing, but I haven’t read any of her other novels.
When Big Little Lies became a HBO series it was star studded and quite reasonably became a hit. I usually try to read the book version before seeing the screen version of a story, but this was an exception. I had watched the full series (it sadly hasn’t been renewed for another season) before reading. The main difference between the print and screen versions is the location – originally set in Australia, but the series is based in California. The character descriptions also differed a bit and I just couldn’t replace Resse Witherspoon’s portrayal of Madeline out of my head. Besides that the book and series pretty much follow along the same story (of course there’s a point where the series goes off script due to the end of the book as in the last season).
Even knowing what happens (or maybe it was because I knew) I couldn’t put this book down. Once again Liane Moriarty proved her abilities to write a captivating book. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t watched Big Little Lies I would recommend to read the book ASAP. I full enjoyed reading this one and look forward to reading more of Liane Moriarty’s novels.
“A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.”
Most Rottnest Island visitors come for day trips and as a result there aren’t many accommodation options. Hotel Rottnest is currently being redone so we were limited to the only other hotel or a unique option – glamping. When I saw the glamping option whilst researching I was stoked, but I wasn’t sure my mom would go for it. To my surprise she did, so Discovery Rottnest Island here we come.
Everything about the property online looked awesome and we decided to book three nights. At the time of booking there was only one type of tent option and that was the accessible tent, which can accommodate four people. The set up is one large king bed and a bunk bed. This would be perfect for a family, but a little too much room for my mom and me. There’s an en-suite full bathroom and a kitchenette also within the tent. It is very very nice and not “roughing” whatsoever. The walls besides the bathroom and the front are a thick canvas. You can’t roll them completely up like a normal tent, but there are window areas that you could roll up for extra light. The front wall had a sliding glass door and two full windows.
We enjoyed our overall stay and I would recommend this property to anyone looking for a unique holiday destination. It’s important to be transparent so I’ll also go over the cons of the experience. The website is a little misleading and not clear. The way specifications were written it seemed like there was also laundry en-suite, in the tent. This is actually not the case at all. You can have the cleaners do your laundry for a fee or walk pretty far on the island if you wanted to do it yourself. Obviously, this wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was more like false advertising.
The second thing was that they should have been clearer at check in about how things run. They didn’t mention that there wasn’t a cleaner daily (only if you stay 5 or more nights) and more importantly they didn’t mention that all the towels that are in your room are meant to last your entire stay, this included beach towels. So regardless if you stay one night or three you’ll have the same towels. Not a huge deal for the bathroom towels, but a bit annoying for the beach/pool towels. Either way it wasn’t mentioned to us at check in, and we only had one type of towel in our room so we didn’t realize we had to ration our towel usage. On the same caliber they also didn’t say that about the toiletries they put in the room. One bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. for your whole stay regardless if it’s one night or longer. We had our own so it wasn’t a huge deal, but still it should have been mentioned in an email beforehand or at check in.
The third “issue,” and this one was actually an issue, – wen realized the first night our door’s lock was broken. When we informed reception they couldn’t do anything about it that night. Not a huge deal and we placed a suitcase in front of the door while we slept. The island feels pretty safe so we didn’t feel an immediate threat. The second day when maintenance came to check it out they didn’t think they could fix it that day due to lack of parts on the island. This would mean another night without a locked door, but more significantly leaving our belongings in a totally open room during the day as they didn’t have any safes in the tents. We weren’t really cool with that. After much deliberation we were offered to change tents, but we really didn’t want to have to pack up and move everything again. They ended up working their magic and fixing the door so all was well.
