Hillarys Boat Harbour Discovery Trails
After seeing a story about three new walking trails at Hillarys Boat Harbour we set off to discover them. The trails are intended to encourage families to visit the harbour and enjoy the various sites on offer while supporting the many small businesses. Although we regularly visit Sorrento Quay and Hillarys Boat Harbour it has been a while since our last visit and we were surprised at the changes the complex has undergone. Many of the restaurants and food outlets have changed or moved and although there are many empty shop fronts post covid-19, there is still plenty to see and do and there is still a relaxed holiday atmosphere, even on a rainy mid winters day.
We squeezed the trails in over two days as the weather was sunny one minute, pouring the next. I quite like the heavy skies as a background in the photos as it looks gloomy and ominous but you can't beat sunshine and bright blue sky either for good photos....I was lucky to get both within the space of a few minutes.
All the trails start and finish opposite the Boardwalk next to the Rotary Dolphin Wishing Well, which commemorates the mysterious death of three popular bottle-nose dolphins, Rajah, Mila and Echo, at Hillarys Boat Harbour in December 1999. Get the kids to pop in a $2 coin and see what happens! The three trialmarkers can be found in the paving with the leafy seadragons pointing you in the direction of the trail. The nearby map showed the Boat Harbour but did not have the trails marked on it. You can print a copy of the Hillarys Boat Harbour Walking Trails map here or, as we did, you can just follow your feet and see where you end up.....you can't get lost.
Bridge and Beaches Loop
This 1km trail follows the pink seadragon trailmarkers around the perimeter of Hillarys Marina Beach, a 200m family friendly sheltered beach which is generally very busy in the warmer months. There is a small playground on the edge of the beach which is shaded in summer. Having not been to Hillarys since the Great Escape slides were removed it felt quite eerie walking along this stretch of the trail. The kids will delight in looking at the detail in the kids artwork incorporated into the paving. They can also find North, South, East and West on the massive compass and look through the eye of the needle.
The trail continues around the boardwalks and if you like you can walk out along the jetty, a popular spot for jumping into the water in warmer weather. Continue across the new boardwalk amphitheatre which hosts live music and other events (pre covid 19). You will see the pontoon in the bay which is also well used in summer when kids use the slides. The trail follows the boardwalk around the outside of the shopping/restaurant precinct but you can divert and walk through the shopping area before crossing the bascule bridge back to the starting point.
This 2.8km trail also starts at the dolphin statue, and follows the same route as the Bridge and Beaches Loop Trail until you get past the beach area. We missed the trail marker here as the carnival was set up and as we later discovered, the carousel hid the marker from view. As a result we kept walking straight ahead to the southern perimeter where we discovered the Walk of Fame and the Lang Hancock Memorial. Looking at the map later the trail loops around both sides of this area so we were on the right track after all! We re-entered the shopping area before the Rottnest Ferry booking office and soon came across a green leafy seadragon pointing the way along the boardwalk past the boat pens. We followed the trail from here around to AQWA before turning around. The trail does continue on along the southern groyne to a lookout area but with the rain starting we retraced our steps and completed the trail through the shopping arcade, across the front of the restaurants back to the carousels.
This 1.9km trail takes you in the other direction to the pink and green trails. The blue seadragon leads you through the boat trailer car park (following the footpath and pedestrian crossings) and onto Northside Drive. You follow this all the way to the lighthouse at the end. We hadn't been up this far previously and enjoyed the views across to Sorrento Quay from this angle. We climbed up the lighthouse for better views although the overcast conditions didn't make for the best photos of the coastline north. Although we were still in sunshine the weather was closing in so we headed back to the car with a brief stop at the playground next to Hillarys Marina Lake, off Northside Drive.
The walks themselves are quite short and will take between 10 and 30 minutes to complete at a leisurely pace. There are lots of interesting distractions though so they may well take considerably longer if you stop to explore the shops or to enjoy an icecream or a meal along the way. The walks were all fully accessible (except for climbing the lighthouse) and toilets were available at a number of locations.
I think the best part of this walk for the kids is spotting the next trailmarker. Some are close together and others are further apart so it will keep them busy as you walk. This is probably not an activity I would set out to do on it's own but combined with a wander around Sorrento Quay it is a bit of fun. And there are plenty of small businesses who will be very happy for your support during these difficult times.
There are picnic benches and barbecues available on the eastern side of the harbour overlooking the sheltered marina beaches. A bike repair station is also located near the dolphin statue if you are cycling and need some urgent repairs! The small jetty near the boat ramps is universally accessible so you can take prams and wheelchairs there for a spot of fishing in the clear waters. For a universal access guide to Hillarys Boat Harbour click here.