Islands aplenty across Western Australia means there's more to this State than just Rotto.
When you talk about a West Australian island retreat, invariably there is one name which always springs to mind: Rottnest.
The island is responsible for precious memories held by millions of sandgropers past and present.
It is easy to see why; quokkas, beaches, bike rides, the bakery ... and did we mention quokkas?
Rottnest is not our only island paradise, however.
WA has seven established island retreats and plenty more options if you are happy to rough it.
Dirk Hartog Island
There’s an old saying that the journey is part of the destination, and that could not be truer for Shark Bay’s Dirk Hartog Island.
Nine hours on the road, three hours off the road and 10 minutes on a barge; that’s what it takes to get to WA’s biggest island. It can accommodate light aircraft and helicopter transfers too, if driving isn’t your cup of tea.
Offering camping and rooms, the eco lodge at the old homestead is a perfect base to explore the island from.
You can head north of the sand dunes for more isolated beach camping, or try your luck with one of the fishing huts right up the north end.
This place is bucket-list stuff for adventurers. From dunes to towering cliffs, shark nurseries to turtle nests, Dirk Hartog Island is a wild, untamed beauty on the edge of our meticulously planned modern world. It ticks everything off the list for lovers of the outdoors.
The beaches are pristine, the four-wheel-driving a blast, the fishing among the best you can find and the sounds, smells and sights soothing for the soul.
The most family-friendly of our island retreats aside from Rottnest, the Mackerels are an easy 40-minute ferry ride out from the Pilbara town of Onslow.
Those dreams you have in your head of what an island getaway would be like — lazing on the beach, catching fish for dinner, snorkelling the shallows, endless sunny days — that is exactly what these islands offer.
The main island, Thevenard, is home to plenty of boat moorings and accommodation options, a good fishing jetty, general store and restaurant.
Tours are available and a range of aquatic gear, from snorkels to SUPs, can be hired.
Direction Island is for those seeking their very own Gilligan’s experience. The island houses one beach shack which can host up to eight people — perfect for a trip with mates.
It is entirely self-contained, meaning you get the whole island to yourself.
Every time I tell people there is a luxury bush retreat on a remote island in Exmouth Gulf, I get the same wide-eyed “how did I not know about this” look.
The nature watching above and below water here is first class. Whales, turtles, birds, big fish and night skies free of light pollution are a feast for the eyes.
Fishing is the main game though. The island is described as boasting the best flats for fly fishing in Australia.
There’s also mangroves to try your luck for mud crab, jacks and barra, and shoals nearby where the big sport fish like to play.
At $2900 per person, it seems pricey but bear in mind that sum includes five nights, full catering, transfers, use of all the toys (fishing gear, snorkels, kayaks etcetera) and activities each day.
West Moore Island
West Moore is for the anglers.
It doesn’t come with the fancy trimmings of Wilderness Island, instead catering for your more low-key escapes.
It is just off the coast at Balla Balla between Karratha and Port Hedland, and boat transfers can be made from Point Samson.
The island has a well-maintained, two-storey lodge with simple double and family rooms, all air-conditioned of course.
This is a pure fishing expedition island and those keen to wet a line won’t be disappointed. The Pilbara is renowned for great eating fish such as coral trout, emperor, mackerel and blue bone.
For a break from fishing, you can kayak out to Depuch Island where Aboriginal rock art is abundant. Rocks around West Moore are covered in oysters and there is plenty of marine life to admire in the shallows.
Molloy Island is unique on this list. It is not surrounded by ocean, nor is it largely uninhabited.
No, Molloy is a residential island at the tip of the Blackwood and Scott rivers just outside Augusta. The only access is by boat or barge.
There’s nothing organised about Molloy. You can bushwalk, fish and kayak of your own volition, or just enjoy a day sitting on the banks of the Blackwood.
The speed limit is 20km/h, which should give you a fair indication about the pace of life in this forested hideaway.
A caravan park sits on the banks of the river across from Molloy Island, or you can choose from eight houses listed on holiday home sites on the island itself.
Ask any boat owner in the Pilbara where their dream trip is and most will tell you the same thing: the Montes.
The 250-odd islands and islets, which make up the Montebello Islands Marine Park, are about 130km off the Pilbara coast and a hotspot for anglers, divers and lovers of all things aquatic.
You really are out in the middle of the ocean here.
There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, other than the few private and tourist boats which venture out this far off the mainland.
For those without a boat, never fear, there are other options available. Montebello Island Safaris operates out of Exmouth and has a well-appointed houseboat sitting among the islands.
Extended boat charters with live-aboard facilities leave from Perth, Exmouth and Karratha throughout the year.
Islands aren’t solely the domain of the west coast, our south coast has few crackers, too.
Woody Island, in the Recherche Archipelago, has camp grounds with tents provided and huts for families of four.
The island is bound by striking rocky headlands rising out of the Southern Ocean and covered in native vegetation.
Like the rest of our islands you can fish, you can watch birds, you can lounge around and switch off.
Guided walks run out of the central camping area or you can take yourself off to the suggestively named Skinny Dip Bay ... for a snorkel ... of course. Well, the website does point out you are likely to have the bay to yourself.
The above islands are the few in WA with established accommodation but there are plenty more for those looking to camp or stay in a boat offshore.
In the Kimberley, the Buccaneer Archipelago is inspiring. The remote, rugged island chain is, among other things, home to Alan Bond’s mothballed resort for wealthy holidaymakers.
Like the Montes, the Rowley Shoals is one of those snorkelling, diving and fishing bucket-list locations.
Coral-filled lagoons are atop atolls rising from the deep blue 260km from Broome.
Roberts Island in the Exmouth Gulf is an easy kayak from the mainland.
At low tide, the island and a rocky outcrop are connected by a sandbar, which is great for crabbing and fishing.
Two of WA’s most exciting island getaways aren’t quite available yet but work is under way to change that.
The Dampier Archipelago is a chain of 42 islands within eyesight off the Dampier coast, just a 10-minute drive from Karratha. The islands are wild, the beaches unspoilt and the local shire is working to introduce accommodation to one of these pristine wildernesses.
Off the coast of Geraldton are the Abrolhos Islands, famed for crays and corals. Charters run out here but tourists can’t stay overnight.
The push for low-impact accommodation has gained steam in the past year as talks about turning the islands into a national park progress.
(Top image: Turtle Bay on the northern end of Dirk Hartog Island. Picture: Tom Zaunmayr)
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