Now comes the last and final complaint I had about the property. Our second day when we were going through the issues with the door, we had the absolute rudest, disrespectful, and condescending front desk staff member ever. Honestly, I travel a lot and have been in many hotels, hostels, resorts, etc. and I have never encountered such a spiteful worker. She was young, probably around my age, obviously didn’t like her job and thought she was above it. I’m really not sure what her problem was, but she was terrible. And fine hunny if you want to be rude to me I will give it right back to you, but don’t you dare disrespect my mom, which was what she was doing and in front of other guests too. It wasn’t a good look for Discovery. I really don’t want to dwell on it because once we spoke to the Assistant Manager, Maddie, everything was smoothed over, fixed, and compensated over. Maddie was seriously a godsend and great at her job, but it is a shame that she had to get involved in the first place.
So those were the woes of the property, but everything else was pretty great. They are located right between two beaches so you can take your pick or hop around. Substantial breakfast buffets were included with our stay. The tent itself was really nice, but one night was stifling hot even with the fan on – so maybe earlier in the summer is a better time to visit. I think my mom’s favorite part of the property was the food at the restaurant for dinner. The chef made a fantastic menu with great specials daily. Quokkas were plentiful around the property. You could find them around and under the tents during the day and at night they came out in packs everywhere. I would highly recommend staying here if you come to Rottnest Island.
Rottnest Island has been on my list of places to visit for a while now. The problem with going here is that it’s a hassle and a half to get to the island. First you have to get a flight to Perth. Flying cross-country in Australia is typically more expensive than flying international like say to Fiji or Bali. Therefore it’s understandable why so many Aussies vacation out of the country. So the first step in getting to Rottnest is getting to Perth. You’ll most likely fly, but you could also take the train from Adelaide. Once in Perth you’ll have to ferry over to Rotto either from Barrack Street, in downtown Perth, or Fremantle. I used Rottnest Express and they also arrange shuttle pick up and drop off from hotels.
Many people choose just to do a day trip, but I think it’s totally worth staying on the island a couple of nights. There’s actually a lot of ground to cover and doing it all in a day would be rushed.
Things to Do
Whether you’re visiting just for a day or spending a bit of time here there’s a lot to do on the island.
Rent a bike
This is the most popular mode of transportation around the island. Daily hires with a basket are $35 AUD and additional days decrease in price per day. I only had a bike the last day and it was my favorite overall day on the island – I loved cruising around. The terrain can be a bit rough and it’s not fully a leisurely ride – lots of up and downs so consider yourself warned. The whole island is 19km and they say leave around 4-5 hours to just bike along the entirety of the island if that is your cup of tea. That’s of course is not including stops, which are the best part. When cruising around you’re pretty much on your own schedule to do whatever you want and there are so many beautiful beaches and snorkeling stops you’ll want to give yourself extra time. If you are leaving the island the same day just make sure you leave enough time to get back to the ferry and/or return the bike.
There are 63 beaches and 15 bays around Rottnest Island so you’re guaranteed to find one you like. The water all around the island is absolutely spectacular. My favorite spots were:
Little Armstrong Bay
Little Salmon Bay
Hang out with the quokkas
The happiest animals in the world, quokkas, are permanent residents of Rottnest Island these little creatures are wonderful. They really are everywhere and you’re sure to capture some amazing shots. Some tips while encounter the quokkas:
Remember they are wild animals and although friendly you shouldn’t do anything to disturb them.
Don’t feed or give them water. They can’t digest food that has been processed so it’s very harmful to them. If they are use to getting water from humans they won’t go out for it themselves when they need it.
A selfie stick would be super handy. That’s really how you get the best angles and can capture them smiling. I’ve never been a selfie stick user myself, but someone let me borrow there’s.
Don’t pet them. This one is hard because they just are so so lovable. Again they are wild so they could bite, but the bigger warning is that some of them carry salmonella so yeah that should be warning enough. I would wash or sanitize your hands after every encounter even if you didn’t touch them, but touched the ground around them.
Speak up. If you see anyone not following these rules say something. Although the ferries, accommodation, and all over town they have the rules posted and there’s a $300 fine for feeding or petting, people still don’t follow them. If you see someone feeding a quokka fries definitely call them out on it (speaking from personal experience).
Quality time. It’s suggested to spend some time with the quokkas just observing them. So try not to click a photo and leave.
