Out and About
Gabbi Karniny Bidi - Rottnest Island
Updated: May 20
Rottnest is an ideal location for cycling and with no traffic (except service vehicles) on the roads and a network of cycling trails it is a safe and efficient means of seeing the island. However there is also a network of four walking trails called the Wadjemup Bidi and we set off to explore these. Crossing over on a day ferry (and lucky to see a whale breach in the distance!) we were ambitious at the start and planned to do the Gabbi Karniny Bidi and the Ngank Yira Bidi, each of which is over 9km in length! Realistically time was against us as we had a ferry to catch so we only managed to complete one trail. We could have managed to squeeze in most of the second trail in combination with a ride on the Oliver Hill Train or the Island Explorer bus but the timings didn't quite work in our favour either. If you are staying on the island you will have plenty of time to explore the walks - each of which is about 10km long and estimated to take between 3 and 4 hours to complete.
The Gabbi Karniny Bidi is a 9.7km loop along the northern coastline and circling the inland lakes.
We added in the 3km side trip to Wadjemup Lighthouse, completing the entire walk in just under 4 hours.
The official trail map directs you in a clockwise direction starting from The Settlement (the first trail marker is on your way up from the ferry jetty to the shops). The day was forecast to be cloudy and as there was a little sunshine when we finished having a coffee and a snack at the bakery we decided to head in an anti clockwise direction as we felt the beaches would look better in the sunshine. So we set off along the beach passing Stark Jetty on Thomson Bay North, following the gold osprey trail markers. You can also walk along Vincent Way to see all the original residences (now accommodation) along The Front Walk.
The trail eventually heads up some stairs (this trail has many different surfaces and is only suitable for feet!) passing the beautiful Lighthouse Keepers Cottage before climbing to Bathurst Lighthouse, built in 1899 after the City of York was wrecked nearby, taking 11 lives. Here you will also find the Leeman Monument acknowledging the first European landing on Rottnest in 1658!
From the lighthouse you walk along Pinky Beach heading into the resort area (we got a little lost here as we missed the trail markers and had to do a little bit of backtracking but on the positive side we had a good look at the eco tents the resort offers.) Heading out from the resort we followed the road before seeing another trail marker which led us through the dunes to The Basin, a lovely shallow beach ideal for snorkelling.
Back through the dunes, around the rocky headland to enjoy a long beach walk along Longreach Bay before heading up to the units and walking to the end of Zephyr Road, looking back across the bay to Bathurst Lighthouse.
The trail then loops across the headland overlooking Fays Bay and providing a spectacular view across Geordie Bay before following the road for a short distance, passing more typical Rottnest Island accommodation units, then heading back into the dunes. You pass the Geordie Bay Store (coffee, food and toilets) before emerging onto Geordie Bay Beach at the Jetty. We walked all the way to the end of the beach before realising it was a dead end so turned back discovering the trail marker pointing up the steps next to the units.
From here the trail took us past Little Geordie Bay with views across to Wadjemup Lighthouse in the distance and Lake Baghdad in the foreground. It is here we had our first surprise encounter with the local wildlife - thankfully it was a lizard! The path came out of the dunes onto Bovell Way and it was lovely seeing kids exploring the dunes with bikes "parked" by the road. All of the beaches we passed are accessible from the roads so if you were riding around the island you just have to leave your bike where the sand starts and walk the rest of the way to the beach.
Walking along the road a short distance you come to the start point of the Karlinyah Bidi Trail, a 6km one way trail from Little Parakeet Bay to the neck at Rocky Bay. Our trail heads off to skirt Lake Baghdad. This is a walking trail only for about a kilometre as you pass through the samphire and sedge landscape. This was the one section of track that we were very snake aware, particularly after being surprised by the appearance of the resident black lizards. There was lots of rustling in the bushes and we were glad to emerge on to the road further along.
The trail then follows Defence Road which skirts Lake Negri and Lake Sirius on one side and Lake Baghdad on the other. This section of the trail can be cycled and must be a popular hideout for kids, judging by the cubby. There are interpretive signs about the lakes and the kids can scan the QR codes for more information. Looking across Lake Vincent you can see the boardwalk on the other side. As you circle Pink Lake you come to a picnic bench where the trail leaves the road. At the time of our visit there was a clue here for the school holiday event Where's Chokka?
You have the choice here of taking the 1.5km (each way) side trip to Wadjemup Lighthouse. This is a narrow sandy trail and although you get some great views of the lighthouse on your way there it's not a very exciting trail. The trail joins the Wardan Nara Bidi for the final steep climb up to the lighthouse. There is a coffee van here if you are in need of a caffeine boost. We saw our first "wild" quokka here (outside of the settlement). The lighthouse was built in 1896, replacing the original one built in 1851. The views are amazing as you look back across the lakes, along the length of Digby Drive to The Settlement or across the southern coastline.
We returned along the side trail and then rejoined the main trail through the forest, emerging at the very short boardwalk on the edge of Lake Vincent. The trail travels over what used to be Thomson's Farm. The lakes are quite beautiful and according to the signage they change colour according to the microbes active at the time. There are no bike paths through here so this is one of the few areas on the island which can only be seen on foot.
As we moved from the choppy grey waters of Lake Baghdad to the bluer calmer waters of Herschel Lake we were getting closer and closer to the wind turbine that had been dominating our view. The shoreline and path along Herschel Lake were dotted with impacted shells. As we climbed up past the turbine we could see across the lake to the old Salt Lake Prison and the causeway, built by the prisoners to access the salt works and the lighthouse.
Getting closer to The Settlement we skirted the golf course before crossing the road onto the paved path that climbs to the Vlamingh Lookout. Continuing from here we emerged at the cemetery and took a moment to read the plaques. Then past the mini golf, back to the settlement for lunch and a well deserved icecream at Simmos! All up, walking at a good pace, the trail took us 3 and 3/4 hours including the 3km side trek to the lighthouse. And of course as luck would have it there was more sunshine on our return than at the beginning of the walk so we could have walked clockwise and we might have scored some better photos!
We considered getting the train to Oliver Hill and walking the Ngank Yira Bidi back as far as we could then hopping on the Island Bus when time started to get short. We were not sure if our legs would make it though so instead we wandered the settlement learning about The History of Rottnest by looking at the historical plaques, circling the Aboriginal Cemetery and then heading out to Kingston Barracks and back.
Time and Distance: Just under 4 hours, 9.7 km main trail plus 3km side trail to Wadjemup Lighthouse - Total let's say 13km.
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In the spirit of reconciliation Out and About- Family Nature Connection acknowledges the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar (Perth land) and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
As always when hiking in the bush please help to reduce the spread of Phytophthora Dieback by sticking to the tracks and paths, staying out of quarantined areas and, if possible, clean your shoes before and after hiking. A spray of 70% methylated spirit and 30% water can be effective.