There are a couple of tours you can take ranging from 1-5 hours. I actually wouldn’t recommend one of the tours if you’re only on the island for one day. If you have a couple of days on the island then I would recommend it. We did a long tour that started with a train ride, tour of the massive guns from WWII, and then a bus tour that gave us a view most of the island without making many stops. Also note, buses and service vehicles are the only cars permitted on the island.
Ice Cream – There’s one ice cream parlor in town so you can’t miss it. There are so many flavors to choose from. You can’t sample so you’ll have to go multiple times. Tip the honeycomb is fantastic.
Pinky’s Beach Club – They close the kitchen pretty early so make sure you get there before 8pm for dinner. You will not be disappointed. Their chef is doing something right because all the meals were packed with flavor.
Hotel Rottnest – Come here for sunset drinks and nibbles. The view is incredible even if the food is just okay. There’s also live entertainment on the weekends. Rottnest Hotel is located right on the water and close to ferry so it’s easy to get to.
We went the Glamping route for our stay, which I absolutely loved. There are also houses/apartments to rent, but I think they go pretty quickly in the season if workers aren’t assigned to them.
Karma Hotel is also on the island and has a spa. Hotel Rottnest’s rooms are currently being redone and are expected to open in September 2020. I really think this will be the premium/hot spot to stay once open.
Rottnest Island is very special. I highly recommend this spot for anybody looking for a true getaway. I loved my stay there and would go back in a heartbeat.
The novel A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute was published in 1950. At the beginning of the novel it’s hard to imagine it being a love story, but that’s exactly what it evolves into. Alice refers to Alice Springs, Australia in Northern Territory aka the outback. Unlike most rural towns in the outback, Alice Springs is a thriving community. The whole premise of the book is to transform another outback town into a town like Alice Springs.
It’s very cool because one of the main characters is a young woman (late 20s) without much education, but with a savvy mind for business and she’s the one initiating all of the change to the town. Given that a man wrote in the 50s it’s really cool to see how progressive he was for the time period.
We bought this book at Red Kangaroo Books, the Alice Springs bookshop, (mentioned in the book) mostly for that novelty of being there.
If you’re familiar with Australia it was really cool being able to see the places that are mentioned in the book in the past because a lot has changed. My biggest takeaway from the book was that I needed to visit Green Island in Cairns when I’m up there in a couple of months.
It was a good book and very easy to read. Not sure if I would recommend it because it’s not relevant to today, but I wouldn’t not recommend it if that makes sense. If you stumbled on it at a library give it a read, but definitely don’t go out and purchase it.
I’ve always been told that Perth was an underrated city. However, after visiting I would say it is justly rated. Don’t get me wrong it is a beautiful city, but for the distance to travel to Perth and how much you can do especially compared to Melbourne, Sydney, and the east coast I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s too far just to come for a weekend trip, but I think a week here would be too long. That being said we really enjoyed the time we had here, but it felt like a stopover place rather than a destination.
Here are my top things to do and see in and around Perth:
Rottnest Island – this was the highlight of my entire trip with my mom so it has to get the #1 spot. Rottnest is located 19km off of the mainland and it is stunning. Many people visit the island as a day trip, but we spent 3 days on the island, which I would highly recommend.
Fremantle – When we visited Fremantle on a Sunday it was the first time we actually saw a lot of people. This little port town was the place to be. There was a market going on, lots of cafes and restaurants, and overall had a buzzing energy.
Cottesloe beach – Western Australia is known for their beaches and Cottesloe is known to be the best beach in the area. It was really beautiful and not very crowded when we went. Besides lying out or taking a swim you can walk along the beach or to Cottesloe Town. There are some cute boutique shops and some cafes.
Festivals – Perth seemed to always have some kind of festival going on. We were there during the Fringe and the Lights festivals. They are perfect opportunities to do something different for the day or on a night out. The arts and music are meant to be very big here.
Food – We had some yummy food for only being in Perth a couple of days.
Flora and Fauna – vegan brunch spot with really great options from a daily menu. The food is fresh and creative.
Petition Kitchen – this seems like a hotspot you need a reservation for. They have a sharable menu that is extremely impressive.
Van’s Café – located near Cottesloe beach; this is where I had the best avocado toast ever. They had a full on menu, lovely cakes; and great coffee.
Cohunu Koala Park – I think this place is very interesting. It wouldn’t be on my list of top things to do if it wasn’t for the koala encounter. My mom had so much time holding the koala compared to the other encounters where they just pass the koala from one person to another in under 30 seconds. It was special.
That pretty much wraps up my Perth experience. There are also wineries and wine cruises down the Swan River, which are meant to be really nice, but since we did our wine-ing in Hunter Valley we skipped out on it in Perth.
Our first stop out of the Outback was Fraser Suites in Perth. After the full on desert experience this was a shock. The lobby was huge and modern and our room was on the 16th floor. I don’t think they have buildings that tall in all of the Northern Territory. The room was really nice with lots of light and a very comfortable bed. Sidenote: my mom was very impressed by the crisp sheets everywhere we stayed. The fitness center and pool were also above normal hotel standards. There was also a little kitchette in the the room equipped with a microwave, sink, refrigerator, etc. Our first night in Perth we ate at the bar onsite. The food was good and you can get the full restaurant menu at the bar for a more casual setting.
Location was very convenient as you could walk easily into the bustling areas or take a bus. We booked our stay via HotelTonight and got a pretty good deal. Our one and only negative was the bed’s positioning to the air conditioning. It was too hot not to have the A/C on, but when it was on it blasted on you directly making it really freezing.
I would recommend the Fraser Suites for anyone traveling to Perth.
I’ve found that there are a lot of misconceptions about Australia. I truly think that some believe that snakes and spiders are everywhere and kangaroos jump around all over the streets. The truth is (and I’m probably jinxing myself putting this in writing) I have yet to see a spider or a snake and the closest I’ve ever been to a kangaroo is at an animal sanctuary. When I was having some phone issues back in September, the woman at Verizon couldn’t imagine a cityscape once I told her I was in Australia – she thought everything was barren. Another thing to note when coming here you also can’t hold koalas everywhere. Some states, like New South Wales where Sydney is located, it is against the law to hold them. Queensland is the best state to hold a koala with the most opportunities.
My mom didn’t have a trip to Queensland on our itinerary, but she told me she couldn’t go home without having that experience. So we went on a bit of a search to see where it could be done on our travels. The Perth Zoo had an encounter, but the dates didn’t align with our schedule. We finally came across Cohunu Koala Park.
Cohunu is located 40 minutes out of the city. The options to get there are train and bus or Uber. They are open daily from 10am to 4pm with an admission fee of only $15 for adults and $5 for children. The koala experience is $30 extra with pictures taken on your own device. We saw some interesting reviews on Cohunu so we didn’t know what to expect.
Pulling in to the parking (car park) we were greeted by views of some massive dinosaur statues and a small-scale farm. When you’re walking around it’s kind of bizarre because many of the animals are roaming free. While looking into one of the enclosures I was quickly surrounded by a peacock, emu, and a couple of ponies all with a wall of bird cages three feet away. At reception when paying for admission you can also buy a bag of popcorn to feed the animals. This was kind of a rad flag for me…should the animals really eat popcorn?
The farm was small with just a couple of exhibits. Not including the animals roaming free there was a crocodile pen, two dingos, a lot of different birds, and a fenced kangaroo area. The roos were also with deer and a couple of ostriches on the outer perimeter.
The best part of the farm was by far koala experience. My mom went when there wasn’t a line so she had a lot of time with the koala, Crystal. Most of the encounters I’ve seen have been less than 30 seconds, but my mom was able to hold and cuddle with Crystal for a good amount of time. The koala encounter alone made the trip out here worth it.